We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today's topic: bringing your partner home to meet your family for the first time.
Q: “I’m bringing my partner home for the holidays. It will be his first time meeting my family. I’m not sure if they’re going to get along, so I’m stressed out about how this whole thing is going to go down. I'm also worried that any negative ways my family reacts will impact my perception of him. I know that I love him, but what if any negative remarks they make about him manage to seep into my brain? Do you have any tips for staying solid as a couple when you bring someone home for the first time?”
A: Thanks for your email! It’s the time of year for awkward first-time family meetings — but it doesn't have to be painful. Here are six tips for making your meet-the-parents experience as smooth as possible.
1. Identify Your Fears
Your first step is to figure out what you’re feeling so anxious about. Why are you afraid your boyfriend and your parents won’t get along? Are you simply experiencing jitters about everyone meeting for the first time, or do you have serious concerns about everyone being able to have dinner together? What are you worried might happen?
How you approach this trip home will vary greatly depending on the situation (we'll talk about that more in a second), so it’s important to get some clarity. Take some time to journal or talk it out with a friend.
2. Tell Your Boyfriend About Your Family Dynamics
The best way for you to ease some of your anxiety is to talk to all of the involved parties. Getting a better handle on the specifics of your fears will help you figure out who to talk to and what to share with them.
For example, let’s say you realize you’re afraid that your wallflower partner won’t be able to keep up with your party animal parents. Let your them know that your parents are a bit boisterous, but that they’re more mellow in the morning.
Even if you don’t have any specific concerns about your boyfriend’s behavior, it’s good to prepare him beforehand. Let him know what he’s getting into! Talk to him about what your relationship with your family is like. Tell him if there are certain topics he should avoid talking about, like Donald Trump or the fact that you just quit your job. A little preparation goes a long way, but try not to go overboard. Filling him in on every single detail about your family and giving him a long list of rules will only make you both feel more anxious.
3. Tell Your Family About Your Partner
Similarly, it’s a good idea to talk to your parents beforehand, too. Answer all of your dad’s burning questions ahead of time, so he won’t be as tempted to interrogate your boyfriend. Let your parents know if there are any topics that should be avoided. If you’re close with your parents, let them know what your fears about this trip are, and ask them to be supportive of you.
4. Prepare Everyone For Success
Don’t focus all of your attention on preventing terrible things from happening; save some of it for trying to create a successful first meeting! Let your boyfriend and your parents know how they can win each other over.
Maybe your mom practically swoons whenever anyone brings her fresh irises, or your dad loves talking about the family’s adorable Basset hounds. Maybe your boyfriend would be thrilled to talk about his recent submission to his favorite literary magazine. Is there anything the four of you all love? Maybe you can bond over a family movie-and-pizza marathon or the New York Times crossword puzzle.
5. Take Care Of Yourselves
Going home for the holidays is hard on a couple because you’re away from your usual space and routines, and constantly surrounded by family. I think it’s a really good idea for you and your boyfriend to make a self-care game plan beforehand. Build in times for the two of you to be alone together as a couple, to have individual alone time, and for you to have some time with your family.
For example, you can tell your parents that you’re going to give your boyfriend a tour of your hometown for a few hours. Or the two of you can get massages. Try to send your boyfriend off on a daily jog, or ask him to run errands.
If you are truly worried about everyone not getting along, try staying with a friend, in an AirBnB, or in a hotel. That way you’ll have more private time, and more control over the time that you spend with your family. (Plus, you won’t have to cram into your childhood bunkbeds.)
Another option is to travel separately and have your boyfriend come for one or two days only. You can also come up with a signal that each of you can give if you need some time alone away from your folks.
6. Accept That This Is A Test, And That’s OK
Yes, bringing a partner home for the holidays can be a test, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. For example, let’s say you’re worried that your parents will disapprove of your boyfriend. Maybe, if you take a step back, you realize that your parents have tended to have better judgment about your partners than you do. Maybe they’ve been able to see things that you sometimes have blinders to. Their potential disapproval of your boyfriend would be painful, but might be the best thing that could happen to you. Or let’s say you’re worried about your boyfriend seeing how much control your parents have over you. Maybe him being a witness to your screwed-up family dynamics gives you the courage to start cutting some of your ties.
There’s no denying that introducing your partner to your parents for the first time is a stressful experience, but keep in mind that they all hopefully have one very important thing in common: their love for you!
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