If you are in a romantic relationship, there may come a time when you can meet your partner’s family. This can be a very stressful and intimidating moment, because many people place a great deal of importance on how their family feels about their partner. This may be seen as the “next step” in a relationship and their family’s approval could be necessary for your partner to feel fully secure in your relationship. That being said, the worst part about meeting your partner’s family is usually the pressure that you place on yourself. In most cases, your partner’s parents or other family members will be welcoming and will not make the initial meeting too stressful. Most people are mainly concerned with meeting the parents, but the rest of the family is just as important. Building a good connection with siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents is equally as important to building a good connection with the parents. If you remain calm, respectful, and confident, your partner’s family will recognize your composure and be more willing to accept you. Although there are many factors that influence a relationship, it is important to strive to make a good impression on your partner’s family. Studies show that the process of sexual selection, which is considered to be central to the study of human mating, is likely to be influenced by parents’ preferences.1 There are many steps you can take, such as dressing appropriately, staying relaxed, and being polite, that will ensure you begin the relationship with your partner’s family as smoothly as possible.
Treat Your Partner Well
One of the best ways to have a good relationship with your partner’s family is by treating your partner well, not only in front of their family, but all the time. When you treat your partner well, they will have nothing to complain to their family about. Instead, they will be telling them about how much you care and how kind you are. This will give your partner’s family a positive view of you before they meet you, which will make meeting them easier. Doing this is not only important for meeting the family, but also important for maintaining a healthy relationship. You may find that treating your partner well will even make you happier.
When you meet your partner’s family, you should dress in a way that is respectful to both the people you are meeting and to yourself. Wear something clean, well-fitting, and relatively conservative. Depending on the situation, you may want to wear something more formal or more casual, but the most important thing is to feel comfortable. It is much more important to wear clothes that represent who you are than clothes that you think the family will like. The first thing that the family will see is you and your outfit, so choose clothes that will give off a great first impression. A good tip is to ask your partner what they think would be appropriate, and base your attire off of what they say.
Find Shared Interests
It is important to find shared interests with your partner’s family because it will allow you to relax a little more by giving you and the family something in common that you can relate to. The family will most likely ask you many questions about yourself. You may be able to discover a common interest from these questions, but it may not be particularly deep or meaningful to you. If you feel comfortable, you should reciprocate and ask the family members questions about themselves. You could ask about their hobbies, their occupations, and perhaps even their goals. Asking these questions will show them that you care and that you are interested in learning about them as well. You might find a deep passion that you have in common with someone which will greatly contribute to you having a successful relationship with the family.
If you do find a common interest and you have a good discussion about it, you could bring the interest back up the next time you see the family. For example, you could bring up your favorite author, and the next time you meet, talk about a book you just read by that same author. This will create a stronger connection, and encourage them to think about you in a positive way.
Avoid Controversial Subjects
There are many topics that may be deemed inappropriate for a first meeting with your partner’s family. These include topic such as politics, religion, past traumas, etc. Avoiding these heavy subjects will help you avoid arguments and awkward situations. You may have fundamental differences in beliefs that your partner’s family does not necessarily need to know about the first time you meet. If your partner’s family does bring something up such as religion or politics, do not lie about your preference. Just tell them the truth, but in a respectful way that does not lead to an argument. If your partner has a belief that you share but their family do not, do not bring up the fact that they support the belief as well. There is a chance that they have kept it quiet from them, and this may cause you additional conflict in your relationship. Remember to keep the conversation more about relatable topics that can help establish a connection with the family.
Cultural Differences When Meeting the Family
If you know that there will be cultural differences between you and your partner’s family, it is a smart idea to do some research on their culture beforehand. Making yourself familiar with some aspects of their culture will help you have an easier time adjusting to the differences you may have. You should ask your partner beforehand if there is anything specific you should know, and make sure to ask if there is a language barrier. If there is, your nonverbal cues (body language) will play a big part in accurately conveying your personality and who you are. Try to learn a few words and sentences in their language, this can be a sign to them that you care and you want to communicate and a build a relationship. Make sure to smile and give kind gestures in order to show that you really want to make an effort to communicate with them. For certain cultures, the first meeting is not only important for you but also for them. In collectivistic cultures they see marriage as the joining of two families, so partner selection is a choice that affects not only the two individuals to be married but also the broader family units.2 It is good to be prepared before you meet a family with a different culture than your own, and by doing research and communicating with your partner, you can be ready.
Meeting the Family If You Are Both “Out” in a Homosexual Relationship
Before meeting the family, clarify with your partner that their family is comfortable with your partner’s sexuality. If they are, then follow the other suggestions on this article. If not, then be respectful and try not to get angry or upset if they are unkind or distant. If you give it time and remain polite and friendly, hopefully they will warm up to you and your partner’s sexual orientation as well as your relationship. Try to avoid public displays of affection because the family might find it off-putting. Try your best to not get upset about rude or hurtful comments they might say to you or your partner. Just because they feel uncomfortable about the situation now does not necessarily mean that they will always feel this way. All you can do is be respectful and patient in this situation. Remember that this will be a difficult time for your partner as well. Comfort them if they get upset, and make sure you talk about what happened afterwards.
