Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time can be a very nerve-wracking experience. Meeting new people is often awkward at the best of times without the added significance of this moment weighing you down even further. The reputation of days spent meeting parents has not been helped by horror stories from friends or comedy films either – don’t try watching ‘Meet the Parents’ before the big day, it won’t help!
However, it is rare for horror stories like that to happen in real life. Preparation in advance and good behavior on the day will ensure that you survive and you may even enjoy your encounter with each other.
Learn About Your Partner’s Parents in Advance
Spending time discussing your partner’s parents with them will help you to prepare for your meeting. There are many aspects you may wish to consider before you meet them: their jobs, their past, their likes and dislikes, their culture and religion, even their thoughts about the news and current affairs. Quizzing your partner about their parents may feel like studying for an exam you do not want to take but it will help you to feel more prepared for your meeting. Learning about your partner’s parents may help them to feel more human to you as well and less scary to you. Your partner may also be able to advise you on topics to avoid in conversation and provide guidance on a small gift to give them if you are visiting their house (always a good way to win points). Preparing conversation topics in advance will help to ensure that you do not have any awkward silences on the day – though do avoid trying to ‘force’ conversation.
Anticipate Difficult Questions
Meeting the parents is not just an opportunity for you to meet your partner’s family but also a chance for them to meet you. They may be as anxious about meeting you as you are about meeting them. Be prepared for questions they may ask you; they will be keen to learn all they can about their child’s new partner. They may be interested in your job, your studies, your travels or your plans for the future. It is also advisable to be prepared for more probing questions, such as the progress of your relationship together or your plans with their child. While you may feel uncomfortable opening up to your partner’s parents it is advisable to prepare answers to questions in advance. Your partner may be able to help you to prepare.
A first impression can be made in a matter of seconds and is often based largely on how you look. Take some time to choose a smart outfit to wear; low cut (for women), scruffy, old or ill-fitting clothes may cause your partner’s parents to make a bad judgment when they meet you. Smart casual clothes are often best to wear as you also don’t want to appear like you’re ‘trying too hard’. Ask for your partner’s guidance when choosing your clothes, styling your hair nicely or getting a haircut will help to ensure that you look smart. This also gives your partner a chance to ‘show you off’.
Being late can upset many people, especially before a meal. Plan your travel arrangements carefully and ensure that you are arriving promptly. Your partner may be able to guide you on the best routes. Check travel reports and look out for any delays.
During your meeting try not to appear shy or too quiet; the key focus of the event will be meeting you and getting to know you. Your partner’s parents may have a lot of questions to ask or be keen to hear you talk. Taking part in conversation with people you do not know can often feel intimidating, particularly if you are a shy person (like me). But be brave and take part in the conversation; they will be glad to see that their child’s partner is interested in interacting with them.
Likewise, try not to be too confident or dominant in the conversation; this may come across as cocky or arrogant. Listen to their responses and take the time to get to know them too.
It should go without saying to be on your best behavior with your partner’s parents. Say please and thank you when talking to them. Compliment them on their house and pay attention to them. Likewise be polite with your partner and cordial when you talk to them.
The most important thing when meeting the parents is to show that you love their child. This is all most parents really want and as long as they see that you make each other happy that will make it much easier for them to accept you.
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