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“Nothing is more exciting than meeting new people, hearing their stories, and being inspired.”~ Anonymous
Meeting your partner’s family for the first time can be very stressful…awkward…uncomfortable…challenging…and a little (or a lot) nerve-wracking.
What should I wear? Should I bring a gift? What if they don’t like me? What if I say or do the wrong thing and embarrass my partner? Should I bombard them with praise and compliments or will that just make me look desperate and fake? So many questions, concerns, and worries.
You want to make a good first impression but that can be tricky, depending on the family and the circumstances. In your mind, your partner’s family has to like you because there is a chance they may be your in-laws one day. Yikes! So, what do you do in preparation for the first meeting?
Plan, or more specifically, be proactive. Take steps to make this monumental meeting a bonafide success. Meeting your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s family for the first time doesn’t have to be scary…if you properly prepare for it in advance.
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Read the longer version
You can learn more about meeting your partner’s parents for the first time by reading the following articles: Tips For Meeting Your Partner’s Parents For the First Time by the Daily Times, 5 Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer When Meeting Your Partner’s Family for the First Time by Wedding Wire, and Here’s Exactly What NOT to Do When Meeting Your Partner’s Family For the First Time by Hello Giggles.
Try to make a good first impression when meeting his or her family for the first time
Once you met “the fam,” you’ll need to at least try to make a good first impression. Will you be successful? Maybe or maybe not, but you should still make an effort, regardless of the outcome. Show your partner’s family just why he or she fell in love with you.
Keep in mind that first impressions matter – a lot. For instance, let’s say you have to have surgery and right before you go into the ER you hear your surgeon yelling and cursing at the nurses. Even if the surgeon apologized to you for their behavior before performing surgery on you, how would that make you feel? Would their actions put a bad taste in your mouth – even if they were a renowned surgeon? Most likely yes! Well, the same applies to you and your partner’s family.
If you set a bad first impression (i.e. rude, sullen, hostile, curt, etc.), it will taint how they see you from then on out. Will they want to see you with their loved one? No way. This meeting will determine the tone of your relationship with them. If it’s good, they will accept your relationship wholeheartedly; if it’s not, they could convince your partner to leave you.
Immediately introduce yourself
Upon meeting your partner’s family, be proactive and introduce yourself, if your partner neglects to do so. Say something like, “Hi! I’m Henry! Nice to meet you.” Introducing yourself is a sign of respect, which your partner’s family will surely appreciate.
The key to making this step work is to be friendly and open towards the family, especially your partner’s parents. You want them to see how genuine you are so they don’t feel like you’re being fake or dishonest. Just be real with them. Show them why you’re so awesome through your actions – not just your words.
Smile and use your manners
Also, smile – a lot. Smiling signals that you are friendly, open, and willing to get to know the family. In addition, use your manners – offer to help clear the dishes after dinner or carry a bag into the house for your partner’s family.
Also, don’t forget to say, “thank you” when given something – i.e. a meal, a beverage, a gift, a compliment, etc. Saying “thank you” shows your partner and his or her family that you’re appreciative of their gestures. This is especially important if they have invited you into their home for a meal or are allowing you to stay at their home.
Remember your partner’s family is not only inviting you into their home, but also their lives. If you are eating a meal with the family, don’t forget to place your napkin on your lap, eat slowly, thoroughly chew your food, and refrain from talking with your mouth full. If you accidentally spill your beverage, ask for a napkin or rag to clean up your mess. And, apologize for your faux pas.
Etiquette matters. More specifically, your partner’s family will appreciate your good manners. It will make them feel more comfortable with you because they know you were taught how to be polite and respectful. If you are unsure how to “act” when meeting your partner’s family for the first time, you can find etiquette rules (for all occasions) here.
Prepare for lots of questions
You’ve never met your partner’s family so they are going to be really curious about you. What does that mean for you? It means they’ll most likely bombard you with a million questions during the meeting. While it may be nerve-wrecking for you, it’s actually a really good thing.
How? It means that your partner’s family is interested in getting to know you so they understand if and how you would or could eventually fit into their family. It’s definitely better that they ask questions than not ask you anything because they don’t care. So, when the questions start coming at you, be diplomatic, and answer them honestly without coming across as disingenuous or rude.
Smile, listen, and nod, when need be. If they ask you a personal question, one you don’t want to share, politely laugh and change the subject. But, be prepared to answer questions about where you went to school, your job title and functions, family, upbringing, future plans, etc.
It’s also okay to ask your partner’s family questions too! The answers may help you understand your partner better, thereby strengthening your relationship.
Thank them for the invite
Lastly, thank the family for inviting you to the meal, their home, into their family, etc. It is important to let them know you appreciate them opening up their home, hearts, and life to you. Don’t forget to tell them you had a good time and you can’t wait to learn more about them.
Then, give your partner’s parents hugs, if you want, to show them how much it meant to you. Keep your heart and mind open, and eventually, you’ll feel like one of the family.
About the Author
Dr. R. Y. Langham
Ph.D. in Family Psychology
Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
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