It’s literally so nerve-wracking. No matter how many times your SO says, There’s no reason to worry. I’m sure they’ll love you, you’re still destined to freak out about that first fateful meeting between you and his or her parents. Because, hellooooo, it’s important. These are the people that raised your boyfriend or girlfriend and likely their approval matters, so you want to make a good impression. It’s a lot of pressure, but you can still come out looking like a golden choice for their son or daughter. To make things a little bit easier and calm down those stress levels, here are 10 helpful things to remember when finally meeting your SO’s parents.
1. They’re nervous, too
It’s easy to forget that your SOs parents–as intimidating as they may seem and sound–are people just like you. They’re also coming into this situation feeling like they need to make a good impression. They’re going to be just as nervous as you are! It’s just as important to them that you like them back, so you’re on an even playing field.
2. They want to like you
In most cases, his or her parents aren’t going to be looking for things wrong with you. They’re going to want to like you! Odds are you’re going to be around a lot from here on out, so it makes their lives easier if you all get along well. That’s what they’ll be hoping for. The odds are in your favor.
3. Be yourself
It’s cliche, but still always an important thing to be reminded of. You may go into this meeting thinking you need to act a certain way. You might want their parents to think you’re some kind of upstanding, golden human worthy of their child and assure them you’re not going to be a bad influence. Sure, you do want them to think you’re good, but there’s no point pretending to be something you’re not. If you’re going to be spending the rest of your life with this person, and therefore their parents, you might as well be yourself now. That’s who you are and you don’t want to spend the rest of your days hiding. They might as well get used to you now.
4. Be polite
All that being said, there’s a difference between being yourself and being rude. When meeting anyone it takes time for you both to fully come out of your shells. That’s an important part of the getting-to-know-you process. You don’t want to overwhelm people with everything about you right on the spot. Let your personality show, but still err on the cautious side. Maybe you’re relaxed around people and that includes burping freely. Being relaxed? Great. Burping? Maybe hold that one in (literally) until you get to know each other better. Always err on the idea of “just in case.” Most adults are okay with being called by their first names, but to start call their parents Mr. and Mrs.
5. Keep the conversation light
Your beliefs are an important part of who you are, but political opinions can be controversial. While most people you know are on the same page, standard belief systems differ greatly between generations and environments. Play things safe by keeping the conversation light with easy topics everyone can enjoy. So, when meeting your SO’s parents bite your tongue on the political.
6. Share and listen
Making a connection and having meaningful conversation is all about give and take. You talk about something interesting and funny, and they respond. Conversation builds from mutual exchange, you get to know each other better, and eventually talk naturally flows. When meeting your SO’s parents, don’t be afraid to talk. Answer their questions and tell fun stories when they fit. They’ll be happy to respond with their own experiences or opinions, and when they do make sure to actively listen and respond with comments, questions or just smiles and nods.
7. Stay off your phone
I’m a pretty adamant cell phone user. I always keep mine close at hand and I check it often to make sure there’s nothing important I’ve missed. But that changes when I’m with my boyfriend’s parents. Most people, especially those of older generations, consider it fairly rude and distant to be on your phone a lot when with a group of people. Let your friends know you’ll be unavailable for a bit and put the cell phone away for the time you’re meeting your SO’s parents. Take the opportunity to just enjoy and interact with those around you.
8. Be helpful
Lending a hand, or at least offering your help, means a lot to parents. It shows them you’re not spoiled and not expecting to be waited on. The time for this mostly occurs when they’re either cooking a meal or cleaning up the kitchen afterward. Offer to help in any way you can, and if you’re not sure how they want something done just ask or do your best. If there’s nothing to do or they won’t let you help, you can at least just hang out in the kitchen to talk and provide company while they work.
9. Getting to know people takes time
Just because you don’t immediately become best pals with their parents, doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. People need time to really get to know each other and to get comfortable. It may take a few visits for the nerves to wear off and for you to all start enjoying each other’s company. Stay optimistic.
10. They want their child to be happy
In the end, this is what really matters to your SO’s parents. Not your upbringing, not your political beliefs, but their child’s happiness. Once they can meet you and see that you’re the one who is bringing about that happiness, how could they not adore you? This is the most important thing to remember. Everything else will come with time. Take some deep breaths and stop worrying. Your SO already loves you. Their parents will soon.