Impressing and Amazing Your Girlfriend’s Family
Growing up, I had two uncles on my mother's side of the family, both of them married to my mother's sisters. These two uncles were on opposite sides of the spectrum when it came to how the family felt about them: one of them was beloved and could do no wrong, while the other was thought of as a rascal.
Never mind the fact that the beloved uncle spent more time playing video games and guitar than he did with his wife and kids, or that the rascal was the consummate family man. Even before these men married into the family, their impressions were set in stone.
What does it take to impress a girlfriend's family? It certainly isn't many of the things you'd think would be it.
It isn't your job - that can win you some points, but they're often grudging points.
It isn't how good your conversation is, either.
In fact, it's something very different from what a lot of men seem to think it is.
I was riding in the passenger seat of my girlfriend's brother-in-law's car. They'd picked us up at the airport, and we were off on a two-hour drive to their hometown. The family didn't know much about me, and weren't so sure about the sound of me based on what they'd heard of me from my girlfriend. I wasn't walking into as ready a reception as I'd had the last time I'd met a girl's family, when I'd already been the subject of glowing praise prior to ever meeting them in the flesh.
"Are you nervous?!" asked my girlfriend's sister, leaning forward in the car. She was every bit as energetic and bouncy as my girlfriend was, with an even more dominating personality. I could hear the smile on her face. Slowly I turned my head to look at her.
"No," she said, as soon as our eyes met. "You're not nervous."
I just smiled slyly, nodded my head once, and turned back around to face forward again.
She spent much of the next hour or so in the car asking me probing questions, and also joking around with me. Eventually she started telling me I was handsome, and smart, and then spent the rest of the ride catching up with her sister.
Once we met up with the rest of the family, I soon saw that the elder sister I'd just met was clearly the (clever and attractive) bulldog of the family; she was its protector and self-appointed leader.
And now that I'd won her over, she went around singing my praises to the rest of the family, and I had little work to do the rest of my trip there.
Wanting You to Be Different Things
The reason that a lot of men struggle with girlfriends' families is because women and their families want different things for them.
When I was still new to the social arts, I received a piece of advice that if you have a woman in your workplace or social circle whom you don't want to date (because it'd get too messy) but who has pretty friends you WOULD like to date, just be a cool-but-safe guy around her. She'll say to herself, "Well, he's WAY too nice and un-edgy for ME, but he'd be PERFECT for my friend/sister Sally!"
Then, when your friend or coworker fixes you up with Sally, show up
for the date with Sally with your "bad boy" charm on full effect
and your "nice guy" vibe dialed down to
zero. Sally, who's expecting to be fixed up with yet another safe, boring nice guy,
will instead be very pleasantly surprised.
And herein lies the strange dichotomy between what women want for themselves, and what everybody else wants for them:
For herself, a girl wants a wild, sexy, exciting, untamable man
For their friends / sisters / daughters, other people want a stable, reliable, dependable, safe, cool-but-not-too-cool man
So you'll have situations like a woman recommending a "safe" man for her sister, while dating a "dangerous" man herself, while the sister rejects the "safe" man because he's too safe for her, and recommends her sister to stop dating such "dangerous" herself and date safer instead.
Families (and friends) are weird like that.
In linguistics, there's a term called "code-switching." Code-switching is defined as the switching between two or more languages or dialects in a single conversation. Many black athletes can be heard doing this quite frequently; you'll see them in interviews before or after a game speaking Standard English, then switch into black vernacular to address a black teammate when he comes into the locker room, then switch back into Standard English again as attention is turned back to the reporter and cameraman.
When you're dealing with a woman's friends and family, you'll have the easiest time when you're good at "behavior code-switching." That is to say, while you want to be the edgy bad boy around your girl, you definitely don't want to be the edgy bad boy around your girl's family or friends.
But isn't this being untrue to yourself? you might ask. Well... do you act the same way around all of:
- Close friends
- Police officers
- Strangers on the street
- Women you've just met
- Long-term girlfriends
Probably not, right? You treat your friends a little different than you treat your boss or a police officer. That's because these are different people with different expectations of you.
So, you change your behavior - you code-switch, so to speak.
You show a different side of your personality to each of those people.
And if you want both your girlfriend to like you, and her family to, too, you're going to want to do the same thing here as well.
Having solid fundamentals applies as much with girlfriends' families as it does with girlfriends themselves.
