Several years ago, I had a somewhat rude awakening when my older brother was the best man at a longtime friend’s wedding. During his speech, he referred to me as “the Simon Cowell of sisters.” While the guests laughed at the reference to American Idol’s infamous critic, I was horrified. Was I really judgmental of and unkind to my sibling’s significant others? And my sibling's friends' significant others? Probably a little. Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to be on my best behavior when meeting my sibling’s new love interests.
You should do the same—especially if one of your siblings is introducing you to his or her better half this holiday season. Here are the dos and don’ts of meet your sibling’s significant other.
Be warm and inviting. If your brother and his new girlfriend are coming to stay with you, talk to your bro and find out what sort of things she is into. Get a wedge of your favorite brie if she’s a cheese fanatic. Make a reservation at the best pizzeria in town if she loves a good pie. When you meet her, be welcoming. Smile, say hello, and give her a hug.
Being on your best behavior means that you won’t bring up your sister’s negative past. Her new boyfriend doesn’t need to know about that time you were in Vegas and she hooked up with twins. He also doesn’t need to know that she was prone to throwing temper tantrums as a child or that she was suspended from high school for being caught drunk at the dance.
Paint your sister in a positive light.
Let her reveal these character-defining moments and personality traits to her new man on her own time. Pump up her strengths and avoid her weaknesses. Do not throw her under the bus.
If the new significant other is coming to the extended family’s big Christmas Day bash, keep an eye on her. Notice that she’s been talking to your pretentious and pompous uncle for the past 20 minutes? Save her and then tell her how he threw you in the pool at age 3 and your dad had to jump in and save you because you couldn’t swim.
If the environment is much more intimate, say a couples dinner out at a restaurant, avoid awkward silences, and keep the conversation flowing. If you’re meeting in a loud and crowded bar, try to find a quieter area where you can chat and get to know her a little. Remember that she is probably nervous about meeting you, so if you can select an environment that is fun and inviting, do so.
Don’t ask a million intrusive questions. Be engaging and inquire about her interests, childhood, college experience, and profession, but don’t ask your sister’s new woman about her past relationships. If she brings it up and wants to have the conversation with you, then you can discuss her past. When you can’t think of anything to say, ask her about her relationship with your sibling. Where did they meet? What did they do on the first date? When did she know she was in love?
Don’t get drunk and out of control. Don’t make backhanded, rude comments to the significant other. You don’t want his new boyfriend to dump him because he thought his beau's sister—that's you—was a nightmare. Be considerate and on your best behavior.
This goes along with being on your best behavior. Don’t take shots of Fireball and start dancing on the bar: It will embarrass your sibling. Even if you’re not drinking, you know your sibling and you know what behaviors embarrass or rub her the wrong way. You’re siblings, after all! If your sister hates it when you show off your cleavage, cover it up when you’re meeting her new beau. If your brother thinks you’re a food snob, don’t put down his restaurant of choice in front of his new love interest.
Make an effort to get to know her and make her feel welcome and comfortable. As your sibling’s significant other, this person could potentially be spending a lot of time with you for the rest of your life! Make a good impression and do your best to be friendly.
It’s hard not to judge a book by its cover—believe me, I’m the first one to criticize someone based on looks—but do your absolute best to not be openly judgmental. If she’s wearing the most awful sunglasses you’ve ever seen, let it go and don’t say anything to your sibling about it. If you need to get it off your chest with your best friend later, fine. If you're meeting her in a group, try not to be cliquey and critical with your favorite cousins or other siblings.
You love and care for your siblings, right? You want them to be happy and find “the one”? Give them the benefit of the doubt by giving their significant other a chance. He or she could end up being your new best friend.
Shop some of my favorite films in which significant others are introduced to the family below.