Show me a girl who doesn’t want to impress her beau’s parents (provided he’s close to them) and I’ll show you a girl who wants to break up with her beau. It’s rare that meeting the parents doesn’t cause a girlfriend or fiancée some amount of anxiety. If her paramour is from the kind of family where his parents’ approval or disapproval can influence how seriously he takes the relationship, she’s usually quite keen on ensuring that they have a decent opinion of her.
Some women are naturals. They’re charmers. They can whip up a home-cooked meal. They know when to bring wine and when sparkling apple cider is the better option. They can intuit the exact skirt length that reads: I am tasteful, secure, and fashion-forward. And they’re great at keeping what could be an awkward first meeting light and witty and fun.
Others aren’t so lucky. Some of us routinely put our feet in our mouths. We come off as abrasive when we’re aiming for opinionated. We burn the chicken and undercook the veggies. We bring Merlot to teetotalers. And after a glass and a half, we blurt out: “Marriage is modern-day indentured servitude!”
Every family’s different. And, of course, “being yourself” is always the best policy whenever you’re meeting new people. But in attempts to put your best foot forward, particularly when doing so may mean the difference between engagement or excommunication, all that “being yourself” stuff may fly straight out the window.
Here are a few ways to figure out how well you’ll do in a first meeting with your significant other’s family:
1. Ask questions.
Have you sufficiently quizzed your guy on what topics should and should not be raised in a first conversation? Have you checked on his family’s allergies and preferences before cooking or choosing a trendy restaurant with cuisine they can’t stomach? Have you asked whether they’d gotten super attached to one of his exes and are now predisposed to dislike you? See all those questions I just asked here? These are a good idea.
2. Suss out the family dynamics.
In cases of divorce and remarriage, there may be multiple family first meetings. Keep names, facts, and details straight. Find out if his parents are on good terms, even if they aren’t together. (This will help you ask the right questions and avoid the wrong ones.) Figure out his relationships with his siblings. Does he value one’s opinions more than the others’? Is one of his brothers known for hitting on his women? All these things are great to know.
3. Have fun.
Relationships with potential in-laws can be a lot to navigate, but as with any family, the goal is to encourage, support, and love one another. Grafting someone into a family is a big deal. In some cases, it may be a reluctant adjustment that will require patience on everyone’s part. Give and take all the space and time you need to get to know one another and to get comfortable with what’s to come.
If you’re married, do you have any advice for dealing with in-laws? If you’re not married, have you met your significant other’s family? Was it a smooth or disastrous first meeting?