The war between First Wives and Second Wives (and their husbands) is the stuff movies are made of. But many divorced moms, including a Circle of Moms member named Letha, are trying to maintain a positive connection with their ex in-laws — their children's grandparents, aunts and uncles. "There were some things with my in-laws that led to our divorce, but I'm trying to maintain their relationship [for] the kids," she says.
Obviously, your relationship with your in-laws will change once you're divorced, but hopefully you can continue some level of closeness with sisters-in-law or the grandparents, adds Letha.
Many Circle of Moms members find that family members take sides and sever the relationship with you. When there were strong friendships with sisters- and brothers-in-law before a breakup, it is worth the effort to try to keep them going, say moms like Sofia L. “Just because couples divorce doesn’t mean the family has to divorce each other as well,” she says. “My aunts (from my mother’s side) adore my dad as a brother even though my parents have been divorced over 20 years. That doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate my mom's new husband, who is a wonderful man and has been very good to both my mom and I.”
To create a solid foundation for the relationship moving ahead, many divorced moms in our communities recommend establishing clear guidelines for visitation. Here, they share other nuggests of wisdom gleaned along the way as they've navigated the new relationships with their in-laws, post-divorce.
1. Keep An Open Dialogue
In an effort to encourage the relationship with your kids and your ex-in-laws, you've got to keep an open dialogue. This means that you usually must be the initiator of the new relationship, says a member named Jaime. "It is up to you to sometimes be the one to set this up and keep it going."
Val, on the other hand, is a grandmother who knows how painful it can be to the grandparents, sisters-in-law and other family members when the mom or dad of the children slams the doors of communication shut, despite your best efforts. "I don't see three of my grandchildren because my son and his partner split up, so she didn't just take it out on my son, she took it out on me and my husband too," she says. "I just hope when the kids grow up this woman will tell the kids why they didn't see us, but I bet they don’t."
2. Establish the Ground Rules
When it comes to building new relationships or evolving them after the breakup, it is important for moms to not give up their power and end up getting stepped on, agree moms like Letha and Leah. Letha is finding that "setting guidelines and schedules for their visiting is helping make it all be fine." And Leah reminds moms that they become the “the liaison" between kids and their husband's family. This is especially important in relationships where there has been some tension, she adds. “If they want visitation with your children, they go through you. Lay the ground rules out before them. Phone calls are also okay, but you will either be on the extension or beside your child listening to his end of the conversation, and if there is anything said that you don't like you can terminate the call. They can rant, rave, cry, scream, accuse, or threaten, but when it all comes down to it they still have to do what you say or they get nothing."
Stacey also is a firm believer in setting boundaries first to establish healthy relationships with an ex’s family, “especially if they are being manipulative.” As she explains, “Start by letting them come to your place and visit. People need to earn [your] trust, it isn't just given because they are a blood relative. If they are truly interested in staying connected with your son then they will play by the rules you set up."
3. Protect Yourself In Unhealthy Situations
Sometimes, no matter how hardy you try or how many times you reach out with an olive branch, there are families dynamics that are too dysfunctional, and it's simply not good for your children to witness you being so disrespected, says Circle of Moms member Amber W. explains one way to manage this: “My children were not allowed to see my ex-husband’s parents for five months until they learned to treat me with respect. I gave them a warning, then one day had enough and only allowed them to visit the children in my home with me home. We are now finally at a place where we can all be civil.”
A mom named Sandy also had to step in to prevent her children from witnessing uncomfortable situations with her ex’s family. She recommends going with your gut: "Sometimes you simply have to say no until the ties with your in-laws mend. Then things can be changed. Putting yourselves in a situation where you feel uncomfortable is not good for your children. Your instincts are usually right.”
Have you been able to maintain a pleasant relationship with your ex-in-laws?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.