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Marry a Family, Divorce a Family?

DSC_0650Somehow, through my extremely long and messy divorce, I have managed to stay somewhat close with my in-laws. My ex-husband's dad and step mom have been committed to my girls and me from the very beginning. This is not to say that they're not in a difficult position, but they are very diplomatic and still consider me family. We go on long weekend trips to the coast and they sweetly remind me that if I ever move on to a new relationship and decide to grow my family, those new additions will be welcomed into their open arms. This relationship has been so comforting and I'm incredibly grateful. I recognize how lucky I am and how unusual this probably is for most ex-daughters-in-laws.

So here we are, almost 3 years since the separation and I still adore my in-laws and they seem to find value in our relationship as well. Sometimes I think that my father-in-law tolerates me, my homemade life and my choice to homeschool my youngest daughter, but I know that I can quickly bring him back around when I cook or bake for him. My mother-in-law is the most comfortable of the two and probably one of my closest friends. In spite of the circumstances of the last few years, we have been able to talk with utter transparency which is sometimes really hard and other times it's really healing. I'm starting to think everything is going to change though.

My ex has a serious girlfriend. He's had many girlfriends in the last few years, but nothing so serious. This girlfriend has a child and seems to be on the prowl for a stable relationship. My ex is either serious about her or he is just playing along- I can't tell yet and we are not able to talk about much, let alone our relationships.

It's funny because I don't care that he's moved on (although I used to). I don't want to know too much and I don't really like hearing my kids prattle on about what they do when they're visiting their dad and his girlfriend. I get mad when they tell me that they spend so much time with her when really all they want is to be with their dad, but when it comes to my ex moving on to something more serious, I don't care... except that I really love my in-laws.

It's already getting complicated too. My mother-in-law feels torn between me, who she loves, and her stepson and his new interest. She knows that at some point she is going to have to meet this new girlfriend (sooner than later) and it will get even more complicated because she will probably like her. This will be the first thing that we won't be able to talk about. In the history of our 12 year relationship, this has never happened. She's not going to want to hurt my feelings and frankly, I'm not going to want to know too much. I expect that I'll feel jealous of their time together and of their new relationship and as childish as it might seem, I worry that I will be pushed out.

I have been lucky to count my mother-in-law as one of my best friends and it's devastating to be sensing this shift coming into our relationship and realizing that there's really nothing I can do about it. I just have to stand back and let it unfold. It really has become one of those situations that keeps me awake at night as I search my brain for ideas that would keep us close, and yet I continue to come up blank.

I'm really going to miss her, that I know for sure.


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I don't have any btdt advice cause I haven't been in this situation. But from your description of the relationship with her, I have to wonder if she doesn't have those same feelings herself? Maybe it's time for the two of you to go out to coffee, or wine, or whatever and put those fears on the table to talk about them. You might find out that she's got the same concerns and while you may not be able to find an immediate solution, it could help to just know the two of you are on the same page.

I'm not sure why you feel you know for sure that your relationship is coming to an end. As the other commenter stated, your mom in law might feel the same way. But it like that saying about how you can't control others' actions, you can only control your own. If it were me, I'd just make sure that no matter what happens with the new woman, continue to make an effort to stay close with your mom in law. Continue to do things with her, or make plans to get together the same way you do now.

I was divorced pre-children so it is somewhat different, but I maintained a better relationship with my in-laws than my spouse did at that time! For me, it eventually became clear that our relationship did need to evolve into something that was different, more friend than family, because as long as I was taking a place at the family table, I wasn't leaving the space open for someone else, and was limiting who I could bring into the picture. Holding onto the role of daughter-in-law was my way of holding on to the last bits of the dream of what could have been, but wasn't going to be. To be clear, that was me, and certainly might not be the same for you. In your position, you have an ongoing tie to them in the grandchildren, so you will always have a relationship with them and hopefully it will always be a good one.

Here's the thing though. If either or both of you (your ex and you) are going to move forward and begin to introduce new partners into the family, you will have to be able to have the relationships with everyone as they are now become different. This goes for your relationship with your ex as well as the family. I know the idea of knowing too much about her is painful, but the reality is she will have a role in your children's lives and you really want to be as involved in that as you can possibly tolerate in order to make it as positive as it can be. And your MIL will potentially need to welcome a new DIL into the family and has to be able to do that. I agree with the poster above who suggests talking with her about it because it probably is just as difficult for her as you. You two might be able to arrive at a beautiful new relationship even though it will be different and started out of loss.

I don't think this relationship has to go away. First, you are the mother of their adored grandchildren. That will never change. Second, my mother-in-law was friends for years with my husband's ex. (Ex-fiancé, in their case, as my husband called off the wedding, but it was a long relationship.) I wasn't super comfortable with it at first, but it wasn't really any of my business who my boyfriend's mother was friends with. And now, a decade later, they aren't super close, but they still have coffee or chat on the phone and exchange birthday cards, and the three of us have even gone to lunch together. It's definitely possible!

Agreed. Although I can't speak to this exact experience, my mom maintained a cordial relationship with her former in-laws and she wasn't even that close to them!

In fact, although I was the result of a subsequent marriage, they considered me and treated me as their granddaughter, in addition to my brothers. I have nothing but positive memories about them (better than my bio-grandparents, actually).

I also remember an older gentleman I worked with being very upset over his son's divorce, largely because he was so fond of his daughter-in-law. No need for anything to end if you don't want it to.

It may or may not be possible. This depends on the way the new girlfriend feels. She may be mature enough to deal with the fact that you are still friends with her BF's parents. But on the other hand it may bother her a lot. If your ex is really fond of her and she is unhappy with the situation, he may talk to his parents and ask them to cut off all contact with you. Hard to say. This might be a bit difficult though.

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