The Do’s and Dont’s of Meeting the Parents

A young modern couple walking up the front door of a parent's home for the first time.

Whether you just started dating or have been in a relationship for months, meeting your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s parents for the first time can seem like an extremely daunting task. After all, what happens if they don’t like you? Thoughts like this can get out of hand quickly. As such, it’s best to avoid them when possible. There is no sense in fretting over a possibility; wait until you have actually met the people!

It is important to remember, however, that first impressions last. If you are serious about this relationship, you will want to make the first interaction with their parents a good one. While it’s impossible to account for everything, the following do’s and don’ts can help you make a positive impression that will last.

Do: Dress Appropriately

Dressing appropriately means different things in different situations. Take time to consider where and when the meeting is supposed to take place. Base what you wear on these factors. It’s also a good idea to ask your significant other what they’re wearing as a gauge.

Do: Be on Time

Being 15 minutes late (or early) is not fashionable. Try very hard to arrive as close to the designated time as possible. That said, if you know you are running late, make sure you communicate this openly with your significant other. Let him or her know where you are, why you are running late, and what time you do expect to arrive. Everyone involved will appreciate having this information.

Don’t: Be Rude

Being yourself does not give you the right to be rude or crass. Think of all the polite things people generally do when they meet other people: shake hands, say “please” and “thank you,” wait for your turn to speak, and chew with your mouth closed. These things show you have good manners and will be noticed.

Don’t: Be Defensive

As conversation progresses, you may become uncomfortable with a certain topic or line of questioning. Do not get defensive. In most cases, they are simply trying to learn more about who you are. If there is a question you feel is judgmental, try to give them the benefit of the doubt. Answer the inquiry to the best of your ability and move on. Reading into things incorrectly so soon can set a negative tone for future interactions.

Do: Be Yourself

A family enjoying wine over dinner.

Above everything else, it’s absolutely vital that you be yourself. Your significant other’s parents are more likely to dislike your insincerity than they are to dislike the real you, even if you are a little quirky! While they may not be looking for inconsistencies or disingenuous sentiments, they are highly likely to notice them.

Do: Let Your Affection Show

Two girlfriends holding each other's hands at a table and laughing.

Some people feel uncomfortable expressing their emotions in a public setting. Do not, however, feel that you have to hide how you feel about your significant other in front of his or her parents. If you are normally lovey-dovey, don’t feel like you have to turn that piece of you off. While the gathering may be so you can all meet, your boyfriend or girlfriend should still be a priority. Smile at them often, make eye contact, and hold hands if you both want to.

Don’t: Bring up Sensitive Subjects

As a rule, it’s a good idea to avoid potentially touchy subjects the first time you meet your significant other’s family. This means you should think twice about sharing anything religious or political. The goal is to establish a good relationship with these people, not to start a debate.

Don’t: Spend Time on Your Phone

This is a big one. It can be very easy to become distracted by your cell phone while with your significant other’s family. This is especially true if you are not really enjoying the outing. Do not, under any circumstance, spend the entire time on your phone. You may not be doing it to be rude, but that is absolutely how the action will be perceived.

Do: Offer to Help

Under any circumstance, it’s polite to offer to help when you have been invited over to someone else’s house. Always ask if you can assist with serving or washing dishes. Do not, however, force help upon anyone. If your offer is declined, accept that they have everything handled. There will be plenty of opportunities to show that you are courteous later.

Don’t: Question Their Parenting Decisions

You may be dating someone who grew up very differently than you. Every family is different and every household has different values and traditions. While you may have heard some things about your significant other’s parents that you do not like or agree with, the first time you meet is not the time to address these things. Try to accept that their decisions have likely come from a place of care. Do not judge them for their actions until you have gotten to know them better.

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