Avoid Holiday Hell. A Single Gals Survival Guide To Meeting The Parents.

Avoid Holiday Hell. A Single Gals Survival Guide To Meeting The Parents.

26. November 2010

“You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression,” has been forever ingrained in our minds thanks to the Head and Shoulders ad campaigns of the 1980’s.  Meeting the parents for the first time can definitely be a ‘make or break’ relationship milestone that you want to get right the first time.  Below are my tips and dating service for successfully navigating the “parental waters” during the already stressful holidays.


Know Before You Go

First and foremost, only agree to meet the parents if you consider your relationship to be serious and on that level.  I can’t tell you how many of my girlfriends and/or matchmaking clients have agreed to meet the parents of someone they’re not even that “into”.  Talk about sending mixed messages!  Here this person thinks you guys are totally serious because you’re spending the holidays with them and their family, and in reality, you were just in it for the free home cooked meal or maybe just had nothing better going on.  I’m telling you, it happens, so consider what meeting your significant others parents means to them and their family. Make sure this is the path you want to go down because at the end of the day if it doesn’t work out now you don’t only have to break up with them but also their family.


The 411

Open and honest communication is key to the success of any relationship.  Hopefully you and your significant other are already close and you are aware of their home life growing up and any on-going family dramas or hot buttons. In the event you aren’t, now’s the time to get up to speed quickly. How did the parents meet?  Are they religious? What do they do for work?  What are their interests, and/or favorite T.V. shows? What if anything did they not like about any previous girlfriends? If you guys are staying the night, are the parents the type to let you stay in the same room?  You definitely need the low-down on anything and everything "familial" prior to going into what could very well be the lion’s den.


Get On The Same Page

Anticipating the tough questions and having a game plan as to how to answer them is a must. Do you want the parents to know you guys met at an S&M bar, on a free online dating site, at a singles party for swingers or at a “Bi-onic” speed dating event for bi-sexual women and the men that love them? If not, you better get your stories straight.  Are the parents aware that you are living together?  If not, you need to make sure you don’t accidently “out” your living situation while passing the mashed potatoes. Topics to be prepared for might include if you’re having safe sex, when you’re getting married and/or having kids.  In the event you’re dealing with manipulative parents, or more likely, a possessive mom who may bring up stories about ex-girlfriends, it’s always good to have a full-disclosure session with your mate beforehand so there are no major surprises.  In trying times like these it’s good to refer to the Boy Scouts tried and true motto, “be prepared”.


Come Bearing Gifts

When meeting the parents for the first time you definitely don’t want to go in empty-handed.  A nice bottle of wine, their favorite dessert, fresh-cut flowers, a new release or classic DVD or board game of the Milton Bradley variety are some good gift ideas.  If they’re not drinkers, maybe some gourmet coffee, sparkling cider or chocolates. Something personalized is always the best way to go, but at the end of the day it’s the thought that counts. It’s sort of like  Kindergarten where if you bring something to class you have to have enough for everyone.  It wouldn’t be cool for you to bring something very specific and un-sharable, say a picture frame or book for one person leaving out the rest of the family.  


Keep It Real

Be genuine, be sincere, be yourself.  Many friends would recommend you avoid certain topics of discussion all together…politics, sex, religion.  I have a different view on this. I believe if these topic come up you should discuss your views honestly and respectfully. At the end of the day if the parents are going to hate you, might as well establish that early on and know what you’re potentially getting yourself into. There’s also a fine line between being complimentary and being fake.  Don’t be the fake, kiss-ass girlfriend that is throwing out compliments left and right, desperate to earn the families approval.  No one likes that. 


Actions Speak Louder Than Word

Don’t just offer to help around the kitchen,…jump right in. Is mom setting the table? Grab some silverware and get in there.  This is the perfect opportunity for one on one bonding and to demonstrate your stellar domestic skills. Has everyone finished eating? Start clearing the table. Nothing is more annoying than the faux, almost inaudible offer to help.  The insincere, “Can I help with anything?”, knowing they’re not going to take you up on your offer. You want to make a good impression on the family, don’t talk about it, in the words of Nike, “Just Do It.”  In the event the family is insistent that they don’t want any help, then at that point you can back down knowing you made a solid effort to pitch in.  


Go With The Flow

If the family wants to play Scrabble after dinner, even if you’re Scrabble skills are limited to 3-point word plays like [r-a-t], be a good sport and participate.  If dad wants to watch the big game after dinner and you are totally not a football fan, I say suck it up and be one for a couple of hours.  Be the laid-back, easy-going kind of gal that everyone loves.  The last thing anyone wants is a high-strung, diva-esque potential daughter-in-law. If everyone at the table is drinking red wine, don’t be that girl that insists on opening up the bottle of white that they don’t even have until they run out and get it just for you.  If you sit out on the sidelines, and/or come across as demanding and difficult, you become fodder for family gossip and judgment. Variety is the spice of life.  Embrace the family traditions, and at the same time gain more insight and understanding of your partner.


Make A Connection

As a woman, ensure you make a special effort to hit It off with the mother and any sisters as they will definitely be critical to win over.  I find asking to see baby-pictures a great way to bond with the mom.  If you go this route just be ready for the long haul.  We’re talking like a minimum of five albums worth.  If it’s a big family gathering make a genuine effort to meet not just the parents, but also the extended family and any family friends. Don’t devote 100% of your efforts to impressing the potential in-laws. This would be a rookie mistake on your part. Winning over the siblings and rest of the fam is equally important. Make sure to pay a lot of attention to the little kids, the neighbors, the geriatrics, and even the family pets. Spend time getting to know each person, connecting with them on some level. If you keep to yourself or just with your partner, others will definitely take notice and you’ll be perceived as an anti-social “ice-princess” ala Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in The Family Stone. I don‘t care if you’re shy or introverted, “fake it till you make it”. 


Seal The Deal

The good-bye is key.  Here’s a tip.  If you want to cement it with mom, tell her again how much you enjoyed the food and ask for some recipes of the dishes you really liked.  Trust me, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach by way of his mother’s cooking.  Why do you think Jennifer Aniston is still so close to Brad Pitt’s mom?  You definitely want to go in for the hug and not the handshake as hopefully you’re first meeting went well and you’re now considered family.  Thank them for their hospitality and definitely share that you had an amazing time, and that it was nice to finally meet them and how much you look forward to seeing them again. Seal the “welcome to the family” deal by sending a hand-written thank you note in the mail the next day. 


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