Meeting the parents is a significant event in any intimate relationship for everyone involved. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and first impressions are important.
Still not convinced? Scientists study first impressions because they are so important. According to Forbes, Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov and student researcher Janine Willis asked a diverse group of people to watch a microsecond of a political candidate's video. With only a microsecond to go, research subjects predicted who would win the election with a 70% accuracy rate. What can we all learn from this research? In a tenth of a second, people can make accurate snap judgments.
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Are you concerned about navigating the potentially treacherous waters of meeting your partner's parents for the first time? Keep these eight suggestions in mind, and your relationship will be off to a good start
1. Keep in mind that it is about all of you
When meeting the parents for the first time, most men and women are concerned about the parent's impression, the partner's impression, the cat's impression, and everything else under the sun. Keep in mind that this event is also about you. This meeting is a great way to learn more about your partner. Take note of their parents' demeanors, their surroundings, and how they treat one another. Regardless of your partner's current relationship with them, the parent's influence was significant in shaping future expectations of intimate relationships.
What can you learn about your partner's family life from this new perspective? Do you like what you've seen so far? What is bothering you? Did you have a good time with them? How do you feel at the end of the night? Be honest with yourself – just like anyone else, you will have things that you consider positive and things that you consider negative. The more clearly you see them, the better you can evaluate your relationship with your partner and stay on the same page as you move forward.
2. Maintain your sense of perspective
What is the significance of “meeting the parents?” It is conditional. If families are separated and meeting them necessitates travel, a holiday, or another special occasion, then yes, it is a big deal. Things are more casual if everyone lives in the same neighborhood and your partner first introduces you when you run into each other in the supermarket. Ask your partner how important this occasion is to them, and be clear about where this meeting falls on your scale of “serious, committed relationship.”
Some people value their parents' opinions, or have special caretaking or other logistical arrangements with them, and prefer partners to meet them early on; others don't care what their parents think and will see them in the pew when you two are at the altar. Bottom line: don't stress, and don't overestimate the significance of meeting the parents.
3. Recognize how little you know
Whether you meet the parents at their home or in a public place, you will undoubtedly learn something about your partner. Remember, these people have a long history together, complete with inside jokes, embarrassing stories, and intimate knowledge of one another. Try not to react to anything you hear – there is likely context that your partner will explain later, and jokes and stories that sound like they happened yesterday may have happened years ago.
If you are over the age of 18, there is also a good chance that you are not the first child your partner has ever brought home (would you want to be? ), and that “meeting the parents” hasn't always gone smoothly. Maintain your composure during the first meeting.
4. Be available to your partner
Most people use humor to relieve nervous tension, and families exist primarily to share embarrassing stories. Some families also have nosy or malicious members who will pry and push for information. Remember that this is only the first meeting. You wouldn't have teased, embarrassed, or revealed extremely personal information to your partner on your first date, would you? Obviously not. So don't do it right now.
Sure, you can tease your partner with their family later on, but save that for later. Giggling is fine; ganging up on your partner in order to gain acceptance from your parents is not. At all times, respect your partner's privacy and the sanctity of your relationship, and deflect any attempts to learn private information about your relationship with your partner.
5. Be patient with the parents
Consider yourself to be nervous, excited, stressed, eager, or any other emotion under the sun. They are as well. You'll probably say something you wish you could take back, crack a bad joke, drop your napkin, or some other detail you agonize over on the way home. They will, too.
Take a deep breath, relax, and don't judge anyone more harshly than you would like to be judged. Keep in mind that these people are important to your partner. It may have taken a few meetings to realize that your partner is amazing, your best friend is fun to hang out with, and the dog you eventually adopted is the right pet for you – but give the parents some time as well.
6. Carry a gift and kind words on your lips
Never arrive empty-handed, no matter what you're doing, where you're going, when you're going, what time of day it is, or what season it is. But what gift should I bring? Choose a gift that the mother will appreciate and present it to her directly. Not only do traditional etiquette dictate that the hostess receive a gift, but courting the mother's favor can result in valuable “family goodwill” points. Are you unsure about her preferences, food allergies, or other considerations? Pick up a flower bouquet. On a shoestring budget? Whether they like it or not, the effort will be noticed and appreciated.
Throughout the evening, be appropriately generous with compliments, whether on a style of dress or the parents' home, and send a handwritten “thank you” note after the event.
7. Make a reciprocal offer
Did the parents pay the bill or welcome you to their home for the evening? Reciprocate by hosting them again or treating them to a meal or experience the next time. Establishing you and your partner as mature adults who care about the parents will go a long way toward building goodwill and laying the groundwork for the mutual respect that is essential in every ideal relationship. As an added bonus, you'll be able to relax and enjoy the second meeting a little more, especially if it's on your home turf or on your terms.
8. Unwind and enjoy yourself
The point of meeting the parents is that if you care about your partner, you may see them in your life for a long time… possibly forever. If you all get along, that time will be much happier, more peaceful, productive, and supportive. They don't have to be your favorite people, but you all share a common bond: love for your partner, who also happens to be their child. So take a deep breath, relax, and have fun meeting new people. If your partner turned out the way they did, they did something right, so no matter how this meeting goes, it should be cause for celebration.
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