Meeting the parents is often billed as one of the most pressure-filled milestones of a relationship. And, of course it can be stressful—after all, for many people, parental approval can make or break a partnership. However, if you take a deep breath and do a little research beforehand, you can relax enough to actually enjoy the experience. Here’s how to make the best first impression on your partner’s parents.
Before Meeting the Parents
Ask Questions: Although you’ve probably picked up some details about your partner’s family dynamics, don’t be afraid to ask about the specifics. Every family has their private drama, and your goal is to avoid accidentally bringing it up in conversation. When you and your partner are alone, you could say, “I want to make a really good impression, so let me know if there’s anything that I shouldn’t talk about.” You’ll spare yourself some unintentionally awkward, sad, or heated conversations.
Understand Cultural Cues: If your partner’s family is from a different culture than your own, learn about the basic dos and don’ts. Is it most polite to greet the eldest member of the family first? Do they require that you remove your shoes upon entering their home? A general idea about your partner’s cultural traditions will keep you from being bamboozled by a simple request that seems strange to you. Additionally, it’s a good idea to research cultural practices for meeting families—for example, is it customary to bring a certain type of gift? Are the meetings more formal or casual? Then double-check with your partner on how seriously his or her family takes these practices.
Making the Right Impression
Dress to Impress: Leave the jeans and t-shirt at home, even if you’re meeting in a casual environment. An ironed button up shirt will always outperform a ratty t-shirt with your favorite band, so dress it up a little.
Bring a Gift: A little recon will help you pick out something thoughtful–without going over the top. Does the father cook? Pick up some fancy olive oil. Does the mother drink coffee? Consider a seasonal coffee blend from the local coffee shop. Remember, the gift is not about the money–it’s about the thoughtfulness. Making a small purchase can speak volumes about how seriously you’re taking the relationship with their son or daughter.
Talk Up Your Partner: Your partner’s parents want their kid to be with someone who thinks he or she is just as amazing as they do. So, don’t hold back. Talk about your partner’s latest success at work or explain how he or she is so thoughtful. You’ll connect with the parents, and you’ll impress your partner. It’s a win win.
Keep PDA to a Minimum: Yes, the parents are still the parents, so avoid the passionate make outs, groping, etc.
Avoid Controversial Topics: Even if you think the parents share the same political beliefs, the first date is not the time to find out. Keep it light.
Show Your Appreciation: Did you partner’s parents take you to dinner? If so, saying “thank you” via phone call, text, or note is a nice gesture. If you had a weekend trip to the parents’ house, you should send a handwritten note. An extra thank you will take no more than 5-10 minutes, but it will leave a lasting impression.
Be Yourself: Meeting the parents is like a job interview. You do your research, you prepare yourself with questions to ask, but when all is said and done, the most important part of the process is showing the best version of yourself. You wouldn’t want to work for a company who didn’t like you for who you are—the same goes for your partner’s family. Your boyfriend or girlfriend specifically picked you for very specific reasons; a little extra planning will help make those reasons even more obvious to the parents.