Bringing Your Girlfriend Home: Tips for a Smooth Introduction

by Brett & Kate McKay on November 26, 2013 · 17 comments

in Dating, Relationships & Family

girlfriend

You’ve already met her parents. Now it’s time for her to meet yours.

When you met her folks for the first time, your biggest concern was making a good first impression. Now that the roles are reversed, your focus should be on helping her make a good impression. If she’s a keeper, she’ll probably care a lot about your parents liking her. And you likely want them to give her the thumbs up too. Your folks and your significant other may not always get along, but when they do, things sure go a lot more happily.

While bringing your girlfriend home for the first time can be a little awkward and nerve-racking for all parties involved, here are some quick tips for making everyone feel comfortable and helping things go as smoothly as possible.

Be sure you’re really ready to bring her home. In most circumstances, a woman will interpret an invitation to meet your parents as a signal that you think she’s special and your relationship is fairly serious. Your parents will likely interpret the move in the same way. So don’t bring a gal home (especially for a holiday) unless you want to communicate to both parties that you’re hoping she’s going to be around for a while (and you’re okay with your mom asking about her incessantly until you break-up or tie the knot).

Prepare them. You can lay the groundwork for a smooth meeting by preparing both your parents and your girlfriend for what to expect from each other. Here are some things to discuss with your folks about your gal:

  • Conversation starters. Everybody wants to avoid awkward pauses as much as possible, and your folks want to get to know your girlfriend better. But the less you’ve told them about her, the harder it is for them to know what to ask in conversation. Give your parents some background information on her that will help them come up with questions. “Rob told us you traveled through Europe for a month last summer. What was your favorite country?”
  • Conversations to avoid. You should also let your parents know about sensitive topics it would be best to avoid. “So where do your parents live?” “My dad is dead and my mom is in jail.” “Oh.”
  • Dietary preferences/restrictions. If your girlfriend is allergic to peanuts and a vegetarian, you don’t want your mom serving up kung pao chicken for dinner. You may even clue your parents in to a favorite meal or two of your girlfriend’s. Having familiar food in a new environment will help her feel more comfortable.

Prepare her. Just as you did with you parents, go over conversation starters and pitfalls with your girlfriend too. And fill her in about other things as well:

  • Family dynamics dossier. Give your girlfriend a primer about the drama and dynamics in your family. Your mom hates your stepmom, your brother is in rehab, your dad has been out of work for six months. Those kinds of things. The more she knows, the less likely she is to inadvertently “step in it.”
  • Gift. If your girlfriend would like to bring a gift for your parents, that’s definitely a nice gesture. Give her some suggestions on what would go over well. Does your mom have a favorite flower? Do they love trying new coffees? You don’t want your girlfriend to offer a bottle of wine to your teetotaling parents.
  • Common ground she shares with your parents. People like other people who are like them. So let your girlfriend know a thing or two she has in common with your folks that she can bring up with them. “Andrew tells me you’re into gardening. I’ve been trying to dip my toes into it by starting a little windowsill garden in my apartment.”
  • Physical affection. Let her know about how your family demonstrates physical affection. Maybe your mom isn’t a hugger and it would be best for your girlfriend to offer a handshake. Or maybe she needs to be prepared for the fact that your mom is going to smooch her right on the lips.
  • House rules. Should she take off her shoes when she comes inside? Will your parents expect you to sleep in separate rooms? Do you always say grace before meals? You don’t want your gal to be digging into her meatloaf as everyone else bows their head for a prayer.

Remember to keep looking at the situation from her perspective. When you go back home you’re in your ultimate comfort zone – with people you’ve been around for a couple of decades and in the house you may have grown up in. It’s easy to forget that your girlfriend isn’t feeling the same way you are; to her, everything is new and unfamiliar. It’s a good exercise to think about walking into another person’s house, maybe even her parents’ house, for the first time, and remember the way you felt a little out of place and not so at ease. This will help guide your behavior and remind you to do what you can to make your girlfriend feel comfortable.

