1. What Is Meeting The Parents Anxiety?
You’ve been dating for a while. It’s been wonderful getting to know your partner. Hearing about their family and childhood. The stories that were a driving force for what they believe in, their values, their likes and dislikes and what has shaped them to become the people they are today.
If you are planning on meeting the parents, then It’s pretty clear that you are both further committing to a future together, whatever that may mean to both of you. And now the time has come – it’s time to meet their parents and likely this brings stress and anxiety. Anxiety comes in many forms including meeting the parents anxiety (while not a ‘diagnosis’) it has many similarities with social anxiety.
2. Meeting Your Partner’s Children (And Chosen Family) Anxiety
Meeting the parents anxiety isn’t the only kind of anxiety you may feel either. The same kind of anxiety can happen if you are dating someone who has a child from a previous relationship and they are ready to introduce you to one another. Or even if your relationship has been long distance (or online) and you are meeting their circle of friends for the first time.
If you are struggling with any of the above, then you probably are feeling nervous. Is this normal? Actually, yes, it is. It is absolutely normal to have meeting the parents anxiety (or meeting children (and chosen family) anxiety.
You are going to be integrating each other into more areas of each other’s life. But this can be extremely intimidating and nerve wracking. And meeting the parents anxiety is likely to show up, so since it is likely to show up, it’s good to face it, plan for it and overcome the anxiety.
Of course you want to make a good first impression, but you don’t want to come off as trying too hard. Wanting to show your partner’s family or child your natural personality, that you care for your partner.
3. Remember This: Meeting Someone’s Family Is Stressful (And That’s Ok)
If your partner is wanting to introduce you to their family, it likely means that they are seeing a middle to long term future with you. And if they are lucky enough to be close to their family or children, or have a close circle of friends, you know how important these connections to them are.
If you’re meeting their parents, you have probably heard plenty of stories about your partner growing up under their house. Maybe a lot of the stories are favorable and good. But maybe there were some hard times that don’t leave you with the best impression of them.
And if it’s time to meet their children, this can be just as stressful, but for different reasons. Our children mean so much to us and we would do anything for them. And if you sense that they just aren’t going to mesh well with you or they are very adamantly against you dating their parent (or anyone for that matter), it can sometimes lead to ending the relationship.
This is a different kind of meeting the parents anxiety (aka their child is meeting their parent’s partner)
So if you are on the other side of this, you might feel even more intimidated, knowing the importance of your partner’s children to them. Again this is normal (but yes, still anxiety inducing for sure).
4. Remember This: Everyone Is Likely Feeling Anxiety.
First, know that being nervous over this meet up is completely normal and natural. It’s a lot of pressure to start integrating yourselves into each other’s lives. Even though there is a lot of pressure, try not to put too much on yourself. When you are thinking about it so much, when the meeting does happen, you may not act natural with them.
Second, remember your partner’s parents (children, family, friends) are probably nervous too. They’ve heard about you from your partner, and likely have an image or idea of your personality and what you are like. They are likely putting a lot of pressure on themselves as well to make a good first impression with you too.
Of course, everyone wants to make a good impression – but that shouldn’t come at the cost of you just being you and them just being them. Ironically, the less effort everyone makes, the more likely that people will act naturally, which in turn makes the chances of forming a genuine connection greater.
5. Remember This: You Aren’t Alone SO Tell Your Partner About Your Meeting The Parents Anxiety
Talk to your partner about how you are feeling. Express that you are nervous about meeting their family (including chosen family). Ask them to describe their parents personalities and maybe things that they like and dislike. Ask your partner for advice on how to make the meeting go as smoothly as possible
Before the meeting, don’t be afraid to reach out to your partner’s loved ones. A simple email or text saying that you are looking forward to meeting them can help reduce everyone’s anxiety. If you are meeting their children, maybe ask your partner what hobbies they like the most or their favorite television shows. And, same goes for your partner’s parents.
The key here is to establish rapport in a genuine way that shows you are trying and caring without overdoing it.
6. Remember This: ‘Relationships Aren’t Built In A Day’
The cliché ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ can be helpful here. Relationships aren’t built in a day. So any progress is progress, including just meeting already so that some of the anticipatory anxiety can leave you alone.
Establishing shared interests and likes before meeting can help you find things to talk about and reduce awkward conversations. Take it easy with the conversation, too. There’s plenty of time to get to know one another on a deeper level, hopefully. So keeping things light (but real) and staying away from topics that are known to cause tension will help to ensure things don’t get too stressful.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to put your best put forward and doing some preparation. In a way, yes, it can feel (and be like) an interview. But the good news here is that your partner will be there to support you and the one thing you already have in common with your partner’s parents, children, or loved ones IS that you all love your partner and want the best for them. So try to remind yourself that everyone loves your partner and wants them to be happy.
7. Remember This: Try To Meet One Or Two People At A Time (AND At A Normal Time Of Year)
Although it can be tempting or just practical depending on where everyone lives, it is usually best to meet your partner’s loved ones in smaller groups (not the whole family at once) AND at a time of year when the stakes aren’t so high (i.e. not the holidays or special events!). Doing this will take the pressure off of meeting, creating good first impressions AND having to have the additional pressure of trying to have a good holiday too.
By implementing the above suggestions, you can help reduce meeting the parents anxiety which will help your relationship with your partner get even closer. If you are struggling with any aspect of meeting the parents anxiety (whether before you meet them OR afterwards), please feel free to reach out to me at my at my Honolulu or London clinic to get support and tools to help you manage anxiety. Learn more about anxiety treatment by clicking HERE.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Hawaii and an Accredited CBT Therapist and Psychotherapist in the UK with over 17 years of experience. My specialties include Therapy For Gay Men, Life Coaching for Anxiety, Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy. Please feel free to contact me set up an Anxiety Treatment Test Drive and talk through what would be most helpful for you.