Episode 10 – What happens to your relationship with your in-laws after the divorce?

It’s one of those topics that doesn’t usually get discussed in the divorce negotiations but can be touchy and emotional after a divorce. I’ve experienced a good relationship and silence.

This episode is intended to get you thinking.

I’m not sure I have all the answers, but I have a few scenarios for you to ponder as you move forward post divorce.


  • Should you keep your relationship with your in-laws?
  • What happens if to the in-laws in a second marriage situation?
  • Where not to go on a first date
  • Will your self talk impact your actions?

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I recently visited with my in-laws which is what inspired me to create this episode. They were so happy to see me. I am the daughter they never had. It makes my son happy that I visit them.  If I was still married I’d be seeing them, so why should getting a divorce change things?

The problem is that your relationship with your  in-laws post divorce isn’t part of what is normally negotiated and I’m sure isn’t something a judge would rule on!

Depending on the relationship you have with them before the divorce can impact the post divorce relationship. I believe it’s something we should talk to them about, particularly if there are children in the picture.

I have two sets of in-laws.

From my first marriage, my mother in law has told me on many occasions that I’m her favorite daughter in law. This was when I was married and has continued 20+ years post divorce.

When I left their son, I think they understood why, but really wanted me to remain in the picture.  

The in-laws from my second marriage…well, I’ve never heard from them, even though I did so much for their family, but that’s a conversation for another episode. 

The good relationship with my in-laws, took a few years to evolve and honestly, most of it might have been my own doing because I didn’t feel comfortable.  My second husband wasn’t thrilled with them and that might have been part of my problem as well.

I was also concerned about impacting the relationship with my ex’s new girlfriends. I wasn’t thrilled with how he handled our children when he had visitation and I’m sure I walked around with a chip on my shoulder because I was so angry with him.

It was hard to see my in-laws when I couldn’t say anything about how he was parenting. They knew it but as you’ll hear in just a minute, they were too kind to say anything.

First Date

My first date with my first husband was playing tennis.  After we finished playing and deciding what to do next, he suggested that we go to his parents house and his mom would fix us something to eat.  

Seriously, I wasn’t going to go to someone’s parents on a first date, nor would I ask your mom to fix me dinner when I’m perfectly capable of cooking myself.

I have to admit, several years into the relationship when I reflected back on our first date, I understood why my husband suggested going to his parents home.  His mom would do anything for anyone. She gets up with her husband at 4 am and fixes him coffee before he goes out hunting. She has a heart of gold.

When we first announced having a baby, she was ecstatic. And to this day, she is a very proud grandmother.

When I made the decision to leave my first husband, things happened a lot faster that I anticipated

If you want to learn more about how my marriage ended, check out this out

It was June and the plan was to send the boys to their grandparents for a few weeks after school was out. It would give me time to work and not have the expense of child care.

3 days before school was over, things got so bad at home that I had to leave my husband and I took the boys with me.

I called the attorney to let her know that I had left my husband and what was next and when I told her that I was planning to take my kids to their grandparents, she said I needed to get permission so it wasn’t perceived as abandonment. So I tugged them around with me while I put everything in place.

My husband was shocked that I was leaving him but he also knew that having the boys go to his parents was a good thing for them, so he didn’t’ fight me on having the documents signed that I wasn’t abandoning them.

I didn’t know what to say to anyone. I was frightened, didn’t have a permanent place to go and had 2 kids in tow. While a lot of people get divorced, 20 years ago we didn’t have the online resources we do today to provide a little more guidance and support.

I certainly didn’t have anyone telling me how to talk to my kids about what was going on. This is one of the reasons I am such a proponent of getting the kids into counseling when you are getting divorced.

Since they were comfortable with their grandparents, I knew they would be safe and well cared for. In retrospect, I’m not sure I talked to them enough about what was going on, but what do you tell a 6 and 9 year old. I was so confused, scared and relieved all at the same time.

The boys stayed with their grandparents for the summer giving my husband and myself time to work things out.  

After that summer, I would see my in-laws periodically over the years, but never for any significant amount of time.

I always felt some guilt about breaking up the family.  Don’t get me wrong, the marriage needed to end, but my in-laws were wonderful people and always treated me well. I came from a broken home and they were stable.  I really admired that.

Over the years my in-laws have always sent me a birthday card and a holiday card. I would see them occasionally when dropping off the boys somewhere, but I never really took the time to stop and talk to them and spend any amount of time with them.

