Introducing your same sex partner to your family can be one of the most stressful times in your life, but it doesn’t have to be. While there may be no getting around some uncomfortable moments, there are ways to minimize the tense situations and make everyone feel much more at ease.
First, if you haven’t already, you should discuss your sexuality with your family before introducing them to your significant other. This is especially important if you at all think they will react negatively or with shock. You don’t want to complicate the discussion by introducing them to your partner right away, especially since this could lead to a confrontation between your family and your partner. Getting your family comfortable with your sexual orientation beforehand will make the introductions go much smoother.
Once you’ve come out to your family and you feel the time is right, you need to plan where, when, and how you will introduce your partner. Do you want to meet at a public place, or should you invite your family over? Do you want to include a distraction of some sort (a play, concert, etc.), or would it be better to have plenty of time to talk? It all depends on how you think your family will react.
Take your cues from how your coming out talk went. If your family reacted in anger or seems uncomfortable with your orientation, consider meeting them at a restaurant. While the impulse may be to invite your family to your home so you can deal with them on your terms, neutral territory often makes people feel like they aren’t being ambushed or forced into a situation. Also, being in public will make everyone stay on his or her best behavior. Likewise, planning to attend an event will build in a time limit, which may provide a helpful distraction.
If your family is more supportive, invite them over for dinner. This will give your family and your partner more time to get to know each other. If your partner cooks, this is a great chance to show off his or her cooking skills and dazzle your family with a wonderful home-cooked meal. A glass of wine or other drink before or after dinner can help everyone relax, although you should be careful that no one overindulges.
Another decision to make is which family members you want to invite to meet your partner. You may want to begin with your parents first, then introduce siblings or other close family members. Again, this depends on how accepting your family is and on how close you are to the individual members of your family. You probably want to avoid bringing your partner to a large family gathering as their first introduction to your family. You don’t want to overwhelm your partner, nor do you want to take the chance of having a relative make a scene. Eventually, you will want to include your partner in holidays and other large family events, but it’s better to slowly ease everyone into it (the same can be said for straight couples, as well-being thrown into a house-full of strangers can be uncomfortable for anyone).
When you invite your family to meet your partner, take the time to explain why you want them to meet. Tell your family that they play a very important role in your life, as does your partner. If necessary, tell your family that you aren’t asking them to necessarily like your partner right away (after all, many straight couples face parents who don’t necessarily like their new son or daughter-in-law) but that you do expect them to treat your partner with respect. Don’t be hostile, but be certain everyone knows they are to behave. This includes your partner; even if he or she doesn’t like specific members of your family, they should still be polite and respectful. Have a backup plan if tempers flare. Don’t react negatively or start yelling, but do remind everyone that the goal of the meeting was for important parts of your life to come together, not for passing judgment or making personal attacks. Stay calm, don’t get angry, and strive to keep everyone respectful and polite. If the situation does end up getting out of control, the best response may be to leave and bring everyone together after tempers have cooled.
Once you have decided on where your family and your partner will meet, you need to decide how you want to introduce them. While this may seem like the easy part, you should make certain you and your partner agree on what term you will use. “Partner” tends to imply a type of permanent or at least serious relationship, while “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” implies more of a dating relationship. This is probably the least stressful part of the introduction, but you should make certain you are both on the same page.
Introducing your same sex partner to your family can be difficult, and no single piece of advice is going to apply to every situation. Using this article as a guide, decide on the best way to introduce your partner to your family. If you know any friends who have already gone through this experience, ask them how it went. Also, it’s often just as hard for a straight couple to meet each other’s parents, so don’t just limit yourself to gay friends’ experiences. By combining these tips and friends’ experiences, you can avoid many of the pitfalls of introducing your partner to your family and help assure that everyone will get along.