Drill your partner before meeting his or her family. What are the family member's names and how should you address them, by their first or last name? What do they do for a living, what are their hobbies? Also, try to find some common ground with them. That way you can start bonding over similarities. But don't overdo it and be natural about it.
It might also be great to know if they are conservative in nature or quite liberal. That might help you decide how to dress, what to say and what not to say. Don't forget to ask your partner about the parents' habits and their likes and dislikes: you don't want to find out that they don't drink alcohol after you handed them a bottle of wine.
Everybody loves gifts! It doesn't have to be anything big. But flowers for the mother and chocolates or a small toy for any kids around will definitely be appreciated.
If you are joining the parents for a meal at their house, you can also offer to bring some food, like dessert. But, if you aren't too familiar around the kitchen, it might be a better idea to buy a cake or a starter than end up with a major food disaster that the entire family will bring up at every get-together for the next decade.
This might be obvious, but in the heat of the moment when you try to impress his or her parents, it might be easy to play a role of what you think they want to see. As tempting as it may be, don't even try it. Their son or daughter loves you the way you are, and that's the most important thing. Trying to be someone you are not will just end in chaos.
Of course, the parents don't need to know everything about you on the first evening they meet you. So be yourself, but be polite and keep the skeletons in the closet. And don't forget to smile! It's difficult not being nice to someone who smiles.
Be on time. Being late doesn't leave a good impression. Be polite, ask questions, be open and smile. While eating, watch others and follow suit. If they help themselves to seconds, it's okay for you to do so too. If there is alcohol, have a glass if you want to, and then politely decline refills. A drunk future son- or daughter-in-law doesn't bode well with parents. Offer to lend a hand with the dishes or with clearing the table, even if you are a man.
Also, in the beginning, you should stay off topics that could be controversial, like religion, money or politics. You can save those for another time, and until the parents like you enough to not bad-mouth you over voting for the 'wrong' party.
PDA means public display of affection. Some families are quite reserved in this regard so ask your partner if his or her parents would be okay to hold hands or kiss in front of them. In any case, a full-blown make-out session with the parents sitting next to you is totally inappropriate! You can save the cuddling, snuggling and everything else for later, once you have made it safely through that first meeting with the parents. If in doubt, keep your hands off your partner. Better safe than sorry.
The temptation might be big to try to make the parents like you at all costs. But don't be too eager. You don't have to be best friends with his or her parents. For the beginning, getting along is good enough. Being too eager can seem fake.
Just remember that you are new to the family, and this is the time to get to know each other. Nobody should expect instant love between the parents and you. Love is for you and your partner. And if your relationship lasts, the parents will come around eventually.
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