Meeting the parents has never been something I take lightly in my relationships. It’s equally important to me that I win my partner’s family over as it is that mine doesn’t totally scare them off. And I’ve crossed this milestone on a variety of timelines, from two months to a year and a half in. Every relationship is unique, so there’s obviously no right or wrong time to make it happen. Still, if your SO never introduces you to their parents, there comes a time when you find yourself scratching your head over why.
“Gaining access to your SO's inner circle is a mark of their commitment,” relationship expert and bestselling author Susan Winter tells Elite Daily.
As such, she says that withholding that introduction may signify that they're withholding their emotional commitment to you. It’s important to remember that meeting the parents is a relationship milestone that happens on different timelines for different people. Still, according to Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist, relationship expert, and author of the new book Training Your Love Intuition, six months is a reasonable timeline for this to happen.
“There is no rule about length of time in the relationship about when to meet the parents,” she says. “But this timeline is long enough to feel stable — and not hasty.”
Dr. Wish suggests that there are ways to figure out if it’s an appropriate time to meet the parents. For example, if you’ve said “I love you,” to each other, and/or talked about moving in together, those are solid indicators that you’re ready to meet each other’s families.
But what if you can’t discern any understandable reason for your partner to avoid that meeting? Dr. Wish says it’s worth taking a step back to evaluate whether you’ve missed any signs that your partner has fears about commitment. For example, if you try to book a trip for the both of you this summer and they say, "Let's not make plans too far in the future,” that’s a red flag that they may be having doubts or fears (which would explain why they’re unsure about introducing you to their loved ones). According to Dr. Wish, if they don’t ask about your family or show interest in meeting them, that might very well suggest that it’s not just their own issues with their family that’s delaying the introduction, but that they are afraid of taking that relationship step with you in general.
“Though your introduction may be tricky due to certain factors, a committed partner will stand by your side with pride, and want you to be a part of their family,” adds Winter. “If they love you in private, they should have no problem presenting you in public.”
That said, Dr. Wish warns against assuming that a delay in meeting the parents definitely means your partner isn’t serious about your relationship. Your first step will be figuring out why they’re hesitant to make that happen.
“Any kind of serious, emotionally challenging situations could stall a ‘meet the parents’ occasion,” explains Dr. Wish. “Your partner could have potent, valid reasons for not introducing you to his/her family.”
For example, Dr. Wish notes that if their parents are going through a divorce, a family member is or has been ill with a serious ailment, or the family is in the middle of a big move or traveling, those are all valid obstacles. Winter adds that if your same-sex partner has not come out to their parents, or if you’re of opposing religious backgrounds, they may understandably have some concerns about introducing you to them and need a little time to acclimate to the idea.
Speaking from personal experience, I tried to delay my boyfriend meeting my mother for as long as humanly possible. Having a single parent who struggles with addiction, a traumatic brain injury, serious physical disabilities, and mental illness, I was absolutely terrified of any potential judgment. But I was forced to overcome those fears and make that introduction before I felt ready when my mother underwent emergency surgery, and he had to drive me down to see her. Their meeting was nothing like the catastrophe I had anxiously imagined. And while it was nerve-wracking to let my SO in on this part of my life I had so carefully tried to hide, I was relieved to find that he only loved me all the more once he witnessed firsthand the challenges I faced growing up.
So clearly, it’s worth digging for those very valid reasons why you haven’t met the parents. And Winter advises asking them outright why they’ve put this off rather than trying to hunt for clues or make assumptions.
“Be direct and diplomatic,” advises Winter. “Allow them to speak, and listen for a real answer. If you find they're beating around the bush, ask them to speak truthfully. Explain that your exclusion hurts. And though they may not realize this fact, hiding you diminishes the relationship and your importance.”
Dr. Wish suggests that you can also go a subtler route by talking about your family histories. If your partner is close-mouthed or avoids discussing it, that may indicate there’s a problem they’re too timid to discuss. She also recommends listening for negative statements about their parents, which may indicate that their reasoning for not making the introduction has more to do with their strained family relationships than it does with you and your romantic relationship.
“If your partner has had a troubling and unloving childhood, tell him or her that your heart and mind are open — without judgment — and that you would like to offer any support,” adds Dr. Wish. “Don't, however, nag your partner about not meeting the family. If you think and feel you are a good love match, give it another three months to re-evaluate.”
In other words — be sympathetic, be supportive, and above all, be patient. If your significant other doesn’t seem to have any good reason for delaying this meeting, then you may want to take a look at their level of commitment at large. After all, your needs are valuable, too, and if it’s important to you to meet their family, you deserve an explanation for why that’s not happening. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that introducing someone to your parents is a vulnerable move. The more understanding and accommodating you are to their concerns, the more you’ll build up their trust — which, in turn, makes them far more likely to welcome you into their inner circle when the time feels right.