Advice: Meeting the Parents

You’ve been dating your significant other for a while, so you know it’s time: you need to meet the parents.

Before you show up for dinner at your date’s parents’ house — or wherever that first meeting might be — ask your date if there’s anything you should know about her parents that might help you manage your expectations for the meeting. How have they acted around other significant others? Are they likely to give you third degree? Will they greet you at the door with a huge hug and treat you like you’re already part of the family? Do they think she’s dating too soon after her last relationship? Getting some insight into how your date’s parents typically feel about her dating life will help you mentally prepare for the initial encounter.

Here are some simple survival tips for the often-nerve-wracking meeting:

Just be yourself.

A “yourself” that’s on your best behaviour, appropriately dressed, and on time, of course.

Bring gifts.

If you’re meeting your date’s parents at their place, bring a host/hostess gift. If you’re hosting, you’re off the hook — but it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on a favourite drink or snack. (Ask your date for suggestions.)

Don’t be a diva.

Have dietary concerns? Make sure your date relays them in advance. Not a fan of meatloaf? Eat it anyway. Don’t bail on the evening early because you’re double-booked, or constantly check your phone. You’ll reduce stress on your part and theirs if you can appear low-maintenance and fully participate while you’re together.

Compliment their child.

Parents want to hear that you think their child is wonderful. (That’s what they believe, too!) Don’t hesitate to brag about your date in front of them, or express why you fell for him/her in the first place. Parents want to know that, A, they did a great job raising their child, and, B, someone appreciates their child for their strengths.

Show off your chemistry.

Do you laugh a lot together? Then keep laughing. Don’t put on an act in front of the parents. If you’d normally put your arm around her on the couch, do so. Keep things G-rated, but reassure them that you two really do like each other.

Be open, not defensive.

Expect that you’ll be asked an awkward question or two. Answer questions honestly, but don’t feel you have to give in to any bullying tactics if parents have boundary issues.

Don’t bring up your ex.

But be gracious if they do.

Ask questions.

Be interested and engaged. Instead of looking at the meeting merely as an opportunity for your date’s parents to get to know you, focus on getting to know the parents, too. If you’re going to become a more significant part of the family, it never hurts to make a real effort.

Talk about your family.

Your date’s parents are likely curious about your parents, too. Before the parents meet the parents — that’s for a little later down the line — bring your folks up in conversation. Help your date’s parents get to know you by talking about where you come from, what your childhood was like, and what role your parents currently play in your life. (Don’t compare your parents to them, however. This isn’t a competition.)

Take things slow.

If you’re in the relationship for the long haul, you don’t need to tell every story or ask every question the first time your meet your partner’s parents. And don’t expect them to fall in love with you at first sight, either. Manage your expectations, be respectful, and anticipate plenty of other opportunities to spend time with them again in the near future. Don’t start calling them “mom” and “dad” just yet — but a hug goodbye probably won’t hurt.