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‘I feel upset and rejected by the coldness of my partner’s father towards me’

Tell Me About It: ‘I’ve worked hard to build the relationship but am met with coldness and distance’


I am in a long-term relationship with my partner and, overall, we are very happy together. We live together and are on the same page around our plans for the future.

The one issue is I find his father very difficult to be around. My partner’s mother passed away a few years ago, and since then my partner has been understandably very close and protective of his dad. It is common knowledge that his father is not an easy man to get along with. Despite me working hard to build the relationship, I am met with a coldness and distance from his father. This is not something I am used to, as my own family is very warm and welcoming. I have tried rising above it all, but I always end up feeling upset and rejected.

I have voiced these concerns to my partner, but I am met with replies that there is no issue and that this is all in my head. I feel this problem will only get worse as the years go by, and it leaves me feeling incredibly blue. I am not sure how else to deal with the situation.

I am aware that relationships with in-laws are notoriously difficult but don’t want to accept that this is my future.



It is tough that you do not feel the warmth and connection with your partner’s father that you desire, but it seems that you are suffering too much for it. Your primary relationship is with your partner and it seems that he is a good person who takes his responsibly for his dad seriously and this is a credit to him. He is unconcerned about the apparent lack of closeness between you and his dad, and perhaps you need to take your lead from him.

A lot of the suffering we do because other people do not behave the way we want them to is unnecessary. We all know that we cannot force people to like us, or to alter their behaviour, unless they themselves choose to do so. All we can do is work on our side of the relationship. Ask yourself what your current influence on your partner’s dad is and then you can alter or change that influence as you choose. Currently, it seems that you are disappointed, upset and critical of this man and perhaps this is not a great enducement for him to warm to you. It might be worthwhile investigating what his backstory is so that you can better understand his apparent lack of connection.

He is probably still grieving the loss of his wife and, like for many men of his generation, she may have been the only person with whom he revealed his true emotions. It is also possible he may have developed a cold exterior in order to block out unhappiness, or he may feel threatened by the closeness that exists between you and his son. He may worry that his son will choose you over him if it comes to a choice, and he may not be aware that his coldness is precipitating this choice. It could be that you are dealing with someone who is full of fear and is reacting from a place of fear of abandonment.

In any case, your current influence is one where he is not likely to trust you or to see you as an ally in his life, and this you can change if you choose. Ask yourself what you want to be in the relationship between you and him and then attempt to draw this out whenever possible. If you can regard him as someone deserving of respect and attention, then offer him this with as much goodness of heart as you can manage, as faking it will only produce suspicion and fear. Pause before any interaction with him, check what your attitude is and then, if you can, change it to one of openness or possibility.

As you walk away from an encounter, be deliberate in letting it go, wish him well internally and move on with your day. This should free you from your constant focus on what you see as his negativity and allow opportunities for something new to emerge. Even if your partner’s father continues to be belligerent or cold, this should not determine how you treat him as reacting will only increase your upset and the fallout in your own relationship might be tough.

Avoid constantly comparing him to your own family as this comparison is one where he is failing all the time. Be happy that your family have been successful in offering warmth and empathy but let go the comparison, as the only result is misery for you and criticism for your partner’s dad.

There is a lot you can do to increase your own wellbeing in this situation, whether or not your partner’s dad is able to allow you into his life.

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