Meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time can be nerve-wracking. It can be even more pressurized if that meeting is over the holidays! But there are some things you can do to relieve a bit of this pressure.
Here are six ways to prepare and participate when you meet your significant other’s parents for the first time during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s this year!
1. Discuss expectations beforehand
Where will you sleep? How much time will you be spending with his or her parents? Is there other family involved? Are there any special rules or restrictions to be aware of?
These kinds of questions will prepare you for what’s ahead and help you respond to situations accordingly. Asking these questions ahead of time takes the guesswork out of first impressions and helps you all focus on the important things: the holidays and each other.
2. Make sure you know about their family traditions
Do they take turns carving the turkey each year? Is everyone assigned a different component of the meal to prepare? How do they say prayers? Can you make a dish that’s special to you but new to the family, or do allergies restrict the menu? Can you help decorate?
Understand the traditions you’re walking into and find a constructive way to participate. Things won’t be the way you’re used to–– and that’s good! But don’t let the foreignness make you clam up and not participate.
3. Come prepared to answer a lot of questions
Where are you from? What is your family like? What kind of traditions do you have? What did you study? What do you do now? What’s your favorite food? Are you ready for marriage? How many kids to do you want to have?
The family will want to know a lot about you, so be prepared for a barrage of questions. Be ready to answer them, too.
Of course, if things get too personal, you absolutely do not have to answer them and can speak up for yourself. This will answer a whole different question for the family!
4. Ask lots of questions!
You’ll want to know (or observe) things like, how they treat each other and especially how they treat your significant other. Do they coddle or belittle him/her? Do they still hover over everything he does? What’s their relationship like? What kind of expectations do they have of her or of in-laws?
What you want to parse out is if these are people who you’ll be able to generally get along with, or if you and your spouse will need to set firm boundaries in the future.
5. Have a contingency plan if things get dicey
Sometimes things go wrong. People have bad days. People are rude. This could come from your significant other’s parents or family, your significant other, or even from you. No matter what, you need some sort of exit strategy to keep yourself safe physically, mentally, and emotionally.
If you live close, drive yourself. If you have to travel far, know the nearest motel and have some emergency money on hand. Tell at least one friend and your own parents where you are going and when you expect to be back. That is also a good person to have a “safe word” with to text or call with so that they’ll be alerted you need help getting out.
Furthermore, do not be afraid to get out. If you are uncomfortable or feel in danger and simple resolutions don’t solve the problem, you are entitled to get out and to safety. You do not owe anyone anything other than your kindness and, sometimes, the kindest thing you can do is to remove yourself from the line of abuse.
6. Have fun! Parents were once in the same position you are
Once upon a time, your significant other’s parents had to meet their future in-laws, too, and had to go through many of the same steps, questions, and worries you are.
So don’t worry so much and have fun! Play games, get to know them, and even remind them that they were once in your shoes.