When you get married, the idea is that your spouse’s family welcomes you, and your family welcomes him. Over time, his family becomes yours, and yours becomes his—hopefully. Regardless, when you have children, your spouse’s family is your children’s family. So what happens if you and your spouse divorce? Do you “divorce” the rest of his family as well? Meaning, if you have relationships with your spouse’s mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins, should you end those relationships simply because you are no longer legally family? With emotions flaring, your first inclination may be to say yes. But is that really what you want in the long run? And does it have to be that way?
Just because your relationship ended with your husband doesn’t mean it has to end with the rest of his family by default. It may feel uncomfortable in your mind to maintain a relationship with your spouse’s family when you are no longer married. After all, what brought you together is your spouse. And now that you and your spouse are no longer together, you may question what it is you still have in common with his family and why you should even bother. The answer? Your children. Whether you are uncomfortable with the idea of maintaining a relationship with your in-laws, barring any abuse by them, you may want to consider keeping those relationships intact for your children’s sake, and yours. Here is why.
Divorce is a disruptive process. It shakes up the foundation of your life, and your children’s. It will not be healthy for them mentally or emotionally if you get a divorce and now they are no longer allowed to see Grandma and Grandpa. You do not need to be your in-laws’ best friend or “daughter,” but, if possible, you should consider remaining cordial, keeping in mind your divorce has nothing to do with anyone except you and your ex. Just as your in-laws should have had nothing to do with your marriage, they should have nothing to do with the dissolution of it. You are divorcing each other, not your families, particularly if you have children. So why all of a sudden should you treat them like strangers or even enemies? The answer is you don’t.
In the long run, remaining friendly with your ex-spouse’s family is the most reasonable course of action you can take if you would like your children to grow up knowing more than half of their family. Not to mention, why would you, after a grueling divorce, want to stir up even more conflict and stress by acting cold to your ex-in-laws? Doing so would only take a toll on you, your relationship with your ex-spouse, and your relationship with your children. Is the added aggravation worth it?
Post-divorce, conflicts between ex-spouses often grow from simple disputes, only to be worsened by tensions with extended family. Your children most likely see your in-laws in a positive light, so they will not know why you are suddenly “being mean” to Grandma and Grandpa even if, in reality, they are the ones “being mean” to you. Regardless of who started what, negative interactions between family members may cause your children to become increasingly unhappy. Your children may even resent you later for separating them from their relatives and won’t necessarily understand why you did or care.
When you think about the long-term effects fighting with your in-laws can have, you may come to realize there is no need for additional friction, primarily since your divorce may have already caused so much of it. Plus, if you enjoyed a positive relationship with your in-laws in the past, chances are, you could enjoy one again, even if it means leading the way. Following a divorce, interactions with your ex’s family may feel strange at first, but a life without your ex’s family in it may not ultimately be what is best for anyone involved. There is no denying history can repeat itself, but everyone also has the power to learn from their mistakes.
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