Introducing a new love interest to your mom and dad is nerve-wracking, whether it’s the first or ninth time you’ve done it. What if they don’t like your new boyfriend? What if your new girlfriend doesn’t like them?
We can’t stop you from bringing home a stinker, but we can try to help make this meeting go smoother—and keep the peace if it doesn’t.
Orchestrate a few mini-meetups
If you live far from your parents, FaceTime them while you’re hanging out with your boo. Swivel the phone a little and let your latest beloved wave or say hello. Boom, now they’re acquainted, kind of.
Do a little work on your own when they’re not around, too. Start peppering their name into conversations when your mom calls so your parents get the idea that this new person is becoming a fixture in your life. Text your parents photos if you, say, go on a cool date. The more serious your parents think the relationship is going into the big meeting, the more likely they are to like the person, and the less likely they are to think it won’t matter if they don’t.
Got siblings? Try them first. When you and the new partner are out at a bar, text your brother and ask him to come by. Have the new partner in the passenger seat when you swing by to drop something off at your sister’s place. Let them know your new sweetie means a lot to you, but don’t plan out big elaborate introductions; keep the sibling meetings more casual. You already know they talk about you to your parents, so for once, let that work to your advantage. Let them express how happy you are or how great and chill this new person seems.
Prepare… but not too much
Let me tell you a story. When I started dating my most recent boyfriend, he told me his parents would love me, but the real key to our meeting going well would be if I got along with their dog. I’m not a dog person, but I went into that household determined to win the schnauzer’s affection. At first, the fluffy tastemaker seemed to hate me. He barked and growled and I, in turn, panicked. Eventually, he chilled out, and when my impressed boyfriend asked how I’d won him over after dinner, I gleefully said, “I fed him grapes under the table!”
Dogs can’t eat grapes. Did you know that? I didn’t. In my eagerness to befriend the family pet, I nearly committed a caninicide. I cried in another room while my boyfriend’s patient—but alarmed—mother rang the vet, just in case.
Certainly, my nightmare scenario was attributable to a general lack of dog-related knowledge, but it was also a result of nervous over-preparing. A little less worry going in might have reduced my anxiety to a level where I wouldn’t have resorted to bribing the pup with treats, poisonous or otherwise, in a bid to win overall familial approval. (The dog is totally fine now, two full years later, and we really all did get along!)
Whitney Bibeau, a 29-year-old tattoo artist and DJ based in New Jersey, agreed completely that rehearsing or fretting too much ahead of the fateful meet-up is a bad move. To her, an introduction isn’t just for the parents’ sake—your partner’s comfort and needs should be prioritized, too.
“They shouldn’t have to subject themselves to or put themselves in a position to be uncomfortable,” she said, especially if your over-prepping is coming from a well-founded concern that your parents might not approve of their child’s new partner. “I have absolutely no intention or desire to bring my partner into a potentially unsafe space or any space where they would be less than fully received.”
Bibeau detailed how she’s brought a number of boyfriends around her blended family, who live in a small town in Maine, and never had an issue. Recently, though, she brought around a girlfriend—now her fiancée—and didn’t receive the same warm welcome her previous male partners were given, at least from part of the family.
Let’s talk about that.
Don’t let familial disapproval derail the relationship
Bibeau said that while there’s some value to be found in a parent’s criticism of a partner, parents may not know who their adult children really are and could even be operating from a place of racial, religious, or sexual bias. The faction of her family that hasn’t accepted her fiancée, she pointed out, is opposed to her same-sex relationship and would be opposed to any same-sex relationship. The disapproval has nothing to do with her fiancée as a person. She hasn’t let the iciness interfere with the happiness she’s found and advised anyone worried about a parent-partner meeting—or anyone whose meeting didn’t go well—to not give up on a relationship just because of familial friction.
“I’m super set on knowing who I am and knowing what I need and what’s good for me now,” she said, and that self-acceptance has come as a result of her hard work, not anyone else’s. “Make sure you are solid about who you are. You don’t need to prove anything to your family. Truly, if you’re happy and if it’s working for you and your life, then that’s really all that matters.”
If peaceful coexistence between your parents and your partner is really that important to you, though, don’t give up. Ask your parents exactly what it is they don’t like about your mate. If it feels safe, broker another meeting. One bad experience doesn’t have to set the tone for the whole relationship, but also be mindful of whether you think their negative opinion is in good faith. If it is rooted in racism or homophobia, for instance, you have the right to object and take the steps necessary to protect yourself and your partner. Only you know what that looks like, whether it involves keeping the parties separate or a more definitive cut-off, and whatever choice you make is the right one for you. Trust yourself!
Remember, they love you
Your parents and your partner might be different in a lot of respects, but they should have one important thing in common: They all care about you and want you to be happy. If your girlfriend is acting uncharacteristically weird during that first meeting, remember, she’s just nervous. If your parents are being overly critical, remember they want what they think is best for you. Don’t be harsh toward anyone as long as they’re giving it their best effort. It can be hard to accept a child is grown enough to be in a relationship and to cede the primary nurturing role to a newbie, so keep that in mind, too.
If you’re still on edge, it’s understandable. For reinforcement on this point, look to Raheela Mahmood. Mahmood—or Mama Jee on social media—is known for comedic viral videos with her son Wajeeh West, in which she jokingly talks about arranging him a marriage to a nice Desi women, leaving little time to celebrate, say, his graduation from law school or any other non-wedding milestones.
In real life, of course, she doesn’t actually feel that way. If your parents have pressured you or made you nervous about showing up with a partner they don’t like in the past, remember that seeing you happy can change everything and you might have been blowing their comments out of proportion in your own anxiety.
“Just remember when you’re bringing anybody to meet your parents that your parents love you above and beyond so there is no need to be nervous at all,” Mahmood gushed when approached for some motherly advice. “No matter what you do or who you bring, they will always love you.”
She added in a few more practical tips, too, which serve as a nice closer here: “Just keep calm and don’t look at the girl or the boy again and again. Just keep smiling at your parents and everything will come along, Inshallah.”