The High Holidays are a time when many families come together to celebrate. What advice do you have for readers bringing home a significant other to meet the parents (and/or Bubbe, Aunt Sara, and assorted cousins) for the first time?
The Shadchan Next Door Responds:
Some couples do see this family time as “bring who I’m dating to meet my family” time. Bringing someone home for the first time can be intense — the scrutiny, the expectations, the embarrassing childhood stories your siblings trot out at the slightest provocation — but it can also be an enlightening step into each other’s world for you and your partner. Below are some tips for both sides to help navigate the experience.
If you are the person bringing your partner home:
Prep your parents. Let them know where things are between you two without giving too much information. Keep things positive. If you are choosing to bring someone home, giving your parents a positive impression will make them feel more at ease with the person, which will let more barriers down. Of course, you want your parents to notice any red flags you are missing and if being around that person brings out your best self; but that will all come with time and when you are ready to share that information.
Also let your parents know how they should answer questions from probing family members. Expect that not everyone knows how to talk to your partner, as they don’t know where the relationship stands. When answering questions from relatives yourself, don’t feel the need to overshare; have a simple statement on your status ready and then move on to all the other things you can catch up on with each other.
- You don’t need to share every comment your family makes about your partner with him/her, and you don’t need to share every observation your partner makes about your family, either. Remember, this person may end up being in your life forever, and negative words can stick in people’s memories even after they know each other better.
Be extra sensitive to your partner’s comfort. Read their cues, check in with them, take breaks away from the family to be alone with each other — and realize that if someone is not comfortable now, it may just take time. Be engaged in the conversations between your partner and family members, but also give a little space if you see your partner is comfortable talking to someone on their own. Jump in though if they need to be saved from your crazy cousin Josh!
Your goal is to make the time pleasant for everyone and keep things light.
If you are visiting your partner’s family:
Do what you need to feel like your best self. The better you feel about yourself, the more you will be able to relax and give off positive energy to those around you. Choose clothing that you feel good in, bring a thoughtful gift, and show your partner you look forward to meeting his/her family. Conveying that meeting the family is important to you shows your partner he/she is important to you as well.
Come prepared. Your partner may not know exactly how to navigate every interaction. Be prepared to share some stories about your day, your job, and
Find common ground. Finding things in common with your partner’s family members can help take the focus off yourself, and give you a chance to bond over shared interests.
Take advantage of the opportunity to learn about your partner. This visit is a great chance to learn about your partner’s upbringing, which will help inform conversations about the home you both envision for yourselves.