So, you're finally at that point in your relationship where you feel ready for your partner to meet your parents for the first time. This is a huge step! Involving other people in your relationship is a sign you're serious about this person, but even more so when those people are family. You should be excited that you've found someone you feel so strongly about.
But how should you prepare for this meeting? Whether you're all grabbing dinner together or you're taking your partner home for the holidays, you need to let bae know what they're in for. Before I brought my boyfriend to my parent's house for a visit, I relayed a few key details about what to expect. I told him my mother will laugh too loudly at everything he says, and my dad will ask me a thousand times to move back home. Though my boyfriend wasn't prepared for my dad's jokes about pulling a Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents and CIA-stalking him (at least I think he was joking...), the visit was still a success, and yours will be, too.
Here's what you should do before introducing your partner to your parents for the first time.
1. Think About Your Emotional Investment In Your Partner
"Knowing where you stand in terms of your own emotional involvement will help you navigate this introduction and your visitation," says Susan Winter, best-selling author and relationship expert.
What do you want to accomplish by introducing your partner to your parents? Are you trying to get your parents' opinion on your partner because you're a little on the fence about whether or not they're right for you? Do you want to see how your partner could fit in with your family dynamic because you already see them sticking around long-term? Being aware of where you're at emotionally in your relationship and where you see it going will help guide you through the meeting and figure out the questions you want answered.
2. Practice Respect And Good Manners
I know we're all far more lax than our parents are about "etiquette," but older generations still value good ol' fashioned manners, so it's best to err on the side of conservative when meeting the parents. Make sure your partner knows, if they don't already, to call your parents Mr. and Mrs. until they are told otherwise. Even the most chill of parents will appreciate it.
"Don’t presume familiarity that isn’t called for," says April Masini, relationship expert at Relationship Advice Forum. "Take it slow and get to know them over time, not all in one visit."
Also, if your partner is staying for the weekend, make sure you ask your parents ahead of time for sleeping arrangements so it doesn't turn into a fight as soon as you walk in the door. Yes, you are a grownup, and yes, you sleep with your partner in your adult life, but some families are traditional and prefer separate bedrooms. "If this is an issue, prepare your partner for the inevitability of sleeping in your little sister's bedroom or on the couch," Winter says.
3. Warn Your Partner Of Topics That Could Cause Tension
The country is rife with political conflict right now. If you know your activist girlfriend would butt heads with your conservative father at the mere mention of Trump, tell her to keep the political talk off the table. "Nothing's worse than having a political fight at the dinner table," Winter says. "Prepare your SO to avoid the land mines by sticking to congenial topics."
Aside from just politics, prepare your partner with anything else to know that might startle them if it comes up without warning, like if your parents are alcoholics or if they're still in touch with your ex. "It’s good to be forewarned on that kind of thing so your partner can at least not be shocked, and maybe even be prepared with how you both want to handle this," says Masini.
Overall, you want to avoid the possibility of tension no matter where it could come from. "A first meeting isn’t the time or place to focus on differences as much as it is to find commonalities," says Masini.
4. Give Your Partner Some Talking Points
Did your mom just get a cool new job? Did your dad just run a marathon? Great! Let your partner know. That way, if they're stuck alone with your parents while you run to the bathroom for a minute, they'll have something to talk about.
"Have your partner ask them how they’re doing and what’s new in their lives," Masini says. "When [your partner] shows interest in them as individuals, they have an opportunity to have their own relationships with [your partner], which will make a future relationship more viable."
5. Remember That You Are Forever Your Parent's Child
Resist the urge to get angry at your mom when she nags you about taking your allergy medication or asks you if you've eaten enough vegetables lately in front of bae. She's not trying to embarrass you — you're just her little girl.
"Nothing's more infuriating than living an adult life of independence, then going home to be treated as a child," Winter says. "Our parents and siblings tend to 'freeze us in the past.' And though we've gone beyond that person that we were, this limitation can spark anger and outburst."
No matter how old you are or how far away you live, you are your parent's baby, and they're going to break out the photo albums of you tap dancing whether you like it or not. But your partner will probably get a kick out of it, so don't sweat it too much.
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