You have been dating for a couple of months and believe he may be the one. Both of you have hinted at getting together with friends, and now she is asking you to come to a party this Saturday where many of her close pals will be. You are concerned about making a good (great) impression on these friends who mean so much to your significant other AND who could greatly influence where (if) your relationship goes. After all, they are a large and very tight knit group and your new love has related several "horror" stories about other first meetings that have occurred with this clan.
The main question you are probably asking yourself is, "How can I put my best foot forward and help them get to know the real me?" The answer is simpler than you may think and will require you to shift the focus away from YOU and onto your girlfriend/boyfriend and the relationship the two of you have. You are not in this alone. You have met this right person who means a lot to you and the two of you are going into this as a team. Therefore, working together to prepare for this meeting, presenting a loving and united front to the friends, and demonstrating an openness and interest in his/her life and friends will be all you will need to have a successful beginning. The following tips will put you on the right path to winning acceptance and (perhaps) the beginning of many new friendships.
Don't try too hard. If you become focused on getting them to like you, you will probably come across as insecure, overbearing, too opinionated or just plain narcissistic. Relax and follow their lead as you let them decide what they want to hear/know.
Show an interest in them. This works especially well when you are a little anxious. Ask them questions about their career, interests and where they are from. Encourage them to tell stories about their group and some of the experiences they have shared together. You get to sit back and laugh and enjoy listening to them instead of feeling like you are on an interview.
Go with the flow. This is not the time to counter someone's opinion or to have a lively debate about politics, religion, etc. The last thing you need is to come across as confrontational or controlling, etc.
Don't get defensive. You will be a little sensitive to their words, expressions, etc. and need to be careful to remain neutral and not to take yourself too seriously. If someone says something that hits you wrong or is just downright argumentative, let it go. The others will see you as a good sport who handled that well.
Don't monopolize the conversation. In a first meeting, it is best to present yourself as a good listener who cares about what others have to say.
Join in and offer to provide assistance with preparing, serving or cleaning up a meal or with any tasks that need to be done. Nothing makes you feel more like "family" then rolling up your sleeves and working side by side with the others.
Watch your alcohol intake. It can be tempting to have a few drinks to try and relax; but remember that this can backfire if you have one too many and become sloppy or exhibit poor judgment or bad behavior.
Remember that you and the friends want the same thing- his/her happiness. You have at least one important thing in common- and may find you have many others as well.
As you prepare for this first encounter, make sure you discuss the different people and personalities beforehand with your partner. If there is something they or you should know about beforehand, discuss it so there will be no surprises or ambushes. Then make a plan that covers the where, what and how questions and one that you are both comfortable with. Most importantly, go and have a good time.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. I am a 26-year-old male who has been dating a really great girl for several months. We have been talking about meeting each other's friends and eventually, family. I have a few close friends and a number of acquaintances and have thought about arranging a double date or something low key for the first time she meets "my side." She, however, is part of a rather large close-knit "tribe" of (primarily) single men and women who do virtually everything as a group. They are like an extended family and my girlfriend has told me stories about how difficult they have made it on the boyfriends/girlfriends of members of their clan.
I generally relate well to people, but am feeling a little anxious and maybe even defensive at the thought of being scrutinized by a large, rather possessive group like this. Do you have any suggestions as to how we should go about planning this first meeting or what I can do to help ensure that I make a good first impression and find a way to let them know who I really am and how much I care for my girlfriend?
A. First meetings of this nature can be daunting- even under the easiest circumstances. Add to this the stress of knowing that you will be critiqued from head to toe and then voted on as appropriate or inappropriate boyfriend material- and you are facing a challenge that is not for the faint of heart.
The most important thing here is to stay focused on your feelings for your girlfriend and your desire to share her world, relationships, etc. In other words, keep the RELATIONSHIP and its importance to you at the center of your thoughts. This will help to keep you grounded and less likely to be looking only inward at your feelings, anxieties, character flaws, etc. Your girlfriend's opinion is the one that really counts here. When you are a caring, considerate and attentive boyfriend who makes her needs and feelings a priority- she will be happy and her friends will see this.
Some things to keep in mind when interacting with friends in this first meeting are closely related to what I have suggested above. Ask them about themselves. Show an interest in who they are, what they do and like and make an effort to join in with their rituals, traditions and ways of interacting. For when you do this, you will demonstrate that you are a nice guy who thinks about others and who can easily adapt to their likes/dislikes. This will put them at ease with you and speed the feeling that you are becoming part of the gang. Who knows, you may end up valuing them as much as she does and making some new "best" friends.
This issue was written to offer assistance to all of you who have had- or anticipate having- difficulty finding ways to relate to and fit in with a significant other's friends. Remember that it is hard not to like someone who is genuine and a great listener. If you have a problem pattern with this or any other issue that impacts your ability to build and maintain a healthy intimate relationship, consider coaching. We at Consum-mate have years of experience dealing with all issues related to meeting, dating, relating, communicating and consummating relationships.