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Posted on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5 a.m.

Don't panic over meeting boyfriend's parents

By Carolyn Hax

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I'm meeting my boyfriend's parents this weekend. I love him very much and think he's the future father of my children. I don't have a great relationship with my parents any more, so it's even more important to me that they love me. Any advice/words of encouragement?

— Meeting the Parents

It's not important that they love you.

It's actually not important that your boyfriend loves you or that you love him, even. We may all need love, but not from any one specific source. It either happens or it doesn't, then we make our next moves accordingly.

If you and your boyfriend go on to marry, then loving each other does become important, of course—in a you-want-this-to-last sense, though, not a you-need-this-to-last. That's because you always have you and you can get yourself through all kinds of disappointments. Often better for having been through them.

So. When you meet his parents, yes, it'll be nice if they like you. But if they don't, then you make your next move accordingly.

Let's say your boyfriend needs his parents' approval before he'll commit to you. That still doesn't raise the stakes of your weekend—because you want to marry this man, but ultimately it's not important that you do. What's important is that you marry the right man, and if his mama can derail your future with him, then he's not the right man.

What's more important is that you uncouple your own parental grief from your hopes for others. All relationships stand alone; there are no replacements.

The less pressure you put on this weekend, the more you'll be your natural self. That's your best bet, always; just be you.

And no, that's not another kind of pressure. It'll be OK, whether you're nervous or not, or hit it off with his parents or not. Just trust that the natural outcome will be the best outcome for you.


Maybe my question came across as too desperate, but your response seemed harsh. I have a healthy perspective on the fact that maybe my boyfriend and I won't marry, but regardless, his parents are important to him, and he's important to me, so of course I want for us to have a good relationship.

Everyone (including BF) says, "Be yourself and they will love you," so I guess I was looking for something slightly more tangible. I will take your advice to keep loose and hope for the best. I know from the person he is that they will be wonderful, but I'm still nervous anyway.

— Meeting the Parents

If "everyone (including BF)" is urging perspective, that suggests you have lost perspective.

That's not a crime, it's totally normal, but when it happens, it's better to admit it, in a "Hey, this is who I am, and this is how it's going to be" kind of way. When you're in denial about how invested you are in a single outcome, that's when unrealistic expectations creep in. Better to assume you'll muck it up and be amazed at yourself when you don't.

I actually can't think of any answer more tangible than this, unless you wanted "Bring wine." These are step-by-step, mental instructions for keeping your expectations—and therefore your nerves—in check.

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