Meeting His/Her family for the First Time

Dear Toni--

I have been dating this guy for about 4 months. Our relationship has progressed very nicely and we seem to be a great match for each other. I think this is the one. We have met one another's friends, co-workers, etc., and now are going to meet the families. We are going to his parents' house Christmas Eve and will spend time with my family Christmas Day.

We are both (understandably) nervous and want to make a good first impression. There are differences in religion and I am a few years older. Do you have any helpful tips for handling this important first step? --Meeting the Fockers

Dear Meeting the Fockers--

This is an important first step and this first impression will help to set the stage on which a future relationship plays out. There are things that you can do beforehand that should help to smooth out any potential rough spots. Here is a good list to begin with:

* If you haven't yet done so, discuss your family members in detail.
Talk about their interests, likes, dislikes and any significant personality or other issues. If you or he have had past problems bringing someone home to meet the folks, think about what went wrong and how you can plan ahead to avoid a potential misunderstanding or uncomfortable moment, etc. For instance, if your dad is confrontational by nature, give your boyfriend a heads up and then the two of you can decide how you will handle any potential unpleasantries from him.

* Each of you should bring a little "gift" to share with the parents. Get ideas from each other on what may be enjoyed or appreciated. If there are cultural differences, try bringing a gift that represents their culture and traditions. This would be a nice icebreaker.

* Decide in advance how long you will stay and where you will sleep (if applicable).
Even if you have a "rough" plan, complications or uncomfortable moments could arise if you aren't clear up front about your plans. If one of you is a vegetarian or has a food allergy, communicate this up front. It would be embarrassing and may be perceived as insulting if you can't eat the food that is offered.

* Spend the first part of the visit learning about the other family. Ask them questions about their interests, work, etc. Indicating high interest is very flattering and will help you to have lots of good, safe topics to discuss.

* Offer to help prepare food, serve and clean up.
If there is an expectation that "guests" do not participate in these chores, they will let you know. Otherwise, you could come across as someone who does not join in or fit in with a sharing family lifestyle. It will also help to keep you busy and actively participating as you get to know one another.

* As with all social situations, watch your topics. You know the ones to stay away from. If you anticipate (with your new friend's input) that you will be asked about your political views or religious beliefs, come up with a few good, neutral responses beforehand.

A little extra thought, planning and discussion will go a long way towards making this first meting a positive experience. However, the unexpected can always happen. So, go with a good attitude and present your best self.

(from December 2004)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"It may not be Meant to be"
List of more
"Relationship Challenges"

"Is Sharing Your Partner Ever a Good Idea?"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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