What to Do When You Meet Your Partner’s Parents

Lesson one: Don't talk about politics or religion

Dear Monica, I have been dating a guy for a while now and he has invited me to meet his parents over the Christmas break. I need some pointers for the main event. — T.J., Rosemont

It’s show time! You have done the dance, said the three little words and met the friends. All small potatoes in comparison to this big event. Now it is time to prepare yourself for the sit down of all sit downs: mom and dad.

This is not so different from the job interview you aced or the big deal that you closed last month. Basically you are showing total strangers the best side of you. Common sense and sincerity will be your truest friends at this juncture. If his parents are divorced or separated at least you have a teeny break in the anxiety department since you have to hit two homes quickly. Either way remember that you are also evaluating them to see if they are a worthy fit. Here’s some tips.

Don’t talk about politics, religion or family dysfunction. The same goes for how much money you make or how much money you owe. Try to get the lowdown from your beau on each family member, including the issues they are passionate about. Everyone likes to talk about themselves so ask questions. (How long have his parents been together? How did they meet?) Since you have already done your homework on their interests, talk to them about what your honey has told you. Smile and let them know in your own special way what an amazing son they have raised. Focus on listening, as you are better off saying less on the first meeting. Absolutely positively no PDAs at the table. It is fine to show a little affection, but in a tasteful way.

Refer to his parents as “Mr. and Mrs.” until they tell you otherwise. Drinking is fine. Just keep it to one chardonnay that you nurse all night long. No one wants a lush in the family. Help clean up the table and offer to assist with anything needed in the kitchen. Yes, your boyfriend may be rolling his eyes, but moms love this sort of attentions.

This is no time to be wearing the Jimmy Choos or expensive bags. Be stylish, but remember you are dressing for the parents and not for the whole room. Keep the high-maintenance look at home. His mom especially will be checking for signs of lasting substance behind your charm and style. Like all moms she will want to know that you are with her son for the right reasons. Are you kind and sweet? Will you make for a drama-free daughter-in-law (if such a thing exists)? Will her son have to work his ass off to support you or will you stand on your own two feet? She mainly wants to sense that you will love her son as much as she does. And by the way, you are not being paranoid when you think his mother will review and dissect the entire night with him as well as all other family members. She definitely will if he has a sister!

Come prepared with a little gift like chocolates or flowers for the hostess. Realize that there may be some bumps in the road, but don’t show your emotion. Try to let things roll off of your shoulders while smiling. Participate in the conversation but don’t take command of the topic. It is nerve racking for anyone whether it be the future mate or the parents to meet for the first time. Both sides are wondering if this is the person who will be entering the family. If his mother is a bit possessive understand the old saying, “ Your son is your son until he takes a wife, your daughter is your daughter all of your life.”  If you keep this in the back of your mind you will be able to put your best foot forward and keep your nerves in check.