Getting to know your partner's family

Getting to know your partner's family

Zelda West-Meads, agony aunt for You magazine in the Mail on Sunday, explores ways to connect when you’re becoming a bigger part of a new partner’s life.

When you fall in love with someone, at first it is just the two of you. It’s a heady and exciting time. And of course when you love someone, you want them to be part of your life and this means introducing each other to the other people who you love and who are important to you – your family and friends.

Becoming part of each other’s family

Sometimes, this is easy and a joy, you may get on really well with your new partner’s parents, siblings or children (if they have any) right from the start. You might gel with their friends instantly. At other times it’s trickier. There could be tensions with in-laws, especially perhaps if you or your partner has been married before. Whether friends and family have positive or negative opinions of your new partner’s previous relationships, they may still take time to adjust to you. If you are starting a relationship in later years, your partner’s family could be elderly and perhaps disapproving or set in their ways. They may still be coming to terms with a divorce in the family, or even need looking after. This can be a problem – in fact it’s estimated that in-laws who dominate or interfere in their child’s life or relationships, especially when it comes to bringing up their grandchildren, are responsible for about one in ten marital breakups.

Getting to him through getting to know them

Meeting your partner’s family can give you greater insight into the person you have fallen in love with.
  • Are his or her family loving and caring or rather distant?
  • Do they talk a lot or find it quite difficult to express how they feel?
  • Do they have fun together, can they argue and make up?
  • Are they very tactile or do they rarely touch at all?
Observing all of this gives you more insight into how your partner may relate to you and how to understand them and become part of the family. Hopefully you can do this even with difficult family members though that may be harder work.

Keeping your relationship in focus

The most important thing for you as a couple is to be united and to have each other’s best interests at heart. So agree that if there are family tensions, that you will work together and not let other family members divide and rule. For example, if either of his parents criticises you or puts you down then it is important that that your husband or partner gently but firmly stands up for you and tells them that this is not acceptable. Likewise, you should defend him if your parents are critical. When you see your partner getting on well with your parents or your siblings, encourage this by telling your family how lovely this is for you.

Meeting each other’s children

Once you are fairly sure that the relationship has a future, introduce them. But it’s especially important not to rush things.
  • If the children are still young, do things with them that they enjoy and which gives you all a chance to get to know each other.
  • Be understanding if to begin with children are resistant to your relationship. They may still be adjusting to their parent’s divorce.
  • Expect to work harder at the relationship than they will.
  • If the children are older teenagers or young adults, recognise that they will have their own lives and may not want to get very involved in family activities.
  • Be welcoming if they want to join you and invite them to bring a friend or boyfriend or girlfriend too but be relaxed if they don’t.
Remember that they might need some time with their parent alone too without the new partner always being around.

Making friends with his friends

With friends, there can be divided loyalties. Some of them may resent you if they are still friends with your partner’s ex too, others may be pleased to see you making their friend happy again. It’s ok for you to both see some of your friends individually, but as time goes on and your relationship becomes more established, you will find that people start to get used to you two being a couple and new friendships will form that can be a source of great pleasure and fun.

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