What can you do if your child doesn’t accept or seem to like the person you love?
Dating after divorce or a break-up is never easy, especially if you have children. You’ve navigated the highs and lows of finding a partner and now you’ve finally found the one. There’s just one problem: your child doesn’t like them.
Your teen’s dislike for your other half could be causing all sorts of upset and conflict, not just in your relationship with your partner, but also within the rest of the household. It can often feel as if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Uncovering The Issues
Before you can even begin to deal with the situation, you need to find out exactly why your teen doesn’t like your partner. Your child might not be emotionally ready to see you with another person, especially if the family breakdown was recent and emotions are still raw, but there may be more to it.
It’s important to determine the real reason behind your child’s dislike for your partner before you can move forward or make any decisions. You might not agree with their reasons but it’s important to listen to them and hear them out. Your teen may feel:
- Like they are being pushed out or are being replaced.
- Jealous of the time you now spend with your partner.
- Guilty or upset for the parent who has been ‘left behind’.
- Embarrassed at the thought of you having a romantic relationship.
- That there’s something not quite right about your partner.
- As if your new partner doesn’t like them.
Talking To Your Teen
Sit your teen down, just the two of you, and ask them to talk to you about their reasons. It may become clear that your teen is reluctant to accept a partner in your life right now. Your teen needs patience and time to get to grips with these changes and to develop a relationship with your new partner.
Your teen may feel as if they are being pushed out or forgotten about, now that you have a new partner in your life. This is a very common emotion for a child to feel and it’s normal for them to have doubts and worries about ‘sharing’ you with someone else. They might need a bit of reassurance from you that their position in your life won’t change. A lot of teens just need to know that they are still loved and wanted as much as they have ever been.
Addressing Bad Behaviour
If your teen has been rude or aggressive towards your partner then this, of course, needs to be addressed. Make it clear that it’s not acceptable to behave disrespectfully, even if they don’t like your partner. Instead, encourage your teen to talk about why they feel this way and see if there are any solutions you can offer.
This works both ways. Your partner’s reaction to your child’s hostility or coolness can drastically shape the outcome of this situation. By remaining calm and setting firm ground rules, making it clear which behaviours are unacceptable, your partner is much more likely to make progress in building a relationship with your teen. Reacting in anger or in the heat of the moment will only make the situation worse and is likely to strengthen the feeling of hostility your teen already has. If your partner is reluctant to make these efforts, this may be an unhealthy sign of things to come and perhaps the time to reconsider this relationship.
If your teen has no serious, underlying issues about your partner other than jealousy or fear of losing you to someone else, there are ways you can try to nurture a relationship between them and your partner. It can help to have your ex on board if they’re willing to help out – sometimes a child feels a sense of guilt for bonding with the person who they see as having taken their mother or father’s place. Your ex talking positively about your new partner and showing support for your new relationship can make a big difference to how your teen feels and acts.
Most of all, your teen probably wants to be included. Make time in your life for 1-2-1 time with your teen, as well as your partner. Be patient and begin to build up on time spent together – you, your partner, your teen and any other children in the family. After time, hopefully tensions will ease as your teen starts to relax a little and becomes used to your partner.
Let your teen set an activity for you all to enjoy. Their choice (within reason!). This gives them a sense of control over the situation and allows them to be a part of the decision-making within this newly-blended unit. Like most family turmoil, healing and moving on takes time, patience and understanding. Yes, this may have gotten off to a rocky start, but things can get infinitely better if everyone puts in a little effort.
When It’s Serious
If your child has concerns about your partner’s personality or is in fear of them, it’s important to listen. They may have seen or experienced something you were unaware of. It can help to reach out to other family members to see if they have noticed similar character flaws. If any allegations of abuse or mistreatment are made, you have to take these seriously and do what’s best for the mental and physical safety and wellbeing of your child.