Advice on How to Introduce Your Partner to Your Family for the First Time
Dear April Masini,
My boyfriend just invited me to spend Christmas Eve with his family and I don’t know what to do. On one hand, I’m excited that he’s bringing me home to meet his family. On the other hand, I’m freaked out. All these questions are racing through my mind now like should I reciprocate and invite him back to my house? I’m so embarrassed of my own parents. I really like this guy. Please give me some advice so I can continue this awesome relationship."
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Guess Who's Coming to Dinner,
You’re probably not the only one who’s nervous. Introducing a boyfriend or girlfriend to your family for the first time is a major step in any relationship that announces, "We're serious." And no one should introduce a boyfriend to your family unless this is someone you want to go all the way with -- and I DON'T mean sex. I mean marriage or a long term, committed relationship. If you’re not serious about him, don’t bring him home to meet the family – unless it’s in a group of your friends who are coming for dinner.
That said if he is “the one,” you’re going to have deal with the fact that families can be embarrassing. It’s chronic; it’s historical, and it doesn’t end except with familiarity, and that involves conquering fear, which you may want to read about in my new book, Think & Date Like a Man, where I offer extensive tips on fear and confidence that you need for these situations and more. But for now, here are a few tips to make everyone feel at ease
If someone in your family is racist, anti-semitic, or a serial-insulter, alert your girlfriend or boyfriend, and decide ahead of time how you both are going to handle any negative outcomes, should they arise. Whenever family has differences -- whether political, social, or personal -- with someone you’re introducing, there can be sparks. Make a few back up plans. If Uncle Ernie starts making racist comments, or disparaging remarks over the fact that your boyfriend is an actor, or unemployed, or a no-good lawyer, you and the boyfriend can decide to confront Uncle Ernie, laugh it off, let it go, or leave. Those are just a few options. You can come up with half a dozen more on your own. This is a good life tool for couples to have in their relationship toolbox. If you and your boyfriend don’t feel victimized by the relatives personalities and foibles, you’re much more likely to relax and have a great time.
If anyone in your family is alcoholic, recovering from something like an eating disorder, drug abuse, suffering from a chronic illness, or a getting over a new divorce, you should let your boyfriend know so he doesn't show up with a case of wine as a gift or make jokes about dying or any other topic that may be off color given the circumstances.
One of the worst anxieties has to do with "what could happen." A way to alleviate this is get your fears out on the table. Tell your boyfriend (or a girlfriend or two, over a lunch date) what your fears are. Get them ALL out. Everything. Once you talk it through, the big scary fears may get deflated. In addition, your girlfriend or boyfriend may be able to tell you all about their own awful family embarrassments, so you don't feel so alone. What you thought was the worst thing possible, compared with his "war stories" suddenly seem pretty mundane.
Discuss a hostess gift with your boyfriend. Some guys (and gals) don't know that they should bring a gift to your mother. Educate them, and help by suggesting something she'd really like. If this is a holiday gathering, a fail safe gift is a holiday plant like a Poinsetta, or festive centerpiece, or a box of edible goodies for the entire family. If your family loves music, a very thoughtful gift is for your boyfriend/girlfriend to burn them a compilation of holiday songs. Regardless of what they bring, the gesture not only demonstrates good manners and respect, but also gives everyone something to talk about and helps to avoid any awkward getting-to-know-you silences.
If you're the one being introduced, remember, this is not the time to give a complete resume of your life. The goal of the visit is to have a nice time and keep it light. If you do, there will plenty more visits to come where you get to know his or her family bit by bit.
Finally, a few tips to take way: Never show up to a party or a dinner empty-handed. It's bad manners and it's inconsiderate. Whether it's a cocktail party, a dinner party, a Christmas party or you're a weekend guest at someone's home, bring something.
Gift Giving doesn’t have to be stressful…When in doubt, read my Guide Gift Giving.