When you get married, you don’t marry just one person, you marry into an entire family. They become an extension of you and your life, especially if your union produces children. But what becomes of your relationship with your in-laws if you and your spouse divorce?
Living a distance from your ex in-laws may make it easier to sever the relationship you have with them after a Michigan divorce. But even though a couple has parted ways, that doesn’t mean the entire family has to divorce as well. Easier said than done, though, right? Typically, one spouse’s family is on that person’s “side” in a divorce, and they may feel their loyalty cannot waiver. Then again, they have known their loved one since birth and may realize just how difficult they are to live with – in which case, you may have some unexpected allies on your team.
Maintaining a Relationship with Ex In-Laws for Your Children
Most families attempt to maintain some sense of normalcy for their children during a divorce and afterward. If you were close with your in-laws before your Michigan divorce and your children regularly saw their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, severing this connection entirely can confuse and upset your children. Family members who take sides may choose to sever any relationship you once had – which means you don’t have much choice about maintaining a relationship with your ex in-laws.
While you don’t have to spend every holiday together, special occasions will arise for your children and your in-laws will likely want to be present for recitals, ball games, graduations, weddings, and births. To avoid making these situations stickier than they need to be, these guidelines for forging a new relationship with your ex in-laws can help:
- Take the first step. It will likely be up to you to initiate a new relationship with your ex in-laws and keep it going. They may be tentative about overstepping their bounds in this new dynamic that has come to pass
- Don’t assume they’re against you. Sometimes your in-laws will surprise you. They may believe that your divorce was caused by their loved one, or they may simply want to be an impartial third party that can still have a relationship with someone who was once part of the family.
- Set boundaries. If the relationship you have with your ex in-laws was rocky to begin with, it’s unlikely to improve after a divorce. If you are making the conscious effort to keep them in your child’s life, establish ground rules to protect your feelings and emotions, and to protect your children from any negative talk to which they may be exposed. If your divorce is particularly contentious, you may want visits with ex in-laws and your children to occur on your turf so you can always be present. Families who truly want to stay connected will be willing to bend.
- Know when to say “when.” Sometimes, family dynamics are dysfunctional and no amount of effort on your part will change things. It’s not good for your children to witness such unhappy and unhealthy relationships; you may need to briefly cut ties until everyone has agreed to be civil in each others’ presence. Or the in-laws may ultimately only see your children during your ex’s court-mandated parenting time.