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Friends and family - Family matters

Tags: Friends, family, the in laws, extended, rewarding experiences, raising children, grandparents, relationship problems, partner, ex, boyfriends, girlfriends
Categories: Friends & Family


You can choose your friends, but not your family - we're all familiar with the old jokes and stereotypes about the in-laws. When we fall in love with someone, their family comes as part of the package. For many couples this isn't a problem, at least not at the beginning of the relationship, but when children come along difficulties with partners' families often crop up.

Difficult decisions have to be made about parenting and it's not uncommon for a competition between 'my family' and 'your family' to arise. Each partner often want to raise their children in the same way they were brought up and sometimes overbearing in-laws will try to impose their own ideas about how to bring up the kids.

It's important to remember that grandparents can be a support to you and your children. Research shows that most children view their grandparents as fun companions, and many children say they confide in their grandparents when they are worried. Each week a quarter of families in the UK use a grandparent to provide child care.

If you feel that your partner’s parents interfere it is worth remembering that this is just a way of showing they care. Often it helps to try to focus on what you do like about them rather than the things or ideas you find difficult.

If this doesn’t help it's important that you and your partner show a united front. It can be difficult to stand up to a parent but if you and your partner can agree and be supportive of each other you're more likely to find a way of overcoming strained relationships. For some people getting on with the in-laws will never come easily, but for most couples it's something that gets easier with time and as you get to know each other better.

Different families will have different issues – some families expect to spend a lot of time with each other whilst others will only see each other at special occasions. Often the fact that families no longer all live within the same community can cause difficulties – we feel we don’t see enough of one another to form close bonds.

But having children often means families expect to see more of each other, and being part of a supportive extended family can be rewarding. Experiencing serious illness or bereavement within the family can bring about additional difficulties, but coping with grief can bring families closer - it's well worth the effort to try and make it work.


Most couples will have various sets of friends from different areas of their lives - work mates, people we went to school with, friends made through having children the same age.

In most cases our partners will get along with some and not with others and a balance will be struck. But this doesn't mean problems don't arise.

If one of you really dislikes the other's friends it can cause friction; you may even find yourself rethinking your whole relationship with your partner. You may find yourself worrying that if these are the people they have shared values and interests with then they aren't going to go away – they are going to be part of your life as a couple forever.

You may find yourself thinking that if your partner needs to spend time with people who you dislike that in fact they are not really the person you thought they were. But remember your partner doesn't need to enjoy the company of all of your friends; just like they don't need to be into all the same things as you are.

In any relationship it's normal and healthy to want to pursue your own individual interests and spend time with people other than our partner. Often in the first phase of a relationship we ignore this fact and spend more time alone as a couple than we do with friends, so we might not get to know our partners friends until later on in the relationship.

In time you should be able to balance being a person with your own friends and interests with being a partner. If your partner doesn’t like your friends, you shouldn’t necessarily have to give these friends up. You just need to figure out why your partner isn’t too keen on them, and then agree on a compromise.

You might feel particularly threatened by your partners’ friendships with their ‘still single’ friends – sometimes these might be ex boyfriends or girlfriends, or be good friends with your partners’ previous girlfriends or boyfriends. It can sometimes feel as if your partner would rather have their ‘old life’ back from before.

It starts to feel like a competition between their ‘new couple life’ with us and the old single life they had with them.

It can be difficult when a friendship is built on things you don’t share as a couple – such as a sport, a hobby, working together or a past. But you have to accept that this is part of what makes your partner who they are – they can’t just abandon friends to be with you.

Being able to communicate honestly with your partner and telling them why you find some friends harder to get on with than others, or why you feel threatened, might be difficult at first but it’s all a natural part of getting to know each other.

  This was of help to 100% of people  


  • User-anonymous gordon Flag


    Thanks for your kind comments they are appreciated! Looking back at my earlier comments they seem bitter; in some way I guess they are, but I think its more sadness than bitterness. I should clarify that I'm the youngest of three brothers, my post was misleading on that, sorry about that, but your comment's make real sense to me.

