Coming face-to-face with your guy’s parents for the first time is like going for a job interview. It can be awkward, nerve-wracking, and, if you don’t get it right, pretty disastrous. What if they don’t like you and decide to write you off right there and then? What if you say or do something embarrassing and end up making an idiot of yourself? You only have one chance to sell yourself, and if you fail to make a good impression, it can be difficult to redeem yourself.
But the experience need not be negative, scary or daunting. True, meeting her potential parents-in-law is enough for any woman to shake in her designer booties, but if you play your cards right, you’ll have no problems winning them over. Of course, being in your boyfriend’s parents’ good books doesn’t necessarily mean that your romance will last forever, but it can certainly help strengthen the bond between you and your man. If he is especially close to his parents, it’s also likely that he will value their overall impression of you. So make it a positive one!
Before the big meeting, you should find out what your boyfriend’s parents are like. Are they quiet, subdued and serious, or loud, talkative and easy-going? Asking what they do or did for a living, and what their hobbies are can also help when making conversation with them. If you have things in common with them – for example, his mum loves baking and so do you – even better.
It also helps to ask your BF what his parents’ experiences with his exes were like, so you can gauge their expectations of you. Did they find your guy’s ex rude, offensive and fake? Did they like the fact that she was friendly and open towards them?
Next, you should ask your boyfriend for tips on how to behave in his parents’ presence. He’ll probably tell you to just “be yourself”, and that’s good advice, but as an “insider”, he should be able to give you more detailed information. For instance, should you shake his parents’ hands or hug them when you see them?
WOW THEM THE FIRST TIME
Karla Moore, a dating coach from NineGPS, a matchmaking company based in Atlanta in the US, says that if you want to get on your guy’s parents’ good side, it’s important to play it cool. Let’s say they’ve invited you over to dinner at their place. Try to keep your emotions in check and avoid clinging to your guy. Yes, you’re thrilled to bits that you’re finally meeting his folks, but if you act needy and desperate, you will not only make them feel uncomfortable, you’ll probably irritate your boyfriend, too.
Here are a few more tips:
1. Do not show up at your boyfriend’s parents’ house empty handed. You wouldn’t rock up to a friend’s dinner party without bringing a gift, so why should it be any different with your man’s folks? The last thing you want is to be labelled “rude” or “self centred”, says Karla, so make the effort to bring something small and simple. Fresh flowers or homemade muffins are perfect. And while a bottle of Bordeaux might seem like a wonderful hostess gift, this might indicate to your guy’s parents that you’re a drinker. Even if you love a tipple every now and again, they do not need to know this. Which brings us to our next point…
2. Don’t go overboard on the alcohol. Who doesn’t love a drink or three? For your own sake it’s best to avoid getting stuck in the booze when meeting your boyfriend’s parents. “If there was ever a time you needed to be mentally sharp as a tack, this is it,” Karla points out. If his parents serve alcohol during the evening, stick to just one glass. You definitely do not want to get drunk and make an idiot of yourself – or worse, get sick at the dinner table.
3. Don’t try too hard. The more you over-think the event, the more anxious you’ll feel. Be gracious, polite and friendly throughout the dinner, and you will put your boyfriend and his parents at ease, too. And remember to keep that smile on your face, no matter how awkward or tense things get.
4. Look your best. Remember to also dress appropriately. Avoid anything low-cut or too tight. Get your BF’s opinion on your outfit before you head out the door.
5. Offer to help. After dinner, make a beeline for the kitchen and offer to help clean up or put the food away – even if your boyfriend’s family has a helper. “It’s unfortunate that I have to say this, but the truth is that many women miss perfectly good opportunities such as these to show humility and grace,” says Karla. You may be someone who hates being in the kitchen or cleaning up, but you have to see things from your boyfriend’s mum’s perspective. She is only looking out for her son’s interests, and if you want her to see you in a positive light, it won’t hurt to extend a helping hand.
‘OUR EMBARRASSING MEET-THE-PARENTS STORIES’
You booze, you lose
“My boyfriend’s parents invited me to dinner at a fancy restaurant. Naturally I was nervous, so I drank copious amounts of alcohol to take the edge off. By the time the second course arrived my brain was on another planet and I was giggling non-stop and talking nonsense. At the end of the night, I hugged my boyfriend’s parents and told them I loved them! The next morning I realised how stupidly I’d behaved. But my boyfriend and his folks thought I was hilarious! When I saw his parents again a few weeks later, instead of apologising for acting like a fool, I just acted innocent. When his dad offered me a cold beer with a smile, I politely declined. I didn’t want a repeat of the other night!” – Cally*, 28, advertising executive
A bloody affair
“Perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen to sit on my boyfriend’s parents’ light grey couch when I went over to their place for dinner. I had started my period the day before so my flow was quite heavy. I wore a Maxi pad for extra protection but that didn’t help. The blood somehow leaked out and stained the couch. It wasn’t that much blood, but still, I was mortified! My boyfriend’s mum told me not to worry about it and asked the helper to clean it up. It took me a few months before I was comfortable seeing them again.” – Andrea*, 31, flight attendant
“Everything was going well when I was at my guy’s parents’ place, until I looked down at my shirt and noticed that the first two buttons were missing. My bra had been exposed for goodness-knows-how-long! I’m pretty sure everyone noticed. When I asked my boyfriend why he didn’t point it out to me, he said he thought that that was the style of the shirt. I quickly fixed the problem with a safety pin but inside I was dying of embarrassment.” – Sheila*, 32, teacher
*Names have been changed
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