Wednesday, September 8, 2010

To Get Along or NOT to get Along? In laws...

I get along pretty well with my in-laws. My husband parents are divorced, and both are remarried. My husband has three older sisters, and while I’m not particularly close with any of them, we also get along pretty well. My mother-in-law and I are pretty close. We talk on the phone at least once a week, normally, and even though we disagree on politics and religion, we have a friendly relationship. It hasn’t always been that way, though.

When my husband and I started dating, his mother made it no secret that she wasn’t that fond of me. I, being a polite young Southern girl, was always polite to her, but she made me feel very uncomfortable, to say the least. He was her baby, and her only boy out of four children. I was not invited to the family Christmas party at his mother’s house the year we were engaged, even though we were, you know, engaged, where in contrast, my husband has always been welcome at my family events, even when we’d only been dating a few weeks. My mother had always been benignly mistreated by my father’s parents, and figured that as long as I was happy with him, she’d make sure he felt welcome.

My husband joined the Army in the first year of our marriage, and shipped out 7 months after the wedding. On the last day before he left, I took him to the recruiter’s office, where his dad met up with us. I’ve always felt close to his dad, maybe because I don’t have one of my own, but he and his wife have always made me feel like part of the family. I even lived with them for a while when I came home, pregnant, during my husband’s deployment. Anyway, my husband was sent to a hotel in Atlanta, right outside the airport, because he’d be flying out in the morning. After he checked in, he was given permission to leave the hotel, as long as a civilian signed him out. Well, of course, he’d forgotten his glasses so I drove to the hotel to take them to him.

While I was there, his mother called. He told her that he was free to go out for dinner, so she said she’d come up. He told her that I was there, and I heard her say that she just wanted it to be them, and our niece that was visiting his mom. I lost it. I sat in my car and cried like a baby. My husband half-heartedly offered to call her and insist that I come along (he’s never been good about standing up to his parents), but by that point my face was red and splotchy, I was angry with both of them, and I’d used my sleeves as Kleenex (gross, I know). The last time I saw my husband before he shipped out was with a tear-stained face, and a heavy heart; my mother-in-law obviously didn’t want me around, and apparently keeping the peace was more important to my husband than standing up for me.

When my husband graduated AIT (advanced individual training), my sister and I drove to Missouri for his graduation. His mom flew into St. Louis, and we picked her up from the airport. It was a 2 hour drive back to Fort Leonard Wood, and it actually wasn’t half bad. It was one of the first times we’d been together without my husband as a buffer. We went to these caves that were on the way and took a tour, and she stayed in our hotel room to save a little money. It was a little awkward, especially for my sister, to have to share a hotel room with her, but we made it work. We all drove back to Georgia together; me, my husband, his mother, and my sister, plus all his Army gear, in a Plymouth Neon. Still, it was far too soon to say that were close, or that we even liked one another.

I know plenty of people don’t get along with their in-laws, even after years or decades of having a spouse/child in common. For us, we didn’t really start getting along until my daughter was born. I guess she figured out that at this point, even if I divorced her son tomorrow, we were always going to be a part of each others’ lives. For me, well, I learned to ignore the sometimes hurtful comments, and eventually they ceased. I started to appreciate the woman who obviously adored my daughter, who sent care packages to the baby and me in Germany as often as she sent them to her son in Afghanistan. I started to really enjoy our chats, and even look forward to the phone calls I’d make to her.

I’m sure to her, I was just someone who was trying to take her son away, and the thing is, it was true. Because I was uncomfortable around his mother, we both avoided her, for the most part. When we did have to spend time with her, we made our excuses quickly, because he knew how awkward it was for me. As I became more comfortable spending time with her, it became easier for him to spend time with her. Now, well, we still disagree about politics and religion, but we don’t really talk about it. We do, however, agree that we both love her son, and the children that her son and I have produced, and that gave us some excellent building blocks to build a relationship that was just ours.

Do you have problems with your in-laws, or have you overcome what was once a problem relationship with them? Are there some relationships that just can’t be saved?

Elaina- She has also guest posted for us HERE.


Becky Andrews said...

I am not close with my mother-in-law but do have a respect for her raising a son that is an incredible man that has love and repsect for me. I love and appreciate my father-in-law for setting this example. I wish we were closer, but do feel at this point - it is what it is.

SciFi Dad said...

My history with my inlaws is well documented on my site. At this point, they are who they are, and I am who I am, and nothing will change what has happened in the past.

I try to keep my distance from them whenever possible, and when I can't avoid them I just sit quietly and try not to think logically and everything seems OK.

Untypically Jia said...

