I'm not a very anxious person. (Coworkers and friends have actually called me a "calming presence" many times.) But my cucumber cool exterior melts away as soon as I'm in a relationship. Suddenly, I'm tasked with making sure this person finds me interesting (and, tbh, most of the time I don't feel very interesting).
But making a good impression on a new S.O.'s friends is even harder because, let's be real here, friends are a major litmus test for a relationship.
That's why I was basically hyperventilating two weeks ago when my new girlfriend's childhood best friends rolled into town. They have the rare and magical kind of friendship that survives middle school awkwardness, the end of high school, the self-exploration of college years, and moving to different states. Meredith, Jennifer, and Erica are so close that "friends" doesn't really feel like a strong enough word to describe them. "Soulmates" might be more accurate.
So, if Jennifer and Erica didn't like me, I knew our relationship would be doomed (hence why I turned into an anxious puddle). But, honestly, I probably shouldn't have been so concerned. "We tend to put a lot of stock into first impressions. But in the grand scheme of things, the first meeting doesn't ultimately matter," says dating coach Adam Maynard. Just like going on a first date, meeting a partner's friends for the first time is kind of like an interview. It's almost impossible to learn more than the basics of someone's personality, especially because so many of us are on edge.
"It's only natural to be nervous because we know our significant other's friends are probably going to be scrutinizing us," Maynard says. But, it's important to remember that scrutiny from their friends probably won't have a huge impact on how your partner sees you, even if their friends find you boring, dull, and think that your partner can do better (aka, all of the fears that ran through my mind). While your partner will put some stock into what their friends think about you, it shouldn't sway them enough to make a major change in your relationship, says dating coach Diana Mandell. "It's a difficult place to be because certainly we respect and value our closest friends' opinions about everything in life, particularly relating to a partner," she says. "But, they'll remember that they are dating you, not their friends."
Of course, if your partner and their friends are as close as Jennifer and Erica are to Meredith, the stakes can feel a little higher. "Some friends' feelings about a partner are, shall we say, 'purer' than others," Mandell says. So, your partner's BFF will definitely have more sway than a work friend. Before meeting them, Maynard suggests pre-explaining any awkward behavior that might pop up during their friends' visit. "Just say, 'Hey, I'm nervous because I really care about you and I want to be introduced into this important part of your life in a way that goes smoothly,'" he says. So, if you happen not to connect with your partner's friends on the first meeting, at least your partner has some sense of why.
Still, there's a good chance you'll get along with your S.O.'s friends, anyway. Because their friends are kind of like an extension of them. "You have similar personalities and similar interests, whatever that connecting factor is, chances are you'll click with them just because you have someone in common who you both really care about," Maynard says.
So if you're freaking out over meeting your S.O.'s friends, give yourself a break. You don't have to be perfect. "This is not a performance with all eyeballs staring at you," Mandell says. Remember that the interview goes both ways, and you aren't the only one who has to make a good impression. Your partner's friends are like a window into their personality, and hanging out with all of them together might even show you a side of your partner that you've never seen. So, instead of focusing on how your partner's friends feel about you, Mandell suggests focusing on how you feel about them. "It could help you determine whether or not this could be the right person for you," she says.