No matter how self-confident you are, meeting your partner’s family for the first time on Thanksgiving can feel intimidating AF. Are you supposed to bring them a gift? What if politics come up at the table (shudder)? And WTF could you and Uncle Gary possibly have to talk about? The good news is, there are certain questions to ask your partner’s family on Thanksgiving that can make the whole situation far less awkward, and better yet, bring you closer to their inner circle.
First thing’s first: while it may feel a tad overwhelming, there are plenty of perks to meeting your partner’s family on Thanksgiving. Sure, you may be faced with more extended family than you would on any other occasion, but the holiday occasion will distract from your presence a bit and take some of the pressure off, and people are generally in an upbeat, celebratory mood, which is definitely to your advantage. The key to winning them over could be as simple as asking the right questions. After all, this is an opportunity to learn more about your partner’s family members and let them learn a little more about you. And asking questions shows that you’re interested them and you care about where your SO came from, which can only boost your image in their eyes.
Now, the only question is — well, which questions to ask. As a general rule, you want to ask things that elicit detailed responses and unlock opportunities for longer conversations (i.e., no yes-no questions).
Still stumped? Here are some questions to keep in your back pocket on Thanksgiving day.
How did you meet?
I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for couples’ stories of how they met. Our parents didn’t have the luxury of using apps and sites to find dates, which means they may have met through work, mutual friends, or a chance encounter on the street. Maybe both of them hailed the same cab and argued over who should take it, or reached for the last copy of Doctor Zhivago at the same time while perusing a used book store downtown (can you tell I’ve seen a lot of Nora Ephron movies?).
Regardless, if your partner’s parents are still together (or they remarried) I guarantee you their story has some rom-com worthy material, and you’re going to want to hear it. For one, people generally enjoy talking about themselves. And to boot, their tale will no doubt reveal some important details about them, which will be helpful going forward.
Was [partner’s name] always into [hobby/interest]?
You know your partner’s primary passions, but do you know the history behind them? Family members might be able to offer up some valuable insight.
For example, if your SO is a huge music nerd, you may learn they actually got this from their father, who’s been in a band since high school and practiced in their garage while bae was growing up. Or, if they happen to love old Hitchcock movies, you may learn that their older sister watched them and that’s how they bonded in high school.
Getting more deets on your partner’s hobbies and interests is always a plus. And without a doubt, their family will have more information on how these developed.
What do you do for work?
One of the easiest conversation starters is simply inquiring about a family member’s work. Bae has probably told you a little bit about what their parent, brother, aunt, etc. does for a living (and if they haven’t, now’s your chance to ask). Now, use that little tidbit of information to dig into what makes them tick.
For example, you could say, “I heard you just started a new job teaching gardening — I’ve always wanted to get into that!” Or, you could start with, “Alex tells me you’re interested in opening your own salon, has that always been a dream of yours?”
The bottom line is, everyone has something they enjoy doing, and learning about how your boo’s family members spend their time can be advantageous in numerous ways. Not only does it reveal a bit about who they are, but it also gives you the opportunity to find common ground, whether it’s a career goal or side hobby. Plus, as an added bonus, the info they provide will no doubt come in handy when you’re picking out a gift for them at Christmas, or trying to plan activities for a group getaway. The more you know, the better.
How did you make [XYZ dish]?
Whether you were blown away by the Brussels sprouts or the butternut squash soup, don’t be shy about asking how it was made. This question functions in two ways. For one, it’s an automatic compliment to your partner’s family member who made it. They’re sure to feel good, and as they say, flattery will get you everywhere. Not only that, but it presents a bonding opportunity as well. Aunt Sheila may promise to follow up with the recipe, or mom may pull you aside to explain their secret ingredient.
Either way, it’s a win-win. Now you have the skinny on how to whip up that memorable dish, and you also found a way to connect with your partner’s family. Because honestly, is there anything better to bond over than food? Besides, now you’ll have something to chat about next time you see the fam: how it went when you attempted this dish in the kitchen.
What’s the history behind [XYZ] tradition?
One of the most exciting things about spending Thanksgiving with your SO’s family is that it offers up a chance to gain insight into their traditions. Before spending the holiday with them, you will definitely want to make sure have the basics down to ensure that you’re respectful of their customs, particularly if they come from an otherwise different background.
That said, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions on the holiday. If bae’s family has made it tradition to say one thing they’re thankful for, or does a potluck-style dinner in which everyone contributes a dish, ask for explanations on how that started. Doing this shows that you’re interested in those special elements that set them apart. Remember: Every family celebrates this holiday in their own unique way, and it’s not a bad thing if your partner’s does things a little differently. Who knows? You may dig their traditions so much that you end up sharing them with your own fam.
What can I do to help?
If you’re looking for one foolproof way to make a phenomenal impression, it’s this: offer to lend a helping hand. Your partner’s family members may not delegate any tasks, but at least you will have made the gesture (and trust me, they won’t forget it). On the other hand, they may indeed take you up on it, in which case you can heroically jump up and help out, whether that means clearing the table or grabbing a few chairs from the next room for the unexpected cousins who have arrived.
Helping out shows good manners, and that’s a quality that basically every family values in their son or daughter’s significant other.
Questions are your best friend when meeting your boo’s loved ones on Thanksgiving. They enable you to get to know family members better, find common ground, and best of all, make a killer first impression. By actively trying to learn more about your partner’s family, you’ll not only show your partner that you value their roots, but you’ll also show their inner circle that you care as well. Be curious, be open-minded, and for goodness sake, don’t be shy when it comes to raving about the stuffing — and believe me, you’ll make this one a Thanksgiving to remember.
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