How to Meet Your Girlfriend's Parents

Have you ever been in the nerve-wracking situation of meeting your girlfriend's parents for the first time? Afraid of what impression you will make? While parents' expectations of their daughter's significant other can vary widely from household to household and culture to culture, following these instructions will at least show a good faith effort on your part and increase your chances of being invited back for baked ziti dinner night.


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    Do your homework in advance. Every girl is different, so every girls' parents are different, with unique expectations. All of the recommendations that follow can backfire horribly if you don't consult with your girlfriend first about what her parents are like.
    • Find out as much as you can about the parents from your partner. What do they do for a living? Do you have any common interests? Have they been on holiday recently? Are there any subjects which are off limits? This gives you a heads up on conversation topics - and what to avoid.
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    • Anticipate the most difficult questions. You know what they are--about your future (i.e. career, financial stability), your commitment to their daughter (i.e. marriage, future children), and your background (e.g. religion, education, race, etc). Pretend that her parents already know that you just lost your job, that you can't afford an engagement ring or a house and probably won't be able to for several years, that you got arrested that one night, or whatever else you dread them asking about. Develop the most responsible, slick answer you can think of in advance. See Warnings below.
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    • Consider how you'll be compared to past boyfriends. Ask your girlfriend how her parents have responded to any other guys in her life in the past. What did or didn't they like about them? By asking this question, you can learn a lot about what NOT to do. You may also discover the unfortunate circumstances that there may have been one guy who they thought was just perfect for their daughter, and you'll be getting judged by that standard from the second you walk through the door. There's nothing to be done about this but anticipate it and not let it catch you off guard.
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    Dress to impress. Going to meet someone's parents in your vintage, hole-ridden, acid-washed jeans and Che Guevara t-shirt that you got from the thrift store the other day for three dollars probably won't get you their utmost respect--unless they're very unconventional parents. This doesn't mean wear a suit - just be presentable (e.g. a polo shirt or t-shirt that doesn't spread the Communist agenda). Dress smart but casual, and make sure everything is clean, decently fitted (nothing too tight or baggy) and tidy. Get a fresh haircut and trim your nails. Ask your girlfriend for her opinion - she knows them best.
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    Arrive on time. Don't pull up with your stereo blasting heavy metal. They'll disapprove in a heartbeat (unless they like it themselves). Turn the volume down. Park your car in front of their house, and lock both doors. This will be explained later.
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    Be confident when you meet them. Give the father a firm handshake. Nothing says "I can't take care of your daughter" more than a limp-noodle handshake. Not to mention, when it's firm, it shows you mean business. All men-who-mean-business use the firm shake, sometimes with an additional forearm grab. If he happens to think his daughter can take care of herself, or he's not a man-who-means-business himself (i.e. more of the artist, intellectual or anything goes type), a firm handshake certainly won't hurt (unless you squeeze too hard). For the mother, the appropriate greeting can range from a handshake, to an air kiss, to a hug (or any combination of these). Some mothers are reserved, and some mothers will hug the air out of your lungs and shower your cheeks with kisses. Ask your girlfriend for feedback on this. As far as greetings are concerned, follow your partner's cue when addressing them. If you are just told "This is my mother and father" then show your respect and go with Mr. and Mrs. until they tell you otherwise. If you are introduced with first names, then stick to them. Tell them that you're happy to meet them, and thank them for inviting you to their home. Make sure when you meet her parents for the first time you must be 100% polite. Use proper grammar, and DO NOT use any slang words. This will shown the parents that you are kind, educated, and aware of your surroundings.
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    Make good conversation. One of the most pivotal parts of meeting anyone - parents, girls, the president - is the conversation. If you have mastered the art of conversation, you are a deadly force just waiting to disarm parents at every turn. Use anecdotes and, most importantly, well-timed (and appropriate) jokes. Timing is the key--an ill-timed comment could be the difference between "father-in-law" and "law-suit". Take lessons from your past experiences; i.e., look at your conversations with your ex-girlfriend's parents (see, that's EX-girlfriend for a reason). You've done your research so you will have a few conversation openers up your sleeve. Avoid heavy or controversial subjects; this is not the time to air views on human cloning. But don't be a yes-man. If you are asked for your opinion, be polite but be honest. If at any point, you are stuck for conversation, ask what your partner was like as a child. This is a brilliant ploy, parents love discussing their offspring and it shows you have a deep interest in her.
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    Treat your girl well. Be extra attentive to your partner. Pull back her chair for her at dinner, pour her a drink, open doors for her, and all that jazz (which are all good practices outside the parental meeting, as well, or else she may feel disgruntled that such consideration is only executed in front of her parents). At the same time, don't show too much affection towards your girlfriend while in their presence (i.e. don't put your hands on her rear). They should see you treating their daughter like the princess they believe her to be, not the hottie you believe her to be.
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    Be prepared for the Q & A session. There comes a time in every first meeting where you will be assaulted with questions that end only upon the submission of your manhood. Fortunately, you've followed these instructions and anticipated many of these questions already. It is very important to answer most of these questions in the affirmative, unless they begin with, "Have you ever...," "When is the last time you...," "Have you ever committed a felony..." - in which case it is best to use your discretion. Be warned that you may have to swallow your pride and be humble at times. By the end of this session, you will most likely feel out of breath, beaten, and less of a man - however, if done correctly, it will soon be over with. If not, a 'family emergency' might suddenly come up that somehow doesn't allow you to go out with your date tonight. You didn't even know she had an Uncle Pedro in Taipei, or that myxomatosis affected humans - but you hope he gets better soon.
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    Say farewell. Shake hands, give hugs, or whatever seems appropriate. Thank them profusely for having you over and smile. This is the most relieving part of the entire parental-unit-meeting-situation, but only for the champions who have made it past the gauntlet. Usually characterized by a dark, evil stare by the father (sometimes by the mother) as he (or she) opens the door to let you out, and accompanied by a "Have her home by ____," - in which case you respond you will have her home within plenty of time to make that deadline - this is the green-mile.
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    Don't look back. Once you exit the door, it is imperative not to look back - because you know darn well that her parents are watching until you are out of sight. When you reach your car, be certain to unlock her door first, and open it for her. Turn around and flash her parents a smile while you close the door if you are feeling dangerous. Once you get in, don't pull out until both of you have your seat belts on, otherwise you will notice her father's face twist and distort behind the screen door. Finally, give a single-hand acknowledgment of her parent's presence behind their door, and drive away at no faster than fifteen miles-an-hour until you are out of their sight.


