Guide to Meeting Your Partner's Parents for the First Time

Use these tips to make meeting your partner's parents as stress-free as possible.

Published September 8, 2022
Meeting parents for the first time

Picture this: You just met someone and they give you butterflies in your stomach for the first time in a long time. You go on a few dates, get coffee in the park, and have dinner after exploring a museum. You make things official, and start to drink from the same cups and steal bits of food off each other's plates. Then, one day, your partner leans in and asks you to meet their parents.

Your relationship is progressing to the next level, so celebrate that! In the meantime, get some advice on how to make this milestone one you'll remember for all the right reasons.

When Is It Time to Meet the Parents?

There's no right or wrong time to introduce your partner to your parents. And, most importantly, there's never going to be a perfect time. So, if you're waiting for the absolute perfect opportunity, you might be waiting indefinitely.

To some people, introducing their partner to their parents is no big deal. In fact, some people introduce their partners to their families as soon as they start dating. On the other hand, some people don't feel comfortable introducing partners to their loved ones until they are sure that their relationship is more serious.

The best way to decide when it's right for you and your relationship is to talk to your partner. Together, the two of you can decide how to move forward. Remember, just because you might be ready to introduce your partner to your family, it doesn't necessarily mean that they are ready to meet them. Be mutually respectful of each other's feelings, and try not to take their responses too personally. They may be committed to you, but they just might not be ready to meet your parents.

Tips for Meeting the Parents for the First Time

Some people out there can make really stellar first impressions - the kind that will paint them in a good light in someone's eyes for the rest of their acquaintance. However, if you're not part of that particularly gifted group of people that find it easy to make great first impressions, your partner's parents can be intimidating. But that's okay. Wanting to make a good first impression might even be a good thing that will keep you on your toes. It can be a difficult situation regardless of how many tips and tricks you have in your back pocket, but having a few more couldn't hurt.

Meeting parents for the first time can make you feel like you're under a microscope; like someone is examining your every move and picking apart every word choice. However, that's most likely not the case. Parents want to see their kids happy, and, if you make their child happy, they want to see and feel that.

Check in With Your Partner Beforehand

You don't need to go through some rigorous boot camp with your partner before you meet their family. You don't need to memorize birthdays, pets' names, or the layout of their house. This is not a covert operation.

However, it can be helpful to ask your partner about family dynamics. See if there are any topics that are sensitive that you should stay away from during your first meeting. Sometimes, even the simplest topics can seem harmless to you, but they might mean something entirely different to your partner's family.

What Should You Wear?

There's no need to break out a ball gown for the occasion. However, your meet-the-parents outfit should show you made an effort and be something that you feel comfortable in. Something that feels like you. Don't overthink it or try to dress as someone you're not.

If you're worried that you aren't dressed fancy enough, change one thing about your outfit to make it look more polished. Maybe swap your current shoes for a nicer pair, or add a belt or necklace that you really like.

Additionally, depending on where you're meeting your partner's parents, you may need to dress accordingly to feel comfortable and to vibe with the surroundings. Dinner out will require a different outfit than meeting by the pool in the afternoon, so make sure you know where you're headed for the meet-up.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask Questions

When you meet your partner's parents, you are not being interviewed for a position. You are a human being with thoughts, feelings, and conversation skills. Don't be afraid to be yourself!

Ask your partner's parents questions about themselves. Not only will it make you feel less like you are being cornered while they check off their laundry list of boxes, it will give you a chance to actually learn more about them, and also show that you are interested in their lives, as well.

Show Affection in Moderation

Everyone has been in a situation, whether it's a family photo or during a conversation, where you don't know what to do with your hands. When you meet your partner's parents for the first time, this might feel amplified times 100.

Do you hold your partner's hand? Do you let them hold yours? How close is too close? All of these questions - and more - might be running through your head.

One way to know the answer is to talk to your partner beforehand. Find out what you are both comfortable with, and maybe even scale it back a bit to be extra mindful of their parents' feelings. A good rule of thumb is if you wouldn't want to do it in front of your parents, don't do it in front of their parents.

Express Gratitude

man with bouquet and gift congratulating his mother in law

When you meet your partner's parents for the first time, especially if you're meeting them at their house, bring something with you. It's polite to express gratitude and thank your partner's parents for the invitation and the company. As a bonus, the gesture can add a little something to your first impression. Who wouldn't want to be known as thoughtful or generous? This can be a big plus and might start the meeting off on the right foot.

Just Breathe (And Be Yourself)

As cliche as it sounds, one of the best things you can do when you meet your partner's parents is to just be yourself. Your partner likes you and thinks you're incredible just the way you are. Odds are that their parents will, too.

