Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 12-18-2017 Comments: 0
The holidays are a stressful time for new relationships. There’s a lot of pressure to get it right – from buying the perfect gift to deciding what parties you will attend alone or together to the ultimate test of a relationship – meeting his family.
Meeting the family is nerve-wracking on many levels. First, you get an inside and up-close look at the dynamics between your significant other and his family members – for better or for worse – which gives you new insight into your relationship. Second, you want his family to like you! Who doesn’t want to be the “favorite” when meeting your SO’s family for the first time, (especially if they haven’t liked his previous girlfriends)?
Of course, this instinct to please presents challenges. Not everyone gets along, and some people are very different. Also, it’s hard to know what to expect when you enter into a family gathering for the first time, especially during the holidays. The whole experience can be fraught with added pressure when particular customs and traditions are the focus, and you’re the outsider.
It’s not all about stress though: meeting his family can strengthen your relationship in many ways. You and your partner are in it together, and when you both make an effort for each other as well as for the family, your relationship grows.
Not sure of how to approach meeting his family, or need a quick checklist so you don’t forget details that make a difference? We’ve put together a guide to help you find your footing.
When in doubt, bring a gift.
This isn’t about bribery, it’s about making a thoughtful gesture as a first impression. When you bring a gift, you are showing your appreciation for their invitation. But remember, there is a fine line between sweet and over-the-top. Don’t be extravagant, because that is an immediate turn-off. Be thoughtful. Some ideas include gifts they can share – a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, a dessert, or a unique food item, like flavored olive oil. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner for his input. Again, don’t think of this as buying their love, but rather as a gesture of thanks for welcoming you into their home.
Keep it classy.
It’s good to dress for the occasion so you and his family feel comfortable. Ask your boyfriend beforehand whether the group is casual or dressy – you don’t want to show up in evening wear with people wearing jeans and t-shirts, and you don’t want to show up in a bulky sweater while his family is dressed to the nines. Also ladies, don’t dress like you’re going to the club – you’re meeting his family, so keep it classy with no plunging necklines or ultra short skirts. This might sound old-fashioned, but again, this is all about first impressions.
Offer to help out.
His parents want to know you’re considerate by your actions, not your words. Show this by offering to help set the table or clean the dishes. A small gesture like this goes a long way toward making a good first impression. Don’t feel you have to do everything or neglect talking to the family to make sure the kitchen is sparkling – you don’t want to come across as a martyr, either. If they turn you down a couple of times, then let it go.
Respect their traditions.
Before you go, ask your SO questions about what to expect and what his family expects of you. You are a guest – think of their traditions as learning about your boyfriend’s past and the family dynamics. Ask questions if you’re curious. Also, it’s important to listen. Most family members want a new girlfriend to “get” them on some level, so pay attention and show them respect so they will do so in kind.
For the Introverts: Get to know them individually.
It can be intimidating if he has a loud, large family and you’re reserved or soft-spoken. If you’re not the type to share jokes or stories at the dinner table or be the center of attention, take a different approach to show them who you are (because they will be curious)! Engage in some one-on-one conversation as you’re helping set the table or with the food prep. Ask questions, and more importantly – listen. The more you can engage with his family, the more you’re willing to show your SO how important he is to you.
Don’t stir the pot with political arguments.
There will be a time to share your political or moral beliefs, but not when you’re meeting his family for the first time. Political discourse is important, but there is also a time and place to have these kinds of discussions. If you need to vent, call your friends or post on Facebook, but try not to pick fights with his family. You are a guest in their home, after all.
Keep your drinking to a minimum.
Having a couple of glasses of wine before dinner to ease your nerves is tempting, but try to curb your drinking when you’re meeting his family. If you’re worried about how much you might drink, then abstain altogether. You don’t want them to get the wrong impression about who you are, and getting drunk in front of them (and potentially saying things you don’t mean) could derail your efforts to connect.
Make plans away from family, too.
It’s really important to schedule time alone with your partner, especially if you plan to stay with his family. It can get overwhelming to be around each other all day for several days, so give yourselves a break. Plan to see a movie, get massages together, or take a walk to see the holiday lights. The point is, make plans so you have alone time, too. It’s important to take a break from the holiday stress and just enjoy each other.