Meeting Your Partner’s Parents

The pressure’s on! Here are five easy ways to make a good impression (while keeping your sanity).

By Dave Singleton

t the restaurant waiting to meet my partner’s parents, my stomach was in knots,” remembers Daniel Wilson. “My partner said, ‘Don’t worry. They’ll love you.’ But all I could think about was getting through two hours of awkward silence. We were visiting them in a conservative part of Florida, and I couldn’t wait to hop the next plane home to New York.”

Meeting your partner’s parents for the first time is a daunting experience for anyone. As films like Meet the Fockers and Monster-in-Law demonstrate,
You share one important goal: You both care deeply about their child.
meeting someone else’s mom and dad can be scary for everyone, gay or straight. But when you are gay, it’s even scarier. You face potential prejudice and strains with your partner’s parents that straight people might not. (Research bears this out: A study found that a heterosexual couple worried about acceptance by their mutual families was rare, whereas this was the rule for homosexual couples.) That kind of worry can add tension to your relationship.

So what can you do to make the most of meeting your partner’s parents? These five suggestions will help you make a good impression while keeping your sanity:

Don’t make assumptions
Though understandable, it’s a mistake to assume ahead of time that the parents will judge or condemn you. The uptight mother character in the play Angels in America has a wonderful line when she tells Prior, her son’s lover, “Don’t you make assumptions about me, and I won’t make assumptions about you.” Give them the benefit of the doubt.

Put your best foot forward, but be yourself
It’s one thing to look your best and make a good impression when you meet your partner’s parents. But that shouldn’t come at the expense of your self-esteem. “Never in my life did I feel so aware of my self-image,” said Lisa Clark of Virginia. “I tried to dress a little more conservatively as opposed to my usual casual appearance of t-shirts and jeans. After getting uptight about it, I
Knowing that your meeting time is limited will help reduce the pressure.
realized that it was fine to spruce up my clothes for the occasion, but that my personality was fine as is. I had to be me.” Be yourself so they can get to know the real you.

Find common ground
Though you might have differences, you share one important goal: You both care deeply about their child. Avoid discussing potentially controversial subjects like politics and religion Instead, show interest in their family history. Chances are they’ll be flattered by your interest and enthusiasm.

Relax, it’s only a visit
Don’t waste time imagining holidays spent together or years of forced conviviality. The truth is that you don’t know how much time you’ll really spend with these people. Knowing that your meeting time is limited will help reduce the pressure. Even if it’s uncomfortable, chances are, it will be relatively brief.

Be a unified couple
If you have concerns about meeting the parents, talk with your partner beforehand and agree to be supportive, respectful and solicitous of each other. Sometimes gays and lesbians ignore their partners or subvert their relationships in order to make others feel more comfortable. Don’t give in to such double standards.

The bottom line: You can’t control how anyone will respond to you. You can only control your own attitudes and behavior. But with a good attitude and some mental preparation, you might find, as Daniel did, that much of your worry was needless. “After a couple of days, it was clear that, even though this was new and awkward for them, they wanted their son to be happy. Their willingness to make a little effort made me want to make more of an effort myself.”

Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Send your dating questions and comments to him at
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