Families still like you to be:
Fashionable and well-dressed (though not too edgy - go for clean cut)
Graceful and effortless in your actions, movements, and deeds
Humble and not overly intimidating or showboat-y
However, there are some key differences in how you interact with them that will diverge quite a bit from how you interact with your girlfriends themselves, or with other people you might meet socially.
Power Dynamics in Families
From "Father–daughter relationship as a moderator of sexual imprinting: a facialmetric study", published in Evolution and Human Behavior in 2007:
“This study investigated sexual imprinting in human females. Facial proportions of fathers were compared to the proportions of stimulus faces the participants found attractive. Women who rated their childhood relationships with their father highly showed a significantly stronger relationship between the proportions of their father's face and their chosen stimulus than other women, primarily concerning the central face area. Women who rated their fathers less highly did not show similarity between fathers' and stimulus' faces. This supports previous research using photographs of parents' and spouses' faces.”
If you're selecting as girlfriends women who come from good, strong, happy, healthy families (and if you're selecting a long-term girlfriend on anything, you should be selecting on this), you're going to find that you and her father are a lot alike.
That's because women with good relationships with their fathers date men who look like their fathers and remind them of their fathers.
At least in my case, that usually means solid, powerful, skeptical
fathers, who are warm but also very closely monitoring you, and are
used to being in charge. I suspect if you're reading this site and
you're the kind of man who lifts himself up by his bootstraps to
improve his lot in life, you (and the fathers of the women you end up
with) won't be too dissimilar to this either.
If you're not running into fathers like this, you may not have anything to worry about... but if you are, it's important to be wary of the power dynamics here.
Unless he's the most relaxed man in the world (and even if he's acting like it, he's probably not), there are certain things you need to be aware of when meeting a woman's father, especially when the family is strong and happy (i.e., not run by a weak father, or by the mother):
- He is and likes feeling like the head of the household
- He's going to be carefully examining whomever his children bring home
- He's going to be looking for vices more than virtues
- He's going to be paying attention to how you treat everyone in the family
Normally, the mother plays the role of warmer nurturer - she's just happy to see you. If her daughter likes you, you must be wonderful; now come on in and have some supper. Dad, meanwhile, is smiling, but keeping his eye on you.
In some families, the mother takes on this dominant / skeptical role, in which case the roles can be somewhat reversed. However, if you're dating women from strong families, you won't run into this much or at all.
Some families also have a secondary leader / screener, or even a self-appointed point person on evaluating new candidates for inclusion in the family. In the case of the girlfriend I mentioned above, it was the elder sister; however, other girlfriends' families I met did not have another point person like this, or the daughter/sister I was with was the point person who handled the family evaluations. In my experience, this point person is always a female, although that may be because I prefer strong / independent women. If you date more submissive women, you may have a girlfriend with a brother playing the evaluator role in the family.
The order that you must win over family members is usually:
- Point person first
- Everybody else but the head of the household
- Head of the household last
Impressing Your Girlfriend's Family
As soon as you meet your girlfriend's family, your focus needs to be on locating and bonding with the point person / evaluator, if there is such a person, and if that person is not your girlfriend. If your girlfriend is the point person, or there is no point person, you can proceed to winning over the family overall.
How do you identify the point person? Well, she'll:
- Ask you a lot of questions
- Be a mix of warmly welcoming and a little skeptical
- Be a lot more interested in you than anybody else is
Once you've won her over, she'll treat you like her younger brother, giving you advice and helping you the same way she helps other members of the family.
Her acceptance means everyone else in the family feels a lot warmer to you automatically; the point person holds a lot of sway among the family.
How do you win her over?
It's a mix of:
Solid fundamentals: you want to be attractive, so she can say, "I see why she likes him"
Being calm and humble: while you'd be these things somewhat with your girl, you'll tone it down further and be less arrogant around her family, and especially the point person. Because she is used to being dominant, she will compete with you and dislike you if she feels like you are fighting for dominance. So don't fight. Let her be dominant and let her act like your older sister. She'll enjoy looking out for you and giving you lessons on life, and if she feels like you are a dominant guy but you let her act higher than you, it's a status boost for both of you - you clearly "get" the family hierarchy and are welcome aboard, and she gets to have some sway over a man as strong as you.
