Hey, look at you! You’ve been dating someone long and semi-seriously enough that it’s time to stop hiding him or her from your friends. So let’s make those introductions. Ahhhhhh! A little bit of nervousness is totally understandable. It’s very important that these people like each other!
But it’s going to be okay. It’s fine. It’s fine! It’s totally fine. You like your new lady or dude, and you like your friends, and even if they’ve got nothing else in common, they both know, and love, you. So take this part seriously, but it doesn’t call for a total freakout.
These introductions should be as low-pressure as possible, for both parties. Make it a group thing, and something where your new partner is not the focal point. Don’t treat it like a Big Designated Event Where Your Significant Other Meets Everyone—that’s too much pressure. Save the formal, intimate dinners for later (if ever); instead, find a low-key group thing that’s ideally already been planned. Just bring him or her along to something. Might I suggest happy hour on a weeknight? That way it starts early and doesn’t have to go too late. Also, consider doing it around an activity, like bar trivia or something, so there are plenty of distractions should things get too awkward. It’s always more fun to get to know people when you’re actually doing something besides just drinking. (Drinking doesn’t hurt, though.)
While a chill activity is the ideal scenario, the first meeting might not always happen this way, because of bad timing or other external factors out of your control. Maybe there’s a big birthday party or something, and suddenly your significant other is meeting all of your friends, all at the same time, and is basically forced to give a speech or something. It can be overwhelming! But just talk it out. Give him or her the ability to opt out of activities, and have a little faith that ultimately, it’s all going to be okay.
The general guidelines for introductions still apply here: Say names clearly, and repeat them often for your significant other’s benefit. Add some details, too, with an eye out for anything these two people might have in common. “Allison, John was also a college athlete!” “John, Allison also really loved Ted 2!” And let it flow from there! You can jump in to help them along if things hit a standstill, but otherwise, this is a good time for you to chill out and listen. Try to be more of a passive participant than an active driver in the whole thing.
Before this whole meet ’n’ greet happens, you’ll probably want to brief your new significant other on a few things. Have you dated (and/or boned) someone in your crew? Do you have a history with anyone who might come around? Does one of your friends really hate Ted 2? Better to just get it all out there. You’d hate to have an awkward situation and have to explain something after the fact. Honesty over everything, even when honesty may be a little bit uncomfortable. If there’s a sensitive subject you don’t want your friends—or your new SO—to bring up at this thing, just ask. (Oh, and make sure your friends don’t accidentally call your new SO by your old one’s name.)
But at the same time, this stuff doesn’t really require a blueprint. You like someone new, and you like your friends. You’re at the center of that Venn diagram. Your friends might be a bit protective, but that’s out of love. Your new SO might be a little nervous, but that’s just because they like you, and they want your friends to like them, too. They probably will!
Remember: This isn’t meeting the parents. (We’ve got a guide for that, too.) You don’t have to worry about what you’re wearing, or what your significant other is wearing, or what your crazy friends are or aren’t wearing. You don’t have to worry about anybody dropping an F-bomb in front of Nana. You don’t have to worry about your man calling your father sir, and while he’s at it, calling your brother sir, too. These are your friends. The people you’re real with. Let your SO be real, too.
Of course you realize that soon you’ll be in the same spot, shaking hands with a ton of new people who only know you as their good friend’s new flame. Go into it with the same friendly open-mindedness that your SO showed you, and don’t be disappointed if you don’t have 12 new best friends by the end of the night. Second and third and four impressions are important, too, and sometimes it takes awhile for strangers to warm up to one another. Hopefully, there will be many more happy hours and trivia nights and Ted sequel outings to come.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby