One of the most important points in any developing relationship is that moment when you get to meet her parents. In a very innocently pursued manner, she is telling both you and her parents that she is serious about your future together, and that, in her mind at least, it will most certainly be transcending the dating stage at some point.
It can be a terrifying proposition, especially when her father has a reputation as a bit of a hard nut, but it’s equally the case for them. After all, you could be the guy that she ends up spending the rest of her days with, and a poor choice on her behalf could represent a lifetime of stress and worry for them. [Read: 7 signs it’s the right time to meet the parents]
The importance of a good impression
You could look at this one of two ways. Firstly, you could just try to make the best of it. Try and get through the evening without showing yourself up or giving them any cause to doubt her decision and make life a bit easier for her.
On the other hand, you could figure that she’s chosen you entirely on your own merits, that the person you are is the person she loves, and hence, it’s not necessary for you to put on any kind of a show. Good logic – but dreadful common sense.
Not only are her parents the people nearest and dearest to your beloved and entirely able to talk her around to their way of thinking with enough persistence, but if you aren’t even able to make this tiny little bit of effort for her, then she may even doubt that her decision to date you is a sound one. [Read: 12 ways to avoid a first impression catastrophe]
A saving grace: how to be the guy her parents will like
We wouldn’t, of course, want you to go blindly crashing through a meeting of your loved one’s parents, and so, we have compiled a list to help get you through this particularly dreaded event.
To be the kind of person she wants to take home to meet mom and – even more importantly – one she’d want to take on a second occasion, the following rights and wrongs should help you successfully navigate the sea of parental disapproval.
#1 Do go bearing gifts. It’s a basic token of respect and very basic etiquette in most cultures that the mother, especially, will derive great pleasure from. When in doubt, get flowers for her and a bottle of something for him – but do your research first.
Don’t turn up empty handed. If you can’t manage even this most basic of polite expectations, you’re going to set the evening off to a bad start. Even if you’re scared of committing a blunder, a badly chosen gift is better than none at all.
#2 Do dress to impress. Again, a lot of this initial meeting with the parents is about making a solid first impression. Get your best threads out of the closet, and make sure you dress like a gentleman: not a mental-man.
Don’t play it down. You may feel that you’ll be able to act more naturally in front of her parents while wearing something casual and a little more you, but that might not be the case when you end up with her father positively snarling at your unkempt appearance.
#3 Do pay your hosts a compliment. Irrespective of whether it seems a little creepy or not, pull your best compliments out of your bag, and share them liberally, whether about their home, their daughter, their cooking skills – whatever.
Don’t be critical. When your future mother-in-law gets the main course on the table, comments of, “Not bad, but it could do with some flavor,” are going to go down about as well as your marriage prospects.
#4 Do show affection. You don’t need to stand ten feet from your significant other at all times so that you don’t incur the displeasure of her parents. Showing affection with your words and occasionally, although not too much, with your touch and gesture indicates you are serious about your future with their daughter and that you are strong-willed enough to show it.
Don’t go overboard. Slapping her on the ass, staring at her breasts, and talking in minute detail about who did what under the covers last night is likely to embarrass her, appall her mother, and send her dad reaching for the nearest implement of torture! [Read: The rules of public displays of affection]
#5 Do treat her well. Most of all, her parents want to see that she’s going to be looked after by someone who can love her as much as they do, who adores her, dotes on her, and treats her with respect.
Don’t dismiss her. Name-calling, being dismissive, or any general show of disrespect is likely to infuriate them and probably earn you an early departure. Even if you have some kind of strange pet name for each other that has contextual relevance behind closed doors but sounds kind of insulting in the real world, then now is not the time to give it an airing.
#6 Do watch your table manners. This is one of the major tests of your ability to perform properly in polite company, and something that even a child should get right. It just further affirms your maturity, social awareness, and general suitability for the position of life partner for the apple of their eye.
Don’t be a pig. That means eating like one in both manner and quantity. Making noises that can be heard by fishing boats in the mid-Atlantic every time you open your mouth to chew, or consuming enough to feed the Chinese Army does not make a good impression.
#7 Do observe tradition. Every family has its own particular ways of doing things, and getting them wrong can make for a disastrous start. These could be such details as where you sit, whether prayer is observed or not, whether or not you help yourself to food/drink, etc. The trick is to be patient, wait it out, and take your cues from others.
Don’t jump in. Hold back, and let others be your guide. Otherwise, you could really mess things up. Ever stopped in the middle of helping yourself to potatoes and realized that everyone else is staring at you in disgust, as they attempt to begin the pre-meal prayer? If not, then now is not a good time to start!
#8 Do have a good job. Well, there’s not much you can do about this one. You either have a good job or you don’t. But nothing is more likely to impress the parents than telling them you’re a doctor or pilot – and that’s not an invitation to make something up!
Don’t boast about your failings. Loudly telling anyone and everyone within earshot that you’ve never been able to hold down a job and you’ve always been a bit of a bum is a surefire route to having the parents do anything within their power to end the relationship as soon as possible – if not right there and then, and at the end of a barrel!
[Read: 13 rules of etiquette for the modern gentleman]
When you’ve met the woman of your dreams, you’d better shape up and make sure you can convince her that you’re exactly the kind of guy her mom would like to meet. Without the parents’ blessing, you could end up making things a whole lot more difficult for yourself!
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