    As you can imagine it puts my middle brother in a bit of a position. I have said to him to just leave this with me and my older brother and just carry on and talk to each of us as he normally would. I'm not forcing him to take sides and remarkably neither is my older sibling - I guess that's something.

    In the end I decided to forgive him, but I won't let him back in my life till he changes; I left that door open for that approach, he's never took it, but escalated it. A real shame, but he's lost the chance to get to know my wife better, and get to know my wonderful step daughter, his loss.

    Tue 19, Apr 2016 at 11:54am
  • User-anonymous juju Flag

    I am so sorry to hear of your sadness with your brother, and the hostility he has shown towards you through out your life.Reading your story I was struck at how familiar it sounds to a friend of mine's relationship with her brother.Like you, there was just the 2 of them, with her being the younger one, and like you, she has also had to decide to eliminate him from her life.It must be made so much worse when there is just the 2 of you. Surely you would think you could find love and common ground? It's just so sad. Thankfully you have a great family and supportive friends who TRULY value you, though.

    Wed 16, Apr 2014 at 10:31am
  • User-anonymous gordon Flag

    I'm the opposite:
    I have tried for fifty one years to accommodate my older brothers arrogant, boorish attitude toward me and my family. My attempts to work out some sort of reconciliation with him, even though I did nothing to cause the problem, has not worked, it is clear it was never going to work, and it is equally clear that he always had this attitude toward me and me and would never change.

    The final straw was last year when my cousins died. On that day, and the week running up to the funeral, he plumbed new depths in his totally unacceptable behaviour, He insisted I called him and I did in the thin hope that a funeral may have made him re-evaluate our relationship and that he may have changed. That forlorn hope was blown apart by his sniffy dismissive attitude and insults to me, and my loved ones, it was the final, final, straw.

    This all started before I was born. My Mum told me that he was embarrassed when he found out she was pregnant with me.He nursed that hatred of me and fed it through the years. I recently looked through my family photograph albums; there is not one single photograph of the two of us together, not, one.

    The above are only a few of the incidents that show his viciousness. All through my life he has been a corrosive influence; he sniped, belittled and insulted me and my wee family.

    We were finished years ago and now, i'm glad to say he is dead to me. He is, without a doubt the most selfish, self obsessed, narcissistic, boorish person I have ever known. His single minded pursuit of what he wanted, regardless of the consequence to anyone else, was breath taking. The only thing I can say thats positive is I protected my wife and stepdaughter from him.

    I’m proud of my life, my wife, stepdaughter, family and friends. My reputation is built on the love and the care I feel for others and that is reciprocated back. It’s is nothing like the relationship I had with him.

    So Juju I envy you, and its nice to hear that people have normal healthy relationships with their siblings.

    Wed 16, Apr 2014 at 10:11am
  • User-anonymous gordon Flag

    Wed 16, Apr 2014 at 9:49am
  • User-anonymous juju Flag

    I consider myself lucky, because, unlike most people I know, I have a very good relationship with my sisters, and we are always phoning each other. It's not unusual for the calls to last a couple of hours each time, either. I couldn't talk that long on the phone with anyone else , not even my husband or my mother, when she was alive. In fact, our relationship is much closer now than when my mum was alive. This was because everything went back to her, and we rarely phoned each other at all.
    I value my sisters far more than my friends, whom I have had the unpleasant task of eliminating from my life, sometimes, because they were takers who gave nothing back. I had accepted this for years, but something happens when you hit the mid life juncture, I think, and you just won't accept old ways any more. That's where I am at now, but, thank goodness I still have my husband and sisters and a couple of friends to my name!

    Fri 11, Apr 2014 at 1:13pm
  • User-anonymous Anonymous Flag


    Sat 14, Mar 2009 at 8:25pm