Meeting your parent's partner

21:22, Sep 06 2012

The first time my father met EK he started quizzing him quick-fire while plying him with whisky.

You know when politicians debate on television there's that little worm at the bottom of the screen that goes up and down with public opinion? Well, my father started up one of those over the dinner table with his finger while he questioned a nervous EK.

A good answer (yes, I went to a Catholic school), the worm rose. A bad answer (no, I'm not Catholic), the worm dropped.

By the time we got to "What was your first car?" (answer: a Morris 1300) the worm had well and truly dipped below the table line.

All things considered - he did wake a hungover EK up at the crack of dawn the next morning and force him to go for a gruelling hill jog - it wasn't a bad first meeting. (You only have to think of Ben Stiller awkwardly answering a lie detector test and spray painting a cat to know how really bad it can get.)

A lot of time is spent discussing an appropriate way to meet the parents. But what about the situation in reverse - meet the parent's partner.

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Last weekend, my brother and I met my dad's new girlfriend. My parents have been separated since I was six, so let's just say it was not an entirely foreign concept to me.

When I was younger it was a bit of a different experience. The woman wouldn't be introduced outright as a "girlfriend", but just as a friendly lady who happened to often show up during dinner bearing cheesecake.

After a few shopping trips (looking back these were probably paid for with Dad's credit card) and some junk food, we accepted her presence.

These days, it's a more straightforward process. Dinner, a drink, a chat and it's done. In fact, they usually feel a lot more uncomfortable than I am.

With so many marriages ending in divorce these days, a lot more people will be forced to meet their parent's partners. The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who has also had quite a few of these first encounters over the years.

Since the situation is increasingly common, we came up with some tips for meeting your partner's grown-up children that I thought I'd share with you:

* Skip the cliched "I'm not trying to replace your mother" speech. I know you're not, and I find it insulting you assume I'm not mature enough to put my loyalty to my mother ahead of my father's potential happiness.

* In saying that, it's important to remember I'm also not your daughter. I appreciate your advice in the same way I appreciate advice from a friend or co-worker. Give me your honest opinion, but don't lecture me - especially as we may not be as far apart in age as you might imagine!

* We don't have to be best friends. You don't have to lie and tell me you love Twilight so we can bond on a best-buds level. In fact, I hate Twilight just as much as you probably do. I want to hear about your real interests, not what you think will help us get along better.

* Please don't tell me how attractive you find my dad. You may think he's "a bit of alright", and that's cool, but he's still my dad. To me, he'll always be that guy who still wears tiny stubbies from the 80s and snores when he falls asleep on the couch. Keep your love life on the down low in front of the offspring.

* On a similar note, don't complain to me about my dad. I'm your partner's daughter, not your friend, and I'm not an appropriate person to confide in with your relationship issues.

* Most importantly, just be yourself. Sure, the situation can be initially awkward, but if everyone is friendly and mature about it then it's probably going to be ok. We don't have to love each other, but we are going to have to deal with each other on a relatively frequent basis, so let's just get to know each other on an adult-to-adult basis.

But back to last weekend, Dad's new lady seems nice and we all chatted easily over dinner. I am pleased to say she didn't break any of the above and I look forward to meeting her again.

There was no milking or spray-painting of cats and I'm confident that if I had started a worm, it wouldn't have dipped below the table line.

Have you ever met your parent's partner? How'd it go? Do you have a horror story of your parents meeting your partner? Comment below, email me at anna.turner@press.co.nz or follow me on Twitter.

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