Staying in sync with your partner

Hilary Smith

Hilary Smith is a writer with Relationships Aotearoa and an experienced counsellor.

So your partner's got kids and they're not yours. How do you make it work?

Steve Polyak and family

The casualty rate is quite high for 'step-family' relationships so this might be quite a challenge. Even in the most straightforward situations keeping in step with your partner can be demanding. When your partner is a package deal you have to learn to step in sync with a whole troupe.

Maintaining a loving relationship with your partner that has room for their relationship with their kids is no easy matter. Maybe you feel isolated on the margins of a family that has more influence on you than you have on it.

Maybe the kids' other parent seems to have more sway in your home than you do. Perhaps you feel like you're last in the queue for your partner's attention.

These questions might help

If you and your partner want to work out the balance between your partnership and your different roles with the kids, these questions might offer some useful talking points.


What do you understand about your partner's loyalty to their kids? How do they show their loyalty?

What is it like for you?

What is it like for you when your partner does these things? Which of these things are hardest for you? Which of them are easiest for you to live with?

A parent's role 

When is it easy for your partner to put their kids first? When is it hard? Do you think it's good for a parent to put their kids first? Are there any times when you think it might be better to do something else?

What would you say is involved in being a good parent? Do you and your partner agree about this? Where else can the two of you go for ideas and information about parenting?

How do you contribute?

What would your partner say that you do to help them be a good and loyal parent? Are there other things you would add to that list?

What would your partner say that you do that gets in the way of them being a good and loyal parent? What do you think you do that might get in the way of their parenting?

What happens to the relationship?

What effect do the kids have on your relationship with your partner? Which effects have surprised you? Which ones do you enjoy?  Which ones leave you feeling hurt or angry or sad?

Taking care of the relationship

What do you notice your partner doing to show their loyalty to you? What would they add to your list? How do you show your loyalty to them?

What else might your partner do that would show you they value your relationship?

What do you do or talk about together that is about your partnership and doesn't involve the kids? What else would you like to do together?

What are the qualities you admire in your partner as you work at your relationship? What do they admire about your efforts to address issues in your relationship?

What picture do you have of how things could work better for both of you? What picture does your partner have? What aspects of their picture could you explore a bit more?

What do you imagine enjoying about your relationship with each other in the future? What will you do now that encourages those enjoyable things to grow?

Keep on talking

Balancing a satisfying relationship with your family life can be an ongoing challenge. Keeping on talking and listening to each other. You might find Stepping into your roleis a useful article for your family.

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