Some men have nightmares about airplane crashes, scary movies, losing the year’s biggest game, or choking to death at a bar on a miserably shaped peanut. The most common nightmare shared by men the world over, however, is meeting the parents.
Meeting your girlfriend or fiance’s parents can be the most frightening event of the entire relationship, that is – other than walking down the aisle – if her parents actually let her go through with it. What makes her parents so intimidating and what can you do about it? There are ways to minimize the pain involved in meeting the parents; it just takes a little preparation, patience and perseverance on your part.
Short of going through a lie-detector test and answering personal questions about your sex life – have you seen Meet the Parents? – initial contact with a girlfriend’s parents is not always that bad. Besides, if you are really interested in a woman, it is inevitable. If you try to delay the meeting too long, she will take it personally as a sign of your lack of commitment or interest in her.
On the other hand, don’t be ringing up the future-mommy-in-law too soon. You want to make sure that you have reached a solid comfort level with your girlfriend before you take the plunge into her family. Once you decide on an appropriate time to meet her family, there are three primary methods of improving your chances of success. The first is preparation.
Every family has its own dynamics and drama, and even some skeletons in the closet. You want to be prepared to take on the responsibility of a meeting with the family, because sometimes there are very high expectations attached to such an event. It is a good idea to communicate openly with your partner beforehand, to make sure that you are both on the same page when it comes to the encounter.
Furthermore, in the days leading up, plan to quiz your girlfriend about her family background and her parents. You want to get as much background material prepared as possible. For example, it would be helpful to learn if her father is a strict catholic, or a raging alcoholic with a temper. Or if her mother has gigantic fake breasts, or a child out of wedlock. The truth is, you never know which way the meeting conversation will go, and what her parents will say and do when they meet you – the more background information you have on them, the better prepared you will be able to navigate the waters.
Another factor involved in preparation must be addressed on the day or evening prior to the scheduled meeting. It’s the dreaded choice of wardrobe. Here’s some good advice when it comes to getting dressed and groomed for meeting the parents:
- Don’t wear jeans. Do wear some comfortable slacks.
- Don’t wear something brand new that is still shaped like a hanger. Do wear something that you have received compliments on in the past.
- Don’t surprise your girlfriend with a new look on the night of the meeting. Do consult her in advance of getting ready.
- Don’t wear more than one spray of cologne, too much jewelry or hair product, or a shirt that exposes your chest hair. Do trim your nails and shine your shoes.
- Don’t act too macho or arrogant. Do be confident in how you look and feel.
Having properly prepared to meet her parents, you will be in good shape for the actual encounter. The next step towards success involves patience. Make no mistake – the initial moments of the meeting will be awkward. There is no way around it. Her parents will give you the once over, probably more than once. Her dad is likely to keep fairly quiet, while the mom makes nicey nice – if you’re lucky. Your girlfriend is also likely to feel, and maybe act, somewhat awkward at the start. It is important to be patient when making it over this initial hump.
People will relax after a few minutes, or maybe a few drinks. Tips to avoid any awkward silences: ask them about their work or hobbies, bring up a conversation about her siblings, or tell a funny story or joke that is tasteful (and which has been previously test-run on others). Also be patient if your first reaction to the meeting is that it is going to be a less than positive experience. Say you are being grilled, or her parents are fighting, or they won’t stop talking about how successful her Ex was.
Focus on whatever positives you can bring to the table and remember that it is only 2 hours out of your life. Alternately, when your best friend puts the emergency call in half way through dinner – take your out! But expect it to be the end of your relationship with your girlfriend, as well as her miserable parents.
The final way of ensuring success with her folks is perseverance. In other words, you must keep trying to be on your best behaviour, even if it appears to be getting you nowhere. If your jokes are going over like lead weights, at least try to keep yourself and your girlfriend smiling – laughter is contagious and if they see the two of you enjoying each other, it should be contagious. At the same time, try to earn their respect. If you feel like they are getting down on you, stand up for yourself and what you believe in. This is best done without offending the in any way, but it is a very thin line to walk so be cautious.
If you feel like the first meeting with her parents was a complete disaster, do not give up on a second meeting. Everyone will be more relaxed the next time around, and it might be an entirely different experience. A second meeting will also allow you to do more preparation. Now that you know what the parents are like, you might chose to narrow in on one of their interests. First choice – the mother. The mother is usually more understanding than the father, so if you need to narrow the focus of your attention, she is probably your best bet.
Before the next meeting with the parents, it is important to follow up on the first meeting, no matter how awful it might have been. If they treated you to dinner or had you over to their house, it is a good idea to send a card, a small gift, or leave a message for them. Make sure to thank them, mention your girlfriend’s name, and mention something about seeing them again in the future.
No man looks forward to meeting his girlfriend’s parents for the first time. However, it is a necessary evil that must be overcome if you plan on having a long term relationship with a woman. Follow this advice and you will improve your chances at the dreaded event. And one last work of advice – try not to kill their cat or burn their house down – Ben Stiller never really got away with it in the end.