I was excited when he suggested that I meet his parents. I, however, panicked given the little knowledge I had of what to do, say and how to conduct myself. Gloria Akech, a relationship counsellor and the chief executive officer of Unchain Your Mind in Ntinda, says one is always filled with fear, anxiety, expectations, and anticipation when meeting in-laws for the first time.
“Keep in mind that both sides experience this. It, therefore, becomes a different story when you actually have to stay with them for some days, for example, during holidays. “This is something we cannot avoid so just being a little prepared is key,” Akech adds.
“Adequately prepare your body (ensure you watch what you eat, ensure you have enough rest, physical fitness is also key), soul (emotions, feelings, thoughts and heart need to be prepared, avoid mood swings), and spirit (intuition, the ability to tap into the spiritual realm so as to understand the timing is key), reveals Jonathan Okiru, a counselling psychologist affiliated to Family Life Network.
“Remember that success in life is all about preparation. As a man, you must in this situation whole heartedly prepare your partner because you alone understands your family more than she does,” he adds.
Tell your parents in advance
Bringing a new partner home with you is exciting. It can, however, be overwhelming for your partner, family and even yourself. So when intending to visit, early notification to the parents is important. “Discuss the visit with your family how long it might take and any dietary needs such as allergies among others. This will enable them to plan accordingly,” explains Evelyn Kharono Lufafa, a counselling psychologist at Talk Therapy Uganda, adding that it is important for you to go an extra mile shop for items such as foods you think might not be available at home.
It is very important to be yourself, Akech adds. “Let people either love and accept or resent you for who you are,” she says.
Discuss with your partner
This involves telling your partner about your family members and their expectations. Lufafa highlights the need to outline those things you think your partner will easily get along with. “Figure out sleeping arrangements in time, as every family has different standards,” she says.
Akech says doing a little study or research on the family or people you are going to spend time with is very much important. “Get to know about their culture, beliefs, and traditions and pay attention to detail as this helps you relate with them accordingly,” explains Akech. In this case, the man should help his partner understand in depth and detail, the kind of family he is from, their likes and dislikes, values and what is expected of her in terms of behaviour.
For example, should she kneel while greeting or should she remain standing,” Okiru says.
Put a pause on PDA
Avoid public display of affection. Not everyone understands this kind of love language, advises Aketch. She says it is safe to keep this for your own privacy. This goes a long with sex. “In case you decide to get intimate while at your in-laws’ home, try so much to keep it silent to avoid embarrassment and also be respectful of the home you are in,” Akech confirms.
Limit your words
Aketch advises that you try to speak less and listen more. Saying too much might lead you into trouble. You would not want to say more than you intend. Okiru advises you to allow your nonverbal communication skills to stand out, your sixth sense and the way you carry your self is key.
Allow yourself to be a lady, be polite, avoid being forceful. Watch your choice of words and the statements you make. Remember your marketing yourself. You need to build and have a lasting impression “a sustaining charm”. Smiles are contagious, keep your genuine smile on.
Avoid engaging in arguments
Arguments are normal to every couple and these are inevitable. However, this is not a good sign if it happens infront of your in-laws. Try your level best to keep your dirty linen out of public.
However, if it goes to the extreme, Lufafa says take some time out and calm yourselves down then return and join the rest of the family. Avoid making the people around you uncomfortable, settle your issues privately. It is also important to stay away from controversial topics including politics.
Have an open mind
Do not ignore small details in relationships. It is the small things that are ignored that end up being major hindrances. Therefore, avoid assumptions. Remember every family does things differently, this should give you room to be flexible, look out for general acceptable behaviour, say Okiru.
However, as you get so much excited about the visit, Akech cautions against going if you are not sure of settling down with this person. “When both of you are on the same page, you work as a team but if it is a trial and error thing, this leaves room for people to easily change their mind about you just in case something goes wrong during the trip,” she notes. Remember, nothing is as strong as a team working closely together.
Have your code as a couple
A couple code is very important in such situations, according to Evelyn Kharono Lufafa, a counselling psychologist at Talk Therapy Uganda. She says that the code is meant to help you communicate something private or important to each other. “It can be, texted a word, you can wink twice or anybody sign and this should be agreed upon before even set off for the holiday,” says Lufafa.
Do not try so much
The sooner everyone understands that you are a visitor and have to adjust slowly, the better. If you push yourself to be part of the family so fast, it might cause some people to put up their boundaries.