Divorce is hard enough when it’s just you and your spouse trying to sort out all the issues. The last thing you need is your in-laws getting in the middle of things — but here they are.
Maybe your in-laws are just doting grandparents who are concerned about how your divorce will affect the children — or maybe they’re just old-fashioned and think that every couple should “work it out” rather than divorce. Either way, you really need them to take a step back so that you can focus on your nuclear family during this time.
What can you do to set boundaries?
If you don’t like your in-laws, you may not be concerned about preserving the peace. If you hope that they’ll remain in your life after the divorce — or remain involved with your children — you need to establish some boundaries without breaking the peace.
Here are some tips:
- Choose your narrative carefully: You will alienate your in-laws if you blame your spouse for everything that went wrong. Even if that’s true, focus on the idea that neither you nor your spouse were thriving in the marriage and that divorce really is the best option — without placing blame.
- Ask your spouse to reinforce you: If your spouse is willing to work on developing a healthy co-parenting relationship, remind them that the in-laws matter. Ask them to help you set respectful boundaries and not to denigrate you to their parents, siblings and other relatives.
- Ask your family to be kind to your spouse: Nothing gets things heated faster than two sets of in-laws in the mix. Remind your parents, siblings and other relatives that your spouse is still your co-parent and that they need to be respectful.
- Ask your in-laws for their help: If appropriate, go ahead and ask your in-laws to babysit the children while you and your spouse go to therapy or court. That may ease the fears (particularly for grandparents) that they’re about to be cut out of their grandchildren’s lives.
Finally, be conscious of the fact that your circumstances have changed. It’s bound to be awkward for everybody as you renegotiate the limits of your new relationships with your in-laws. Give it time, and be willing to make a few compromises for the sake of an easier divorce.