I lived with my inlaws for about half of my marriage so far. We've only been on our own for 3 years total.

We've had our ups and downs and they drive me nuts. But I also love them very much. Sometimes I even miss living with them.

Inlaw relationships are VERY hard but very worth it.

Anonymous said...

I will say that all the drama that we had in the first few years has taught me how NOT to treat the people that my kids fall in love with. And of course, just yesterday my husband and his mom had a little spat, so it seems appropriate that this is up here today.

Please forgive any typos, I'm writing from my iPod, stealing wifi from mcdonalds. My husband and I are in Maryland house hunting...we are moving up here to his new duty station. Sometimes this army wife life can be a pain in the ass!

wendy said...

I have been lucky actually, that I have got along quite wonderfully.....with all 3 different set of in-laws.
Hubby # had a great mom and dad and I only had one disagreement/tiff with his mom over 22 years.
Hubby #2, well his mom and dad were only 6 years older then me (remember he was 15 years younger) and we all got along famously.
Hubby #3, she is a wonderful little old lady who adores me and what could be better then that.

I know it seems whacko to talk about my 3 marriages...but it MOLDED ME TO WHO I AM TODAY. I learned things from all of them....from every dimension.

I have 5 married kids now and I try very hard to 'STAY OUT' of their lives as husband and wives....and only give opinions when asked. I try to be as kiind and loving to every one of my daughter/son in laws. It is hard from the MOM IN LAW aspect sometimes too.

But children marry, and parents need to be supportive and loving...put differences aside.

whew, this got long, sorry

oh....and the part about where the mom wanted to go to dinner with ONLY his son and you were not to come along.....I can't imagine how horrible that must have been for you. It sounds like you really have come through all this in a mature fashion.

Unknown said...

Every day is something new with my in-laws. It would take an entire post to detail the bullshit I deal with on a weekly basis. They all blame me for their distressed relationships with my husband, but the fact is he wants nothing to do with them or their drama. His own mother hates him because she is psychotic, so he doesn't ever speak to her. His real dad and stepmom are amazing so we speak to them as often as we can, but they live very far away and weren't allowed to be in my husband's life when he was a kid.

My husband is a great man, and an amazing father, despite what his wretch of a mother has done to him. And because he was such a horrible child in her eyes, I must be the worst kind of person because I love him. We are much happier when his family leaves us the hell alone.

GoodWill said...

I have been a VERY lucky man, as I love my in-laws and pretty much always have. They treated me as a part of the family from day 1, and have always supported my wife. They are a huge part of her life, and family is a very important part of my beliefs/values, so having such a great family was just one of the many reasons I was confident about marrying my wife.

I've had relationships where I didn't get along with the girl's family - and I've had one longterm relationship where my girlfriend did NOT get along with part of my family. It made things very difficult for me, even just as a girlfriend. I can't imagine having a life-long relationship with dislike/distrust/hostility, etc - even though I know many who deal with it, cope with it, etc.

TisforTonya said...

I count myself VERY lucky to have a wonderful relationship with my in-laws. They raised a rebellious little twit of a boy into a fabulous man for me to spend my life with - I owe them a lot.

I know I am in the minority - and even though I have no complaints I have to say that it's not always perfect... when MIL offers my daughter ice cream at 9 in the morning I have to gently intercede - but she's not doing it to upset me, really! (she just has the world's best metabolism and forgets sometimes that the rest of us have to eat a little more healthfully)

TisforTonya said...

oh p.s. - I really hope that your husband has learned to stand up and say "hey, it's the wife's last chance to see me too - I'll book a table for all of us, see you there!"

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

I had a rough start with my in-laws... But now I love them so much!

They are very good to us.

Big hearts

People adapt and you somehow learn to grow with them as they realize you are an inevitable part of their lives :)

I love his whole family. Guess I'm lucky!

CityMom2 said...

I've been very fortunate. For 25 years it's been pretty easy.

HOWEVER, Elaina - you are a saint. If my husband had left me pregnant and crying, to have dinner with his mother on his last night in town...well, let's just say that baby would have my last name and no knowledge of those "other" people. What a witch!

You are a far, far, far, did I say FAR BETTER person than me. I'm glad it worked out and you are happy.
City mom

Anonymous said...

Well, I wasn't pregnant at that point, but yes, it was really difficult to kiss him goodbye when I was so mad I couldn't see straight. This was over 4 years ago, so Ive tried to let it go, but obviously I haven't forgotten about it. I tried not to hold a grudge, but yes, it was very hurtful.

nitebyrd said...

My ex-mother-in-law taught me how NOT to be a mother-in-law.

We developed a tolerant relationship over the years, though.