Written by: Tracey Fuller, Client Advisor, It’s Just Lunch Chicago
Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together, eat delicious food, and give thanks for what the past year has brought them. It is also a time for people to bring home their significant other for the first time. Will your significant other be bringing you home this Thanksgiving? Are you prepared for what you may encounter? Some people think when meeting their partner’s parents for the first time that they will automatically welcome them with open arms, and they will fall in love with them immediately. Problem with that is, they did not consider that all families are different, and just because their family may be welcoming, doesn’t mean their partner’s is. Here are some tips on how to survive meeting your significant other’s family for the first time this Thanksgiving.
- Be prepared. Ask your significant other questions about their family. What do their parents do for a living? How many kids does their sister have? Are there any topics you should bring up? Are there any topics you should steer clear of? Find out as much as you can so you be prepared for the potential conversation. Staying away from topics like politics and religion—just like you would on a first date—is also a safe bet. Even though their family might share the same views and beliefs that you do, it’s a bit of a heavy topic for a first meeting. Approach meeting the family like a first date, it’s a chance to get to know them on the surface…save the serious stuff for later on down the road.
- Ask if you can bring anything. Now, this one is huge. When you ask if you can bring something that demonstrates that you a.) Want to contribute b.) Care about being part of their tradition, and c.) You don’t want to show up empty handed, and that shines a positive light on you! If the response is, “Oh, you don’t have to bring anything, just yourselves,” still bring something. Trust me. Even if it’s a little something like a bottle of wine, an extra dessert, or even a nice bouquet of flowers for the table to show your appreciation for the meal to come. The gesture will go a long way.
- Dress appropriately. Not saying you need to be dressed for a downtown gala, but find out what the usual attire is for Thanksgiving dinner. If they are from the type of family that likes to play football early in the day, eat in the afternoon, and fall asleep while watching football, then maybe a nice sweater and jeans is fitting. If the family is more formal and they like to break out the fine china, light candles and have fancy table centerpiece, then maybe a nice blouse and skirt would be appropriate. If this is the family’s first impression of you, you want to get it right. Talk to your partner ahead of time so you know what you are getting into.
- Offer to help clear the table. This is another big one! Helping to clear the table and offering to do the dishes is a nice gesture, especially after they’ve invited you over to share the feast. You’ll score major points and they will never forget that time when you first came to dinner at their house, and you helped clean-up after! This shows them that you are a stand-up person—which, of course you are—and that you don’t mind chipping in and getting your hands dirty. This says a lot about you, and your relationship with their son or daughter.
- Establish your status. Before heading to Thanksgiving dinner, have a conversation with your partner regarding your status or at least have a discussion about where your relationship is headed. It’s important to get on the same page before meeting their family for the first time because everyone has a nosy aunt that’s bound to ask at some point throughout the night, “So when are you two kids getting married?” Being on the same page is key to avoiding an awkward situation. Setting clear expectations about where you see your relationship heading is important anyway, whether there is turkey involved or not. Plus, if your partner doesn’t see this as a serious relationship, why are you going to Thanksgiving dinner to meet his/her family in the first place?
The holidays are stressful enough without worrying about meeting your significant other’s family for the first time. Be prepared, be respectful, and be helpful. Because, you never know, they may also be your future in-laws one day!
For more holiday dating tips, check out Erika’s segment “Recipe for Holiday Romance” on Good Day Chicago! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xa4OxVR9paY