As a rule of thumb, it’s important that you’ve been together at least six months and that you’re both comfortable talking about each other’s parents. If he seems hesitant about the idea, or you’re unnerved by the thought, then wait longer until you’re both at ease.
But when the time is right, what should you prepare for? How do you make a good impression?
Your flirting style can actually help a great deal in this situation. The way you flirt with romantic partners, while different, does reflect how you interact with strangers you’re trying to impress. Knowing if you’re aggressive, low-key, or quiet can have a significant effect on your battle strategy in Operation “Woo Mom and Dad.” This test will reveal what your unique style is, and once you have the results, you’re ready to put boots on the ground with these tips.
1. Dress Classy, Not Stunning
You’ve already impressed him — no need to make his parents think you’re a hotty. Instead, it’s time to present yourself as cultured, intelligent, and respectful. That’s right, time to pull out some of your old-school fashions. No need to wear something with shoulder-pads, but an outfit that’s conservative and classy will go a long way. Think a knee-length dress, something that doesn’t show cleavage, or even jeans with a cute blouse.
2. Above All, Go for Calm
Of course, you’re eager to impress them. But being too eager will either make you appear hyperactive or insincere, both of which are a bad first impression. Instead, even if it goes against instinct, try to maintain a persona of calm but polite and classy. Engage in conversation and be articulate, but don’t feel the need to fill silence. Hold your boyfriend’s hand, but avoid trying to prove how much you care by never leaving his side. The calmer you are, the more comfortable his parents will feel around you. In this case, it’s best to let them take the lead, as they’re the host. Follow their cues on when to speak, and if they’re more open and excited, feel free to share more of your own flare. If they’re more reserved, don’t feel uncomfortable being quiet.
3. Make sure you’re properly briefed.
Over-stressing will only lead to disaster, but having a healthy understanding of who you’re about to meet is crucial. Ask your boyfriend about his parents’ likes and dislikes, touchy subjects to stray from, and topics they’re enthusiastic about. First, learn the family’s culture so you can smoothly integrate in — or at least avoid offense.
4. Bring a Gift
Bring a reasonably priced hostess gift of some sort. Your boyfriend might advise you not to bother, but this is one case where you don’t listen to his advice on dealing with his parents. It may be an outdated gesture in your social circles — and may in his parents’ as well — but it’s an elegant show of respect that will certainly be appreciated. Pump him for information on what the folks would need or use and then go shopping. If all else fails, ask if they drink, and bring a bottle of wine.
5. Befriend His Mom
Mothers are usually the ring-leaders of families, so once you’ve made a good impression on her, you’re sure to fit in easily with everyone else. Strike up conversation and don’t be afraid to ask about her interests, funny stories about her son, and your interests. Just be sure to communicate honestly, rather than seeming interested for the sake of fitting in. Either she’ll find it insincere, or you’re doomed to that style of chatting forever.
6. Do Some Recon
While the parents are learning about their son’s girlfriend, you’re learning about your boyfriend and his parents. That’s a well-known fact, so don’t be afraid to embrace it. Observe how he interacts with his mom, dad, and any siblings. This is a great conversation point, where you can point out traits they share or verbal cues you’ve always wondered about, and it gives you insight into your own future. If you eventually marry, how he treats his mother is a huge indicator of how he treats all women, and how close he is with his family members will tell you how much attention he has available for you.
7. Don’t make your boyfriend the center of attention.
With the above point in mind, it’s crucial to not use your boyfriend as a conversational crutch. His relationship with you is still private to some degree, and while it may be fascinating to talk about his quirks and habits or pour over baby books, remember that he might stop feeling humorously embarrassed and start feeling attacked. Be conscious of when the conversation turns to “us against him,” even playfully, and stay watchful for clues that he’s not having fun anymore. Sure, you’ll survive the evening unscathed, but he could be hurt. As a bonus, while the parents might be disappointed they couldn’t tease their boy, they’ll most likely recognize you coming to his defense and admire that as his parent.
8. Shake Off Offenses
Chances are, his parents are just as nervous about meeting you. In the same way, you can make an idiot out of yourself even after pre-rehearsing every moment, they’re capable of putting their foot in their mouth. Give them the leeway you hope they’ll give you, and if a comment really stings, bring it up to your boyfriend. Don’t make it into a capital offense, but let him be aware of it, so he can tactfully ensure it’s a touchy subject that’s avoided in the future — in a way only a kid who grew up in their house can.
9. Closely Observe Your Ps and Qs
Much like bringing a gift, be sure to observe some old-fashioned manners. After dinner, offer to help with the dishes. Refer to his parents formally by their last name until they give you the all-clear to tone it down. Remember your table manners and keep a napkin nearby. Don’t engage in any public displays of affection, especially beyond hand-holding, and don’t whisper to your boyfriend. Even if they’re laid-back people who don’t care much for the prim and proper style, it’s best to start out formal and ease back from there. It shows respect and class, and once you have that amazing first impression, you can show them your human side.
10. Follow your boyfriend’s lead.
Not only does he know how to interact with them, he is also your main ally here. Watching how he speaks to his father, mother, and possible siblings will provide insight into how casual, strained, or formal their relationship is. If he hates his mother, don’t feel overly pressured to befriend her; he could see this as a betrayal. On the other hand, if you’re aware he dislikes his mother but he embraces her affectionately, then know he tows a careful courtesy line and you should follow suit. Follow his lead, but most importantly — be polite. Just because he can be rude to his family doesn’t you can be.