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With the holiday season approaching and the world opening up a bit more, you will likely have more opportunities to meet with family. Maybe it’s your own family or maybe you’ll be meeting your girlfriend’s family for the first time. I know meeting the in-laws can be an anxious experience. Will they approve of me? Is the brother or father going to be overly protective? How do I get the mom on my side?
Let’s go over a few surefire ways to make good inroads into your partner’s family. And there is no better advice than from those who successfully won them over or were won over themselves. In an old Reddit thread, I found some great, first-person accounts.
People look to their pets as barometers for other people’s personalities. If you love their animals and appreciate them, they will assume you’ll do the same for their children.
Reddit user NitemaresEcho said his wife won over his parents by showering attention on their pet Rottweiler Max.
“I bring my girlfriend (now wife) home for Christmas break. I introduced her to Max and she immediately sat on the floor and rubbed him, petted him, and just gave him love that no other girlfriend gave him,” according to the post.
“I hadn’t seen his little nub wag so quickly in a long time. He ended falling asleep with his head in her lap.”–NightmaresEcho on Reddit
Max is now in doggie heaven, but his family is comforted by the memory of him snuggling up with that new girlfriend and giving his seal of approval. “I will never forget that day. I’m tearing up just thinking about it,” the Redditor wrote.
Significant others don’t have to become besties with pets. But at least ask the family about their pets, if they have any. Better yet, bring a toy! When my wife met my parents (and dog) for the first time, she brought a Yoda dog toy, and my parents were duly impressed.
Here’s a story from an anonymous Reddit user who started dating a guy during her sophomore year in college and got mixed reviews from her parents.
“Mom actually liked him, Dad refused to acknowledge him. One day, my dad mentioned he got a new car stereo and he was going to take it to Best Buy to have it installed. Boyfriend said, ‘Nope, let me handle it,’ and spent an entire Saturday afternoon installing the radio and cleaning up the wires in his dash. Dad LOVED him afterwards, basically treated him like his own son.”
Everyone has interests and passions, even dads! A lot of time, dads may not be impressed because they don’t or can’t see any value you bring to the table. They’re not the ones in long, late-night conversations. So when you can meet them in their area of interest and not only be excited about what they are excited about, but actually be able to add value to something in their interests, you’ve pretty much got it locked in!
Meeting the men of the household can definitely be daunting! You want to come off as confident, but not arrogant, humble but not meek — and basically be comfortable in your own skin.
“I know the exact moment I won my wife’s family over. I could see it in her father’s eyes,” said JorusC. “It was high school, before we started dating. The first time I went over to her house, actually.”
JorusC said his wife’s father and two brothers are tall, while he’s average height. When she left the room for a moment, they all lined up shoulder to shoulder to loom over him.
“Blank-faced, glaring down, no words, no motion. Just staring, and looming,” he recalled. “I found out later that her last boyfriend almost cried when they did this to him.”
The Reddit poster said he wasn’t intimidated, so he stood up slowly, looking them in the eye, and then poked the father in his stomach, saying, “Boop.”
The father broke out grinning.
“It turns out that he’s a massive goofball,” JorusC wrote. “From that moment on, I was a member of the family. The whole dating-and-marriage thing was just a formality to them.”
If you come off as being easily intimidated, the family members aren’t going to think you can protect their daughter or sister. At a minimum, just stick your hand out, say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Have a firm grip, but it’s not a strength contest. Look them in the eyes and smile. Great first impression!
Everyone loves a good meal and it’s hard to disparage someone with a full belly. Even if you’re not a great cook, offer to cook a meal when you are over. As one Redditor found out, a simple pecan pie can make all the difference.
“Pecan pie. Yes fixing computers helped, yes him being a nice guy helped, but I swear my husband won over my entire family and extended family on his pie alone,” said that70sfan. “Quote from every family meal ever before we got married: ‘Is your boyfriend coming? Is he bringing that pecan pie?’”
The poster said that she’s now married to the piemaker — and still getting requests for pies.
By helping to cook or bake for a holiday, you’re alleviating the work for the family, showing that you’re willing to work for her and, if it’s good, well, like the above example, you might be good for life.
My wife made my family her asopao and not only do they always request it, but the recipe was added to the extended family’s shared cookbook for all time!
A father posted on Reddit under the name IrishMD to announce that his 22-year-old daughter’s partner John gained his full approval. The story goes that the couple met in college and began a friendship that evolved into a relationship.
“We met him and we thought he was a decent kid, if not a little bit socially awkward, and sort of uncomfortable around us. All of her previous boyfriends were more outgoing, and this kid was quiet. Didn’t really think he was going to last,” the father said.
Their skepticism only increased when the daughter got an internship out of the country, and the couple began a long-distance relationship. However, the boyfriend visited the parents and their newborn son frequently while she was away.
“I found out that the main reason that he visited us so often was because my daughter was worried that her new little brother would forget who she is while she was gone,” the father said. “So when John would play with our son when he thought nobody was around he would show him pictures of my daughter making goofy faces to try to make sure that he will remember his big sister. When I brought it up with my daughter she didn’t know that John was doing this. That was probably the moment where I started wholeheartedly approving of him.”
My advice: Be interested in all of her family and try to spend time with each of them. Especially if there are little kids or cousins involved. When you can relax and play with the kids, or just honestly be interested in the other members of the family, you’re definitely making good progress!
Making your significant other smile and feel loved is your most important boyfriend role as far as most parents are concerned.
CrazyCatSloth gave this advice: “Apparently, making my SO smile. It seems that it was pretty rare enough for her mother to actually be surprised to see her smile.”
My wife’s future maid of honor, way back when, took me aside and told me she had never seen Keren so happy before. She actually teared up when she told me this, and it made me feel so good that her friends saw her happier than they ever have before.
A good joke can help ease tensions and show that you don’t take yourself too seriously. It can be endearing if you strike the right tone.
Most dads will appreciate a sense of humor, especially if it’s in the face of anxiety. Have a few dumb jokes or puns ready to go, but never make fun of any family member or group as your goal isn’t to offend anyone or put anyone down.
Maybe you’ve noticed a common theme in these stories about meeting the family and earning their approval. Families want to know that you’re going to take care of their loved one in all the ways that matter. Boyfriends can earn points with simple gestures such as fixing a radio, petting a dog, or making delicious pies.
If you want to win over her family — and maybe even become part of the family one day — you’ve got to go into the holidays with your heart in the right place. Make sure your words and actions show that you care about your girlfriend and want to fit into her family’s culture.
Good luck this season and may the odds be ever in your favor. Oh, and make sure you bring a gift!