In-Laws and Divorce: Did your In-Laws Dump You After Divorce?

By Jackie Pilossoph, Creator and Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling site, podcast and app, Love Essentially columnist and author

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.


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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorced Girl Smiling is here to empower, connect and inspire you. Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling, the site, the podcast and the app. A former television journalist and newspaper features reporter, Pilossoph is also the author of four novels and the writer of her weekly relationship column, Love Essentially. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism and lives in Chicago with her two teenagers. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

3 Responses to “In-Laws and Divorce: Did your In-Laws Dump You After Divorce?”

  1. Jerry

    I was dumped alone in a foreign country with a 4 years old child, by in-laws whom I considered my closest friends and a family. I did not have any of my family members here when I was living with my ex-husband for about 10 years during which I tried my best to make my ex to be closer to his own family( lots of story there) . I also hardly had any contact with my own family who are not here in USA and did not support my relationship to begin with. So naively I considered these less than humans my only family and confined everything and anything in my life
    When I was dumped in the middle of nowhere without any financial support with a toddler, I actually keep contacting them to mediate b/n me and Mr. betrayal (ex-husband) . I begged them to get involved for the sake of their own grandchild only to be lied and to be told not contacts them any longer. To me is not the hard life I am leading what has been hurting me so much but the extent of my naivety and the degree of their betrayal. During those bitter years before the separation, I always reached out to them about our problem and my ex used to tell me “Do not tell them about us because they do not care!” he was right all along. I realized now, they only did not care, but also they actually hate me.
    I am the youngest of my family with 5 older brothers. My family has been different when it comes to in-laws. My family always took the wives side and took them in as our own family and supported to extent of raising their kids. This was all I saw when I was a kid and thought this was the norm.
    Their betrayal is more than words can express but how can grandparents ignore the hurt of their own grand kid? And abandon sweet little girl who still has their last name as if she never existed?!!

  2. Susan

    I am just beginning to realize the issue in front of me. My daughter just found out that her husband has been cheating on her. They have a 5 year old son. Her heart is broken. Mine is broken for her. I haven’t spoken to my son-in-law (other than to answer him if he asks me a question) since finding out about 3 weeks ago. My grandson knows they are fighting a lot, but has no clue why. The night my daughter found out, she asked me to come pick up my grandson and keep him overnight. He knew he was there due to the fighting going on.
    How do I react RIGHT NOW to my s-I-l? He and my husband become more like friends, rather than in-laws. My husband feels the hurt and betrayal as well. We want to support our daughter. But we don’t want our support for her to negatively impact our grandson. It’s a fine line to balance, and I’m not sure how to do it. Any advice is welcome.
    I should mention that my s-I-l has apparently broken things off with the “other woman” although he hasn’t made a commitment yet to try to save the marriage. My daughter would like to, for the sake of their son. She has already started seeing a marriage counselor. He has, so far, refused to go.

  3. Lucy

    What happens when the entire family dumps you! My brother got a divorce, and the children, the ex wife, won’t even speak to me. I am their aunt. They never call my elderly mother who is 89 and in poor health. I didn’t do anything and I got pitched to the curb along with my whole family. The only time they contact me is when they want a graduation gift.


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