If you aren't a fan of artisanal cheeses or haven't done brain surgery while flying in a rocket ship, you don't have to pretend to be something you're not. Just be you (with maybe fewer swear words).

Tips for Introducing Your Partner to Your Parents for the First Time

If you're the one making the introduction, it's a whole different ball game. This is a time dedicated to combining the two worlds that are so meaningful to you. You care about your partner, and you also care about your family, and you really, really want everyone to get along. Take a deep breath, cross your fingers, and allow the worlds to blend.

Choose a Setting That Seems Like a Good Fit

Family laughing together during outdoor dinner party

You don't have to introduce your partner to your parents at an intimate family dinner if you don't want to. You can invite them to a family game night, barbeque, or a similar event where there are more friends and family present. This can be a good buffer for the evening because there are more people around to keep the conversation and fun going.

It might make your partner feel more comfortable being around a bigger group. It can make them feel less like they are being put on the spot to show up and impress. It will also give them the chance to bond with other people that are close to you and your family.

Keep the First Meeting Short

You don't need to sit down to a full five-course meal when you introduce your partner to your parents. The first meeting can be as brief as you would like it to be... which might even make the first meeting easier.

A few introductions, some easy conversation about how you met, some information about your partner's interests, and boom: first meeting accomplished. Over time, you can make the parent-partner hangouts longer when everyone is more comfortable.

Introducing your partner to your parents might feel like a massive event, but it doesn't have to be. If your partner is anxious about meeting new people or prone to overthinking, you can make the first meeting super casual. Have them drop you off at a family event, make the introduction, and then let people know that they can't stay. This is quick and easy, and will get the first hurdle out of the way.

Tell Your Parents Your Partner Is Coming

Nobody likes to be ambushed. If your partner or your parents arrive at dinner or an event to meet you and discover that you have set up a secret meet-cute, it might put a damper on the evening. Let your parents know that you want them to meet your partner; and let your partner know that you want them to meet your parents.

Things will go more smoothly when everyone is on the same page. It will give both your partner and your parents time to prepare and settle into the idea, which might be particularly helpful for a first introduction.

Introduce Your Partner

Even if you have talked about your partner at length with your parents, introduce them when they first meet. Doing so will help take some of the weight off of your partner's shoulders. And, just in case your parents aren't good with names, it will give them a little refresher as well.

During the introduction, include your partner's preferred pronouns. This doesn't have to be a big deal. Many parents are new to using and sharing preferred pronouns, and that's okay. Have everyone share their pronouns, and then move on to the rest of your night.

Don't Leave Your Partner to Fend for Themselves

If you bring your partner home to your house for a family dinner or holiday celebration, do your best not to leave them alone with your parents or other relatives. This might make your partner feel like they are being fed to the wolves in an environment that is new to them. Odds are, they are at least a little nervous, so they could really use your presence for emotional support.

Your family might ask you to help with some of the meal prep going on in the kitchen, or have you run to the store to pick up a last-minute item. In these instances, bring your partner along. It will give them a chance to make a good first impression by being helpful and might also save them from uncomfortable silences or excessive questions.

Make Sure There's Something They Can Eat at Dinner

It's an extremely uncomfortable situation to show up at a dinner and not be able to eat anything at the table. If your partner has dietary restrictions, make sure that you plan ahead.

This may mean the two of you prepare a dish or two to bring along with you. Or, it may mean telling your parents beforehand so they can make something special that your partner can eat.

This way, your partner doesn't have to worry about having to eat a meal before they arrive. And they won't have to worry about offending your parents by not eating any of their food.

What If Things Don't Go As Planned?

If things don't go as planned, you can always sneak out the bathroom window or swiftly exit through the back door. Kidding. Well, kinda.

If your parents and your partner don't get along, it's not the end of the world. Really. First meetings are hard, and just because your parents and your partner didn't get along perfectly this first time around, it doesn't mean they never will.

If things really do escalate during the meet-cute because your parents aren't respecting your partner's pronouns, your relationship, or something similar, it's okay to leave. This might be a sign that you should navigate your boundaries with your parents later on when you set aside time to do so.

You Will Survive Meeting the Parents for the First Time

You are capable of accomplishing difficult things. If meeting your partner's parents or introducing your partner to your parents feels like a difficult task, know that you can accomplish that, too. It may take some planning and talking, and maybe a few awkward moments of silence, but you will get through it.

Meeting the parents is a rite of passage. It's an aspect of a relationship that is really important to some people. If you're meeting the parents, put your best foot forward. If you're helping your partner meet the parents, help everyone put their best foot forward. And who knows? Your partner and your parents might be a perfect match. After all, they both have loving you in common.

Guide to Meeting Your Partner's Parents for the First Time