What not to say when you meet the parents
No matter how old you are or how many times you’ve done it before, meeting someone’s parents is stressful. It means your relationship is moving onto the next level and the last thing you want is for their first impression of you to be a bad one. Bear in mind these simple guidelines and you’re sure to win their hearts and secure that all important nod of approval.
Things your partner has disclosed to you about their upbringing
When you meet someone’s parents for the first time you’ll already have an impression of them from what your partner has told you about their upbringing. Remember, it’s possible for children from the same family to have very different views of their childhood and often neither will agree on their parents. It’s vital that you’re sensitive to the fact that you don’t know what’s actually ‘true’.
Ask questions, let them tell you about their child, show an interest in the past but avoid saying anything that will give them the impression that you’ve formed your opinion of them before you’ve even said hello. Preconceptions may make them defensive and hostile towards you. Go into the situation with an open mind – they want you to like them as much as you want them to like you.
Anything to do with your sex life
It doesn’t matter how enlightened parents are, they don’t want to think about their child’s sex life. Even if their child’s in their 40s, they’re still their little girl or boy. Thoughts of them having sex with anyone is just as unsettling as it is for children thinking about their parents having sex – we all know it happens but don’t necessarily want it to be a topic of conversation around the dinner table.
All sexual innuendo, overt flirting, references to previous sexual partners or sexual language should be avoided too. This isn’t the time or the place for such references – parents are more interested in your qualities and character than in your prowess in the bedroom. What they’ll be looking for most is that their child seems happy and comfortable with you. This is more likely to be the case if you keep the conversation on the straight and narrow.
Many people are facing financial insecurity but your potential in-laws aren’t the right people to talk to about your concerns, especially when you’ve only just met them. Talking about money at all is usually considered to be in bad taste and can often be a bone of contention if your views about it, or experience of it, are very different.
This is another subject which should be kept strictly off the agenda when you meet someone’s parents. Even if you think you may share political views, it’s such a potentially volatile subject that it’s best to get to know them first before you tread into political territory.
This is the third big taboo when it comes to making a favourable first impression. People’s religious beliefs are often very close to their heart and it’s difficult to disagree with their views without sounding like you’re attacking them as a person. Even if your relationship with their child is founded on your shared religious beliefs, it’s better to be reserved if you’re questioned about it, rather than too forthcoming. You can always reveal more as you get to know them better and as they get to know you as a whole person.
Listen more than you talk
The best way to make a good impression is to show an interest in these people. They’re strangers to you and just like being on a blind date, it may feel awkward at first. Beforehand ask your partner for some key facts about each of their parents, and potential landmines which you should avoid. Listen attentively, encourage them to continue, show your appreciation for their hospitality and be polite. Remember that they will naturally feel protective towards their child so any hostility you encounter is most likely there as a test to see if you’re good enough to date their offspring.
These early encounters are important in laying the foundations for friendships that will last as long as your relationship does, so it is well worth putting as much thought and effort into your new partner’s parents as you would a new date.
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