There is nothing that is as simultaneously romantic and terrifying as introducing your significant other to your parents. On one hand, it’s a coming together of two groups of people who you love, a sharing of your life with the people closest to you, and an opportunity to be near some of your favorite groups of people simultaneously. What could be better?
But on the other hand, introducing your parents to your partner, or being introduced to theirs, can bring nerves akin to the feeling you get when you recommend your new favorite show on Netflix and worry they just don’t like it – it’ll be incredibly disappointing if they just don’t fit.
I’ve been on both side of this equation a few times – meeting parents of partners and planning the meeting of that special someone to mine. It’s never not felt a little bit nerve-wracking! But it’s also never been the disaster I feared it might be.
The first time I met my boyfriend’s family I walked in the door right as he was walking out to run an errand with his father. I was there with his aunts and mom and grandma and sisters flying solo without Kevin to rush to my assistance if I made a fool of myself or ran out of things to say. I was a little terrified, and a little frantic that Kevin wasn’t there, but ultimately I saw it as a signal that he trusted me to hold my own with his big Irish Catholic family – and knowing that made me feel confident, at ease, and myself.
Then, a few weeks later, he came over to dinner with my family. After having one of my father’s signature stiff cocktails, he ended up telling a long-winded story about a mysterious assault in a local park. My parents didn’t think twice about it, but I was sweating bullets, terrified that they’d think he had a weird fixation with violent crime when he really an incredibly gentle guy.
But they didn’t remember that. They remembered how happy I was in his presence and how well he treated me. What’s more – that story of their first meeting is now one of our favorite ones to tell.
Now, three years later, my dad will sit and talk with Kevin at baseball games, he’ll text with my sister, and I’ve gotten to know his family, too. I am so grateful mostly because they are wonderful human beings who I genuinely both like and love, but I’m also grateful because it means I don’t have to go through the process of meeting families for the first time once again.
Now, when friends talk to me about meeting parents with nerves a-fluttering and worst-case scenarios spinning through their minds, I try to remind them that both parties involved want to like each other. They are on the same team. I try to say that first impressions aren’t as important as the lasting impression this person has on their life – and that if your parents know they care for you and treat you well they’ll care for them, too. And I tentatively suggest that meeting someone’s parents is an opportunity to learn about someone through a different lens by seeing how they are with the people who know them the best.
It is scary still, sure, to meet your partner’s family and to introduce your partner to yours. But there’s the chance you’re introducing the family you were born to, to the family you choose – and that is pretty amazing.