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Ask Izzy: Best practices for meeting your partner's family over the holidays

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Ask Izzy is a biweekly advice column about relationships, mental health, and sexuality. Written by Isabel Mata — a Seattle-based lifestyle writer, podcast host, and mental health advocate — Ask Izzy offers tangible expert advice so all readers can have stronger relationships, better sex, and healthier mindsets. Looking for some more guidance? Submit your question to [email protected] with the subject line: Ask Izzy Submission.

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Dear Izzy,
I started dating someone new a few months ago and I really like them. My family lives outside Seattle, and because of work, I can't take time off to travel home for the holidays. Knowing this, my partner invited me to their family's home in Lake Stevens for Thanksgiving. This would be the first time I am meeting their family, and it's been a long time since I have had an introduction like this. What's the etiquette? Wine and flowers seem stereotypical, but I want to make a good impression. How do I make sure they like me?

— Soon-to-Meet the Parents

Dear Soon-to-Meet,

This is so exciting! Congratulations! I remember meeting my now-husband's family for the first time a few years ago and it was terrifying, so I understand the anxiety.

Knowing your partner is one thing, but their family is something else. For some, families can make or break the relationship if you aren't careful. Every family is different, and it's hard to know what their dynamic is if you haven't spent much time with them.

But it's no surprise your partner asked you to Thanksgiving: it is a great time to bring people together for the first time. The vibes are typically pretty good this time of year, and nothing brings people together more than a bunch of yummy food. So again, congrats on this milestone!

When it comes to meeting the parents, there is no right answer. It's not like there is a relationship guidebook out there saying that the recipe to a successful introduction is a grocery store bouquet, a bottle of Syrah, and a comment about how young the parents look.

But if you want to make a good impression, the best advice I can give is to be yourself. I know it sounds silly, but it's true.

If being your authentic self includes being thoughtful and bringing something to say thanks for the meal, then absolutely go for it. I am sure it will be greatly appreciated. It also doesn't hurt to ask your partner if there is anything you should bring.

Also, if your partner's family has other expectations of you or traditions they want you to participate in, then that should also be communicated clearly beforehand.

To answer your question of "how do I make sure they like me?" I say, "You can't." As soon as you step foot in the door that evening, most things are going to be out of your control. The questions people ask you, their facial expressions, everything. All you can do is show up with an open mind and trust in all the things that make you spectacular. Your partner asked you there for a reason, so surrender to that.

After the initial introductions have been made, you can relax. When I was in your shoes, I remember asking a lot of questions and trying to get to know as many people as I could. It was scary being the outsider, but it was nice to meet all of the important people in my husband's life.

Enjoy this special time! If all goes well, the next introductions could be with your family!