7 steps to (successfully) introducing your lesbian partner to your family

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Our backgrounds are as diverse as the colors in the rainbow pride flag.

However, when introducing your lesbian partner to your family for the first time, there are some key pointers to keep in mind that could help almost anyone.  If your family is exceptionally accepting or even gay themselves — Congratulations!  You may not need the following advice.  But, this article may help someone you know.

There are already a lot of tips out there for what to do when we introduce our girlfriends to our families.  But, how useful are these articles?

The common trend has been to protect our feelings, rather than useful advice that will actually work.  Although some of the guidance in those articles are wonderful, here we specifically make it a point to acknowledge the bigger picture.

The following was not written for those who came here to be coddled.  This list was created with the goal of helping you successfully connect with family using a realistic approach.

The following was not written for those who came here to be coddled.  This list was created with the goal of helping you successfully connect with family using a realistic approach.

Even if that means getting your feelings hurt.

 

Things you’ll want to keep in mind…

Trust us.  We’ve been there, done that.

 

1. Respect for your family is 100% necessary.

Unless you want dinner to look like an episode of  the Jerry Springer Show, this is the time to amp up your manners.  If your girlfriend openly hates your family and plans to stir up conflict, this might not be a great time to introduce your relatives to your romantic partner.  Same goes for you.  Challenging them constantly isn’t going to make them like her or your sexuality.  This is their first real experience with you and a same-sex partner, so be mindful of how her behavior will impact their impressions.  If you sense that there will be a major personality clash between your girlfriend and your family, giving her the rundown on their beliefs and boundaries might help her prepare for the meeting.

 

2. You two aren’t the only people in the room.

It’s easy to make this situation all about you.  The reality is that other people are involved.  Your parents didn’t develop their perspective of the world in one day.  Who they are right now took their entire lives.  Expecting them to suddenly change isn’t only unrealistic, it’s not fair.  Despite the many injustices the collective gay community has faced, the answer to creating a harmonious relationship with one another will never be to aggressively disconnect.  Reflect on your family’s own upbringings, their own personal struggles that they have overcome, the type of social norms that they were reinforced to believe as the only acceptable forms of living.  Once you’ve reached your own state of compassion towards their lives, you have made progress towards a peaceful understanding of one another.

 

3. This isn’t a political rally.

Open-mindedness doesn’t usually happen overnight.  Family dinner is not the place to bring your “DYKE POWER” protest sign.  Tell your girlfriend to save your vag-etarian shirt for the next time her straight friends drag her to a hetero-dominated music festival.  Shouting “homophobe!” across the table after scarfing down mashed potatoes won’t improve the situation.  Forcing your family to bite off more than they can chew expresses a lack of respect towards their own unique individual experiences which shaped them.  It sucks that your natural state-of-being happens to be an inconvenient discomfort to your relatives, but feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to mend their discrimination.  A gentle introduction will be a lot more effective.

 

4. Your parents are the reason you exist.

They gave birth to you or adopted you or raised you, after all.  Whether you agree fully with their methods is another subject entirely.  The fact of the matter is — they are the reason you are alive.  Have you ever heard of the phrase “Kill them with kindness?”  Gratitude will get you everywhere.  This is not the time to start dissecting your parent’s negative effects on your psychological health.  On some level, we’re all victims.  However, this isn’t the time nor place to start your therapy session.  Focus on the matter at hand and keep your mind in a place filled with reasons to appreciate your parents.  You’re going to need to keep revisiting it whenever your parents accidentally say extremely insensitive statements that make your blood curdle.  If it’s the result of a lack of knowledge, their ignorance shouldn’t be confused for malice.  They simply need your kind understanding and some gentle educating.   On the flip side, if they are ill-intended you may be tempted to dispute, but it won’t improve the emotional climate.  Don’t take the bait.

 

5. Awkward tension is one step towards acceptance.

Change is rarely comfortable for anyone.  Even if you have already come out of the closet and your family has accepted your sexuality in theory, it simply isn’t the same as confronting them with your lesbian lover sitting right in front of them.  They gave birth to a homosexual child and this is something that they will come to terms with in their own time.  Don’t expect it to happen right now while your mom spends too much time awkwardly talking about everything except your relationship.  The avoidance of talking about the topic by mom and inappropriate questions about your  relationship from Uncle Tony is a necessary step toward it eventually becoming a normal part of your lives.  You will probably get asked “Who wears the pants?” or even “How does lesbian sex work?”  Feel free to answer earnestly or simply respond, “That’s private.”  This is also a great opportunity to gently educate them without judgement (i.e. “We both wear pants in the relationship and neither of us are ‘the man’ because we’re both women.  Homosexual relationships don’t always have the same gender dynamics as heterosexual relationships.”)  I would probably describe my own relationship as “We’re best friends who also romantically love each other.”  However you handle their remarks, appreciating their failed attempts to connect with you is the best way to thank them for trying.

 

6. Deep down, they love you.

If your family doesn’t immediately accept your girlfriend (or you), give them time.  The reality of you and your partner being in a same-sex relationship may be difficult for them to grasp but now that they have been confronted with an actual person you may be surprised with how their heart changes.  Despite anything hurtful they may say in the heat of the moment, they do love you and will likely come around with due time.   If they are Westboro Baptist Church level of conservative, then it may be extra challenging to retrieve any form of validation or acceptance.  In this case, it is unrealistic for you to expect it from them.  However, this doesn’t mean there is no hope.  Even Megan Phelps-Roper had a change of heart.

 

7. If all else fails, you two have each other.

There is still hope.  Patience is a virtue.  In the meantime, you’ve still got the strength both of you give each other.  No one else’s approval or disapproval can touch the happiness you feel being freely in love with one another.  Take time to nurture each other after the meeting if it doesn’t go as well as you expected.  Spend a moment talking about one another’s feelings about how the meeting went and determine how you plan to include your girlfriend into your family gatherings in the future, based on how things went.  Celebrate the meeting regardless of the outcome.  You both took an action that supported normalizing homosexuality in society — and that is a selfless act that is greater than any of our own individual personal achievements.

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