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How to cope if your partner has children from a previous relationship

Having a partner with children from a previous relationship can be challenging for many reasons. In this article, we look at some of the difficulties you may face and how best to deal with them.

Children are a constant reminder of your partner’s previous relationship. Even if you have accepted that your partner’s children are ‘part of the package’, you may not have counted on your partner's ex being part of it too.

The need for your partner to see and communicate with their ex can feel threatening if you are not secure within the relationship or if the relationship is still in its early days

Tip: Remember that part of being a good mum or dad is having a good parenting relationship with the other parent. Accept that there will be communication about the children between your partner and their ex.

You may wonder sometimes where your partner’s loyalties lie – it may seem like their previous family’s needs always seem to come before yours.

Tip: Try to understand the loyalty conflicts your partner might be experiencing. It will help your relationship if you can empathise (even if you don’t like it!) when your partner feels like ‘piggy in the middle’ between you and their previous family.

It can be hard to know what kind of relationship you can expect to have with your partner’s children.

Tip: Allow the relationship to develop slowly. Don’t expect the children to love or even like you straight away. Aim for a relationship where you respect each other and treat each other fairly. You are not a substitute parent - be supportive but don’t expect to take on a parenting role.

When your partner is having problems with their ex, it can put a big strain on your relationship. You want to help but feel powerless to change the situation.

Tip: It is important not to take out your frustrations in front of the children, as this can make matters worse. Don’t criticise, complain or even joke about the other parent in front of the children. It’s also probably best if you confine your role to supporting your partner rather than getting directly involved in disagreements.

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