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Torn Apart By Parenting Disagreements

When partners can’t agree, and there are divided loyalties to your kids and your partner, how do we resolve this?

Couple having arguments parenting and children and being frustrated with relationship
Couple having arguments parenting and children and being frustrated with relationship

One common scenario that I see with clients is strife in the relationship over disagreements regarding their children. This can be disagreements about parenting choices, discipline, or issues with adult children who have made poor choices and are asking for parental help.  It may be re-married couples raising step-children or even grandchildren.  This can be tough when both partners are on board with the choices, but it’s even tougher when there are disagreements.

When partners can’t agree, and there are divided loyalties to your kids and your partner, how do we resolve this? Many times these problems are allowed to fester and simmer under the surface while resentment builds and the tension between the couple escalates. When one of the partners feel like they’re not being heard or their opinion is being disregarded, there can be a lot of anger and hurt feelings. When it all finally reaches a crisis, Bam! World War III.

Stop and take a step back. You both have to be on the same page or this is not going to work. Both partners have equal responsibility in doing the necessary work to make sure that everyone is heard, understood and that the proper compromises are made if there are any to be made. If we’re talking about children, it has to be about what’s best for them, while still maintaining a united position between the partners.

When it comes to adult children, this can be tricky; but again, partners have to be in agreement if they’re going to help their adult child. You need to be able to come up with some common agreements. Put an end date and a dollar cap on your assistance; something concrete and definite. Put it in writing if need be. Make sure that you both agree on the amount of help you’re going to give so neither of you feel like your partner is doing more (or less) than what you agreed to.. I recently read an interesting article on this; it’s worth a read.  https://www.cbsnews.com/news/adult-children-are-costing-many-parents-their-retirements/

Talk about everything and agree. You all need to sit down together and talk it out. Don’t put one parent in the middle or in a position to choose between their child or their spouse or partner. They will more than likely choose the child and the relationship will suffer.

If you have to take sides, side with your partner. Family members have to take care of their own lives and consequences for their choices. You can love them and support them, but your allegiance should be to your partner. Your relationship, your marriage is your life, and that has to be the most important thing.

No doubt there will be hurt feelings along the way. Try to be kind and help your family member understand that while you love them and wish them well, if your partner is not on board with your decisions, if you have to compromise, your compromise cannot be compromising your marriage or relationship. You also have to remain aware that this is a temporary bump in the road. It’s not forever. Children grow up and leave home and you and your partner will still be together. You just have to hang in there together to do what needs to be done for the sake of the kids.

Be kind to each other. If you can support one another through this rough time, you and your partner can come out the other end of this stronger, more unified and more connected than ever before. Tough times are made easier when you know you have someone to lean on, vent to, and that that person is on your side through it all.


Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. His weekend workshop, Two Days: Seven Conversations has become a popular venue for many to set off on their journey of connectedness. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart’s Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.

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