We asked Closer readers to share their worries with us and we looked to the experts for advice and guidance on how to cope when your partner has kids from a previous relationship.
Embarking on a new relationship can be thrilling, fun and invigorating. But when your new partner has children from a previous relationship, the buzz of a new romance can be overclouded with nervousness about whether you will be accepted by their existing family. We asked Closer readers to share their worries with us and we looked to the experts for advice and guidance on how to cope when your partner has kids of their own.
Relationships can be challenging and overwhelming. Throw kids into the mix, and it’s understandable if your first instinct is to run for the hills! It’s only natural to be overawed by the sudden situation you find yourself in, and it can be even more difficult when the kids act up or make it apparent that they don’t enjoy having you around.
Psychologist Daniel Tomasulo explains that if you have decided to stay with your partner despite a difficult relationship with their children, then you need to accept and move forward. “If you are willing to do so then make peace with your decision and find ways to love them, cherish them and help them.” Remember that they are also having to adjust, and acting out may be their way of coping.
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It’s natural to worry about how you will figure in your partner’s life when they’ve have other responsibilities. You want their full attention, but so does their child — and you worry that this will come between you. Gayle Peterson, a family therapist, says, “Your partner comes with a ‘past.’ You must balance the downside of their past with the qualities they bring to the relationship. You must also weigh your own ability to adapt to their situation and what it means if you do forge a life together.”
“The question is not one of ‘selfishness’, but genuine accountability to yourself," she adds. "It is your responsibility to honestly assess what is truly in your best interests. And it is in the best interest of the relationship that you take responsibility for ‘staying’ or ‘leaving.’” Make the right decision for you.
A relationship with somebody else’s children doesn’t develop overnight. While you naturally want to build a bond and a close friendship, don’t expect it to happen straight away — and don't panic if you don’t feel an immediate intimacy.
Try to avoid showering them with gifts or being overly enthusiastic as it can come across as forced. Psychologist Salma Prabhu explains, "The child or children will have to be given the utmost importance in the new relationship, but this does not mean that you dance to their tunes, buy them expensive gifts, or focus only on getting into their good books.” Take the time to build a friendship first, as you would with a new friend, and build your bond from there.
If your partner calls to cancel plans because something has come up with his kids, take a deep breath and smile! With children comes a need to be flexible and to be able to change plans at the last minute. It is not an affront to you or the status of the relationship, and it is important that you learn to be flexible without being demanding.
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"A parent can’t be selfish; a parent needs to put the children first," Carol Burniston, a child psychologist, explains. "If you can take that on board, then you can make the partnership work, but it’s going to be very different from your previous relationships."
Don’t push your partner into introducing you to his children too soon, and don’t be offended if it takes a while to meet them. The child is already dealing with a huge amount of upheaval in their lives, and forcing them to meet you before they are emotionally ready can disrupt their sense of normalcy and also might unsettle your relationship further down the line. Be patient and understanding; your partner is not keeping you apart for his own benefit.
This post was written by Closer Staff. For more, check out our sister site Closer.
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