By now, most couples in quarantine have either broken up or transitioned from the honeymoon phase into a serious relationship, thanks to forced cohabitation for the sake of public health. If it’s the latter, that also means introducing new partners to parents — safely socially distanced over Zoom, of course.
“I kept Zooming with my family while we were together, and I eventually asked if he wanted to make a cameo,” says Natalie, a 40-year-old editor in Brooklyn who started dating her boyfriend in January. “It was kind of ideal because if it’s on Zoom, your dad can’t pull him aside and say anything weird. Plus, it gives you a good escape path.”
In fact, in the end, it only strengthened her confidence in her and her boyfriend’s commitment, without all the bullshit that typically comes with it. “I’ve always felt like I’ve either introduced boyfriends too soon or waited too long because it’s so hard to find that perfect moment,” Natalie continues. “So doing it online is the perfect format because it takes the pressure off.”
Historically, of course, this has always been considered a very big step, as evolutionary psychologists suspect it’s a way for couples to communicate how serious they are, seek parental feedback about their romantic choice, see what their partner will look like when they’re older and understand what familial resources could be available to them. There’s also ample evidence that mom and dad’s approval is tied to relationship success and long-term satisfaction.
But again, as much as the coronavirus has made everything else in life more challenging and terrifying, it seems that it’s somehow made meeting the parents easier. To wit, Danielle, a 32-year-old bartender and comedian in New York, describes introducing her boyfriend to her mom via FaceTime as a “soft open.” She had been in quarantine with a man she started dating in mid-December and would privately FaceTime with her mom most evenings. “One night we were already a few drinks in and I got on FaceTime with my mom and it was the most natural thing ever,” she tells me.
They scheduled a more formal video chat session with his parents a few weeks later, which also went well. “It’s a really good stepping stone,” Danielle says. “You’re not in a restaurant or some sort of Christmas or holiday vibe, so there’s literally no pressure because you could both be in your underwear.”
To her, meeting the parents over Zoom or FaceTime is a lot like using social media: You can curate the best version of yourself at a comfortable distance. That said, since you’re going to meet your partner’s parents IRL eventually, you do have to keep it relatively real. “We’ve built up this social media persona; now the question is, ‘Can we follow through on that?’” Danielle says.
Better yet, for Natalie at least, that Zoom video screen is a nice visual reminder — for her family and her — that she and her boyfriend make a good couple. “It’s been really nice for my family to just watch us sit next to each other. They can see how we look at each other and laugh together,” Natalie says. “It’s made my parents feel at ease that I have a partner in all of this.”
Moreover, Natalie and Danielle both have exes who never would have agreed to these Zoom and FaceTime sessions, which makes them all the more confident that their current dudes are going to be around long after lockdown. But if they do find themselves single again, knowing what they know now, Danielle assures me, “I’d definitely meet the parents online before ever meeting them in person.”