Offer her food and drinks. On this first visit, she’s not going to feel comfortable grabbing things out of the fridge and she doesn’t know where stuff like the glasses and utensils are. So take the initiative in offering her refreshments.

Praise her in front of them. It’s not polite for her to bring up her own accomplishments and strong points. But you can, and should. “Sophie is the most amazing cook.” “Grace started a tutoring program for disadvantaged kids that just landed a big grant.” Praising your girlfriend in front of your parents will make her feel really good, and help them see her in a positive light.

Stick by her side as much as possible. This is the most important rule. Maybe you haven’t seen your brother for awhile and you’re tempted to leave your girlfriend in the living room with your parents while you two play video games upstairs. It’s understandable, but in this situation you need to put your girlfriend first. Again, keep in mind that while you feel super comfortable, she doesn’t. Getting left alone with your folks to make small talk can make her feel really anxious and awkward, not to mention abandoned. Hopefully, after a few visits and getting to know them better, she’ll feel a lot more comfortable around them. But on this first visit (and for several thereafter), try to stick by her side as much as possible.

What tips do you have to make bringing your girlfriend home the best experience it can be?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Seth November 26, 2013 at 6:39 pm

So I have an interesting story that illustrates several of the articles points.
My fiancée and I have only seen each other twice since we started courting (she lives in California, I lived in Germany and now New Mexico), and she just met my family this past weekend. By herself. And my family lives on the east coast.
Quite a scary thing for a future daughter-in-law to do by herself! First off, I am super proud of her for doing that! It takes a lot of courage to travel across the country to meet your fiancé’s family (all 8 siblings plus mom and dad!) without him.
However, we took several steps to ensure it went as smoothly and as comfortably as possible for everyone.
Communication, communication, communication is what it is all about. My mother and sisters were corresponding with her several weeks in advance, so they had the opportunity to get to know her a bit.
I also gave her ideas of what to expect from my family, and gave my family ideas of what to expect from her. We also skyped together as a family. That way she was able to see how I interacted with my family, and allowed her to see a different side of me.
The trip was a success, and I am happy to report that my family loved her, and she loved them!
But the thing to take away from this is communication. The better you prepare everyone involved, the better the meeting generally goes!

2 David Hooper November 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Great advice that I think works well not just for a significant other, but also anybody who is thrown into a family or similar group situation, such as a work party.

3 Alex November 26, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Great article, kind of funny almost I’m a sailor like your cover photo brining my girl to meet the family this winter and actually have been informing both parties like you said about the other. I like the suggestions like getting silverware and such.

4 Kristi November 26, 2013 at 8:22 pm

This is also applicable for a girl taking her boyfriend to see the folks.
Mine is coming up to see my mom’s side of the family for Thanksgiving and these are some great tips.

5 Tim November 26, 2013 at 9:42 pm

Very timely article; my girlfriend is coming home with me for thanksgiving this week. Great advice!

6 John C November 26, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Perfect timing. My girlfriend is flying in to meet the family for the first time this weekend. I find the picture funny too, because it looks like he found this gal while in the military, as did I find mine.

7 Big Bad Moose November 27, 2013 at 6:39 am

Brett and Kate,

As usual, splendid article! Personally, this would have been needed a little over two years ago but the meet went smoothly anyway and the woman is pretty much a daughter to the folks already.

This will be added to a list of advice to a future son or daughter.

Have a happy Thanksgiving! (In Canada, we had ours in October)

BBM

8 Blair November 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

When it was time to get serious with my girlfriend (now wife), one of the keys was to see how she handled being around my extended family at my grandfather’s place. When my cousins brought their new wives/husbands/boyfriends up, there was an interesting trend that the people who didn’t fit in there didn’t last long.

The issue that I saw was that she’s a bit shy at first, so we went up on a weekend when not a lot of people were around. She met my aunt, a couple of my cousins, and my parents. Since it was a containable situation, she did great (and I followed a lot of the advice above). Now inoculated, she handled the wider group great. I think they like her more than me.

9 Jeff November 27, 2013 at 9:37 am

This is much better than the advice my future best man gave me when I went to meet wife’s parents for the first time: Burp and scratch your butt a lot.

