It’s a dilemma faced by many parents across the world; who comes first in a blended family, your partner or your child? In traditional relationships, the couple develops a relationship first, then becomes parents together. Blended families flip this, and it’s the parent/child relationship that has the history and the deeper connection. It’s easy to rationalize that the emotional and physical needs of your child are always the most important, but there will also be times that your partner will need to be prioritized.
Living in a blended family can be challenging. The mix of different personalities, needs, and expectations can be difficult to navigate, and at times may cause conflict. It’s important that you are able to spend quality time with both your new partner and your child – to maintain your bond with your child, and to nourish the relationship with your partner. But should you have a process for deciding who comes first when? Is it possible to avoid having to choose between your partner and your child?
Putting your children first in a blended family
Parents have a unique bond with their children that is generally unconditional. This is different from adult relationships, which often have limitations and conditions. The child is dependent on their parent, and parents will naturally prioritize their child – not only is it a natural reaction, but it’s also what the child will expect. A new partner cannot and should not try to compete with the parent/child bond and relationship.
Most parents make their child or children the top priority in life. And as you create your new blended family, you will want to provide consistency for your child, whether they live with you full time or come to stay at the weekend or on holidays. If your children or your partner’s children are living with you, you may find that when you and your partner want to spend time together the children will want to get involved as well. Many blended families will do things together and find a way to make sure everyone feels welcome and involved, but it’s not always easy.
Your child always comes first if:
– Their health or safety is at risk
– Your partner is trying to discipline them in a way that you didn’t agree on as a family
When your partner comes first in a blended family
While the health, safety, and emotional wellbeing of the kids are vital, sometimes you will need to put your partner first. Your kids may be less than impressed by this, but it actually demonstrates to them what a loving relationship looks like. Young children learn about life through observation, they learn how to develop strong relationships by watching their parents and other adults. While your previous marriage may not have worked out, you still have the chance to show your kids what a great relationship looks like. This will help them develop resilience and good relationship skills in the future.
You are also role-modeling the way you want your partner to be treated by your children, and demonstrating their importance in all your lives. Blended families can be complicated. But loving each other, showing support, and understanding when your partner needs you to put them first will show your children that this relationship is important to you.
There are many ways that you can put your partner first, and it’s often small gestures that are the most meaningful. Supporting your partner’s decisions and their argument if you feel it is the right thing to do for the whole family can help them feel like an important and valued part of the family dynamic. It’s a good idea to set ground rules in a blended family to help with decision-making and discipline. If you have any issues with your partner, it’s best to discuss them in private so they don’t feel undermined. You can then talk with your children later if necessary.
Your partner always comes first if:
– Your children are being rude or disrespectful to them
– They are being undermined by your ex-partner or other family members
It’s not about who you love more
Who you put first in any given situation doesn’t depend on who you love more. You’ll likely find there are some situations where you put your child first and others where you prioritize your relationship with your partner. If your partner and your kids (and you!) can begin to understand this, it will make life much simpler. Your children will always be important to you, but you deserve the opportunity to enjoy and prioritize your relationship with your partner too.
Remember to offer praise to your family; let your children know when they’re doing well and tell your partner you appreciate their efforts. You can also offer specific praise to family members in front of everyone in the household as this will help you all encourage each other and strengthen your family relationships. In blended families, often the small things can make a significant impact.
My partner prioritizes their kids over me
It’s easy to feel like an outsider when you’re in a blended family but you’re not the biological parent. You don’t want to compete with the parent/child relationship, but it’s hard to feel like you’re part of a family unit if your partner is always putting the kids before you. Rather than feeling left out, try to understand your partner’s role as a parent and see things from their perspective. Discuss your concerns with your partner before things escalate – let them know how you’re feeling and make suggestions for how things might be improved.
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