Marriage Mondays: The In-Laws

This is the 2nd Marriage Mondays post today! Beginning this week, I am featuring 1-2 Marriage Mondays posts each week (all still on Monday...that part hasn't changed). If you missed the first one today, feel free to check it out here! Enjoy! : )

For years, I dated a bunch of dudes and never met a single parent. I always joked that the guy who introduced me to his parents would be the guy I'd marry. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy! That's exactly what happened.

In a new relationship, meeting the parents is oh, so big! It's the first attempt to bring you into the family fold. In a marriage, hanging out with the parents can be the demise of a relationship. We all hear the horror stories about critical, passive aggressive in-laws. Heck, they're the supporting characters in our sitcoms. But what about real life experiences with in-laws?

I remember when I first met all of A.P.'s family. I remember something really stupid bugging me and I was complaining about it to A.P. and it made him flip out on me. Later, I was talking to my best friend about it and she said, "Girl, when it comes to A.P.'s family, they're fine." I didn't get it. She further explained, "You have no opinion on them. His dad? He's fine. His brothers. They're fine. Everyone's fine." Now, I got it. She was trying to explain that when the dividing lines were drawn, I'd be on the other side if I got too rude about his family.

But marriage makes that family your family and it changes things. What do you do when your in-laws come into your house and insult you? What happens if your husband doesn't defend you? After all, you're no longer his girlfriend. You're his wife. You're his family now. It's a tricky little patch of gray is what I'm saying.

A.P.'s family lives in Florida, so I don't see them very often. When I do, I feel pretty lucky. I get along with them and we all like each other. Any problems I do have with A.P.'s family, he and I tend to see eye to eye on and are mostly silly stuff, like, yes, his dad gets tense when driving. But there have been two major things that have happened with his family that have caused us to fight. One of them was when his brother visited town. This was a big turning point in our relationship. The short end of it is that his brother and his wife came to town and didn't, I felt, go out of their way to include me in their daily plans. I was giving up a lot of my spare time (and work at home time) to entertain them and I felt like I was getting left in the dust a lot. I'd wait around all day for a phone call telling me when they would pick me up only for them to call and say they were doing something else and would see me later.

I've never felt like A.P. and I were going to break up. I've always felt really solid about our relationship. But that week was the only time I ever doubted things. It felt like I was an outsider and I was getting pushed to the side for family. When A.P.'s brother went back to Florida, I had a long talk with A.P. about what happened and how it made me feel. He didn't get it at first; he thought I was mad at his brother. I wasn't. I was actually mad at him. That he really didn't get! But after a long discussion, he understood how I'd felt all week. I explained to him that I was his girlfriend and a part of his life and that if I was really important then I should have been a consideration. He explained that his brother was just doing what he wanted to do and that he was just going for the ride because he wanted to spend time with his family. I told him that I understood, but that it was his job to ask, "How are we including Marty in this?"

It was an a-ha moment. It was the realization that we were a family now. It's kind of like that weird moment when you realize your in case of emergency contact is no longer your mom or dad, but rather your boyfriend/husband. He got it and I've never had to bug him about it again. Don't get me wrong, we've still got our in-law kinks that need to be worked out every once in a while (and that goes on both sides...my parents are no cake-walk either), but I no longer feel like I'm an outsider anymore.

I know it's not that easy for everyone, though. I have some friends who have all struggled with in-law issues. I have other friends who feel like they're part of the family. I also have one friend who has sacrificed living close to her family to be close to her husband's, something which, of course, she never complains about, but which I know, at times, has been hard on her. There's a lot of give and take when it comes to merging families and making a new one of your own. And sometimes the whole thing becomes a game of politics. Just remember to be politically correct and you'll be fine. Everyone's fine.

What are your in-law experiences like? Do you get along like peas in a pod? Or would rather hear nails on a chalkboard than spend time with your in-laws?

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  1. What a great post! Very thoughtful. I'm lucky that I have really great in-laws. My poor husband has to deal with my crazy parents! But we all manage to get along pretty well, despite our disfunctions.

  2. I love my in-laws, but I ended an engagement with a previous boyfriend in large part over issues with his parents.

  3. @Sara: I feel pretty lucky, too. I really do get along with my in-laws, and they are really nice people. My issues, I think, have always been with the trickiness that comes with blending families and becoming a part of theirs. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    @highdivingboard: Wow! That must have been intense. I can only imagine how hard it is for some people. I definitely am lucky that my in-laws are in Florida. I feel for people who have to see their in-laws all the time and don't get along with them. That would be the worst. It's so funny, though, because those people you don't get along with are, in large part, responsible for creating the person you're marrying. So weird, when you think about it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  4. wellll, let's just say i'm learning to love my in-laws for who they are ;)

    great post!!!

  5. I feel incredibly lucky in the in-law department. My mother-in-law and I get along like friends and it's always been an easy relationship. My father-in-law is a bit more reserved but he also feels like a good friend. I've known my brother-in-law almost as long as I've known my husband because he was in college where we were in grad school, and we're good buddies.

    My husband has it good as well because my folks are pretty awesome, in my (obviously unbiased) opinion. Sometimes he gets frustrated with my older sister, but in general everyone gets along.

    I sort of worry that some new undiscovered crazy will emerge when/if we have kids, but maybe I'm just being paranoid...

  6. @Kathleen: I wish I lived close enough to have that kind of relationship with my in-laws. I think A.P.'s stepmother and I would get along that well. When I was in Florida this past April, she wasn't in town and we talked on the phone a bunch. It felt really easy. I also think that A.P. has it easy. My family is really social and even though we live in the same city as them, we're not visiting every week. It's a nice setup. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! : )

  7. My in-laws are actually in Idaho and we're in Atlanta where my family lives. Skype is a great thing! The distance to my husband's family is probably the part where things get trickiest (travel for holidays, etc.), but they've managed to come see us in some fashion once a year or so. They're academics so can often come up with some conference or retreat that's at least in the region. But yeah, that's the part that could get even trickier if there are babies in the picture!

  8. Hey, by the way, I just found your wedding grad post on APW when I was going through the archives trying to find an elusive quotation by someone, sometime, in one of the posts. I did, in fact, read your post when it first went up, but since I am a google reader-lurker and don't often make it to the real website to comment, I just wanted to say- awesome wedding grad post! Three months late!

  9. @Kathleen: Yeah, I don't know what we'll do when we have kids in terms of distance. The nice thing about my job is that I get a lot of vacation. So I always sort of see myself going down to FL with the kids by myself and A.P. joining us. We'll figure it out though.

    @Helen: Thanks so much! It was so much fun doing that. And I was so grateful that APW chose to feature our wedding. Super exciting stuff!


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