Don't be afraid to joke around, but keep it PG: humor is good here, and if you have a good wit have no fear of using it. However, keep it relatively non-edgy / non-sexual, even if she goes there. If she goes there a lot, you can dial it up somewhat... but don't go as far as she does. Let her be the edgier one, and you a bit less. If she makes edgy / sexual jokes, just smile, nod, shrug your eyebrows as if to say, "Well, yeah, you got me there..."
... these apply to all family members, but are of critical importance with the point person.
Of importance across the board are that you:
Communicate stability: just as you want to stay away from too much stability with your girlfriend to prevent her ever feeling like she's "got" you, and, thus, losing interest, with your girlfriend's family you want to do the opposite - you want to communicate that you're a reasonably stable, reliable, dependable guy. So don't go talking about how much you like to party or all the trips you take without your girlfriend or anything like that. Be a family man around her family.
Offer your help: one of the things I picked up from that beloved uncle of mine was how freely and frequently he offered his help whenever at family gatherings: he'd offer to wash the dishes, he'd help my grandmother with her coat or belongings, he'd help bring the food into the dining room when it was ready. And he still spent most of the time at family gatherings relaxing and watching television or talking. It was just that, a few times scattered throughout a gathering, he'd offer to do something nice to help out; sometimes he would, or sometimes the family would tell him, "No, no - it's fine! Just relax and enjoy yourself." Sometimes he'd listen, or other times he would insist and go pitch in. The "rascal" of an uncle almost never did this.
I started doing this too, just little things, when with girlfriend's families - everyone would start eating while the mother was in the kitchen, and I'd ask if we weren't going to wait for her; I'd help with the dishes after; when driving through a tight squeeze in a back alley with snow piled on either side one time with a girlfriend's family, I jumped out to wave the car through. Nothing amazing here, but these are the things that have my girlfriends' families quickly saying, "Wow! Chase is great!" I get the impression most guys just kind of sit there and wait for the families to take charge in most situations.
There's one other vital element as well: respecting the power dynamic.
We mentioned it above with the point person; it's also true with the head of the household (usually your girlfriend's father).
Getting to Know Her Dad
When you first meet him, be polite, but don't go out of your way to engage him heavily in conversation; he's still skeptical about you. Let him watch how you interact with and treat his family, and how they respond to you. If he sees you treating the other family members well, and sees them liking you, and hears them praising you, he will begin to warm up to you without even having much direct interaction with you.
The aim here is to lay the foundation for him having a good opinion
of you, without you chasing
that opinion. Because he is the dominant individual, you chasing after
him will feel off and try-hard.
Instead, you must let him come to you.
Once you've won over the point person and the rest of a girl's family, you'll find her father will begin to make small offerings toward you - giving you a gift, or offering you extra food at a meal, or inviting you somewhere. Accept, even if you don't really want the gift or that isn't your kind of food. This is how he bridges some of the distance between you, and welcomes you more fully into the tribe.
Can You Ever Fully Be "Family"?
I still have pretty good relationships with my ex-girlfriends' families, and my ex-girlfriends still have pretty good relationships with my family, too. Even after we've split up, it feels to me like I'm still part of their families, and they feel like they're still part of mine.
That said, I'm skeptical that you ever fully become part of a girl's family.
In fact, I feel like the most "pure" familial relationship you can have with a girl's family is after you've broken up with her. At that point, there's no more hidden agenda; they're not keeping an eye on you to see if you change, or if you're all style and no substance. They only stay in contact with you if they like being in contact with you, because the relationship is no more.
However, you can certainly have pretty strong, good, healthy bonds with a girlfriend's family, even while you're still together with her - but they will always have their eyes on you just a little bit, so do be on good behavior ;)
Get Your FREE eBook on Texting Girls
Sign up for our email insights series and get a copy of our popular ebook “How to Text Girls” FREE. Learn more ...
Trying to piece together a seduction strategy bit-by-bit, article-by-article, question-by-question? Stop killing yourself doing it the slow and difficult way - and get it all spelled out for you instead, in detail, in exactly the order you need to learn it... with homework, too.
With our complete mastery pick up package, you'll get our 406-page how-to eBook How to Make Girls Chase, our 63-minute long video Spellbinding: Get Her Talking, and 3 hours of audio training - all for less than the price of the book and video alone.
Quit banging your head against the wall - get it now, to speed your learning curve up dramatically... and start really getting the women you want to want you too. You can go right here to get started and be downloading your programs in minutes: How to Be a Pick Up Artist.