You often hear that you “marry the family.” A divorce means you may have to maintain a relationship with your ex-in-laws for the sake of the children. You also might like your ex-in-laws and want to keep in touch with them. It is possible to maintain a healthy relationship with your ex-in-laws if you use the right approach.

Prepare Yourself

You were close to your in-laws prior to divorce. Or maybe you didn’t like your in-laws prior to divorce. Regardless, your relationship will change despite your past or present feelings. Your ex-spouse may say negative things about you to your ex-in-laws or even your children. You can reach for some level of closeness, but never expect things to be the same.

Put in the Extra Effort

You may already be feeling stretched thin, but a good relationship with your ex-in-laws requires extra legwork. Be direct with them: “We’ve been family. I want to keep it that way. What can I do to make this work?” Your ex-in-laws may or may not respond to your overture. Be prepared for either response, and don’t take it personally.

Think of Your Children

Maybe your relationship with the in-laws was always fractious. It may be tempting to let things fall apart. Think of your children, and work towards a good relationship for their sake.

Avoid Negativity

Avoid saying anything negative about your ex-spouse or anyone else. Request your ex-in-laws to remain positive and avoid name-calling. Make sure this rule applies around your children. Is there some hostility? Consider having a therapist or other third-party involved to negotiate the relationship. Gently remind your ex-in-laws that everyone has a duty to the children.

Include Them

Maintaining a positive relationship with your ex-in-laws means involving them in your children’s lives. Invite them to help plan birthday parties, host holidays, and participate in family outings.

Be Patient

Mending a relationship takes time. You need time to process your divorce. Your ex-in-laws also need time to process. Give them time to heal, and don’t expect too much at first. Remain diligent and positive. You can have a relationship with those you used to call family.

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Photo of Cynthia J. Brown Cynthia J. Brown

Cynthia Brown is a founding shareholder with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. She is an honors graduate of the University of South Dakota and William Mitchell College of Law. Cynthia’s practice focuses almost exclusively

Cynthia Brown is a founding shareholder with the Brown Law Offices, P.A., a northwest Twin Cities divorce and family law firm. She is an honors graduate of the University of South Dakota and William Mitchell College of Law. Cynthia’s practice focuses almost exclusively on divorce and family law issues. She publishes a monthly family law column for the Minnesota Lawyer newspaper, and has contributed to Divorce Magazine and The Family Law Forum. Cynthia also serves as a panel attorney for the Anoka County Family Law Clinic.