12 Things You Should Never Do When Meeting Your Partner’s Parents

Whatever you do, don’t go overboard on the wine.

Meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time can be intimidating. It’s a major step in the relationship, with potentially a lot riding on it.

“A first impression can be a lasting impression,” marriage and family therapist Danny Gibson told HuffPost. “If you exhibit any of these [bad] behaviors, you run the risk of having parents put up emotional barriers to you, which makes establishing a long-term relationship with them more difficult.”

So how do you ensure you don’t come off like some mannerless jerk during this first encounter? We asked Gibson and other marriage therapists to share the behaviors to avoid when meeting your future in-laws.

1. Pack on the PDA

“While public displays of affection can be a wonderful thing, there is an appropriate time and place for it. This does not mean you have to become cold, distant and robotic, but it does mean you need to know the audience you are in front of. Simple displays like holding hands, light touches or resting your arm around your S.O.’s shoulders are sweet ways to communicate both your care and your respect for your S.O. and the people who raised them.” ― psychologist Jamie Goldstein

2. Get wasted

“Do not meet them while intoxicated or get intoxicated at the first meeting. The impression you may leave on your significant other’s parent or parents is that you lack self-control and make poor decisions. Meeting someone’s parents for the first time requires you to be present, coherent and authentic ― none of which is possible if you are intoxicated.” ― Gibson

3. Bring up controversial topics like religion, politics or sex

“Do not talk about religion or politics. If you and your S.O. share the same views, don’t assume that their parents also have those views. Even if you definitely know that your beliefs are in line with your S.O.’s parents, some people still consider it to be in poor taste to bring it up. It is better to get to know them more before broaching these topics.

“Also, do not talk about sex, especially your own sex life. Even if your S.O.’s parents have a dirty sense of humor, it’s probably best to laugh along and save your own contributions until you have developed a closer relationship with them. With that being said, you may want to leave out any reference to your own sex life. Most parents just don’t want to hear it.” ― psychologist Gina Delucca

4. Lie or exaggerate to make yourself look good

“Being fake instead of who you truly are is a mistake that will upset your mate. You’re also likely to be found out at some point and possibly when it could really hurt your relationship. If your partner has accepted you as you are, then that should be enough for their parents too.” ― therapist Kurt Smith

5. Be glued to your phone

“Avoid being on your phone, texting, checking your email or browsing social media. Your S.O’s parents might feel dismissed and think that you are not interested in getting to know them.” ― psychologist and sex therapist Janet Brito

6. Tell off-color jokes

“You may want to refrain from telling any inappropriate, sexual or racially insensitive jokes. Parents want to know that their child is dating a caring and empathetic person. If you are telling inappropriate jokes at the first meeting, you are demonstrating a lack of respect for others and displaying poor judgment.” ― Gibson

7. Be closed-minded

“Your S.O. is a different person with a different background than you. Go into any meeting with a completely open mind, without expecting your S.O.’s parents to be anything like your own. If you are intolerant or impatient with their perspectives, this can damage and even destroy your chances of one day having a close and loving relationship with them.” ― psychologist Samantha Rodman

8. Let them clean up after you

“Don’t just sit there after dinner. Instead, offer to help with the cleanup. If not, your S.O.’s parents might think you’re not a team player.” ― Brito

9. Talk about money

“Telling the parents of your significant other that they have a nice home is one thing. But asking them how much it set them back is quite another. Bringing up money is generally considered not in good taste and can be perceived as rude. Once you have a connection established, there are people who’ll be happy to tell you how much their watch cost, but when meeting anyone for the first time, it’s best to keep financial matters off-limits.” ― Smith

10. Dress like a slob

“Don’t wear your pajamas or look like you just rolled out of bed. This will show them that you are serious about meeting them and respect them enough to care about your appearance.” ― Brito

11. Talk only about yourself

“While your S.O.’s parents are probably very interested in getting to know you, they also do not want to spend the entire time listening to your life story. Try to find a balance in the conversation by also asking them questions to show interest in getting to know them as well.” ― Delucca

12. Not talk at all

“It can be intimidating meeting your S.O.’s parents, but don’t let it make you completely silent. Try to treat them like any other people you respect, like your boss or the friends of your own parents. Be polite and follow their conversation.” ― psychotherapist Tina Tessina

Before You Go

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