11/25/2014 02:46 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2015

10 Simple Ways to Win Over Your Partner's Parents This Thanksgiving

You know the relationship is serious when you're spending any major holiday with your significant other's family for the first time. Sure, you may have met them briefly once or twice before, but a holiday like Thanksgiving is a battleground where approval can be won or lost forever. So, follow these 10 simple rules to ensure your partner's parental units will be glad to call you family (even if you're not sure you want them as in-laws).

  1. Bring some sort of contribution to the festivities. A bottle of wine is good -- even better if you pair it with a nice dessert or some flowers. Ask your partner for input and guidance on their parents' preferences in these departments.
  2. Always ask the family members preparing the meal if there is anything, anything at all, you can do to help, even if the game is on.
  3. Do not make your hosts do all the drudge work in the conversation -- ask questions, be interested, fake it if you have to. Sample topics include the parents' work, their neighborhood, what they're currently reading/watching, which sports teams they root for, what you can do to help, what your partner was like as a child (always a good one), etc.
  4. The occasional hand-holding and peck on the cheek is fine, but resist any further physical displays of affection. To be safe, you should engage in no more PDA than your partner's parents do.

  5. When you sit down to eat, listen to your own mother's voice in your head: put your napkin in your lap; wait for everyone to be seated and served before eating; chew with your mouth closed; don't gesture with your silverware; don't use your fingers or fork to dislodge food stuck between your teeth; and never reach across someone at the table -- just say, "Would you please pass the [blank]?"
  6. No smartphones at the table. If you absolutely, positively must take a call, keep your phone on vibrate, but for heaven's sake don't whip it out. Wait for an appropriate pause in the conversation to excuse yourself from the table.
  7. This should go without saying (but you'd be surprised): no burping, farting, or getting wasted. This is not the time to, shall we say, let loose (in any capacity).
  8. Engage in appropriate dinner conversation. That means avoiding sex, politics and the boil you just had removed from your butt. Return to any of the topics you didn't finish or get to earlier (see #3 above).
  9. You must assist with the clean-up. To lazily lounge around by the TV or play with the X-box while your hosts wash and dry the dishes is just plain rude. And guys, remember that this is the twenty-first century: Clean-up is not the women's duty.
  10. Always thank your hosts for a lovely Thanksgiving, even if you had a terrible time. And if you're really into your partner and see a real future together, then a proper thank-you card sent to their parents after the fact would not be overkill.

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photo via Flickr