What to do when your kids won't accept your new partner

Carol Dix

You've found someone new and now you want to take it further - but will your kids stop you in your tracks? How to handle it gently but firmly.



Family conflict

You started dating and to your delight now you're in a serious relationship with a wonderful new partner. This new love in your life means you are so much happier. Now you're talking of moving in together or even getting married. The downside is that your newfound happiness may not be viewed kindly by those closest to you. In fact, it can lead to major problems as old patterns of relationships are shaken to the core. The bereaved, 50+ divorcees and new singles can all discover unexpected problems.

Age gap problems – case study

'When I finally plucked up courage to tell my mid-20s daughters that the younger man I've been seeing for the past year or so was now going to move in with me, it was as though a tornado blew through the room and wrecked everything in its wake,' says Gillian, 61.

Adam, her lover, is 20 years younger. Gillian is radiantly in love, but still distressed by the effect on her children.

'Deep down I guessed it might go like this, as things have always been rather tricky since their father died. But I didn't expect the level of rage and bitterness. We haven't resolved it yet. They seem to feel humiliated by the idea of his being so much younger, as though it's shameful.'

Children feeling rejected – case study

Just as with sibling rivalry, when children are young, a new partner shifts the balance and can lead to older children feeling rejected and resentful.

Martin, now in his mid-60s, has been living with Fiona, nearly 30 years his junior, for the past ten years. They have a nine-year-old daughter Siri.

Just over five years ago, the couple married. Martin is divorced from his first wife but they both live in the same town. The older children took the news of his new partner very badly.

'I must admit it was a shock to them, as Fiona and I had only just started seeing each other when she became pregnant.

‘I had to tell my 27-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son the news that, not only was Fiona going to live with me, but we were having a baby!

‘As I see it, I have the right to a life too. Fiona and Siri have brought me tremendous joy, at a stage in life when I felt the world was ready to put me on the scrap heap!'

Partner disapproval

It doesn't have to be a question of age gaps either. One woman found her elder children very disapproving of her new partner, because he's an unemployed artist while their father is a high flyer. Another, who was contemplating divorce at age 60, from her husband after over 30 years of marriage, was told by her daughter in no uncertain terms that she was being really stupid.

‘“Why break up now?” was her attitude. As though my life had more or less come to an end!'

Tips to ease the path through change

Protect you and your children’s financial future

If marriage or sharing a house is in question, sort out the inheritance issues. Remarriage would mean that your property and savings go to your new spouse.

Protect your children's rights by writing a new will. Let them know the situation and who gets what.

Draw up a prenuptial agreement (a ‘pre-nup’), even if living together (cohabitation brings its own rights these days), so your new partner would not be able to sue you for half of all your wealth should the relationship break down. Your children should be aware of this, too.

How to deal with upset children

If your children are so upset that they cannot cope with meeting your new partner, arrange to spend special time with them on your own.

Major change in family structures is never easy. Don't try to make light of the situation or condemn your older children for their reaction.

Enjoy your new life but make an extra effort to show your older children how much you love them.

Carol Dix is the author of The Ultimate Guide to 21st Century Dating.

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.