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Winning Over Your Partner’s Friends

Feeling nervous about that first meeting with your significant other’s buddies? Here’s how to make a lasting, positive and genuine impression.

 By Lin Peishan

You’ve reached that momentous step in your relationship: Your partner wants you to meet his or her friends. These are the people your partner cares about, and they are an important aspect of his or her life. But even as you’re happy about being introduced to the inner circle, you may be feeling the nerves. Their opinions matter – so what if they don’t like you?

Here’s how to oil the wheels on the coming social gathering and leave a good impression.

1. Don’t sweat it too much

Remember that this is not that big a deal! Most likely, it will just be a casual encounter, no different than meeting new people in any situation. Just bring on your best social game.

“Making the conversation overtly about getting to know (my partner’s) best friend would have been forced and awkward for all of us,” says Ruth Seow, who met her partner’s buddy over lunch. “We just talked and joked like (it was) a normal lunch, so it was comfortable and easy for me to get to know his friend.”

2. Get to know everyone

Ask your partner’s friends about their lives, jobs and interests. This is a good way to get to know them better and show that you’re interested – prompting them to be more open with you too. As a courtesy, they will likely ask you the same questions in return, so they will also have a chance to get to know you.

3. Talk about your partner (yes, really)

If common interests are in short supply, turn to the common denominator and ask your partner’s friends about how they know your partner. This can bring everyone together with stories and light teasing. Nadia Wong, who first met her partner’s friends at a café and admits it was awkward, shares that exchanging stories about her significant other helped break the ice with his friends. “We talked about how he is like with me and they told me how he is like (with them).”

4. Withhold your judgment

Even if some of your partner’s friends come across a little strange or stand-offish, make the effort to be friendly and get to know them. As a newcomer to the group, you most likely don’t know the history between everyone or why your partner regards them as close friends, so try to be open and give them the benefit of the doubt.

5. Tone down displays of affection

Getting cuddly with your significant other in the middle of the gathering is the express train to an awkward social situation. This applies to overly cheesy nicknames as well – save those for your private moments together.

6. Understand that you’re not part of the crew yet – and respect that

Every group of friends has their own rituals and time set aside for one another, such as weekend game nights, monthly get-togethers and so on. Participate and support their activities if they include you, but otherwise let your significant other bond with his or her friends and respect their friendships by not taking your partner’s time away from these activities.

7. Be yourself

Remember that you don’t have to be best buddies with your partner’s friends, so don’t feel pressured to impress them. “(Being friends) is just the cherry on top of the cake – the cake being your relationship – not an obligation,” says Ruth. “Let things take their course and don’t force a friendship.”

More importantly, honesty goes a long way when connecting with other people and building new friendships. “Don’t worry about whether they like you. They’ll know if you’re trying too hard,” advises Lara Teo, who met her partner Ben at university. Be yourself and your partner’s friends will be more likely to warm up to you.

If your partner is the one meeting your friends for the first time…

1. Share background information about your friends

Lara shares that she and Ben both volunteered background information about their friends to each other beforehand, particularly information that could be conversation starters or topics of similar interest, such as how they met their friends and what they do. The couple found that this made both of them feel more confident at the first meeting, even if not all the information was used. 

2. Ease your partner into your social circle

It is less intimidating if he or she is already a little familiar with your friends before meeting them. Lara was already connected with Ben’s best friend on WhatsApp, while Ruth would frequently share casual anecdotes with her partner and best friend about either party before they met – for example, telling her partner about something amusing her best friend had done in class that day. When both parties finally met in person, they were able to chat easily.

3. Always include your partner in the conversation

Little gestures like periodically making eye contact with your significant other even when you’re talking to your friends can make him or her feel acknowledged. Explain any inside jokes, and if you notice the conversation petering out or your partner being left out, steer the conversation towards common interests or something about your partner so he or she can participate.