How To Introduce A Queer Partner To Your Family For The First Time

Equip yourself with expert-approved strategies.

two women ready to introduce a queer partner to their family for the first time.

With any committed relationship usually comes some considerable milestones: the first date, talks of exclusivity, and the first “I love you.” There are plenty of exciting things to look forward to when you meet someone new, but for some couples, that excitement might not come as naturally when a partner is meeting the family for the first time. For many LGBTQ+ couples, this is too often the case, as there are other related factors that come along with introducing a queer partner to your family for the first time.

According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 9.1% of millennials fall within the LGBT community. As one could imagine, many have or will eventually introduce a queer partner to their families. If you’re in your first queer relationship, it’s natural to have questions: How will my family react? Will they support my happiness? How will they treat my partner?

It’s normal to experience some nervousness, especially when your family is accustomed to heteronormativity. “Gender diverse partners or non-monogamous relationships can add an additional layer of considerations for introducing your partner(s) to family,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Shawnese Givens, LMFT. “We live in a heterosexist society that makes many assertions about how romantic relationships are structured. Queer relationships, by nature, buck against those assertions.”

While you want to hope for the best when you’re meeting each other’s families, it’s also wise to equip yourself with strategies and preparations before going into the situation. Below, experts share their advice.

Talk To Your Family Beforehand

According to licensed mental health counselor Marc Campbell, LMHC, safety is the first thing to consider before you introduce your partner. Aside from the emotional toll a negative reaction from your family can create, there are sometimes more severe consequences to consider. “Safety is so important, especially because queer people have much higher risk factors; LGBTQ+ youth (up to age 25) are at a much higher risk of experiencing homelessness, [and] the risk is even higher for people of color,” Campbell tells Bustle.

If possible, talking to your family before introducing a queer partner for the first time might mitigate some of the surprise or less desirable reactions they might have.

According to licensed clinical social worker Neathery Falchuk, LCSW-S, prepping ahead is the best predictor of this meeting going well. “If you are not out to your family yet, it’s recommended to have this conversation well before you introduce your queer partner to them,” Falchuk tells Bustle. “This allows your family time and space to process if they need to, and more importantly, it allows you and your partner to not be subjected to any reactivity that might arise when your family learns something new.”

Once you have fully come out to your family, or if you have done so in the past, try to start normalizing the idea of your partnership by bringing it up regularly. “Begin to weave your partner into how you communicate about your life to your family,” says Falchuk. “This can sound like, ‘Alex and I watched that movie, too! They have a secret crush on Meryl Streep, so we have to watch any movie she’s in.’”

Another way to do this is by encouraging their allyship. “Offer opportunities for your family to … engage in queer media, queer events, queer hxstory, queer advocacy, and so much more,” Falchuk says. “It’s important for your family to know that their allyship goes beyond meeting your queer partner for the first time.” Normalizing queerness within your family dynamic is a great way to foster an environment of acceptance and increase the chances of an enjoyable introduction of your partnership.

Discuss Expectations With Your Partner

Once you’re sure that you and your family are prepared, speaking to your partner about what to expect is key. Givens says checking in with yourself and asking, “What will it mean to your relationship to introduce your partner to family? Are you on the same page about that as your partner? The answers to these questions can help you identify the best time to acquaint these two parts of your life.” Talking through these initial considerations with your partner will help you both decide when you’re ready for this next step.

Campbell suggests other expectations to talk through with your partner, like “knowing how long you plan/want to be there, subject matters you don’t want [to be] discussed, [and] do you want your partner to bring a gift, dress code expectations, comfort level of PDA.”

In terms of dress code, Campbell points to gender expression — do you or your partner prefer to dress or present yourselves in a way that strays from the gendered norms? “With your partner’s permission, you might want to have a separate discussion with your family about your partner’s gender identity and gender expression,” he says. “This can help alleviate any shock or surprise from your family when introducing your partner. This can also give your family some time to process and work through their heteronormative beliefs and biases.”

In general, Falchuk recommends that you and your partner “take time to come up with agreements and a plan you both consent to … [like] a plan for handling boundary violations such as microaggressive comments and misgendering, physical affection, coming up with a word or signal that communicates discomfort, and having go-to coping tools you both can use if needing some support with grounding.”

Prepare Yourselves Emotionally

Beyond having conversations with your partner about what to expect when they meet your family, step back and think about what this meeting will imply emotionally — for both of you. How will it feel if your family doesn’t react favorably? Can you handle a negative or even aggressive response? Is your partner prepared for the possibility that your family might not be super friendly to them?

Like Falchuk previously mentioned, agreeing with your partner on what boundaries to set, both with time limits and dealing with microaggressions or hurtful comments, is instrumental in setting yourselves up for success and emotional safety. If you know for sure that some or all of your relatives are intolerant of the LGBTQ+ community in general, or if they had an adverse reaction to your coming out, Givens recommends only introducing your partner to only the relatives you know will be accepting, or maybe members of your chosen family instead.

“If your partner is feeling uncomfortable at the prospect of meeting your family, create space to talk about that,” says Givens. “What are they anticipating? What are their fears? Creating boundaries around the introduction might help them feel more comfortable, but if not, it might be time to slow down.” If you can’t see eye to eye or need additional support, Givens suggests couple’s therapy.

For safety’s sake, and in order not to overwhelm your partner or family, have an exit plan. “It might be helpful to create a codeword or phrase, this could be used when you are reaching your limit and want to leave,” Campbell says.

Ultimately, Campbell says to do what’s best for you. “Go at your own pace. There is a lot of pressure from society for the flow of relationships to go a certain way. … It’s OK if it takes months or years to introduce your partner to your family, and it’s OK if it doesn’t happen at — all relationships and circumstances are different.”

Experts and Sources:

Shawnese Givens, LMFT, licensed marriage and family therapist

Marc Campbell, LMHC, licensed mental health counselor

Neathery Falchuk, LCSW-S, licensed clinical social worker supervisor