When it comes to dating, I feel like everyone’s always searching for signs that will tell you exactly what to do next. You want horoscopes, tarot card readers, and the universe to collectively say, “Yes, they’re the one,” or, “You should say ‘I love you.'” You need to see bright, blinking signs you’re ready to introduce your partner to your parents (and vice-versa), or friends, or dog-walker before you make any major moves. Right?
There’s an episode of Friends that pokes fun at this idea. Monica and Chandler are in Vegas for their one-year anniversary and leave it to the fates to decide if they should tie the knot. Pretty much all of the signs are telling them to get married, but neither Monica nor Chandler feels comfortable or ready. (Which, of course, neither of them wants to admit. Because sitcoms.) They eventually decide to ignore the signs and go at their own pace, which — as we all know — works out for the pair.
The moral of the story is that your own comfort is the ultimate (and only) sign you really need to determine whether you’re ready to take a given step in a relationship. But when it comes to more nuanced situations, like meeting the parents (where family dynamics and others’ comfort comes into play), it doesn’t always feel that simple.
I chatted with a few dating and relationship experts to find out what some real, tangible signs are that you’re ready to take that next step and meet the fam. Here are four clues that could mean it’s time, according to the pros.
“If your partner isn’t ready to be exclusive with you, and is still casually dating other people, this is a sign it’s likely too early to meet your parents,” says relationship counselor and dating coach Samantha Burns. “The last thing you want is to have your parents get attached to someone who isn’t into you.”
She’s totally right, there’s nothing stickier than your parents falling for someone who isn’t falling for you. But on the flip-side, it’s important to remember that your partner might not see things from this perspective.
“Some people are very casual about introducing you to their parents,” says Burns. “So be aware that ‘meeting the parents’ isn’t always code for a serious relationship.”
This last one’s especially true if your partner works or lives with their family. Simply put: aim to define the relationship before you introduce an SO to your parents, but know that meeting their family isn’t necessarily code for, “We’re exclusive now.”
You’ve met one another’s best friends and siblings.
Before introducing a partner to your parents, test the waters and see how they handle meeting your close friends and siblings. It’s not only an easy way to gauge how well they mesh with some of the (other) most important people in your life, you can also count on your besties and siblings for brutally honest feedback.
Sometimes, we’re a bit too blinded by infatuation in the early days of a relationship to pick up on red flags that might mean this guy or girl is definitely not the type of person to bring home to mom and dad, so getting a second opinion never hurts.
If your SO’s met and clicked with your friends and siblings, they’ll likely handle meeting your parents like a champ.
You trust each other.
“I think that the amount of time [you’ve been together] matters very little in relation to how much you trust the other person,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson. “If you feel comfortable incorporating them into different aspects of your life, then it is important to do so when you are both feeling ready for it.”
Remember when I said your own comfort is the only sign you need? Richardson agrees. Regardless of how much or how little time you two have spent together, the greatest indicator that you’re ready to bring your partner home to meet your family is that you really trust that person and want to incorporate them into that side of your life.
You’ve talked over each other’s family dynamics.
“Family relationships are difficult,” says Richardson.” “It’s important to understand that although having big family dinners and positive relationships with the ‘in-laws’ is ideal, it’s not always realistic.”
Before ever considering bringing an SO home, ensure they’ve been briefed on the family dynamics at play. As someone who comes from a fairly complicated family situation myself, I can personally attest to just how important this is. Further, if they react poorly to hearing about your situation at home, I’d say that’s a pretty clear way to know they’re not ready to meet your parents.
Who needs horoscopes and psychic readings? If you and your boyfriend or girlfriend check these boxes, you’re ready to bring ’em home.
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