There are two schools of thought when it comes to ‘meeting the family’. The first school uses an introduction to the family as a litmus test for how a new someone reacts to and interacts with their family. The second school uses the family introduction to catapult their budding relationship to serious contender status. Which is better will ultimately come down to you and your family dynamic, so let’s have a look at both ‘schools’ in more detail.
The Litmus Test
Every family is crazy but some are…crazier than others. You may like the new person in your life a lot but sometimes families can make or break a new relationship. Some people prefer to get the family judgment over with in the early stages – to throw the cat amongst the proverbial pigeons, so to speak. For them, introducing their significant other to the family is like relationship ‘Survivor’! They may have a very close-knit, involved family unit and they want to see how you fit in before they take things any further. Or, their family may be dysfunctional and they want you to see what you’re getting into if your relationship gets serious. After all, you can choose your partner but their family comes as part of a package deal.
The Serious Contender
The more traditional school is that of the serious contender. These types only bring a potential partner home to meet their family when they’re ready for the relationship to move up to the next level. People in this school want to make sure that they are sure about you before bringing you home to their family. Reasons for this may vary – they may be from a very traditional, patriarchal family structure, they may not want to disappoint their family if the relationship doesn’t work out or they may want the relationship to be on very solid ground before meeting a fractious family group.
Either way, meeting the family for the first time is fraught with the same nervous energy of a first date, except it’s more businesslike. Meeting the family is a bit like an interview. Families want to know who you are, how you fit and what you want out of the relationship. They may pepper you with questions or go out of their way to put you in slightly uncomfortable situations to see how you’ll react. Often, families are on a flaw-finding/fact-seeking mission; don’t blame them. They just want what is best for their family member and they don’t want to see them get hurt. Winning over family is just as important as winning over your new someone’s friends.
First Meeting Etiquette
Word to the wise – foisting your family on your potential partner in a surprise attack is never a good idea (and vice versa). First impressions are lasting impressions and you want to make them work in favour of your relationship. Give both your partner and your family ample notice about how, when and where they will be introduced. Also, it’s handy for each of you to lay a little groundwork with your respective families first; drop a few subtle hints about your new someone’s good attributes (they’re funny, smart, sporty etc.) to prime your family with a few positive pre-meeting impressions.
When’s the best time to meet the family? That depends entiren you, your new someone and each of your respective families. Of course, you and your new someone may be from different schools of thought, so it’s good to figure this out early to avoid awkward assumptions about where your relationship is headed based on when or whether you meet the family. You may be able to gauge where they sit but if you’re unsure just ask the question – better to be safe than sorry!