New relationships can be exciting. But as things heat up and become more serious, you may find that this initial surge of excitement gives way to real-life challenges, including how to approach meeting your partner’s parents for the first time.
Depending on how fast your relationship progresses, the following questions may arise sooner rather than later: "When is the right time to introduce my partner to my parents?" and "Whose family should we meet up with first?" If you want to make a good impression, the next question is probably: "Should I bring a gift and how much should I spend?" Since you may eventually marry your beloved, you want everything to go swimmingly, but there are no guarantees that you won’t hit snags. To this end, here are four tips to help you and your partner navigate meeting each other’s parents for the first time.
1. Communicate your timeline and expectations upfront
This seems pretty straightforward, but it can get complicated if you and your partner have different expectations or timelines for when is the best time to meet the parents. One of you wants to schedule a dinner two months into your relationship and the other wants to wait a whole year. So, what to do? Communicate and discuss your expectations as things begin to get serious, especially if one of you is feeling antsy. Keep in mind that if you push your partner too fast, he or she may back off from the relationship.
For another point of reference, according to Her Campus and Marni Battista, founder of Dating with Dignity, the three to six-month dating mark is typically considered the "safe zone" to move forward and meet each other’s parents. An exception to this rule might be a special family occasion that occurs sooner than this. For example, a family member may have a wedding and invite you and your partner after you’ve been dating for only two months. Does this become the big reveal? Again, this calls for a discussion between the two of you so you can jointly decide whether attending the event together is a good idea at this early stage in your relationship.
2. Avoid planning the first meeting over the holidays
Although holidays may seem like an ideal time to introduce your partner to your parents (as well as the rest of the family) keep in mind that holidays can also be stressful and your parent’s attention is divided amongst a crowd, says LadyLux. Also, when major holidays are months away, it’s a better idea not to wait for them to roll back around if you and your partner decide that now is the right time to meet the parents.
Instead, it’s wise to plan a meeting in a public space, like a restaurant or coffee shop. Why? Because inviting parents to your home for a meal may cause yet more stress as you may be worried about the appearance of your home or whether you have prepared food they will enjoy. It’s also a good idea to avoid going to a movie or other spectator event as you won’t truly have the opportunity to talk and get to know each other.
3. Decide which parents to meet first
Sometimes this is an easy choice if one of you has parents who live out of state and the other has parents who are local. If both families live in the same area as both of you (or both live out of state), it will require a discussion to determine the best timing to meet both sides of the family.
With your own sanity at stake, it’s key for you and your partner to be flexible and honest, and come to an agreement that you are comfortable with. With that in mind, consider whether meeting your parents first is more important to you than your partner. Or, maybe your partner is adamant about you meeting his or her parents first. Regardless of what you decide, honest communication is imperative, or you risk pent up hostility down the line. If you tell your boyfriend or girlfriend that traveling to meet his parents first is fine, you should be perfectly OK with this decision. If you’re not truthful, you may eventually resent your choice and your potential future in-laws.
4. Don’t go overboard with a gift
Bringing a gift to a first meeting shows you are thoughtful and appreciate meeting them. If your partner tells you that this isn’t necessary at all, it’s still okay to pick up a small gift without spending a lot of money, like a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, or flowers, according to Cosmopolitan. Until you get to know your partner’s parents and what they truly like, it’s best not to go overboard and spend a lot of money, especially if you’re on a budget, according to Match.com.
And just think: Because you can meet your partner’s parents over a low-key dinner or even coffee rather than during a holiday, you don’t have to feel pressured into picking out the perfect holiday gift or splurge on yet another Christmas present at a time when you may have already maxed out your holiday budget.
There’s no way to guarantee the first time meeting your partner’s parents will be perfect. But by following these tips, you give yourself your best chance at making a good first impression – after all, they might be part of your life for a long time to come!