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5 Signs to Know If Your Significant Other's Parents Like You

Meeting parents for the first time can be tense, but look for the like signals.

Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/123RF
Source: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/123RF

Meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time is a big deal. I know. I’ve had several of those meetings myself. I’m also old enough to have met my sons and daughter’s significant others for the first time. Those first meetings were more intense because I was a behavioral analyst for the FBI. This fact often turned the meetings into well-choreographed encounters. After the first meetings, the feedback I got from my children was that their significant others were not sure if my wife and I liked them. In some cases, we didn’t like the person they brought home, but in most cases we did. The anxiety of not knowing can be alleviated if you watch for key verbal and nonverbal cues that your significant other’s parents like you or dislike you. Since most first meetings are more formal, observing subtle cues can differentiate expected good manners and politeness from genuine liking.

1. Parents like you if they are attentive

People who like one another engage the people they like and tend to ignore the people they don’t like. If one parent assumes the duties of the gracious host and the other parent is watching television, working on the computer, or is otherwise engaged when your significant other is present, then that sends a strong signal that either one or both parents don’t like your significant other. If I like the person my child brings home, I will take an active interest in them. I will sit with them at the kitchen table and give them my full attention. I will make sure they have enough to eat and drink. I will actively take a personal interest in what they say and do.

2. Parents like you if they ask a lot of questions

People who like other people are curious. They want to know all about the person they like, especially when they meet someone for the first time. If I like the person my son or daughter brings home, I will ask a lot of questions about what the person does, where they grow up, what their future goals are, how they spend their spare time, and how did they first meet my son or daughter. Answering a barrage of questions may seem like the third degree and signal dislike, but this is not the case. Think about the first time you meet a person you liked. I’ll bet you asked and answered 100 questions in order to get to know the person better. The more I like a person, the more questions I ask them.

3. Parents like you if they talk about you meeting other family members

A good sign that parents like your significant other is when they reference future meetings with absent family members. This reference indicates that first, the parents anticipate a future meeting with your significant other and second, your parents are visualizing your significant other being integrated into the family.

4. Parents who like you will make an “Introduction Plus”

If your significant other attends a social gathering or a family function and the parents make an “Introduction plus,” then that indicates that they like your significant other. For example, “This is Tim. He’s Brooke’s boyfriend. He’s a lawyer from San Francisco” is an introduction plus personal descriptives. First, the parents acknowledge acceptance by associating you with your significant other. Second, the parents want others to know what your significant other does. Compare the “Introduction Plus” with a simple introduction. For example, “This is Tim.” There is no acknowledgment as to how Tim is associated with the family or any acknowledgment of who Tim is as a person. This type of introduction is not a good sign. The worst way a parent can introduce a significant other is by referencing past relationships. For example, “This is Tim. He’s Brooke’s new boyfriend. Did I tell you she broke up with Frank? We really liked him.” This type of introduction serves as a huge red flag that your parents don’t like your new significant other.

5. Parents like you if they make specific plans to meet again

Making future plans signal that parents like your significant other. People who don’t like someone will not make future plans with them much less suggest the possibility for fear the person they don’t like may accept. These invitations typically occur as you and your significant other are walking toward the door. Goodbyes that signal acceptance usually include comments such as “We are looking forward to seeing you at Christmas. We’ll hang a stocking with your name on it on the mantel,” “We’re having a birthday party next week, please come,” or “We’re having a barbecue next week. We’d love to have you attend.” Specific invitations to future events, especially family gatherings, is a definite like signal. Another like signal is when both parents walk your significant other to the door to say goodbye. The like signal becomes stronger if one or both parents walk your significant other out the door and to the car.

For more information on how to build, maintain, and repair relationships, refer to The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over.

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