I've been divorced 5 years, and in that time my daughters have never liked any of the girls I've dated. I have been dating my current girlfriend for a year, and we are getting serious, but they still won't accept her. Sometimes they are actually rude to her.
She is hesitant to take it to the "next level" because of my daughters. What can I say to them to make them understand without them thinking that I'm putting her above them?
Note – I'm going to answer a slightly different question, "How do I get my step-son (or daughter) to like me?", because it's a little more general use to my readers, and the solution is the same in both cases.
Introduction – Connections As The Basis Of Relationships
Relationships are all about connections… your connections to other people. This is true regardless of your age, whether you're an infant or approaching your 100th birthday.
These connections are in a constant state of change, growing stronger and weaker from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour. In general, however, these changes are within a certain range… a little bit up here, a little bit down there, but all fairly consistent.
As time goes by, and these connections exist for a longer time, we start to rely on them, even to the point of basing our perception of how the world is on them. The longer they are around, the more "that's the way the world is" they become.
The Problem – Your Step-Son (Or Daughter) Blames You
So what happens when you introduce a new person into the mix and there is a sudden, and drastic change in those connections? It feels like your whole world has come unanchored, spinning around with no sense of up or down… everything is in flux.
That's not a comfortable state to be in regardless of whether you're a child or an adult. It's very hard to quickly and easily accept this new person, and very easy to blame them and resent them for any disruption in your life, particularly anything bad.
Most of this happens at a subconscious level, however, and the people affected may not even know why they feel the way they do… they just know that they don't like the "intruder" who caused all this chaos.
The Solution – How To Connect (And Get Them To Like You)
When you do know why, however (as you do now), it provides you with the opportunity to consciously work to make it better. Happily, it's actually actually even pretty easy to do, though not necessarily quick.
You can get started by establishing new patterns, new traditions, that involve all of you such as having a picnic every Sunday or eating dinner out each Friday as a family. This allows you to establish new connections in the context of ones they already know, and also to start building shared experiences, which are key components of your connections to other people.
Once you have those connections established in regards to the whole family, you can work on building your own unique connection, one that is just between the two of you. You do this, again, by building shared experiences… go somewhere together, just the two of you, and do something you both like, particularly if it's something new to one or both of you.
The strength of your connection with someone is very strongly related to your shared experiences, and then with shared interests. Shared interests are hard to improve, other than by being open… it's quite difficult to make yourself truly interested in something if you aren't that way from the beginning, except by being open to seeing it from a different angle where there might be something that is of interest to you.
Shared experiences, on the other hand, are very easy to build up… just do things together, and be focused on the moment while you're doing them. That last part is important… if you are thinking about what you are going to do afterward, or making a mental to-do list, then you'll lose the majority of the benefit, and sometimes even turn it into a net negative. So just relax, and enjoy your time together, getting to know each other and building a deeper connection.
PS – If you are in a situation similar to the actual reader who sent the question, all you have to do is apply this to your girlfriend (or boyfriend)… start doing things all together, and then encourage them to do things individually with your children, once the relationship seems comfortable enough.