Meeting the Family If You Are Not Both “Out” in a Homosexual Relationship
If you and your partner are not “out” in your relationship, but they still want you to meet their family, then you are going to have to approach the situation in a delicate manner. Try not to feel like you are hiding something from them; everyone comes out at their own pace and it is okay to keep this relationship private for now. If your partner introduces you as their “friend” do not feel offended, know that it is necessary for the time being. Try to avoid any public displays of affection, and genuinely act like you are just a friend of your partner. Think of it as a special occasion that your partner is asking you to meet their family when you both are not “out.” It most likely means that you are very special to your partner. Remember to approach this first meeting with a positive attittude and be able to adapt to any given situation that may come up. Talk to your partner about what you will say about your “friendship” and have some guidelines going into the first meeting.
Visualize the Meeting Before It Happens
Try not to worry about the things that could go wrong. Instead, visualize how meeting the family will most likely unfold. Think about what they could possibly say to you and ask you. The more prepared you are for what they might say the more confident you will be. Think about the questions that you want to ask them. If you do this enough, the moment may seem less stressful because you have “been there before.” There is no guarantee that thinking about what you want to say before will completely calm your nerves, but it will help you and prepare you more than if you had never previously considered what would happen during the meeting. Try not to think about any negative things that may happen. If you feel yourself thinking about the negatives, just realize that whatever stressful or unpleasant scenarios you imagine will probably not be anything like what actually happens when you meet the family.
It is important to relax before meeting the family because it will help you feel more comfortable and ready for awkward situations. It is also important to relax after the initial meeting, and try to not ruminate on small things you could have done differently, relaxing will help you have peace of mind. If the situation does start to become stressful or overwhelming, take deep breaths and try to put things into perspective. This is only your first of potentially many interactions with your partner’s family, so do not worry if everything does not go exactly as you imagined. You are just meeting the family, so you do not yet know their personality and sense of humor. It is okay if it is not a perfect meeting. Worrying beforehand will not help anything, and it may even make the eventual meeting more stressful and uncomfortable for you. Your partner’s parents are going to understand that you are nervous, and you need to realize that stumbling over a few words or spilling a drink is not a big deal. If you are actively trying to give a good impression of yourself to your partner’s family, then they will appreciate that. The most important things to remember are that you are going to do well, the nervousness is normal and will pass, and you can handle anything. Realizing this will let help you to relax and have a great time meeting the family. After you have a great time meeting the family, and you want some ideas for fun dates just click here. (Hyperlink to Fun Date Ideas).
There are many different circumstances and scenarios that you may find yourself in when you meet the family, you may need to adjust accordingly to the situation that you are in. These situations may require you to act a little differently than you normally would, and that is okay. Do not try to be a different person, but if a situation calls for you to act a bit more reserved than usual, then you should try to act a little calmer. This will help you ease you into any unexpected circumstance that may come up.
If Meeting the Family Does Not Go Well
Sometimes things do not go as planned, and the first meeting with the family might have gone poorly. If this is the case, try not to worry about it, and remember that next time can always go better. If something serious happened, it may be wise to apologize, and realize that personalities can sometimes clash. It is best to realize that you may not be extremely close with the family, but it is important to at least always be cordial with them. If you are very committed to your partner, and they are close with their family, it is going to be important that you and their family do not despise each other. The first meeting may have gone poorly, but that does not necessarily mean your partner’s family does not like you. You may want to make an attempt to quickly meet with them again and try to redeem yourself and start fresh. Perceptions can change, and you can prove to them that you are a good person and a good partner.
If Your Partner Does Not Want You to Meet the Family
Sometimes individuals are not close with their family, and do not necessarily feel comfortable introducing their significant others to them. If your partner does not want you to meet their family do not force them or push the topic, there is most likely a good reason for them to feel this way. However, you should ask them to explain their reasoning behind this decision, it is important to communicate about this because it is an intimate topic. It may just be a timing issue, and your partner’s family may be going through some deep problems ath the moment. If you really want to meet your partner’s family and they are not giving you a reason why they do not want you to, then ask your partner if you can meet them at a later time. The most important thing to do is to respect your partner’s wishes, and make sure that you are not taking them out of their comfort zone or forcing them into anything.
All in all, meeting the family is a very crucial moment in a relationship. Following some or most of these guidelines may give you a greater chance at having a good first meeting. Remember that your partner’s family will understand if you are nervous, and that they will most likely not judge you because you seem nervous. Every situation is different and you should try to adjust and do what is right for your particular situation. Make sure to be respectful and considerate of the family, but most importantly be true to yourself and stay genuine. Even if the first time you meet the family it goes poorly, that is okay. Try to stay relaxed and do better next time. If you are trying, they will see that you do feel strongly about building not only a good relationship with them, but with your partner. Ultimately, your partner’s family just wants your partner to be with someone who will treat them right. If they see that you make your partner happy, there is a good chance that they will like you just based off of that. It is a very big moment, but it is a moment you can be prepared for. So for everyone who is about to meet the parents, good luck, the Sexperts know that you will make a great first impression.
- Buunk, A. P., J. H. Park, and L. A. Duncan. "Cultural Variation in Parental Influence on Mate Choice." Cross-Cultural Research 44.1 (2010): 23-40.
- Macdonald, G., T. C. Marshall, J. Gere, A. Shimotomai, and J. Lies. "Valuing Romantic Relationships: The Role of Family Approval Across Cultures." Cross-Cultural Research 46.4 (2012): 366-93.
Last Updated: 29 May, 2016