I don’t think I have to tell anyone how emotionally difficult it is to get divorced. Putting all other issues aside, (finances, the kids, the legal bills, finding a new place to live, dating, etc. etc. I could go on and on), the bottom line is, you and the person who’s probably the love of your life up until this point are breaking up. It’s brutal. But what your in-laws? Can you still have a relationship with them or did they dump you? When it comes to in-laws and divorce, every family is different.
I’m not trying to be funny by saying this, but often times, if you can’t stand your in-laws, your divorce suddenly has a huge plus side. Think about this. You never, ever, ever have to go out for brunch or dinner with them. Ever again! Yay! But, what happens if you actually like your soon-to-be ex’s family? What are the rules?
When I got divorced, my ex-husband’s entire family stopped communicating with me. For years. I understand that their son was probably telling them all kinds of horrible stuff about me on a daily basis, and what a terrible person I was, but if they ever had any love for me, wouldn’t you think they would call me at least once to see how I was? And say, “We’re really sorry and we’re going to miss seeing you?” With one side of his family, I didn’t expect that, but with the other, I was very rudely awakened that getting divorced from their son, meant they were divorcing me too.
I don’t expect my ex-in-laws to take my side. I don’t expect them to be my best friends. But, when I was married to their son, we were pretty chummy, so to go from that to no communication at all was very difficult for me, and made me wonder , was this all an act? Were my ex’s parents just taking me in as family because of my marriage license? In my heart, I don’t believe that. In my heart I believe that it all came down to them not wanting to upset my ex. And while I can semi-understand it, I think it is cowardly and very very wrong.
In some cases, the person tells their family that it is forbidden to speak with their ex. I don’t have proof that this was the case with me, but I can tell you that I honestly think that the family of the person getting divorced, (should they have the desire to still communicate with the other person), should stand up and just tell them , “This is the way it is.”
They should say, “I love you. I’m on your side. I don’t know the whole story and I’m sure so and so did some bad things to you. But, we are close to her. And we care about her. And we are going to continue to be her friend. And if you have a problem with that, sorry. Get over it.”
There are exceptions to this, such as if someone did something really horrible, like cheating or physical abuse. So, I do realize in those cases, you’re probably out. But, what do the parents think is going to happen if they remain friendly with their ex-daughter or son-in-law? Do they think their son or daughter is never going to speak to them again? No chance. The person will get over it. I promise.
But, what parents and siblings of divorced people should ask themselves is, “If I loved this person while my son or daughter or brother or sister was married to him or her, then don’t I love them now still? Don’t I care what happens to them in the future? Or do I want to just dump them, take my losses and move on?”
There are boundaries, of course. I have a friend whose sister is having drinks with and getting together with her ex-brother-in-law. I think this is unacceptable behavior and shows a lot about the sister’s character. In other words, it’s NOT COOL. But, it IS okay to send cards, and call someone if they are ill, or text on their birthday, things like that.
On another subject, while I was writing this blog, I received an email from my boyfriend’s ex wife. It was very sweet and was just saying hello and that she heard I had another book coming out.
I can’t think of a more awkward relationship than that of two women: one the ex-wife, the other, the girlfriend. But, that said, this woman has made me feel comfortable since day one, acting kind and friendly, therefore putting me (and my children and HER children) at complete ease. I can’t tell you how much respect I have for this, and how much my ex’s parents could learn from her!
In closing, here’s my advice. If you get divorced, expect NOTHING from your in-laws. Then, you’ll never be disappointed or hurt. Let them come to you (or not come to you) thereby showing you their true colors. I think it’s okay to reach out one time, maybe say you’re sorry that things didn’t work out, maybe tell them how much you care about them (if you do, that is) and how much you hope you can remain close. And then, you have to be done. You have to move on, and accept the loss, just as you are accepting the loss of your husband (or wife.)
If you end up close to the family, view it as a gift. Because remember, you can never have too many people in your life who care about you. And you definitely can never have too many people that YOU care about.