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Relationships are sometimes easy, cosy and safe but many times they can be fraught with discomfort and conflict. We all want to have stable relationships, especially with our partners, married or not.

Things have changed in the last one hundred year and lots of people now have more than one partner in their lives; some people seem to have an amazing amount of partners. Where do they get their emotional energy from I ponder…! I don’t think I could stand the pace and I know my long deceased parents would be aghast at the current culture and goings on of our ‘so called’ celebrities.

Changing partners for most of us is caused by a divorce or an untimely death, but for those who can and do move on, there is often another family to absorb. I am one of the lucky ones, having found love three times in my life; three long-term relationships that have brought both intense pain and immense love. My third relationship is still relatively new but thriving, and my inheritance is two more wonderful women, their partners and children to love. What’s not to like!

Our family groups, or tribes, vary in numbers and intensity; this we all have in common. Even a person with no real family will have friends and a network of close companions to call on, except in the sad exceptions of displaced or estranged people.

Each person gaining access to a tribe through another member, will undoubtedly find some friction in some form or another. We can’t all be immediately loved and welcomed by all the group members, and I don’t think we have the right to expect it.  Nor can the new, or prospective member be expected to find that they get on with everyone first time round, it all takes time.

Integration, which is what this boils down to, is complicated, slow and emotionally tiring, it can also be volatile. I know many people who watch TV programmes like East Ender’s and Coronation Street, and quite wrongly assume that this is how life is. This is then played out in their own homes, along with the anger, violence and graphic language and they wonder why they are having a difficult time…!!

Working with clients in challenging relationships, especially where integration is failing, can be made so much worse with the pain of a poorly chosen phrase, a sly back-handed comment or even one spoken in ‘jest’, that can take ages for the recipient to cope with.  We often speak without thought of the consequences, so it’s a good idea to remember that we are all capable of inflicting pain with our words.

My eldest grandson is now planning his wedding to a lovely young lady, she and her family will be part of our greater extended tribe and this will only be good, every group need new blood, ideas and children if possible. I hope they both see me as supporting Grandmother, certainly one who makes no remarks on ‘how things should be done’!

Getting to know people at any age can be complicated; children emulate their parents or guardians and will tend to like the same people unless there is a conflict of interest. These ‘likes’ change over time and a parent may not understand that the young adult has, and is entitled to, his or her own opinions about people. But that needs to be incorporated into the life cycle of the family, as we lose and gain people in our own little tribe. We also have to incorporate new colours and creeds, diversity in all its forms, that can be disturbing for some people.

Love is endless and unfathomable; for instance, however many children you have, you will always find more love in you, and that spreads around the whole family.

There will almost always be friction of some kind, maybe not very much but enough to make someone hurt and resentful and this needs to be managed at the earliest stages. If it is left it festers and grows and then becomes a big issue.

Some clients that come to me with the later stages of disputes, this is where a mediator can help; unbiased listening, without interference can resolve disputes and family arguments. All sides are heard and often just listening to themselves, the parties will see the issue in daylight and find resolution.  Life is not a ‘soap opera’ and when this is pointed out to clients around the table, will defuse the situation and in most cases create laughter, which is of course the very best outcome to conflict.

On the inside, looking out

If you are part of a small and tightly knit family, you may find it harder to integrate a new member into your clan, than a person from an expansive family with many layers.

It takes understanding and time to get to know a new person, who may have just upset the balance in the family that you considered was right and fair. Young or old, we all need to be heard and appreciated, so make an effort to see this new person as an advantage to your tribe, not an enemy in the midst!

Listen and take note of what this person is truly like before making judgements; never make an instant assessment and act on it, without a deeper understanding. It would be a rare occurrence for a person to be ‘muscling in’ trying to replace a family member; they are there to add another dimension to life and will eventually be a person to depend on and trust, given the space and time.

On the outside, looking in

On the other hand, if you are the new person to a family group you are in the best position. You will undoubtedly have skills but you may need to learn a new one, that is negotiation.

You will in most cases have your own tribe but this area of your life may be ignored, or at least just passed over by the family group you are joining. Try not to let this upset you; there will be more resentment, if you too become resentful.

Give it time and never take ‘sides’; if it is your new partners family, then ensure that you talk it through with your partner and request support but don’t expect him/her to take a defensive position. He/she will be torn in two and that will inevitably damage your relationship.

Accept that your new tribe will be different; background, education and place of origin may not be what you are accustomed to, but you will learn how to integrate if you keep an open mind and loving heart.

The Extras in the mix

If you are in position of being one of the ‘In Laws’, letting go of your child to this new tribe can be a strange feeling. Seeing your child move away from your protection to love another can be traumatic; but this is why we are here, why we have children in the first place, to give them life and let them go. Taking another person under your wing is a joy, if only everyone could see it.

I consider the most important thing to remember as that we all change over time and by extending the hand of friendship, with the acceptance that our differences can be beneficial, we start on the right foot.


Talking, listening to each other and really making an effort to get to understand will be the best way forward. If this fails, for whatever reason then talk to a person who can help. Just to put things in perspective, sound out the truth and set the tribes back to love not war.

In the end we are all different, we have our own aspirations and needs and during the time it takes to integrate or be integrated, express the love you have for your chosen person and let this overflow into your new family, and theirs into yours.

The creed is; gratitude for what you have, acceptance of others and their views and letting go of old ties and opinions that are no longer relevant.

Call me if you need support, I do understand.