Fancying a family member

'Oh my God, my cousin's really fit.' Believe it or not these aren't unusual thoughts. Let us help you deal with them.

Shadow of two people holding hands.

Having feelings for a family member can be confusing.

What’s the score if you fall for a step-sibling or a cousin or any other family member? Whatever the in-house combo, it’s an emotionally-charged subject that is rarely discussed. Until now.

Is it legal?

UK marriage laws forbid a variety of unions within the immediate family, so you can rule out stepping up the aisle with your grandmother, father, brother or sister also half brothers/half sisters. Here’s a breakdown of all the rellys you’re not supposed to romance with.

The law can’t stop blood relatives from falling for each other, of course, but there are significant risks of genetic birth defects should children be produced by a relationship of this nature.

Any exceptions?

Cousins are the only genetic relations who are allowed to marry, though culturally any kind of romantic relationship is considered unusual. It was originally illegal, until King Henry VIII changed the law to allow him to marry his own cousin. If you’re dead-set on going ahead with it, consult your GP to rule out genetic factors that might make having kids a bad idea.

What about step-relations?

If one parent remarries, you may find yourself sharing a house with their partners siblings your step-brother or step-sister. In a situation like this, it’s not uncommon for feelings to develop, especially if you’re close in age and share similar interests. Even so, step relations may only marry in certain circumstances. For more info, contact the Citizen’s Advice Service.

“I’m not interested in a wedding. I just can’t help how I feel!”

Whatever you’re feeling is fine. It’s how you choose to act upon such affections that matters, so try not to feel guilty or ashamed. The key is to consider the long-term implications of getting it together with someone you’re related to genetically or by marriage. Quite simply, you will always be family, which can cause untold grief should you become involved in a romance that goes wrong. Relationships fail for all kind of reasons, of course, but you can expect extra pressure from the way people respond to your relationship notably family and friends.

The way forward

If you do find yourself falling for anyone who shares your nearest ‘n’ dearest, consider turning to somebody outside the situation (a trusted friend or telephone help line) and open up to them about it first. You’ll find just talking through the situation will make your feelings more bearable, and help you to realise that they can be overcome.

Only you can decide on the next step, of course, and much will depend on your circumstances (such as whether the other person is aware of your affections or feels the same way). If it’s a crush then be clear with yourself that it is just a fantasy and even enjoy the feelings it brings. It won’t last long, especially if you focus on meeting people outside the family. If it is something you feel unable to resist be sure to avoid making any decision in the heat of the moment.

Photo of shadows by Shutterstock.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 29-Sep-2015