If we’re being honest, there’s nothing quite as intimidating as having to meet the parents of your girlfriend for the first time. Your performance will be judged and this first impression of you will color their opinion of you for some time, fairly or unfairly. A great first impression can mean smooth sailing. If things don’t quite go as planned (or hoped) then you will have to depend on time to wear away that first impression and replace it with a more accurate portrait of who you are. Here are some tips on making that first encounter a good experience for everyone.
Let them have home-field advantage
It would probably be way more comfortable to meet in a neutral location like a restaurant for the first time, but most of the time the parents will name the location, and this is usually at their house. If you’re from out of town and are actually staying at their house, it should go without saying that you should stay in a seperate room from your girlfriend. You might think her parents are “cool with it” if you two share a room, and they might actually be, but it’s best not to anyway just to avoid making anyone the least bit uncomfortable and avoid creating underlying tensions.
- Meeting her parents on their ground will automatically mean they are in their comfort zone. This will make it much easier to leave a good impression, since there are no initial difficulties with the setting.
Prepare for conversation!
A huge mistake that a lot of guys make is thinking that they can talk to a girlfriend’s parents like they do to their girlfriend. Her parents are less likely to be forgiving if the conversation grinds to a halt, though.
- Find out what her parents do, and what they have done. Find out other basic stuff in the family background, like what her brothers and sisters do for a living. Find out if her dad went to college, and if so where. Ask about what they’re passionate about (like golf, or the environment). Armed with that information, do a little research so you can speak intelligently on the relevant topics. You don’t have to strike up a conversation about it as if you’re interested (unless you really are interested) but the goal here is to know enough so you can ask some smart questions that have long answers (which you will also hopefully understand).
- Avoid potentially “hot” topics. Leave out politics, religion, and lifestyle until everyone is more comfortable with each other. Backing the wrong side of an argument here could color their opinion of you for life.
When it comes to the actual meeting, there are a few things that you can do to make sure they are predisposed towards accepting you.
- At their house: Get ready to do some chores. Don’t wait to be asked. It’s little things that really matter here; if the garbage can is at the curb, bring it in. If there is a newspaper on the doorstep, give it to the parents on entry into the house. Offer to help with the dishes, and at the very least help clear the table.
- Focus on mom! Don’t lay it on too thick, but the one you really want to impress here is your girlfriend’s mom. If you haven’t realized it for yourself, it’s the female in the relationship that forms the opinions of the couple. No matter how hard he is trying, there is always going to be a little spot in her dad’s heart that wants you to go away (you’ll understand this when you have a daughter). Being accepted by his wife is the first step in making this go away (and given time, it will).
- Gifts: Flowers for mom and wine for dad are almost always acceptable, and a great way to break the ice. You might even go further and personalize the gifts a little to their individual tastes, but don’t go too far or you may appear silly.
- Bonus: Don’t tell your girlfriend!!! She’ll love it if you surprise her by getting gifts for her parents and not telling her about it.
Meeting the parents for the first time does not have to be a bad experience at all. In fact, when handled right, it can lay the foundation for great relationships with everyone, and an improved one between you and your girlfriend. Always be respectful, do a little preparation, and odds are you will not be found lacking.