When you first start dating an awesome girl, most everything is well…awesome. Lot’s of firsts and fun trips together, but there are still a few milestones that can inspire fear into even the most confident of men.
Meeting the parents is one of those milestones. If the relationship is getting serious, it’s bound to come sooner or later. While it’s is a signal that your relationship is heading in the right direction, it’s still a little scary. You want to impress, but you don’t want to kiss ass. You want to live up to their expectations, but don’t want to feel like you’re just fulfilling a checklist that is required to date their daughter.
If your girlfriend puts any stock in her parent’s opinions (some do, some don’t) then you need to consider how to make an amazing impression on them and get the metaphorical “green light” from both of them. Meeting the parents is a situation where first impressions matter a whole lot more than meeting a new friend or colleague – these people could be a part of your life for many, many years to come if your relationship with your girlfriend remains strong.
So how do you give yourself the best chance of meeting her parents and making a good impression? There are no absolutes here, but if you follow these suggestions you’ll up your chances of having a successful first meeting.
Do Some Prep Work
The best offense is a good defense. Coming into meeting her parents armed with good intelligence about them is the single biggest thing you can do to make sure you don’t mess anything up. The best part about this tip is that you probably won’t have to do much of this yourself – your girlfriend will probably be all too willing to coach you through the quirks and need-to-knows about her parents.
All you’re trying to do here is remove the possibility of being surprised when you meet them. Since it’s already a high-stress situation, minimizing surprises will help you feel more in control able to present yourself in the best light.
How To Make An Amazing First Impression
There’s a whole lot that goes into making amazing first impressions, but there are a few very simple things you can do to up your first impression game quickly.
Bring a small gift. This isn’t completely necessary, but it’s always a good play. If you know anything specific about her dad or mom (and you should if you did your prep work), picking up a small gift as a token of respect is never a bad idea. If you’re fresh out of ideas, you can never go wrong with a bottle of wine.
Greet them properly. When you first greet them, go with the safe play and greet them with Mr. and Mrs. Ideally you’ll hear, “Oh, call me NAME” back, but it’s better to go through the process of letting them tell you to greet them casually instead of assuming it from the get-go. Just one of those small things that communicates respect.
Be confident. It’s one thing to be nervous or freaked out, but it’s another to make that painfully obvious and have it taint your interactions. Do your best to put yourself in a confident mood before you meet the parents.
Smile. This is a no-brainer, but give them a real smile, even if you’re not super jazzed up to be meeting them. For a quick hack to a better smile, just remember to squinch your eyes – this is how people smile when they’re truly happy and not just “putting one on.”
Get To Know Them
After you introduce yourself, it’s time to get into conversation. You’ll probably sit down for dinner or some drinks and start talking with them about all sorts of things – your history, your job, etc.
This is where you need to shine – it’s the make or break portion of the entire event. The best advice here is to just ‘be you’, but that phrase is trite and overdone. What it really means is to not hide any aspect of your personality intentionally, but consider the context that you’re in. You’re meeting your girlfriend’s parents, so if you’ve got a crass and foul sense of humor you should probably find a different way to express that part of your personality.
Beyond that high level advice, here are some more practical tips:
Be interested in them. A lot of guys will use their girlfriends as the conduit to speak to her parents. It’s totally understandable, because you don’t know her parents, you’re nervous, and your girlfriend will be all too eager to help you out. Force yourself to engage with them directly and be interested in them. Ask them questions instead of just answering whatever they ask you – engage!
Turn off your electronics. This one should be obvious, but a lot of us have a hard time letting go of technology. Meeting the parents is one situation where you should probably just turn your phone off completely. It’s a massive sign of respect in today’s attention-starved world to give them your full, present attention.
Show affection for your girlfriend. It can be nerve-wracking or even embarrassing to show physical affection for your girlfriend in front of her parents, but it’s a good idea to give it a shot…just tone it down for the occasion. Be chivalrous towards her and even a little bit romantic. You want to ride the middle here – don’t be a frigid bystander, and don’t grope each other.
Express yourself. Don’t think of it as an interview. Talk about what interests you, what you like to do, and things that you like to invest time into. Tell stories about both your life and your life with their daughter. Leave negative talk out of it. Even if you don’t like your job, talk about what you do like, or that you’re working towards something you’re more passionate about rather than venting about the things you hate. Stay positive and upbeat.
Don’t get cocky. If things are going well, remember that they’re still watching you. They’re screening you for qualities that they want to see in their daughter’s partner, and getting cocky and too comfortable won’t work in your favor.
Be courteous, even if they aren’t. You’re not meeting gods – you’re meeting human beings. Chances are good her parents will probably make some offensive comment, or talk about subjects that you’re not completely comfortable with. Maybe they’ll voice an opinion that you completely disagree with. The best advice here is not to engage. Redirect the conversation in another direction.
Help out. If you’re over at their house, offer to help clean up or set the table. They’ll probably say no, but making the offer is what counts.
Drink responsibly. Even if you love drinking and can hold your booze well, limit yourself to a few drinks maximum.
Be gracious. No matter how well it went, thank them for the occasion and tell them you enjoyed meeting them. You can be honest with your girlfriend, but it’s best to toss out a white lie to their parents the first time you meet them. It’s a test run – you’ll have time to build a deeper relationship with them in the future.
Go Forth and Meet!
All parents are not created equal. You might build an immediate bond with your girlfriend’s parents and truly enjoy spending time with them – if so, lucky you! If it’s a chore for you, that’s OK too. But try to make the best out of the situation, because they may be in your life for many years to come.