First things first, well done. You’ve got yourself into a situation where your girlfriend is sufficiently proud of your partnership that she wants her parents to meet you.
But enough back-patting and punching the air, this is serious.
Remember all the nervous encounters you had with your girlfriend, the trepidation of a first date and the embarrassingly sweaty palms when you held hands for the first time? This is going to top them all. Meeting the parents of a significant other is about as harrowing an experience as you can imagine.
But lighten up – the future of your relationship shouldn’t hinge on those first few hours in the company of her mother and father. But trust us, make a good impression here and it’ll be plain sailing for at least the foreseeable future.
Don't go in unprepared
So, what’s to be done? Well, firstly, do your homework. And we’re not talking about decorating the spare room with Post-it notes and lines of yarn, charting your future in-laws’ lives back to when they were in pigtails and short trousers. We’re talking about the cursory facts. Sports teams. Favourite meals. What are they watching on television at the moment?
You want to scratch the surface without sinking your claws into them. Think casual talker – not menacing stalker.
Dress to impress
Clotheswise, don’t overthink it. You want to look presentable, but not catwalk-ready. Trousers not jeans, a shirt not a t-shirt and shoes not trainers. Simple.
And, unless you’ve either come straight from work or her father owns a suiting accessories store, for God’s sake don’t wear a tie. You’ll either look like a prom date from an 80s teen movie or come across as so sarcastic that you might as well have cut your losses and worn a full tuxedo or an opera cape.
And you’ve got to walk the same fine line with aftershave. You don’t want to forgo fragrance all together – as pleasant smells are known to release feel-good hormones in the brains of even the most critical of progenitors. But neither do you want to daub yourself in so much cologne that you overwhelm a beloved household pet, or unwittingly trigger an underlying medical condition that didn’t show in your background check of her mother’s medical records.
Exude confidence from the start
And then, if you’ve managed to both research her parents without attracting the attention of the authorities, and dress yourself appropriately – bravo – now all you have to do is actually meet the parents themselves.
Take a gift, or a bunch of flowers (getting scent once again on your side), and shake their hands firmly and with purpose when they open the door for you. Remember to talk straight at them, exude confidence and don’t just stand awkwardly behind your girlfriend like her suitcase or a garden plant.
But strike a balance – neither should you shoulder your beloved off the doorstep, beam maniacally and lunge across the threshold, clutching for her father’s terrified hand. Moderation, men.
Relax into it
With a bit a luck, you should be fine after that – and even if you’re not, you’re inside their house now, so you can’t leave. You’ve literally just met the people, so clambering out of the bathroom window in a panic-induced bid for freedom would look just as bad right now as contracting cold feet on the morning of your nuptials.
Instead, just calm yourself (probably don’t think about nuptials, then) and enjoy the conversation. Try not to touch your girlfriend, keep your phone in your pocket and don’t boast about yourself. Instead, boast on behalf of your girlfriend. Her parents won’t mind if you repeat achievements they already know about – she’s their daughter. And, if any of your achievements are comparable to hers, drop them in – subtly and fleetingly.
A couple of things to avoid? Whilst you should always act with maturity – check the card tricks and blue humour at the door, gentlemen – never try to come off either more mature or more intelligent than her parents. Never mind how old you are, those older than you will still take issue if you’re seen to be usurping them – and you’ve already taken their daughter, so give the poor people a break.
Learn from your mistakes
If you do rile them, you’ll end up in the hot seat for the rest of the visit – dodging more loaded questions than a targeted ISIS convoy – which brings me to my next point.
Avoid controversial topics at all cost – be they political beliefs, immigration issues or human rights debates – because you’ll quickly be so overwhelmed by judgement and psychological degradation yourself that you’ll wish you had a copy of the Geneva convention to hand.
But, brutal war massacre analogies aside, it should be a walk in the park. They want to like you, believe me, so unless you put a foot irreversibly wrong, they will. And, if for some unforeseeable reason they do take against you, don’t lose it. Just work out what they don’t like and remedy it.
Either that or pile straight back in with the antagonism – it depends how much you really like her…