Navigating the holidays can be tricky when you start dating someone new. You're either faced with spending the holidays separately – each of you enjoying time with your own families – or spending time with each other's family. Depending on how serious your new relationship is, your partner may convince you to do the latter: meet their family for the first time.
While it can be a momentous occasion, it can also be nerve-racking. The "throw-you-right-into-the-fold" method of introduction can be anxiety-inducing. However, as intimidating as it may seem, if your partner didn't think you could handle it, they wouldn't even propose the idea. So, you will go – you must go! – and the following tips will ensure you survive the evening unscathed.
1. Dress for the occasion.
As we all know, the first impression anyone has of us is based on what they see. It's important to understand the occasion and follow the family's tradition when it comes to attire. You don't want to wear your favorite holiday dress if the family tradition is to wear onesies. Likewise, you don't want to be too dressed down if the family plans to serve you on their best china. The goal is to show how well you can mesh with the family – not necessarily stand out. When it comes to attire, it's important to follow your partner's lead. While you may not be the type to judge someone by what they wear, there are tons of aunties and cousins who will, so paying attention to attire is imperative.
2. Don’t arrive empty-handed.
There are few things more insulting to a hostess than arriving empty-handed. If you're going to someone's house for the first time – especially for an event as important as Thanksgiving – it's critical to bring something. Find out what the hostess likes – whether it's wine, Tito's Vodka, or Godiva Chocolates – to bring as a "thank you for having me" gift. Tip: play it safe and avoid bringing a food item; things can go south real fast if the family doesn't like the way you seasoned the turkey wings.
3. Offer to help.
It doesn't take much to wipe down the counter or set the table. Extending a helping hand can go a long way. Even if the family doesn't actually need help, offering displays selflessness, helpfulness, and a willingness to be independent from your partner to impact the greater good. It also shows that you're not afraid to roll your sleeve up and get to work, and that you're able to 'take care' of their beloved family member. They may turn it down, but offering to help will certainly leave a lasting impression.
4. Put the phone down!
It's a shame I have to say this, but nothing ruins a genuine in-person connection quite like a smartphone in your face. Minimizing your phone usage will allow you to better connect with the people you're there to meet. Interrupting dinner or disengaging because of a text conversation or social media debacle can be disrespectful and offensive. Enjoy time with your partner's family without constantly checking your phone.
5. Ask meaningful questions.
This step is critical. While it may seem that the benefit of meeting the family is for them to get to know you, it is also the perfect time for you to get to know them. Use this moment to ask questions about your bae's childhood and show interest in the people around you. Ask about their career choices and personal passions. Get to know their favorite memories and some of their greatest lessons. Displaying a genuine interest in getting to know them will allow them to want to get to know you more. And it'll put a smile on their face knowing that you actually care.
6. Be authentic.
You want people to get to know you for you – that requires authenticity. You do not have to fake the funk to get them to like you. The point of them getting to know you, is to get to know YOU, not who you think they should know. Don't parade around to be someone you're not for the sake of their approval. Instead, honor the woman you truly are and showcase her. Show them why your beau wants to date you in the first place. Laugh at the jokes that you think are funny. Share your personal stories. Explain the work you do and why it's meaningful. You can even share about your own family who you probably miss at this point. The purpose is, allow yourself to be yourself. Don't put on a façade to impress anyone – mothers and grandmothers can see right through that. Instead, be you.
7. Don’t take anything personal.
In some extreme circumstances, a family may not be as welcoming as you'd expect. Often, that behavior has nothing to do with you, but with the family member themselves. Don't be down on yourself because of it. People will have their opinions; if the family is decent, they will at least repress those opinions until after you leave. If they don't, however, it's not you, it's them. Understand that there are family dynamics, histories, and past behaviors that have nothing to do with you. Don't pick up what they're putting down and get discouraged. Instead, pile through with the good spirit you had walking in.
8. Just breathe.
This is just the first of what may be many meetings. They will not get to know all that you are on this day alone – not with all the football, cooking, and food comas that'll be going around. This is simply their introduction to you – and you, them. Don't stress yourself out about what this day will bring; instead, delight in leaving your bae's family and friends with a great first impression of you!