Introducing your partner to your family is a milestone every couple (gay or straight) may have to deal with in a given step of their relationship. For queer couples, it can be a source of anxiety and stress for many reasons; here, we'll tell you how you can deal with it.
Any committed relationship goes through different exciting steps:
- Their first date.
- Becoming an exclusive couple.
- The first time they say, "I love you."
- Meeting each other's parents.
However, for queer folk, thinking about introducing their partners to their families can be both something thrilling and frightening. Many factors relating to family and being part of the LGBTQ+ community don't get too well, affecting people's expectations on this specific milestone.
It's normal to be nervous about it. Everyone gets those heebie-jeebies when they're about to introduce their partner to their parents or when we're about to meet our special one's mom and dad. Parents have expectations for their kids, and (in their way) they want "what's best for them." With LGBTQ+ kids, those expectations can be even worse.
Queer relationships buck against the assertions of what a heterosexist society says a romantic relationship has to be. Many families are accustomed to heteronormativity, and they want their kids to be in a straight, traditional relationship. So, being in a gender-diverse relationship adds additional layers to the nervousness of not being what our parents expect us to be.
Suppose it's the first time you're in a committed queer relationship, and you think you're ready for this milestone. In that case, it's normal to have some questions about how your family will react and how they will treat your partner. So, the best thing you can do is equip yourself with a strategy, so this can happen in the best way for you and your relationship with both your partner and your family.
Here's a list of 10 things you can do before introducing your queer relationship to your parents.
1) Prepare yourself emotionally
Suppose you're nervous about introducing your queer partner to your parents because things can go wrong. In that case, it's totally normal because it can. You can't know how someone will react when their expectations are not met, especially parents. You need to be ready for a bad reaction and have a strategy for it.
Think about this:
- How will you feel if your family doesn't react favorably?
- Can you handle a hostile or even aggressive response?
Both of you need to consider a bad outcome and be prepared for it emotionally. You need to make sure your partner is emotionally prepared for it. How would they feel if your family is not friendly towards them?
Of course, there's a possibility things turn out super well, and your family becomes even closer by welcoming your partner. Still, you know what they say: prepare for the worst-case scenario.
2) Talk to your partner first
Introducing your partner is something that not only can be stressful for both of you; it is also a relationship milestone you need to be sure you're ready to go through. If you think you're prepared to take this step, discuss it with your partner to see if he's even on the same page.
Crossing relationship milestones is something that every couple needs to discuss. Whether it is becoming exclusive or moving together, one may be ready to take the next step while the other needs some more time. So before you decide it's time to do this, talk it through with your partner, as maybe they'll think it's too soon for them.
Discuss what it will mean for your relationship if your parents meet your partner. If you both are ready to answer this question, you should take the step.
3) Come out to your family before you introduce your special one
I know you may think doing this in the same event saves you from having two awkward moments by having just one, but you're wrong. Even if you've known you're queer, and you've known it for a long time, and you've been secretly in a relationship for years, it's best if you just tell your family about yourself well before you introduce your queer partner to them.
Giving time for your family to process everything is the best way for them to be ready to meet your special one. They need to get used to the idea that you'll be (or are) in a relationship that's different from what they've envisioned for you. Let them be ready too to take the step of meeting your partner.
Coming out to your family when you introduce your special one may be harmful to your relationship with both of them. Their reaction to learning about you may turn into hatred toward your partner; you don't want this for them.
4) Test the waters so you know how could they react
If your parents know about you, you can help them get used to the idea you're in a queer relationship by casually bringing it out in a conversation. You can casually tell them you're dating someone and that you're happy for it, see how they react to it and what they tell you.
Suppose they already know you're in a relationship. In that case, you can start normalizing the idea in their heads by regularly bringing it out. You can talk to them about something you did with your partner, for example:
- A movie you saw together.
- Something funny that happened to you.
- Something they usually say that reminds you of your family.
- Something interesting about your partner's job.
If you regularly talk about them, your family will not only get used to the idea you're with someone, it will make your partner relatable to your family and more accessible for them to get along once they meet.
5) Your family can be allies to the community
You can make it easier for your family by helping them be part of the community as allies.
You can share queer media with them, like watching movies or TV shows with positive representation of the LGBTQ+ community. This way, they can get a good perception of you and your relationship beforehand.
You can also talk about important news for the queer community. Tell your family about advances in gay rights, tell them about a significant achievement for a queer person, or tell them whenever a famous person comes out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community.
Suppose you foster and normalize queerness for your family. In that case, it'll be easier to create an accepting environment for when the time comes for them to meet your partner.
6) Discuss the logistics with your partner beforehand
Suppose your partner is feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable about meeting your parents. In that case, you can talk about it to establish some boundaries and strategies.
Let your partner know how your parents feel about meeting them and your communication with your family overall. This can help alleviate some stress and know what to expect and what to not.
Define together a plan so you both can feel comfortable through the event.
- How much time are you going to be there?
- What are you going to talk about?
- What topics do you want to avoid?
- Is your partner supposed to bring something?
- Is it a casual or more formal event?
If your partner doesn't feel ready to take this step and needs more time, you must respect their decision. But if you think maybe there's a way to get to an agreement where you both get what you need, perhaps couple's therapy can help.
7) Dress for success
Whether a formal or casual event, you want to give an excellent first impression and dress to the occasion. However, if you or your partner prefer to dress or present in a way that strays from gendered norms, this can be tricky territory.
Gender expression can be shocking for most traditional or conservative folks, so you need to prepare things beforehand if this is your relationship case. You don't want your partner to feel uncomfortable. You don't want to limit or censor their gender expression, so it's best to talk to your family first about your partner's identity or way of expressing yourself.
Letting them know this beforehand and giving them time to process it and understand it can help avoid any shock or surprise when they meet each other.
8) Have an exit plan
For the sake of everyone's safety, it's better if you and your partner define a "safe word" beforehand. This way, you can discreetly let each other know if things turn too uncomfortable and you want to leave.
Knowing that you can just push the "eject" button and get out of there without making it weird or awkward is a great way to go ahead with it with less stress and anxiety.
You can say you have to meet someone else, or that you have an appointment, or somewhere else to be, and play along so you can get out without making anyone feel more uncomfortable.
9) Make sure it's safe for you to take this step
Being open with your sexuality in front of your family is not always safe for LGBTQ+ folk. We talked about being ready for the emotional impact of negative responses by your family when you introduce your queer partner. Still, it can go even worse than that.
In many cases, families can react hostile or even violent. Queer people are at a much higher risk of experiencing homelessness, and it's even worse for people of color. So, if you know your family can react in a way that can make things dangerous for you and your wellbeing, it's better if you think of the safest way to do this or if it's even worth it.
If you know some of your family are intolerant to the LGBTQ+ community, or they showed aversion when you came out, maybe it's not a good idea to introduce your partner to them. You can still present your partner to the family members you know will be accepting or to your chosen family instead.
10) Go at your own pace
Traditional society is not only heterosexist when they say how a relationship should be; it also tends to dictate the ways a relationship should flow and evolve.
They say you're supposed to go on a certain number of dates or see each other for a certain amount of time before you commit. Then meet each other's friends and families, and then move together or get engaged. But the truth is every relationship and its circumstances are different.
It's okay if it takes months or years for you to introduce your partner to your family or to meet your partner's parents. It's also okay if this never happens at all. What matters is that you take the time you need, enjoy the ride, and be ready when you feel you're ready.