8 Ways To Safely (& Virtually) Meet Your New Partner's Family

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couple on the computer

It’s a strange new reality in 2020, where nothing in life is quite the same. And yet, many are attempting to continue in a semblance of what was once considered normal.

For many, that includes dating but, at some point, once you've settled into a new relationship, it's time to meet each other’s families. That's just the natural progression of a romance, right?

Of course, during a time of social distancing, gatherings are most certainly not a good idea, especially with those outside of your household or immediate circle. That means considering the probability of meeting your new partner's family through other means.

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How to Meet Your Partner's Family Virtually

The holidays are the best time to start planning that virtual meeting. And yes, it will be stressful, but when is it not?

"We can all agree that meeting your significant other's parents can be intimidating no matter what. But whether you've been together a few months or a year, there is simply no manual for how to handle that in a pandemic,” says relationship expert Lauren Peacock, best-selling author of "Female. Likes Cheese. Comes with Dog.: Stories About Divorce, Dating, and Saying “I Do.”

Forget about a traditional meeting — here's everything to know about safely meeting your partner's family for the first time, whether it's on Zoom, FaceTime, or another video calling app.

1. Break the ice.

Who isn’t nervous when meeting their partner’s parents or extended family?

A computer screen won’t change that. But using humor to break the ice over Zoom (or whatever virtual source you decide to use) can really help to ease the stress of the situation.

Showing your vulnerability can allow your human side to show through to your significant other’s parents,” Peacock adds.

2. Send champagne for the occasion.

It's a celebration, after all. So, break the ice with champagne... on ice.

Consider sending a bottle of champagne with two glasses.

“We did this for our client who wanted his girlfriend to meet his parents over Zoom,” suggests Bonnie Winston, celebrity matchmaker and relationship expert. “We had the box delivered right before the Zoom call, and said please open the box and pour the champagne.”

Winston’s client got on the call with his girlfriend and made the introduction. “Choose from Tiffany's or go to Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s not about the cost, it’s about  the fun way to make the introduction,” Winston adds.

You and your partner should also have full glasses, toasting to getting to know one another.

3. Be prepared for tech issues.

There may be a good chance of experiencing technological hiccups, so it's important to practice patienceMuch like you would before any big meeting at work, it’s great to troubleshoot first so there won’t be any issues that day. 

“Take care of the basics on the technical side to ensure that the digital connection will be the best it can be,” says psychologist, sex expert and writer, Antonia Hall. “If you haven't spent a lot of time connecting with others by video or just feel uncomfortable with digital chats, try a run through with a friend first.”

4. Get on the same page as your partner.

Before you meet, ask your partner if there is a certain way you should address their parents. 

"Just because the platform for communication is casual, that doesn't mean you should be casual, too,” recommends Laurel House, relationship coach and creator of Love Actually Academy.

Be aware that their parents might not be completely comfortable with technology, so be patient if they are struggling or don't have a perfect frame. And although their parents might not dress up for the occasion, you absolutely should.

“Just because their frame isn't perfect, it doesn't give you permission to relax with your visual presentation, too,” adds House. “Act as if this is a 'real' in-person meeting. Make sure that you have a clean background, because you never know what they might be looking at behind you.”

Sometimes, the most revealing element about a Zoom meeting has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with your background. 

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5. Plan a fun activity.

If they are interested, suggest an activity, such as drinks, coffee, or a fun game you can play on Zoom. “Your activity might be your background,” says House, who suggests creating a conversation opportunity.

You can do the Zoom in your garden, sit in front of your Christmas tree, or surround yourself with some of your favorite things. Make it fun and say something like, "I wanted to introduce you to a little more than just my face, so here's my dog/latest art project/favorite book." Then, tell them a little bit about it. 

6. Have appropriate conversations.

When it comes to talking points, just because you're in the comfort and protection of your home, hidden behind a screen, that shouldn't mean you drop your conversational guard.

You also don't want to have conversations about anything negative, whether it's about or how much you've been struggling through COVID.

If the world was normal right now and you were actually sitting across from your partner's parents in-person, what would you be talking about? Your interests, your career, and your family, most likely.

Suggests House, “Avoid controversial or polarizing topics like your sex life, your physical attraction to their child, politics, and religion. Talk about what you and your partner bonded on, or what you two have in common, what you admire about them, and what about them makes you smile.”

Consider preparing questions in advance. Try simple questions like, "What have you been up to during the pandemic?" or, "How has the weather been where you are?" is good, but try and expand to questions like, "When the world isn't ending, what do you all do around town?" or, "[Significant other's name) says you like to play [insert sport]. Are you looking forward to getting back out there?" 

As Peacock says, “It shows that you're interested in getting to know them and, most importantly, you're invested in the relationship with their child.”

7. Calm your own nerves.

Make sure you don't rush before the real parental meet-up.

“Give yourself a few moments to take deep breaths, release any fear or tension, and remind yourself of the wonderful reason this meeting is taking place,” says Hall. Connecting with your partner just before the meet-up can also be helpful. 

8. Set a time limit for your first meeting.

Puta time limit on the call. Of course, you don't want to simply say something awkward to end the conversation. You always want to leave on a positive note. 

Instead, Peacock recommends, “Have something to do (i.e., make dinner) or an essential, time-sensitive errand to run to ensure you don't run out of things to say, thus avoiding that awkward silence."

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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