As we grow older, the anxiety which surrounds meeting a significant other’s parents becomes replaced over time with the anxiety of another important meeting: the grown children of the man you have come to care about. While making a good first impression is always important, endearing yourself to his adult daughters may take time as they get used to having you in their dad's life.
Anticipate and prepare yourself for an initial discomfort on both sides. Just because your boyfriend's children are adults does not mean they won’t have conflicted feelings about their parent’s divorce and subsequent dating. Prepare yourself for a bit of awkwardness and don’t allow it to catch you off guard.
Be kind, understanding that they may be grappling with loyalty toward their mother as they attempt to determine how they feel about you, explains Wednesday Martin, writer and social researcher, in an article for Psychology Today. Recognize signs of aloofness as being symptomatic of that loyalty, and try not to take it too personally.
Be friendly and warm toward them. At the same time, don’t make the mistake of pushing yourself too aggressively upon them. If your boyfriend’s daughters are already struggling with how to interact with you, feeling pressured will only make them more uncomfortable. Be inviting, but let them warm up to you on their terms; don’t attempt to insert yourself directly into their lives.
Use open-ended questions to get conversations going, and don’t be afraid of addressing any concerns his daughters may have about the state of your relationship. Recognize that even adults may not always be forthcoming with their feelings and questions, and be prepared to initiate deeper conversations, suggests Susan Newman, social psychologist and author, in the Match.com article “Dating Advice for Singles with Adult Children.
Look for points of commonality that you can bond over, even as conversations are progressing during that first meeting. Talk to your boyfriend ahead of time about some of the interests his daughters have, and try to find something you have in common to talk about. Suggest getting together to visit a local museum if you find you all appreciate art, or talk about a recent football game that you were equally invested in.
Insist upon respect, and show his daughters the same respect you hope they will give you suggests national nonprofit Helpguide.org in the article “Guide to Step-Parenting & Blended Families.” Discomfort does not give anyone an excuse for rudeness, and if things start to get heated or begin crossing a line, it is okay for you to separate yourself from the situation.
Give them time to warm up to you. It can be difficult, even for adult children, to adjust to the idea of their father dating, but as they come to recognize you as an important part of their father’s life,they will hopefully start expressing more of an interest in getting to know you. Focus on creating a healthy relationship with your boyfriend, so that his daughters can at least see how much happiness you bring into his life.
Living in Alaska, Leah Campbell has traveled the world and written extensively on topics relating to infertility, dating, adoption and parenting. She recently released her first book, and holds a psychology degree (with an emphasis in child development and abnormal child psychology) from San Diego State University.
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