Ah, the ex-in-laws — tricky creatures they are. No longer confined by marital ties and respect. Armed with knowledge of you, as well as possibly negative and hurt feelings and defensive behaviors, they do not have to spare your feelings if they so choose. Though you are out of the marriage, when there are children involved, your ex-in-laws are still a factor in your life.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because there was a divorce that they disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. Whether the divorce was amicable or hostile, someone is still to blame for the termination of the marriage. Generally speaking, “someone” usually means you. Whether you had a good relationship with your in-laws or not, the fact that you are no longer married to their child means that things will never be the same again.
As stated earlier, ex-in-laws can be tricky creatures. Their first loyalty is to their child. Therefore, they generally have one of three things motivating them when they deal with you: to make you pay for whatever they believe you did to their child, to stay close to their grandchildren, and/or to gather information for potential use later. The trickier ones will be working on all three at the same time and you may not even know it until it’s too late. There are the few exceptions where they sincerely want to maintain a positive relationship with you just because they really like you. But be warned, even then there is great potential for them to cross over without notice.
Then there’s the issue of the grandchildren. They can be even more protective of their grandkids than their own children at times. Regardless of the type of relationships you have with them, as long as they are good to your kids you should allow that relationship to continue.
So how do you deal with your in-laws after your marriage is over, in an effort to maintain their relationship with your children?
You must be careful with your ex-in-laws, because regardless of how the divorce went or how friendly you were, your ex-spouse will always be their child. This means that when it comes down to it they will eventually side with, make excuses for, and better understand their own child over you. So what do you do?
You should treat them with respect. After all, they were your parents-in-law at one point, they are older than you, and they are your children’s grandparents. Regardless of how your relationship changes with them, and whether they treat you with kindness or respect, it is best if you always take the high road and treat them with respect.
Think about what is best for your children. They are already dealing with any and all factors that lead up to their parents getting a divorce. Should they have to deal with or witness the tension and negativity between you and their grandparents as well? If there has never been any inappropriate behavior or actions with or around the children while in their grandparents care, then helping them to maintain that relationship will give them some semblance of normalcy. That, more than anything, is very important for children with divorced parents.
There will definitely be times, especially during and shortly after the divorce, where they may be less than hospitable. This is to be expected because they are only thinking about how their child and grandchildren are being affected. If need be, take a deep breathe, count to ten, and keep your responses short, simple, and on topic. The stronger and better your prior relationship was, the shorter this period will be.
Be sure to be polite in social situations. Expecting to chat it up like you are BFFs is probably not going to happen, especially if there is tension. When in public, such as a school performance, keep it simple and surface. If you find yourselves smack dab in the middle of that ever-annoying awkward silence, then talk about the weather or the kids or the event you are at. Again keep it simple and polite.
Avoid conversations about what went wrong in the relationship. These never lead anywhere good! The relationship is over, and regardless of how either of you feel about it , it was not their relationship and therefore not appropriate for you to attempt to debate, discuss, place blame, or explain anything.
There is nothing wrong with keeping things amicable with ex-in-laws, especially when children are present. If you see them on a regular basis, or just run into them occasionally, keep in mind that no matter how great they seem to be, they are your ex-in-laws. You should treat them carefully, and with respect and politeness, for the children’s sake.