Meeting the parents can be damn stressful (hence why it’s literally the plot of an entire hit Ben Stiller comedy). That’s why it’s imperative that both you and your partner are thoroughly ready when it happens, because taking it lightly or not thinking it through can result in disaster… not to freak you out or anything.
Families are naturally protective of their members, which can lead to premature judgments about whether or not the person they’re meeting is up to par for their beloved son or daughter. Plus, the whole situation can become awkward for you two if you’re not sure where your relationship is headed.
To avoid getting caught in an embarrassing or uncomfortable meet-the-parents scenario, skim these 11 signs that it’s way too soon for you or your S.O. to be hanging with each other’s families.
You Haven’t Been Dating Long Enough
While you may be planning your bridal registry on date three, s/he may still be wondering what to do on date four. “Although some couples know sooner and some later, by at least 12 weeks you should both know if you’re indeed interested in something long-term,” says June Em, a dating coach and the author of Love Lessons from a Lap Dancer. If you’re not there yet, hold off.
You Don’t Feel Secure in the Relationship
If you wake up every morning asking yourself, “What are we? Where are we headed?” it’s definitely too early to be meeting families. “It’s important that a relationship feel secure to both people before they meet each other’s parents,” says Antonia Hall, a psychologist, relationship expert and author of the Sexy Little Guide books. “If you’re uncertain about where things are headed, adding parental introductions is only going to add pressure to the still blossoming relationship.”
You Can’t Answer Questions About the Relationship
Do you know their birthday? Their favorite food? Do you know enough about each other that there will be no surprises when parents ask? Take a moment to picture yourselves in that situation, suggests Julie Amann, a professional matchmaker with It’s Just Lunch in Madison, WI. “If you have no idea what you’ll say to his or her family when they start firing questions at you—it’s too soon.” Sitting at the dinner table with his/her mother and explaining that you barely know anything about them can be pretty awkward.
You Haven’t Met Each Other’s Friends
Introduction to friends is a better way to test the waters of compatibility than to launch into meeting the family, says Hall. “Knowing that you have your partner’s friends’ approval strengthens the bond between you, which will translate into a more secure partnership when you do meet each other’s parents.”
You Have Opposite Political Views
Some people can’t help but bring up politics over dinner or during any getting-to-know-you conversation. Relationship expert Stef Safran says the political climate is heated and plenty of families are already butting heads over these issues, let alone bringing someone new into the mix whose views may not match up. “The last thing you need is to bring your S.O. over and have a political argument during first meeting.”
There’s Pressure to Attend Family Gatherings
If it feels like it’s going to be too much—like, you know, an extended family reunion where all 30 of your aunts, uncles, and cousins will be present—then politely decline because you’re clearly not ready for this. “On the flip side, ask yourself why it’s so important for you to bring home that new guy or gal you’re dating,” says Amann. “Is it to avoid ‘looking’ single in front of family and friends? Thrusting that new person into a family situation is stressful and could send a budding relationship into a nosedive. Be clear on your own motives.”
You’re Not Sure About Your Future
Maybe you made plans to meet families before coming to the realization that s/he is not the best person for you. Regardless, Em says, “if you argue so much you’re an emotional wreck half the time, if you secretly resent your partner to the point where you are a simmering cauldron of passive aggressiveness, or if you’re just not sure they’re the one for you, call it off. Say you don’t think this is the right time.” If you doubt you’re going to last, don’t drag family into it.
You’ve Brought Several Other Partners Home
Sometimes parents don’t have much dating experience or haven’t been there in so long that they just don’t get the intricacies of the modern dating scene. “Many people who have been coupled up for long time forget that singles date a lot more people to find ‘the one,’” says Safran. “If you know that your parents might complain that you bring too many people around them, better to hold back and let more time pass before you introduce them.”
You’re Not Exclusive Yet
If you’re still swiping right and texting flirty messages with others, it’s too soon to make parental introductions because it’s clear you’re not exclusive yet, says Hall. Meeting the family can give off the impression that you are exclusive, and while your relationship status is ultimately your business, you also want to avoid having parents jump to conclusions about the seriousness of your situation.
You Haven’t Told Your Parents Much About Him or Her
Have you even told your family that you’re seeing someone? Does your partner’s family know about you? If you’ve barely mentioned the fact that you’re seeing someone, it’ll be kind of awkward to just show up at their house feeling like a complete stranger. Give your parents, siblings, or whoever they’ll be meeting a basic briefing of who this person is and what they mean to you before you bring them into a situation together.
There’s Still Talk About the Ex
If either of your families still brings up the ex and how great they were, it’s not a good time to bring home a new partner. Wait until the ex is completely out of everyone’s minds. Families can get attached and may compare someone new to someone old. It’s just not fair to you or your partner.