Show me a girl who doesn’t want to impress her beau’s parents (provided he’s close to them) and I’ll show you a girl who wants to break up with her beau. It’s rare that meeting the parents doesn’t cause a girlfriend or fiancée some amount of anxiety. If her paramour is from the kind of family where his parents’ approval or disapproval can influence how seriously he takes the relationship, she’s usually quite keen on ensuring that they have a decent opinion of her.

Some women are naturals. They’re charmers. They can whip up a home-cooked meal. They know when to bring wine and when sparkling apple cider is the better option. They can intuit the exact skirt length that reads: I am tasteful, secure, and fashion-forward. And they’re great at keeping what could be an awkward first meeting light and witty and fun.

Others aren’t so lucky. Some of us routinely put our feet in our mouths. We come off as abrasive when we’re aiming for opinionated. We burn the chicken and undercook the veggies. We bring Merlot to teetotalers. And after a glass and a half, we blurt out: “Marriage is modern-day indentured servitude!”

Every family’s different. And, of course, “being yourself” is always the best policy whenever you’re meeting new people. But in attempts to put your best foot forward, particularly when doing so may mean the difference between engagement or excommunication, all that “being yourself” stuff may fly straight out the window.

Here are a few ways to figure out how well you’ll do in a first meeting with your significant other’s family:

1. Ask questions.
Have you sufficiently quizzed your guy on what topics should and should not be raised in a first conversation? Have you checked on his family’s allergies and preferences before cooking or choosing a trendy restaurant with cuisine they can’t stomach? Have you asked whether they’d gotten super attached to one of his exes and are now predisposed to dislike you? See all those questions I just asked here? These are a good idea.

2. Suss out the family dynamics.
In cases of divorce and remarriage, there may be multiple family first meetings. Keep names, facts, and details straight. Find out if his parents are on good terms, even if they aren’t together. (This will help you ask the right questions and avoid the wrong ones.) Figure out his relationships with his siblings. Does he value one’s opinions more than the others’? Is one of his brothers known for hitting on his women? All these things are great to know.

3. Have fun.
Relationships with potential in-laws can be a lot to navigate, but as with any family, the goal is to encourage, support, and love one another. Grafting someone into a family is a big deal. In some cases, it may be a reluctant adjustment that will require patience on everyone’s part. Give and take all the space and time you need to get to know one another and to get comfortable with what’s to come.

If you’re married, do you have any advice for dealing with in-laws? If you’re not married, have you met your significant other’s family? Was it a smooth or disastrous first meeting?

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  • Cree

    Haha! This was a fun read. I am married and here is my advice.

    If you notice the family likes to do big family oriented things, when the timing is right, impress them by starting a tradition. My first year of marriage, I came up with the idea that we should all tailgate at our alma mater. I am surprised they hadn’t thought of it before. A lot of people liked that idea. I think it impressed them that I was comfortable enough to do so.

    But I would advise people that are dating to really consider not using this idea. You don’t want to come on too strong.

    And if you are one of those people that tends to be a nervous talker, here is how you can avoid making the WRONG impression.

    1. Let the family dictate the conversation.
    2. PLEASE for the love of all, DO NOT overshare. I hate when people do this especially upon first meeting someone. Do these near strangers really need to know that certain dresses mean you have to constantly pull up your bra, blah blah blah? Just say you don’t shop at xyz store either and keep it moving. Lol.
    3. The first time you meet the family is usually not the time to prove how much you know about your beau. If they ask, ok, answer to the best of your ability. But be your own individual, you don’t always have to bring the convo back around to your mate.

    Ok, who else can add??? This is fun.

    • slb

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this! It was fun to write. And thanks for adding your own advice. There are some real gems here. lol

  • Lorri

    I had one particular experience in which I met the mother. She was unhappy…..about EVERYTHING. And then I quickly understood, that’s why he was always unhappy and unsatisfied. I will never forget when I met his aunts and they asked me what was the last book I read and what was it about…..??????? Five minutes into meeting them? Hilarious family. We split during the holidays….lol