The Parent Trap – Are you worried about meeting your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s parents? You’re not alone — and it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
In “Meet the Parents” and its star-studded sequel, “Meet the Fockers,” Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his fiancée, Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo), spend most of their time worrying about how their future in-laws (Robert De Niro, Blythe Danner, Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman) will react to their engagement. The hit films capture every stereotype associated with introducing your main man/woman to your folks, and they resonate because we’ve all faced similar dilemmas.
But experts will tell you that Greg and Pam made some critical mistakes that contributed to the plot’s mayhem. Should they have waited until he was ready to place a ring on her finger, or is it better to meet the parents before things get too Fockered up?
“I love this question, and my answer might shock some people,” says dating expert Shoshanna Rikon, founder of Shoshanna’s Matches, a New York City-based Jewish matchmaking firm for single professionals. “I think it is extremely important to meet his/her parents very early on in the courtship. I suggest meeting the parents before the 2-month milestone.”
Why the rush?
Rikon shares the following story: Boy meets Girl, immediately falls in love with her and knows he wants to marry her. Ditto for Girl. Boy waits more than 3 months to meet Girl’s parents — and it destroys any chance of wedded bliss.
“When you intend to marry a girl, you are also marrying into her family,” Rikon says. When Boy consistently refused to meet Girl’s parents, they decided he was arrogant and disrespectful. By the time they met him, they hated him and viewed him as someone who “just wanted to steal their princess away from them,” Rikon says.
But Boy and Girl got engaged anyway, and it made matters worse. Girl’s younger sister was jealous of all the attention the bride-to-be received, so she concocted a story about Boy being rude to her. Girl’s parents “went ballistic,” Rikon says, and they drove to Boy’s home in the middle of a rainy night and forced their way into his apartment. They began removing all of Girl’s clothing and personal belongings, and the wedding was called off.
“True story. Total nightmare,” Rikon says. But about 18 months later, she introduced Boy to another girl, and he met her parents a month after they began dating. Her parents loved him.
The moral of the story?
“Always do the right thing and meet the parents early on,” Rikon says. “Don’t ever disrespect your potential in-laws. Imagine if you and your new wife decide to have kids and your in-laws hate you. Terrible!”
Avoiding Meet/Greet Defeat
When the proverbial “big day” arrives, one of the worst things you can do is make it a big day. You can set yourself up for disaster if you schedule a 3-hour dinner with intimate living-room conversation.
“The first introduction should be a quick, casual ‘hello,’ which you can do by stopping at your parents’ house before a date,” says Jill Spiegel, author of “The Flirtologist’s Guide to Dating.”
“A shorter, more casual introduction allows your new boyfriend/girlfriend to get a feel for your folks, without a lot of pressure.” “A shorter initial introduction also makes you feel more prepared for the longer night down the road.”
And while this may sound obvious, be sure to give your parents a heads-up.
“Let them know a little bit about your boyfriend/girlfriend, and create some areas of conversation in the first meeting,” says Dr. Rachna D. Jain, a psychologist in Columbia, Maryland, and author of “Overcome Rejection: The SMART Way.” (She suggests saying something like, “Mom, you love to read, and Kimberly just read this great book…”)
“Tell your parents about your boyfriend/girlfriend ahead of time, and then do your best to facilitate conversation in the first meeting,”
Only then will you avoid being labeled a Focker.