Thanksgiving, while problematic in some ways, marks a time to reflect on all you have to be grateful for — and maybe dust off your sneakers for your annual family football game. Thanksgiving is also a time to reconnect with your loved ones or, if you’re in a relationship, get to know the special people in your partner’s life. And, if you’re traveling to their hometown for the first time, Thanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity to meet your partner’s friends as well.
Now if you’re anything like me, you were excited to take the next step in your relationship when your SO asked you if you wanted to spend Thanksgiving with them. But now that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, the nervous butterflies are starting to creep in. In some ways, meeting a partner’s friends is even more intimidating than their family — especially if they’ve been friends for their entire life. What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t “mesh well?” How do I even talk to them?
I knew I had to find a way to put the butterflies to rest, so I spoke with professional counselor Sarah Puskavich, LCPC on how to not only make a great and lasting first impression on your partner’s hometown friends, but also how to enjoy yourself this Thanksgiving. I’m happy to report she didn’t disappoint — so before you start overthinking again, read this.
Don’t overthink it.
I know, it’s easier said than done, but it’s true! At the end of the day, your partner’s friends are there because they love and support your SO, and they want to know you a little bit better. So, go into meeting your partner’s friends with a positive attitude and an open mind. “When meeting new people, they are going to want to know about you, your life, and your interests,” Puskavich tells Her Campus. “Sharing about yourself shows vulnerability and creates opportunities for others to bond with you.”
Knowing my friends, they tend to put my partner through the wringer with an intense interrogation the first time they meet. And since this isn’t exactly a unique experience, it can be helpful to map out what information you’re willing to talk about. “You want to share about your life authentically, but you also can choose which areas to emphasize,” Puskavich says “For example, you might prefer to talk about your hobby, like taking up running, more than your job. Talking about things that are more comfortable for you will help you feel more confident and will help in making a good impression.”
Do your due diligence.
Does anyone else feel like they could be an FBI agent without the training…or is it just me? Whether you’ve gone back 15 years on your partner’s best friend’s mother’s Facebook page or not, it can be helpful to get a brief 411 on everyone you’re going to be meeting at Thanksgiving so you know what to expect.
“Get some information from your partner about the personalities of friends and family, their interests, and topics to avoid,” Puskavich says. “Ask your partner about their friends’ interests and lives, and think about how you might be able to relate to them.”
However, Dr. Puskavich advises to be careful about doing a little too much research and making judgements beforehand. “Avoid taking in information that will increase a sense of pressure,” she advises. “Too much information can increase anxiety and cause you to overthink how you should act.”
Keep everything in perspective.
One of the most important things to remember is that your partner’s friends are probably feeling the exact same way you are. “While there can be undeniable pressure to make a good impression when meeting new people for the first time, remember that this is just the beginning of forming new relationships,” Puskavich says. “The people you are meeting will likely understand that you are nervous —they probably are themselves.”
Remember: While you obviously want to make a good first impression, your SO’s friends are also technically making a first impression on you, too. While you probably want them to like you, you also get to decide if you like them as well – the power isn’t all in their hands.
“Adjusting your perspective can help you relax, remove pressure, and maybe even have some fun,” Puskavich says. “It is impossible for them to know you fully after meeting you once.”
Lean on your partner for support.
I know I said Thanksgiving is the perfect time to meet your SO’s friends but if you’re at a Thanksgiving feast with everyone and their mother (literally), it may feel like you just threw yourself into the deep end. The good thing is that you are going through this with your partner, so before the long weekend starts, let them know you need their support and how they can help make this weekend successful. “Remember to take up space, if you need something to drink, or eat, or if you need a moment of alone time, be open about it,” Puskavich says. “The more comfortable you are, the better time you will have.”
With Thanksgiving around the corner, the stress of meeting your SO’s friends is bound to come up. So, remember this: If they are inviting you home for the holiday, chances are that they’ve already talked you up to their friends. If worse comes to worse, and the meeting goes South, what matters is the relationship between you both, not whether their friend from middle school likes you. So chill, relax, and enjoy the break before finals, and grab an extra slice of pie for me.