For the past 5 or 6 years, I’ve been going to see them a couple times a year, usually with my youngest son. When he talks to them, they always ask about me and love the fact that I visit.

I share this story because they were two people that I cared about and they cared about me.  Because of the divorce, I stayed away when I probably should have visited more often. I was involved in my own life, but I could have made time for them.

I also had some head trash going on that I wanted to be respectful of my x’s new relationship and not be a threat or create any problems. I also really didn’t know how to handle this. I hadn’t gotten much training!

In retrospect, maybe I should have just shown up and maybe we would get along better than we do.

It would be different if they were jerks, and I know some in laws can be that way, but they are my children’s grandparents. I feel a sense of obligation to maintain a good relationship with them because of that connection. It’s part of setting a good example and creating a good road map for the next generation.

Now my in-laws from my second divorce are completely different.

Since my husband left me, I haven’t heard a word.

While both of my marriages ended abruptly, it was my husband that ended the second marriage.

Things had gotten a little crazy, so when he left, he might have painted a horrible picture about me and made himself the victim to his family.  Since he left, I haven’t heard a peep from any of his family. I adored his father and I think we had a good relationship. He seemed like the sane one. His father was able to see everything I was trying to do and always thanked me, but post divorce, none of that seemed to mattered.

My second husband had two sisters and a brother. While we were married, I never felt like I was part of their family. I always thought it was strange because of how well I got along with my other inlaws and people in general. Maybe it was because I was the second wife, maybe it was because it was them. That is something I will never really know. But it’s something I think about periodically.

What is difficult is that my boys looked at his dad as a grandpa in some ways. Not in the same way as his biological grandparents, but they looked up to him. So now there are aunts and uncles form marriage that are no longer in the picture.

I don’t think it has had a huge impact on my boys because they have so many other relatives, but how can it not be a void.  Why is family only family when you are married? Why doesn’t family remain family after divorce.

Clearly in this scenario, everyone has to be willing to make the effort. I certainly didn’t nor did they. Did my kids suffer as a result? I don’t always know what goes on deep inside their heads and I didn’t put them in counseling after the divorce, which is something that I recommend to everyone today, no matter what the age.

When a marriage ends, how are the children and in laws impacted?

During my second marriage, I really thought my husband did everything he could to be a good stepfather to my boys. But post divorce, my second husband wants nothing to do with them. It’s been a real struggle for my youngest, and probably my oldest, but he won’t admit it.

When I married for the second time, I never thought I’d get divorced, so I never thought I’d need to deal with this. Lesson learned, never say never…but honestly, if you get remarried and your children are young, it’s something that you should give a lot of thought to.

What happens if the second marriage doesn’t work out.

If your kids are young when you get married, how will losing that second ‘dad’ impact their life? There’s probably no obligation for the second husband to stick around. When he moves on to another relationship, how will your children be impacted by the loss?  

The same would apply to the in-laws. If your kids are connected to your x’s parents, will they feel a sense of loss because your marriage ended.  

While I’m referencing my husband in this conversation, the same questions should be applied to a step mom.

I will take partial ownership because I didn’t talk to them after the divorce either.

But honestly, what’s the protocol?

  • Emotionally, I was a total wreck when my husband left me.
  • Within 3 weeks, I had to move
  • There was no Job
  • One son in high school
  • Two dogs

The last thing I wanted was their pity! Nor did I want to keep them from my children.

Fast forward 5 years and my youngest was still trying to figure it out. Could I have risen above the occasion, taken the high road and tried to open the lines of communication. Maybe.

It’s a tough place to be and honestly, like I said at the beginning of this episode, I didn’t handle it as best as I might have, nor do I have the right solution.

What I didn’t do as well as I could have was talked to my in-laws  after the divorce. Perhaps we could have worked out something that felt comfortable and wasn’t threatening.

If you care about your in-laws, try to work things out sooner than later with them.

Then there won’t be any regrets. Think about your kids and how your actions will impact them as adults and as parents.

When I started this episode I mentioned that this isn’t a topic where I have the answers.  I’m just raising the issue for consideration.

Do You Have A Good Strategy?

If you have a good strategy for this, let me know. You can send an email to , connect with me on social or post your thoughts on the episode page on our website at Look for the episode title In Laws.

Until next time, keep finding the positives in everything you do!