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How to get along with your partner’s first family

Julia Faulks / 07 September 2015

Struggling to keep things civil with your partner's children, ex partner or in-laws? Read our tips for smoothing things over with your partner's first family.

Woman with step-daughter
Remember it can take time for feelings of resentment to fade

Keeping things friendly with your partner’s first family can be tricky, especially where there is a strong emotional impact following a divorce or the death of a first partner. So how can you make sure you get along with children, ex partners and in-laws?

Getting to know your step-family

Family relationships can be complex, so when you are part of a new family it can take time to adjust to the way they do things. While you will be on cloud nine that you have met someone that makes you very happy, there may be a lot of raw emotion from family members who find it hard to accept new people into their lives.

“When the time comes when someone is ready to move on and re-engage in a new relationship, this often isn’t something that is planned and will just happen. The family can be quite resistant to that, especially grown-up children where it can come as quite a big surprise and they may feel you are trying to replace mum or dad,” says Jo Ruff, Head of Family Support at Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall.

“It is important to be respectful that other family members may feel like that. It’s allowing them the time to adapt as well. It’s also important to let them talk about their significant other who has passed away as they were an important part of their lives,” Jo adds.

Read our ten tips for new stepparents.

Tips for adjusting into life with a new family

Be understanding

You may feel that you are being constantly compared to your partner’s first husband or wife. This should fade over time, but if you find that your partner’s family are pushing you to the limit it’s important to try to be understanding and realise that they are getting to know you just as much as you are with them.

Keep your sense of dignity

As tempting as it is to bow to pressure to behave in a certain way, don’t lose sense of who you are or how you should act. If your partner is supportive they will help intervene if things become too heated and give you the strength to walk away from a confrontation that you don’t want to be a part of.

Be open with your partner

If you are upset by something that has happened it can help to talk to your other half about it and see if they can help cool down the situation. They may have a good insight as to why someone may be behaving in a certain way. This can help you to understand that it isn’t necessarily a personal attack, but something they need to deal with in their own way.

Find a way of getting rid of stress

If things are really getting to you then you may want to consider counselling to help you learn how to deal with situations that are getting out of hand. You may also find it therapeutic to do some exercise or find a relaxation activity that helps you to relieve and manage stress.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.