Meeting your significant other’s family is, as we’re sure you know, a huge step in a relationship. It can be a major sign that things are getting serious between you, and either way, it’s their family—you obviously want to make a great first impression. So it’s important to prep, just a little bit, and go over all the things not to do when meeting the family for the first time, because things can get super awkward really quick.
And if you have social anxiety in general, meeting someone’s family can be extra excruciating.
But even the coolest and calmest among us are nervous about meeting our S.O.’s family! It’s natural to want to them to like you, especially when you see a future with this person and want to be part of their fam. Everyone will tell you to just “be yourself,” but in these situations, that can be totally confusing advice. Some of us aren’t even our realest selves when we’re around our own parents, so being “yourself” around another person’s family can get tricky.
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Really, it all comes down to behaving with common sense, but when you’re nervous, common sense often goes out the window. Remember how easy Ben Stiller thought it was going to be to meet Robert DeNiro? We don’t want that to happen to you. So, take some time to come up with plan to be as calm as possible for the big day and remember to not do some these things the first time you meet the family.
1. Don’t ignore your partner.
If your partner tells you something about their family, heed their warnings. They have best insights as to how this whole meeting is likely to go down. Obviously, always be yourself! But if your partner tells you to cool it on politics talk, or that their family is touchy about certain things like cursing, definitely listen to them. You can curtail your F-bomb usage for a weekend.
This is the first time you’re meeting the family, so it’s just good manners to follow your S.O.’s lead. There will be times to reconcile your personality with their family quirks the longer you’re together. Also, showing your partner that you’re going to follow their lead is a huge way to show them that you totally respect them. It will likely make them less nervous, too.
2. Cool it on the PDA.
It’s hard to keep your paws off of each other in general, but it might be a good idea to not make out right in front of their little sister or be too grabby in front of grandma. You can put people off with PDA, which is totally their problem and not yours, but it’s probably better to keep some distance the first time around. Giving the fam a visual preview of the stuff you guys do in private is not exactly the coolest way to win brownie points.
3. Don’t be so anxious.
Now that we’ve made it seem like this is the biggest moment of your life, yes, we’re telling you to calm down. Because it’s really not such a make-or-break moment. You are likely a really awesome person to be around, otherwise your partner wouldn’t want you in their life! So relax and take it easy, even through the awkward silences. If their sisters don’t like you right away, they’ll warm up to you. And if everyone is legitimately a nightmare, you’ll just have great stories to complain to your friends about later.
4. Don’t take things personally.
It’s likely that your partner is a little nervous, too. So if they’re being a little weird or acting differently, just take it in stride. You can always bring it up later if something was really off or offensive, but don’t bring up any relationship drama at the dinner table the very first time you meet their people. Also, their parents and siblings are likely worried about making a great first impression on you, too, so cut people some slack. It’s like a first date—things will get less weird eventually.
5. Don’t overdo it.
It’s hard when you’re nervous and there’s an open bar at their cousin’s wedding, but try your best to practice safe drinking habits around their family so you don’t regret anything later. If not for them, do it for your peace of mind later on.
6. Don’t join the fights.
If your partner’s mom starts talking trash about their ex, do not take the bait and join in. If you stay with this person for a while, you will likely have all the time in the world to learn how to gossip with them and get the dirt on Crazy Aunt Linda, but the first time you meet them is not the time. If gossip is their thing, bring up some celeb everyone can dish on or something else impersonal to bring you closer together. But when it comes to this new family, stay super neutral and don’t take the bait. You want this first meeting with the parents to lead to another time, right? Keep it classy.