When Father's Day rolls around, you may feel a little torn as you get older. You might have your own father to celebrate, but you may also have your partner to celebrate as a father. It's a stark reminder that, in an ideal world, your partner fits in seamlessly with your family. But that's just not always the case.
Of course, things become a lot trickier if your partner and your father have never become close. Maybe it’s because they simply haven’t had the time to spend together, maybe it’s because their personalities don’t naturally mesh. Either way, it’s OK. You don’t need your partner to be best friends with your family, but it is important that they get along and have a chance to bond, whatever that looks like for them. It may be that they become incredibly close, it may be that they just are able to establish some common ground. Either way, it’s important.
But how can you get your partner to bond with your dad? It’s a fine line between encouraging their relationship and being pushy, which can make everything feel artificial. You can gently suggest and help arrange opportunities to bond, but you also don’t want to force it. Here are some ways you can start to help their relationship along, because it should mean a lot to all three of you.
1. Arrange More Family Dinners
The best way to let a bond form naturally is to have the time to let it grow, so make sure you’re doing your best to arrange time for the two of them to be in the same space. If you want to take some of the pressure off, arranging dinners for your partner and your parents can be useful—or even invite more extended family. Sometimes you need more people around to run interference or work as a buffer, which is totally fine. Don’t be afraid to ease into it.
2. Get Them Tickets to an Event
If you know that your partner and your dad have a similar interest—whether that’s baseball, art, or the same bands—try booking an activity for them to do together. Getting them tickets to a show or a game will give them an opportunity to spend time together and give them something to focus on and talk about, so it’s not too much pressure. If tickets to a game or concert feel like a little much, you can start with something as simple as a movie.
3. Try Matchmaking the Dads
Sometimes, you need to find a workaround. If your partner and your dad don't naturally mesh, you can try to find other conduits. In some cases, your dad and your partner’s dad may get along or even another member of your partner's family. If that’s the case, start with matchmaking them a little—a dad date can be a great thing. It’s just a start, but you may find that if your dad gets closer to your partner's family, the bond to your partner will strengthen naturally.
4. Give Your Partner an Inside Track
When we try to bond with our partners family, it can sometimes feel like guesswork. We want to impress, we want to form a connection, but more often than not it gets fumbled because we’re trying so hard. So give your partner an inside track. If your dad has a film they really love, a cuisine that they’re passionate about cooking, a story about their childhood that they tell over and over again, give your partner a heads up. Armed with a movie they can both watch, a recipe they can both cook, or an anecdote he can bring up, you may find that your partner feels more confident and the bonding happens more seamlessly.
5. Send Them on an Errand Together
If you really find that your partner and your dad aren’t clicking, you can take matters into your own hands. Give them a chore, send them on an errand, but make it clear they have to do it together. Then stay out of their way. Is it a crude solution? Absolutely. But sometimes you just have to force them to occupy the same space. Very few people are like oil and water. Normally, once they spend some time together you can find a space where they overlap and agree; sometimes, you just have to force them to do it.
6. Organize Game Nights
There are very few things that show someone's true colors as much as a board game or a game night. If you feel like their relationship is a little too stilted or formal, try snapping them out of it by getting them away from boring dinner conversation and into something a little more fun. If game nights aren't your thing, you can try bowling, golfing, etc. Let the focus be on doing, rather than talking.
7. Explain How Much It Means to You
It's really easy to get frustrated with our parents, friends and family, to not make the effort we should, or just to get complacent. Once you've been together a long time, a lot of people stop making that extra effort. If you feel like your partner and your father really aren't trying, then talk to them—separately, not together. It may be that they just don't realize how much it is affecting you. Explain how them not being close or fighting makes you feel, what it's like to be stuck in the middle, and how much it would mean if they tried a little harder. You might find they've just gotten a little lazy and selfish and need to be reminded why this matters so much.
Life would run so much more smoothly if our partners just slotted into our family seamlessly, but that's so rarely the case. If you find that it's taking a long time to your partner and your father to bond, you are not alone. Just be a little creative, give it time, and, more than anything, remind them how important this is to you.