introducing friends and family to significant other

Introducing your close-knit circle to someone you are dating is nothing short of a big deal. After all, these are the people who know you better than anyone else and whom you spend the majority of your free time with—allowing your significant other to get to know these all-important folks means taking your relationship to the next level. It also gives your friends and family the chance to give you feedback—either a thumbs up or, potentially (and hopefully not), a thumbs down when it comes to their opinion about your selection of a partner. “No matter how good or bad your significant other is, your friends should always know who you're involved with and what role they play in your life,” says Professor Keba Richmond Green, psychotherapist and relationship expert. “Your friends and family are also good sounding boards, so let them be your sounding board, and give you constructive, reasonable advice on your relationship with boundaries.”

No matter how serious or casual of a setting in which you choose to bring your significant other into your inner circle, taking some of these cues from relationship experts might help for a seamless introduction.

Introduce them one or two at a time.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed and watered down when meeting a crew of a significant other, explains Gail Saltz, M.D., psychiatrist and associate professor of psychiatry at The New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine. “Most people will do better to get one on one time to get to have reasonable conversations and interactions,” she says. “If you care about your significant other meeting your friends, truly, then add one or maybe two for the meeting and allow enough time that the very first impression is not the whole impression.” This will allow both sides the necessary time to warm up and have meaningful talk.

Avoid the drive by.

Getting to know someone requires time—and you certainly want to allow for that during such an important meeting like introducing your friends and family to your significant other. “Dropping by for a quick drink isn’t a great way to meet and connect, nor is a movie where you don’t speak,” says Dr. Saltz. She recommends planning an event such as brunch of dinner reservations or some kind of activity that provides ample opportunity for discussion. “If you want your friends and significant other to like each other, they need a chance to drill down while talking to each other,” she adds.

Steer conversation away from hot-button topics.

If you know there is a topic that will illicit fireworks, like, ahem, discussions surrounding politics, Dr. Saltz says that it is okay to preface both parties ahead of time that they should steer clear of this subject, at least at first. “After a relationship is built, disagreements are easier to handle, but it is not a great way to be off to the races,” she says. “While alone with each, let them know this is content its best to avoid at meeting number one.”

Let each party know how much the other party means to you.

Of course, you’re looking for this meeting to be successful, so it can’t hurt to tell each party ahead of time how important it is to you that this goes well. This, Dr. Saltz says, is a way to set them up for success. “By telling each that they are really important to you, and the person they are about to meet is too, you work the likelihood they will make an effort and feel good feelings that much higher,” she adds.