Magazine article Work & Family Life

When Your Parent Has a New Partner

Magazine article Work & Family Life

When Your Parent Has a New Partner

Article excerpt

Chances are that one or both of your parents will be with another person at some point in your life. One might expect adult children to be thrilled when their parents find happiness in remarriage or someone special in their lives after a divorce or the death of a spouse. But it's seldom that simple.

If you have not warmed up to your parent's new arrangement or if it's creating friction, your first step should be to figure out why you feel the way you do.

It could be that you've been protective of your parent and are uncomfortable with someone else taking over your role. Or the new person may be taking the place of a much-loved deceased parent. You might see him or her as competition for your parent's urne or you may have difficulty understanding the attraction or thinking about your parent as a sexually active person.

Choices can be puzzling

When the parent-child bond is intensely strong, a parent's new love interest may cause a shift in the relationship that can feel unnerving to an adult child. The appeal of a younger woman to an older man or vice versa can also be disturbing. "Seeing my dad with someone my age feels so wrong," says Molly of her father's new girlfriend. "Not to mention, I suspect her motives."

Vicky held on to her dislike of her mother's husband for many years - until she realized that her behavior was detrimental to her own children. "My stepfather is 'Grandpa' to my kids," she says, "and I could see that my negative attitude was jeopardizing their relationship."

Questions to ask

When you negate a parent's choice of a partner, here are some questions to ask yourself:

* What's the point of my behavior? What do I hope to gain?

* How does my attitude affect my relationship with my parent? With the new partner? My parent's relationship with her or his new partner?

* Will my behavior change my mother's or father's decision?

If you are unhappy about your parent's new partner, your parent will probably be torn between wanting to please you and wanting to move on with his or her life. Parents hope for their adult-children's acceptance and understanding just as you seek their approval for your choice of a mate.

New families, new roles

Coping with a parent s mate choice requires acknowledging that traditions, boundaries and plans have changed. New partners with all of their relatives, children and different personalities can make the blending of families a challenge. Often there are financial or inheritance issues, and they can be sticky.

"Mom meant that painting for me, not for my dad's new wife's daughter," says Jamie. Anticipate and discuss potential conflicts like this with your parent. …

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