I'm not going to sugarcoat it: Meeting your partner's parents can be really stressful, and sometimes things don't always go according to plan. When this happens, dealing with the aftermath of making a less-than-great first impression can be a huge bummer for everyone involved. Fortunately, if the first meeting with your partner’s parents didn’t go well, it's not the end of the world. There are definitely ways you can bounce back and make an excellent second impression.
According to Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, people can often over-analyze these occasions and judge themselves a bit too harshly. "First-time meetings with a partner’s parents can feel worse than they actually are," Dr. Klapow tells Elite Daily. In hindsight, it's all too easy to assume that feeling jittery or awkward means you weren't at your best, but these feelings are totally normal. "They are strangers, and socially, there is awkwardness that goes along with meeting anyone for the first time," confirms Dr. Klapow. "The stakes are high, so the stress to impress and come across as your best self can skew your perceptions of the interaction."
So, how can you tell if things actually went poorly, or if you might be overthinking the interaction? One telltale sign that the meeting wasn't great was if there were moments of friction. If they were openly critical of you, said insulting things, or if you had awkward or tense conversations about controversial topics where you realized you disagree, there's a chance you might have gotten off on the wrong foot. This doesn't mean that you did anything wrong, especially if the friction was due to a lifestyle choice or a core belief, but it does mean that they definitely could have been more respectful of you. "Specific comments or criticism about you, your thoughts, your life views, or your family," could mean the meeting wasn't great says Dr. Klapow. "Anything that is a specific criticism suggests that the parents felt strongly enough or comfortable enough to let those negative words out." Needless to say, even if your world views, religions, or cultures are opposing, Dr. Klapow emphasizes that discussing heated topics should be saved for a later date.
If you're concerned that your partner's parents didn't like you for whatever reason, a good first step is broaching the topic with your partner when you're alone. "They know them better than you do," explains Dr. Klapow. "Ask for honesty and see if you can get feedback from your partner about their temperaments, their communication style, how they typically react around new people, and what your partner thinks."Chances are, your partner will be honest about their perspective on what happened.
The good news is, even if things between you and your partner's parents could've gone better, it's not too late to turn things around. Plus, it usually takes more than one meeting to really get to know someone, which both parties need to accept, says Dr. Klapow. "First impressions are powerful, but they don’t have to be defining," he explains. "You stand a much better chance of getting them to reassess their feelings for you and vice versa, if you get to know the parents in a variety of contexts. It is entirely possible to fix things with a second meeting in a new location, or [doing] a new activity that gives [both parties] a different perspective on each other."
Ultimately, it's important to try and cultivate a respectful relationship with your partner's parents. This doesn't mean you have to be best friends, it just means that you can enjoy activities and events together without conflict. However, that doesn't mean you need to tolerate insults or insensitivity from them if they are openly rude or critical. (Even if they are your partner's parents.) The next move is anyone's game, but if you think the relationship is salvageable, there's still plenty of time to get to know each other on a deeper level, potentially put your differences aside, and establish a bond.