Sex + Dating

Every Couple Needs to Have This Talk Before Meeting the Parents

meet the parents
<strong>Meet the Parents |&nbsp;</strong>Tribeca Productions

It’s hard to say what’s more intimidating: meeting your SO’s parents for the first time, or introducing him or her to your folks. It’s a big step in any relationship, for sure. And if you dive blindly into the situation (or fail to mention to your affectionate partner that your mom hates cheek-kissing), there’s a lot at stake.

To guarantee your mate dazzles your parental units from the get-go, it’s up to you to set the stage for all parties. And to ensure the initial impression you make on his or her ’rents is just as stellar, certain matters must be discussed beforehand. Cover these six crucial topics, and the first familial encounter may even be an enjoyable one.

Solidify your relationship status

So, you’re dating this guy. You see him three times a week but are still wondering “what are we?” because you’ve never outright discussed exclusivity. Well, things are going to get pretty awkward at brunch when your dad exclaims, “It’s so great to finally meet my daughter’s boyfriend!”, and your date is standing there looking like Bambi in the headlights of an F150 because he thought you were just hooking up.

“Before I introduce a guy to my family and vise versa,” says Faye, 28. “I make sure that we not only discussed our relationship status, but that we have an idea of what we want out of the arrangement long-term.”

Visit the following questions pre-omelets with Mom and Dad: Are you two boyfriend and girlfriend (aka, “offish”)? Dating with the end goal of moving in together? Getting married? Spawning children? If it feels too soon to have “the talk” with the person you’re dating, it may be too soon for a parental introduction, too.

Pinpoint common interests

It’s a simple concept: when people have something in common, they’re more likely to enjoy each other’s company. And here are three humans that you know well and care about, so find something your SO has in common with each of your parents and tip him off on that. If he shares a love for golf with Dad and Mom’s home state of Connecticut, everyone will benefit from him sliding birdies and nutmeg into the convo early on.

“The girl I’m seeing told me how much her mom loves books,” says Mike, 27. “When we met, I brought up what I was currently reading and it turns out we have the same favorite author. The common ground made a great starting point for easy-flowing conversation.”

To clarify, I’m not saying that if your dad is a crazy Broncos fan, you should tell your boyfriend to pretend to root for Denver… but you may consider having him keep his Tom Brady fandom under wraps for now.

Reveal personalities and pet peeves

Parents are charmingly quirky in their own ways -- and that’s why we love them! But familial intros are innately nerve-racking. It’s a good idea to give your SO a little prep course on any idiosyncrasies, lest Mom’s bluntness or Dad’s introversion catches your boo off guard.  

“It definitely puts me at ease when a guy tells me what I’m getting into with his parents,” says Tess*, 28. “If I know about certain character traits beforehand, I won’t take their actions personally and I’ll feel more comfortable being myself.”

Also mention if your folks have specific gripes or preferences. Like, please don’t let me walk into your house with shoes on if that will send your OCD mother into a tizzy, and don’t let me call your father Bob if he prefers Mr. Greene.

Discuss dress code

Fashion makes a statement. And you have the power to provide your mate with intel that ensures his/her ensemble choice -- and first impression -- are both good ones. True, telling someone you’re dating how to dress can be touchy -- it can come off as naggy, or like you don’t trust him/her to impress your family. It’s all in the context and delivery. For instance, don’t say something vague and insulting to your girlfriend like, “My mom will think you’re trying too hard if you wear heels.” (True story, that was said to me once. Ouch.) But, you can elaborate on the day’s plans and suggest appropriate attire: “We’ll be in my family’s backyard all day, so wear comfy shoes!”

Your end goal: be helpful, not unkind. If you still feel uneasy about speaking up, just imagine how much worse it will be if bae rolls up to your parents’ no-jeans-allowed country club in Dungarees.

Additional advice to guys: don’t EVER wear a T-shirt broadcasting the name of a strip club across the front. If her dad’s a frequent patron, it’s hard to say who will feel more uncomfortable.

Lay down the alcohol ground rules

Of course you’re anxious about meeting the people who gave life to your other half. BUT, you shouldn’t turn to booze as a social lubricant or a way to pacify your nerves. Even if your partner claims that his/her Irish parents like to party, do you really want their first memory of you to be ripping shots and line dancing across the kitchen with a colander on your head? You’re not out at Drinky O'Murphy's with your friends -- you're with your (potential) future in-laws! Tailor your imbibing to ensure you ALWAYS remain below his/her parents’ level of inebriation… especially if they’re not big drinkers.

“My parents don’t drink much,” says Andrew, 29, “so I made sure to inform my girlfriend about that ahead of time; I also asked her to play down how frequently I go out for beers during the week.”

There are also ways alcohol can be used to your advantage. Has your girlfriend mentioned that her mother’s go-to guzzle is moscato? Then bring a mid-range priced bottle over as a gift -- that’s at least three immediate points in your favor.

Clarify what needs to stay on the DL

Society has advised us ad nauseam to stay far away from two topics at the dinner table: religion and politics. And yes, you should definitely abide by that rule, especially if your SO’s dad is a merciless Trump supporter and you happen to feel, ahem, otherwise. But those two untouchable topics are just the tip of the sharp and dangerous iceberg. If there’s family drama that you may have mentioned to your partner after glass number three of pinot grigio, remind him/her that the matter must stay hush-hush.

“My girlfriend told me her brother was unemployed,” says Brandy*, 28, “but never said it was a secret. I almost spilled the beans the first time I met her parents and was mortified.”

So if your parents don’t want anyone knowing about your aunt’s rehab stint or their secret pot den in the basement, for everyone’s sake, make sure your date doesn’t bring it up over lemon meringue.

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Brooke Sager is a contributing writer for Thrillist who wore the heels anyway. Follow her adventures in NYC and beyond on Instagram and Twitter: @HIHEELZbrooke.