  • If your girlfriend has a curfew, bring her home a little bit early. That shows her parents that you respect their boundaries. After arriving early a few times, you will be amazed when you hear from the parents, "Stay out as long as you want. We know that our daughter is in good hands."
  • If you're eating at their house, compliment the food.
  • Remember that the parents want to like you, but they don't want their princess to be dating a jackass any more than you want to appear to be one. With this in mind, they may well be just as nervous as you are. Put them at ease by showing them what a charming, friendly person you are.
  • It is impolite and disgusting to chew with your mouth open.
  • Always show gratitude.
  • Make sure you don't smell. Always look smart and clean.
  • In most homes, it is considered impolite to growl at the family dog.
  • Remember, the top of their list will be that their daughter is happy, you've already done that, so that's half the battle already won!
  • Be as honest as possible. The parents usually look at you and their daughter as you answer questions. If you lie and your girlfriend knows the truth, it doesn't matter if you hide it well. However, just because you are the one answering the questions, it doesn't mean that she can't help you. A subtle nod or shake of the head can be the difference between the parents liking you and not.
  • Don't let the charm stop there! Treat your date with the same respect that you gave to her parents upon meeting them.
  • If you guys are visiting don't sleep in the same room, unless you are engaged or have been together for a very long time.
  • Bring your girlfriend flowers! Your girl will appreciate them which will make her parents happy.
  • Bring a small gift if you're meeting them for a special occasion (e.g. wine or chocolates for a dinner).
  • Take your girlfriend's mother flowers.


  • If her parents don't swear, don't do it, or else they might think less of you.
  • Don't overdo it -- people can tell when you're being fake.
  • Be especially careful if you're dealing with devoutly religious parents. You will be asked about your religious views, and perhaps be drawn into a debate. Add How to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations About Religion to your pre-meeting reading list.
  • Stories of stupid things you've done should NOT be told!
  • If you are a smoker do not smoke around the parents or even say that you do it. Even if they smoke themselves it is something definitely not to do while in their presence as they will frown upon you.
  • Don't embellish your job title. You're an IT programmer - and not a research scientist, information architect, security engineer, etc.
  • Don't smoke around your girlfriend either. Most girls are seriously turned off by this, and you probably won't get a second date if you are constantly excusing yourself to have a smoke.

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