Meeting Your Partner's Parents For The First Time? Here's What To Call Them

Meeting the parents is always an event. You've got to plan out the perfect outfit — something that says, "I've got my life together, but I still know how to have fun (just not, like, too much fun)" — and drill all sorts of tidbits and key facts into your brain. His mom likes orchids and roots for the Red Sox, but his dad's a Yankees fan and obsessed with fly-fishing. Something to that effect, at least. But one aspect of meeting that parents that's impossible to really plan for? How the heck to address them. Seriously though, what do you call your boyfriend's mom? Or your girlfriend's dad?

When you're growing up, this is a much easier question to answer. Everyone's parents are "Mr." this or "Ms." that until a first name basis is established. But, meeting the parents as an adult (or whatever it is that we are?) is a little stickier. Is it immature or suddenly stuffy to continue with the formal suffixes, or disrespectful to jump straight to first names?

I turned to the only people who really know how to answer this all-important question: Real life parents.

Now, there are a handful of factors at play here, including geographic location. For instance, Southern parents (especially Southern mamas) generally prefer prefer to be addressed by a suffix and their first name — i.e. Ms. Beth, instead of Beth or Mrs. Wheeler. Northeastern women, on the other hand, seem to prefer going by Mrs. This or That, or just jump straight to first names. As someone who split her adolescent years between the Northeast and Southeast, I definitely picked up on (and TBH, was perpetually confused by) this split.

So much to unpack here, guys.

But I'll let the these various moms and dads explain it. Here's what 10 parents across the country had to say when asked what they'd like their children's boyfriends and girlfriends to call them.

The Orensteins, Massachusetts
They should call me Mom. Just kidding. I don't have a preference. Whatever would make them comfortable.

—Audrey, 53

Go with Mr. Orenstein, and then Jack after I insist at least three times. By the way, I never want anyone calling me Dad other than my daughters.

—Jack, 61

Ms. Wheeler, Florida
When my daughters were in high school, I was usually Ms. Wheeler or Ms. Beth, or whichever nickname my daughters' friends had for me (like Mumsy). But now that they're grown, I'd just want them to call me Beth.

—Beth, 59

The Glossers, California
We'll usually introduce ourselves by our first names, so it's fine for someone to address us that way from that point on.

—Kathy, 55 and Bob, 56

The Holdens, New York
I think my husband and I both appreciate the courtesy of first being called 'Mr. and Mrs. Holden,' but then we'll jump in and just say, 'You can call us Maria and Brendan.'

—Maria, 53

The Farmers, Georgia
I'm fine with my son's girlfriends calling me Will, but I usually like for my daughter's boyfriends to address me as Mr. Farmer, at least initially.

—Will, 50

I don't love to be called 'Mrs. Farmer,' it sounds so old! But I also wouldn't be upset if someone called me that at first. I know they're just trying to be polite. I usually prefer to be called Ms. Carol or Carol, though.

—Carol, 48

Ms. Rubin, Pennsylvania
Until I really get to know the significant other, I would prefer to be referred to formally. I think it properly conveys a high level of respect which I would most appreciate. Once I get to know a person better, I’m comfortable with a first-name basis, but not in the beginning.

—Marci, 55

The Durkins, Illinois
I like to be called Dr. Durkin for the first couple of weeks. After a while, once I've developed a relationship with my kids' friends or boyfriends and girlfriends, I'm fine with them calling me Jim. But until I say, 'You can call me Jim,' Dr. Durkin is my preference.

—Jim, 52

I think it depends on their age. With my teenagers, I think I'd like to be addressed as Mrs. or Ms. Durkin at first. But I don't think it's rude at all if I meet an adult and he or she calls me Molly right away.

—Molly, 54

The easiest way to go? Start with formalities and let your partner's parents make the call from there — from the sounds of it, they'll let you know what they'd like to be called. I mean, parents are pros at telling us what to do (and they know best), right?

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