Most firsts in a relationship are pretty great — the first date, the first kiss, the first time admitting that you're both in love. But there are a few that aren't so great. Right at the top of that list is introducing your partner to your parents. While those other moments are an exhilarating mixture of excitement and nerves, meeting the fam can feel 100 percent scary.
Now, not everyone thinks this way. I have a few intrepid friends who brought their SO home, all without a touch of nerves. (So brave, right?) But the rest of us look forward to the meeting with anxiety and fear. Will your mom like them? Will your dad say something weird? These are the overwhelming thoughts that can make the whole thing feel downright stressful.
And that's a totally normal, and understandable, reaction. "Introducing one's partner to family is a nerve-racking moment for many reasons," says Dr. Kim Chronister, in an email to Bustle. "One reason is that a first impression (according to studies) is a lasting impression. What your partner looks like, does, or says can create negative or positive opinions in the minds of one's family for years." Other factors can weigh heavy on the mind as well, such as how nervous your partner feels, or how positively your parents view your relationship. But never fear, because it doesn't have to be awful. Read on for a few tips to make the whole thing go as smoothly as possible.
1. Keep It As Brief As Possible
If you have the option, keep the first meeting short and sweet. "Limit [it] ... to an hour or a couple of hours at most," Chronister says. This will take some of the pressure off, while also saving yourselves the awkwardness of a long weekend visit, or stressful three hour dinner. Instead, grab coffee or just pop in to say hi, and save those longer get-togethers for when everyone is more comfortable.
2. Build Up Their Confidence
If you think your SO is nervous about the meeting, then take it upon yourself to sneakily build up their confidence. "Reinforce your partner by highlighting and verbalizing their strengths (what you like most about them) for at least a week prior to meeting the family," Chronister suggests. That way, by the time the day comes, they'll be confident AF and ready to handle whatever happens.
3. Remind Them It's Your Opinion That Matters
If your parents aren't all gung-ho about your relationship (for whatever reason), it can help to remind your partner that it's your opinion that matters. On the way there, assure him or her that you'll still love them despite your mom's comments or your dad's grilling questions. (And then thank them for being brave and awesome enough to put up with such a scary visit.)
4. Fill Them In On Family Dynamics
If you can foresee a misunderstanding, then let your SO know ahead of time by breaking down your family's dynamics. "There’s no need to give him full editorial commentary on your feelings about your family members, just a broad overview of important or sensitive issues," said Dr. Gail Gross on HuffingtonPost.com. This will help them roll with the proverbial punches.
5. Warn Him Or Her About Your Grandma
Do you have an uncle who's famous for off-color jokes, or a grandma who's riddled with old-timey (read: rude) opinions? Then again, let your SO know. "You've accepted these lovely people because they're your family, and your boyfriend will, too — just let him know ahead of time how he should handle the situation," said relationship expert Clint Carter on Women's Health. Tell him or her it's OK to laugh, or to pretend they didn't hear — whatever makes them feel most comfortable.
6. But Leave Out The Baggage
Everyone's family is bizarre — thus all my suggestions for explanations and forewarnings. But keep in mind there's a fine line between sharing tidbits of info and overwhelming your partner down with baggage. "If it's early on in the relationship, avoid sharing too much baggage and limit the negative references about your family as much as possible," Chronister says. You want your partner to look forward to the meeting, and to show up without any negative expectations.
7. Catch Them Up On Family Traditions
OK, so let's say it's your first Thanksgiving together and your family has some... strange traditions. Your partner will want to know what to expect so they aren't caught off guard, according to Carter. Fill them in on why your little cousin is cutting the turkey, or why your dog gets a seat at the table. They'll be so glad you did.
8. Don't Leave Them Alone For Too Long
Of course your partner should be able to hold their own for a few moments alone. But don't abandon them for too long, lest they feel ignored or lost in the crowd. Try to stay nearby, and do little things to show them you care. Think along the lines of touching their thigh while you talk, or squeezing their hand, according to relationship expert Anna Davies on SHAPE. This body contact will help them feel more relaxed.
9. Bring A Gift
You shouldn't show up to any get-together without a little gift, even if it's just a cheap bottle of wine or a bag of chips. And same thing goes for the partner/parents introduction. Even if your parents swear you don't need to bring anything, do show up with a small gift, according to Amary Wiggins on Cosmopolitan. Bonus points if you help your partner pick something out something that's catered to your parent's tastes.
10. Remind Them This Meeting Is A Good Thing
Clearly, meeting the 'rents can be a stressful/scary/nerve-racking experience. And it's not always guaranteed to be the best of times. So do your partner a favor and remind them that this is, in fact, a good thing. It means they're an important part of your life, Chronister says. Knowing this will help them see how it's all worth it.
11. Above Everything Else, Relax
Most introductions go great, and lots of parents instantly fall in love with the person their kid cares about. So try not to fret about this big meeting. Decide right now that you'll both be calm and relaxed. It may not be easy, but it'll definitely make this introduction go more smoothly.
And, when it comes to parents and parents, that's really all you ask for.