10 Darren November 27, 2013 at 9:44 am

“So where do your parents live?” “My dad is dead and my mom is in jail.” “Oh.”

I have never laughed out loud at an AoM post. Until now. Awesome advice.

I met my mother-in-law a few weeks before I got married. This was deliberate on my wife’s part as her mother is pretty out there with mental illness and a complete lack of social propriety.

I said, “Nice to finally meet you, Mrs. Matthews.”

“Call me Mom.”

“Okay, Mom.”

“What happened to your face?”

I had an injury that left me a little scarred, nothing that noticeable, but she noticed it.

“My brother threw a trash can at me when I was young.”

“Did he go to jail?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

She laughed and that was it. We were friends.

I still married my wife, and Mom and I actually ended up being quite close. As she descended into her own psychotic dementia, I was the guy who told her she couldn’t drive anymore, told her she was not safe in her home anymore, took her to look at assisted living, drove to her house at 2:00 AM when she set off the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” alarm and couldn’t remember why when I got there. We had a bagpiper at her funeral and it was a nice send-off to my crazy mother-in-law.

Hard, but a glorious ending to a rather bizarre beginning. I can’t wait to see her again when she’s not crazy. She had a big Scots-Irish heart.

11 Judy November 27, 2013 at 10:11 am

When my boyfriend took me to meet his parents, he neglected to tell them that I had a child, WHO WAS COMING WITH ME! I came bopping in with a baby on my hip; they asked if I was babysitting. Awkward.
I married him anyway. Best decision ever. But dudes…don’t do that!

12 Jeff November 27, 2013 at 10:25 am

Neutral Location!! That’s the advice I would add.

With my parents, taking a girl home is like walking into a lions den. The last girl I was dating, I introduced to my parents at a family restaurant chain that both my parents and her liked.

A neutral location, will ease the meeting so no one is on their home turf. This way, I feel, there’s equality, and no one has a dominate position over the other.

13 Not Cool Enough for Today November 28, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Good suggestions on the positive side; how about some Don’ts:
1) After your parents have paid your airline ticket for you to come spend a holiday week with them, do NOT inform them the day before your flight that you have invited your girl friend to also spend the week with them.
2) Do NOT tell your parents your girlfriend is still married, but he is a jerk.
3) Do NOT tell your parents that she is so independent she is sleeping with several men while still married.
4) Do NOT tell your parents your girlfriend is such a great mom to her kids she makes sure they get a lot of “quality” time with their dad–the jerk.
5) Do NOT tell your parents she is “financially well off” but that you are paying for her air fare, meals, etc. while they are paying for yours.
6) Do NOT tell your parents you simply can not get away to see them except maybe once a year due to time constraints as well as financial constraints while enthusiastically informing them of the 5 trips you flew to see her.
7) Do NOT tell your parents that since you both have children from previous marriages you have no intention of ever getting married to each other;
8) Finally, do NOT act shocked and surprised when after all the above your parents are NOT impressed with either her or you and thus do not share your delight.

14 JB December 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

It was soooooo awkward when I brought my girlfriend home. My wife was furious!

Thank you, thank I’ll be here all week.

15 Raymond James December 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm

If your girlfriend likes to show off her svelte and voluptuous figure, encourage her to wear clothes that are on the conservative end of her style range, while still showing her taste and personality. But be very tactful about this. Looks are a big part of the first impression, and Mom won’t be won over by your girl’s charm and warmth if the first thing she notices are the high hemline and/or low cut blouse.

16 Kevin Arnold February 19, 2014 at 2:52 am

@ Blair- “I think they like her more than me.”
LOL! :-)

@ Darren… Not ashamed to admit I actually teared up a bit when I read your account of your late “Mom”-in-law.

Sounds like God made sure she was provided with an awesome son-in-law…

@ JB… [rim-shot] ;-)

17 Charlie February 27, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Wish someone had given me this kind of advice about 12 yrs ago. I married her anyway and couldn’t be happier. I am saving this nugget of advice for when my boy gets a few years older. Thanks.

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