Impress future in-laws with genuine interest

by Emma Secker

Meeting a significant other’s parents is important, but can be an anxiety-inducing occasion in a relationship. Copyright Chelsea Massey / Staff Photographer

Some students may have spent their breaks meeting their significant other’s family for the first time. Others might have this special occasion to look forward to as this year progresses. For those who have yet to step foot into their special someone’s home, there are codes of conduct to follow to ensure the milestone is a smooth and positive one.

When first meeting the family of one’s significant other, it is important to achieve the delicate balance of being oneself while demonstrating the etiquette conducive to making a successful first impression.

According to The Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams, the first step concerned characters can take toward impressing their significant other’s family is proper preparation. Prior to the meeting, Abrahams advises asking their partner questions about his or her family to gain basic background information. This ensures sore subjects are avoided, traditions and customs are honored and no toes are trodden upon. In addition to asking proper questions, students are advised to also prepare for questions they might have to answer in return.

“Talk with your sweetie in advance about how to handle any sensitive questions,” Abrahams said. “This includes questions that might not even sound ‘sensitive’ to you but have a lot of family baggage attached to them.”

Practicing discretion of this sort is crucial in many cases of ingratiating oneself with a boyfriend or girlfriend’s parents. While the parents are paramount, other family members should not be left by the wayside.

“Make sure you pay a lot of attention to the older generation, the little kids and the household pets,” Abrahams said. “Not only will this make a good impression on everyone else, but the elderly, children and animals are a lot less likely to be judgmental or pass on gossip about you, so time with them is both well and safely spent.”

Public relations junior Brittany Weber said she always makes an effort to befriend the siblings of her significant others.

“It’s important to parents what siblings think,” Weber said. “When my brother has girlfriends, my mom and I talk about her openly and share our opinions. It helps to have siblings as an ally, especially since you can generally be more yourself around the brothers and sisters than the parents.”

If one is staying the night at their significant other’s home, it is important to receive accommodations respectfully. While some families may be fine with their children sharing a bedroom with their special someone, other families may feel this is inappropriate. Weber said when she and her boyfriend stay at her family’s house, they always sleep in separate rooms. The two only feel comfortable sharing a room when staying at his house.

“Since my boyfriend has a single, dating mom I don’t feel awkward sleeping in the same room when we visit,” Weber said. “But, when there are little brothers and sisters around, or when we are in the same house as my traditional parents, he sleeps in another room to not send a bad message.”

Rules of etiquette such as these depend on the family in question, as some behaviors are appropriate to one family but not another. Gift giving is a gesture one traditionally extends toward the family of their significant other when meeting them for the first time and another instance when a conservative approach is typically better.

According to Abrahams, one should bring a gift the family can share, such as a DVD, board game or baked goods. These gifts involve the whole family and appeal to the general taste of families falling anywhere on the casual-conservative continuum.

Though there are several tactics students can employ to impress the family of their significant other, it is also important for students to show who they truly are and not let their personalities be eclipsed by social etiquette and protocol. Abrahams encourages readers to be a good sport but not a robot.

“Either the relationship won’t work out and it ultimately won’t matter what these people think of you, or else it will work out and they’re going to have to get used to you as you are,” Abrahams said.

Weber agrees the most important thing her family looks for in her boyfriends is their sincere and genuine interest in her. Demonstrating they are comfortable and striving to be close with the family is a student’s best route to success when interacting with a significant other’s family.