A man and his partner speak to her mother in a kitchen

Relationship tips: 5 tips for meeting the parents

by Eharmony Editorial Team - April 8, 2011

Whether your partner’s parents are 40 or 80, and however old you are, it’s always nerve-wracking meeting the in-laws. Here are 5 relationship tips to make things run smoothly.

Whether it’s your first serious relationship, or you’re dating again after a divorce, meeting your partner’s parents will always be nerve-wracking. Here’s our five tips for ensuring that first meeting goes smoothly 

1.    Accept the first invitation they extend

If you’re worried about meeting the parents then it might be tempting to put off meeting them. Maybe they’ve asked you out for dinner and you’ve cried off with a bad stomach, or a work commitment. Just remember that if you’re serious about your relationship, you’re putting off the inevitable. Plus, your partner’s parents aren’t stupid; one excuse is, well, excusable, but any more and they’ll draw the conclusion that you’re just plain rude.

2.    Try and meet on neutral ground

If you are nervous about meeting the parents then you’re best off doing it in an environment no-one is familiar with. That way neither side has the ‘upper-hand’; everyone is on the same level. If it’s left up to you to decide the venue, choose something low key like brunch at a local cafe, or Sunday lunch at your favourite (in-law friendly) pub. Now is definitely not the time to try somewhere new, or somewhere unusual (your partner’s parents might enjoy sushi, but why take the risk?).

If they’ve made it clear they’d like to choose the venue, don’t try and pass on suggestions unprompted. Just let them decide, and if it does happen to be your worst nightmare of a restaurant then you’ll just have to grin and bear it for a couple of hours. Resist the temptation to make negative remarks about the place you’re meeting, if you’ve had bad personal experiences there. It may well be their favourite restaurant and you run the risk of seriously offending them.

3.    …or be prepared to muck in

If the meeting is a visit to their home then this is your chance to show how considerate and helpful you can be. Whether that’s helping his Dad stack the washing machine after dinner, or helping her Mum serve the tea, get stuck in. Even if you’re told not to lift a finger, don’t see that as a green light to put your feet up on the sofa. Offer your help whenever you think it’s appropriate, without being overbearing.

4.    Do your homework

Doing some research on your partner’s parents will avoid two things:

1.    The conversation drying up
2.    You putting your foot in it

Make sure you have all the basics nailed down; know their names (duh!), jobs (or former jobs), hobbies, likes and dislikes, clubs they’re members of etc.  If your partner’s parents are divorced, or if one of their parents is no longer alive, make sure you’re completely on board with what’s acceptable to ask about and what isn’t. After all, you don’t want to be the one who halts conversation at dinner after asking about the ex-wife that no one mentions.

Knowing something about your partner’s parents also earns you lots of brownie points, which can never be a bad thing!

5.    Retain the high ground

Families are funny things – they have their own rules about what’s acceptable and what’s not. Sometimes these rules don’t follow societal norms, but that’s ok, because they understand their own boundaries. However, you don’t. Don’t assume that because the family calls your partner’s brother ‘Chubs’, you can get involved too. Also, just because they’re all swapping silly stories about your partner, that’s not your cue to recount the most embarrassing story you know about him or her. Smile or laugh when appropriate and keep your anecdotes to yourself.