8 Tips for Meeting Your Partner’s Family During the Holidays

Although first impressions aren’t always an accurate representation of who we are, they’re a way for people to create an idea of who they deem us to be. While the holidays are meant for feeling thankful and giving presents, there tends to be some stress that comes with this festive season — especially if you’re meeting your partner’s family for the first time.

From wondering how many servings of mashed potatoes you can eat in your outfit (that took weeks to choose) to worrying how you’ll manage to hold a steady conversation (without laughing nervously), you don’t want to come overthinking, but you also don’t want to look underprepared. In order to find the perfect balance, here are 7 tips for meeting your partner’s family.


1. Learn the family dynamic beforehand

The key to success isn’t knowing the scenario that’s coming, but preparing for any possible one that could form. To gain insight on your partner’s family, ask him or her questions – Does your significant other’s dad have a strict personality? Are they a family who jokes around with each other?

Whereas you shouldn’t feel the need to change your personality to fit with your partner’s family, the gesture of learning about them in advance will help you calm your nerves and collect your thoughts.


You can also…

  • Take the time to ask your partner what he or she thinks you should know
  • Focus on individual family members and begin finding similarities between them and you (for potential conversation starters)
  • Don’t feel shy for wanting to know more information — the fact that you’re trying means you care about your relationship and the future of it



2. Prepare for small talk

Before you set out to rehearse your carefully curated summary of the last three years of your career (and the reasons for why you’re so successful), take a deep breath. Even though it’s a smart idea to have topics in the back of your mind, allow the conversation to flow in a natural direction. Through having open-ended questions at hand, you’ll feel more at ease with the conversations at the dinner table.


You can also…

  • Avoid controversial issues such as politics and religious beliefs
  • Replace the potential time spent on your phone to mix and mingle
  • Easy conversation starters:
    • What’s your favorite Thanksgiving memory as a child?
    • What’s the Thanksgiving side dish you can’t live without?
    • What’s the last movie you’ve seen?
    • Who do you think will win the football game?



3. Be mindful of your attire

There’s a time and place for your little black dress — and it’s not during your partner’s family gathering. We know this ensemble is considered a classic, but it could also be a reason for unnecessary judgements from those who are more traditional. After all, the goal of this celebration is not to be scandalous — but to be sophisticated. Thus, play it safe with your outfit this holiday season and make a statement with your personality instead.


You can also…

  • Follow the rule of thumb: if you have to question if you should wear it, don’t
  • Get opinions from your own loved ones on outfit options
  • Plan your outfit in advance in case you wish to borrow or buy an outfit



4. Attempt to help out

Although your ability to converse is one that won’t go unnoticed, your gesture to help out is one that’ll make you unforgettable. Regardless of if you wish to pass out the pie or wash the dishes, be aware of the ways you can offer a hand and take the opportunity to ask.

However, ready yourself in case your partner’s family says no — and don’t continue to insist if they do. After all, the only difference between coming off as helpful instead of hostile is your ability to recognize boundaries.


You can also…

  • Choose only 2-3 tasks to help with (asking to help with everything may come off as too much)
  • Decide if you should stay and small talk if your help isn’t needed
  • Clean up after yourself and be aware of your table/eating manners



5. Respect the family rules

The universal rule of every household? Being under their roof means you’re also under their rules. As a similar concept to knowing the family dynamic, your knowledge on the family rules is just as crucial as your willingness to respect them.

Maybe your partner’s family wants you to sleep in separate rooms or to take off your shoes to wear house slippers — nonetheless, rules are rules and how well you follow them matters more than if you agree with them.


You can also…

  • Ask your partner for specific details on the family rules
  • Know why these family rules are in place to better understand them
  • Make it apparent to the family members that you know the rules if the opportunity arises



6. Bring a gift

You probably wouldn’t show up to a celebration empty-handed, so don’t allow yourself to make this mistake when you attend your partner’s family event. By putting in the extra effort to be thoughtful, you’ll start off on a good foot with his or her family and continue this positive impression as the night goes on.


You can also…

  • Try not to cook any main dishes to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes
  • Ask your partner for gift ideas if you don’t want to bring a typical one
  • Standard gift suggestions: flowers, wine, coffee beans, and small kitchen appliances



7. Put your phone away

While you already know this rule, it’s always nice to be reminded. The truth is that your phone is a distraction and your use (or lack of) can determine your impression. While it’s a habit to reach for your phone and refresh your timeline, it’s best to avoid this behavior in front of your partner’s family. Instead, stay present at this gathering by zoning in on the conversations – and tuning out all other disturbances.


You can also…

  • Leave your phone in your purse
  • Check your phone in privacy (for example: when you go to the bathroom)
  • Turn off your notifications or your phone altogether



8. Relax

Amongst the tips we’ve offered, our most important one is to simply be yourself. We know — in between trying to not spill gravy on your modest dress and not spill your life story to your partner’s grandma, the stakes seem high (but your level of confidence should be too).

Even though you may feel nervous, it’s essential for you to take pride in who you are and to recognize that the right people will accept your character and appreciate you for showing it.


You can also…

  • Confide in your partner beforehand about how you feel
  • Get a pep talk either from yourself or from a loved one
  • Make an effort to participate at the holiday party (play in the games, chime in during open conversations, etc.)



Are you spending this holiday season with your partner for the first time? What are your best tips and tricks for making the most of it?