Split loyalties can cause serious problems in intimate relationships.

What can you do if you find yourself in such a situation?

For example: You are in a relationship with a partner who has an ex-wife who seems to be totally helpless and calls your man every time there is some sort of crisis or emergency in her life. Because he is such a loving and giving person he jumps every time she makes any type of request, even when you have something planned to do together. This situation is starting to drive you crazy and is causing problems in your relationship because you tend to complain again and again about the issue.

Or an even more difficult situation:

Your partner whom you love very much has a child from a previous relationship and he regularly puts the child’s interests and requests ahead of considerations in respect of your relationship.

As a psychologist, over the years I have had many such clients who are grappling with this type of problem which can put intense strain on a current relationship.

What is the best way to approach such a situation?

First I would like to suggest things that are far from helpful such as:

1. Trying to give advice to your partner about his or her situation. Advice can very quickly turn into frustration when your advice is not taken or is actually ignored. A partner who is in this situation can very easily start to feel judged and controlled. He or she will very likely feel that he or she is being pulled in two opposing directions at once, leading to elevated feelings of stress which can lead to unproductive arguments between you both.

Because your spouse or intimate partner undoubtedly also feels a great deal of guilt in leaving his previous family, he is likely to resist any efforts on your part to cut back on his involvement with his previous family. If anything is going to give, it will in all likelihood be your relationship. This will seem totally unfair but is usually the reality unfortunately.

So what should you do?

Best to keep your own views to yourself initially and ask for advice from a trusted third party. Try not to feel too emotionally invested in resolving the problem in your favour (this is very difficult).

I would also suggest that you think empathetically about the situation from your partner’s point of view, and also those of his ex-partner and his children. This will help you come across to your partner as more sympathetic and encouraging of a contact scenario that will work for everyone in the family network.

 

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