I don't think anyone would be disagree that meeting your SO's parents for the first time is huge (and also hugely nerve-wracking). After all, you could be meeting your future in-laws, so you want to make a good impression. Even if it's way too early for marriage, it still feels nice to know that your partner's parents accept you. But of course, there's always the chance that this meeting can go awry. After meeting the parents, relationship red flags can materialize unexpectedly, because as reluctant as you may be to admit it, your relationship with your parents can potentially say a lot about you as a person.
It's unfair to decide that your partner is less desirable because of who their parents are. However, parents can have an impact on your relationship, and a weird first meeting could suggest trouble for you and your partner. I spoke to Anne Beverly Chow, counselor in residence at Bluebird Counseling Center, and she explained how your impression of your SO's parents actually has more to do with your partner themselves than the parents because, as she points out, "Your partner has a predisposed opinion of their parents." When it comes to meeting your SO's parents, be sure to watch out for these troubling signs.
Your Partner Didn't Give Their Parents An Accurate Description Of You
Before meeting the parents, your only job should be to stay calm and get ready to present your best (but still genuine) self. Dealing with parents who feel blindsided shouldn't be in your job description, and therefore, it's your partner's job to provide their parents with an honest account of the person they're about to meet. It can be difficult to know how tell your family about a new relationship, but it's your partner's responsibility to do so regardless.
"There may be nerves about the introduction," says Chow, "but it should be made clear who's coming to dinner." Yes, in an ideal world, your SO's parents would love you for exactly who you are, but if you are a different race, religion, gender, or sex than the person they were expecting, then your partner may be to blame. It's very possible that your religion never came up when your partner was describing you to their parents, but if that is a big part of either you or your partner's identity, then there might just be a reason your SO failed to mention it.
Your Partner Makes You Feel The Need To Pretend For Their Parents
The most important thing to do when meeting your SO's parents is be your authentic self. OK, if your authentic self burps at the dinner table, you may want to suppress that urge, but that doesn't mean you have to sip your drink with your pinky extended either. In fact, you should be wary if either your SO or your SO's parents give you the urge to put on airs.
"You shouldn't have to sell yourself or be a fake, glorified version of yourself," Chow explains. "What your partner sees in you should be reflected, and your partner's parents should see you as the beautiful, talented, spectacular person that you are." Your SO's parents don't know you — they know their child, and they know the person that your child has described to them. If you are given any reason to believe that your job isn't impressive enough or your vocabulary isn't extensive enough, it may be the case once again that your SO felt the need to hide or edit certain aspects of who you are.
Your Partner Places Too Much Value In Their Parents' Opinion
It's not a bad sign if your SO isn't all that nervous or concerned about you meeting their parents — in fact, this may be a good thing. Meeting the parents is probably a big deal for you, and your partner can feel the same way, even if they don't care all that much about the outcome. Really, it might be for the best if they don't put too much stock into their parents' opinion at all.
"It's possible your partner had other issues with their parents in the past," Chow points out, "but even if they didn't, it's OK if they don't care about what their parents think of you. This could mean they feel confident that their parents will come to accept you, even if it doesn't seem like they will from their first impression." Parents can be majorly influential, so if you partner isn't swayed by their parents' opinion either way, that means a disapproving parent probably won't cause a rift in your relationship. But if their parents dislike you and that concerns your SO, you might have reason to be concerned as well.
Your Partner Allows Their Parents To Make You Feel Unworthy
No one has the right to make you feel unworthy — not the person who chose you to be their partner, and certainly not the family of that person. If your partner cares about you, they will have your back, even when their parents don't seem to be responding to you in the way you'd hoped.
"You should be feeling like you're coming from a place of worthiness," Chow explains. Chances are, if your partner allows their parents to demean you or belittle you, they care more about their parents' feelings than yours. That may change over time, especially if the relationship is new, but there really isn't any excuse for you to feel anything less than awesome, at least in your partner's eyes.
Meeting the parents for the first time isn't always going to go well, and that OK. What matters more is how your partner prepares for the situation, handles the meeting, and then reacts afterward, whether it went well or poorly. Your relationship with your SO's parents matters, but your relationship with your SO matters a whole lot more.