You’ve met someone special.
Things are going great.
Until suddenly, your significant other says those exhilarating but fearsome words: “I’d like you to meet my parents.”
An entire movie was made about a guy fouling up that first meet-and-greet. So obviously, there are a lot of things that can go wrong the first time you meet your girlfriend or boyfriend’s family.
And while a situation like Ben Stiller’s in that Meet the Parents film is a little extreme, there are still lots of simple things you can avoid in order to make the best impression possible.
Bragging or Showing Off
It’s perfectly natural to want to put your best foot forward. But that doesn’t mean you throw humility to the wind. Let your good qualities come out naturally.
Maybe you just got a promotion at work, or you want your girlfriend’s parents to know you make a comfortable salary. Well, bragging about your accomplishments is just not the way to go. Most likely, you’ll end up appearing conceited and might even give the impression that you think you’re better than her family.
On the same note, being too eager to showcase your impressive knowledge of a relevant topic can also bite you in the rear. When a certain friend of mine brought her first serious boyfriend home, he tried to relate to her dad by showing off his knowledge of football.
But instead of impressing the dad, he ended up secretly earning the label of “blowhard.” Don’t be a blowhard. No one likes a blowhard. Except, apparently, my friend.
It Happens to the Ladies, Too
Another variation of this problem that is especially relevant to women is in the area of baking or cooking (though this can apply to men too). Even though I’d seen it play out between my mother and her mother-in-law, I still accidentally fell into it myself.
My mother makes possibly the best chocolate chip cookies in the entire world; I’m not just biased, this is a fact widely acknowledged by 99.9% of people who have eaten her cookies.
That .01%, however, is my paternal grandmother, who has sniffed indifference to my mom’s amazing cookies throughout their entire relationship. Because, let’s face it, it’s never fun for a mother to realize that her son prefers some other woman’s baking to her own.
And somehow, I made the blunder of baking some similarly amazing cookies for my boyfriend (now-husband) and sending them home with him, before I had even met his mom.
When he hinted, in front of my family, that his mother was jealous of my cookies, my whole family started cracking up, because it was the situation of my mom/grandmother all over again.
Lesson learned: Showing off never gets you anywhere.
Pretending to be something you’re not
This one could also be considered in the light of “sucking up.”
“You look lovely today, Mrs. Cleaver…Is that a new dress you’re wearing, Mrs. Cleaver?”
Probably you would never be that overt because we all know people see right through empty butt-kissery. Putting on this kind of show in any way is going to end badly.
So that means, if you pretend to know a lot about something the parents seem interested in, when you actually know very little, you’re going to end the day looking like a fool. There’s a reason that Ben Stiller’s exaggerations about his knowledge led him to claim he had milked cats before–he dug himself into a major hole.
You may call these minor exaggerations, but besides the possibility of blowing up in your face, they can lead to full-on lies. Don’t lie. Lying is bad. Lying equals, “Go to confession.” Sincerity always needs to win the day.
You’ve probably heard it before, the breakdown of the word “assume.” And I’m guessing you don’t want to make an ass out of yourself in front of your potential in-laws. So just don’t assume anything about their life, their personalities, anything.
This one can be big for Catholics. At least in my experience, faithful young adult Catholics don’t necessarily come from rock-solidly faithful Catholic parents.
I know plenty of devout Catholics whose parents have left the faith, or are otherwise so spectacularly messed up in one way or another that I have to wonder how their kids are even normal, let alone devout Catholics.
So don’t go to meet the parents assuming that, because your significant other is a fantastic person on the same moral and religious page as you, their parents are in the same place in life. Get as much info as you can about the parents from your significant other before the meeting to lessen the potential for some serious awkwardness.
At the end of the day…
The parents are just people. If you can impress them and get off to a smashing good start of a relationship with them, that’s wonderful. But it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t go like that.
My friend’s first boyfriend–the blowhard? Whom her parents couldn’t stand? She married him. They have five kids and are wonderfully happy. And, believe it or not, her parents have grown to love him.
Ultimately, the most important impressing has already been accomplished. You’ve already won over this person you care so much about.