Is It a Bad Idea to Stay in Touch With In-Laws After Divorce?

Divorce affects not only the divorcing couple and their family; it also affects the former spouses’ extended families, including their parents. After a divorce, it may seem natural to keep in touch with in-laws, but is this really advisable? Ultimately, it depends on the personal dynamics between you and your in-laws. However, it is important to remember that divorce is inherently divisive and ultimately drives the divorced spouses to their own families for support. Encroaching on these dynamics can sometimes cause tensions.

Be Realistic About Your Family Dynamic

If you had a long marriage and kept good relationships with your former spouse’s parents, it can be difficult to determine whether to keep in touch. If you do, it can be hard to gauge an appropriate amount of contact. This is mostly a personal decision that is left to your own discretion, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

Depending on the nature of your divorce, your in-laws may grow more inclined to keep in touch with you or may prefer to cut ties entirely. For example, if you had a good relationship with your former spouse’s parents but your spouse cheated on you and effectively ended your marriage, they may sympathize and want to keep in touch. If the opposite is true, and you were the one to cause the breakdown of the marriage, then you should not expect your in-laws to be too friendly toward you following the divorce.

Accommodating Your Children and Their Grandparents

If you and your ex-spouse have children, then you will most likely need to keep in touch with your in-laws in some capacity so your kids can visit their grandparents. You may even need to coordinate holiday gatherings or other events with them. No matter how your divorce happened, it is important to be respectful and gracious during these interactions. Do not talk poorly about your ex in front of his or her parents, even if he or she deserves it in your mind. Being diplomatic and respectful is ultimately the best choice for any situation like this.

It is also important to know how to resolve disputes between you and your ex, as well as between you and your ex-spouse’s parents. For example, your in-laws may blame you for the breakdown of the marriage and attempt to change your children’s perception of you. This is unacceptable, no matter how the marriage ended. It is important to approach these topics diplomatically and encourage all parties to refrain from using the children in the family as ammunition against one another.

Maintaining Civility

Ultimately, there is no way to predict how your in-laws will view you and your relationship with them after divorce. For example, you may have called your in-laws weekly to give them updates about your kids or simply chat, and you may wonder if maintaining this routine is a good idea post-divorce. Perhaps you grew close with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law. You will have to gauge for yourself whether these people will want to maintain their relationship with you. Ideally, your divorce should not impact these types of relationships, but the inherently divisive nature of divorce subconsciously encourages extended family members to “take sides.”

The best way to approach your relationship with your in-laws after divorce is with diplomacy and respect. Leave the issues with your ex out of your conversations with your in-laws and try to keep your expectations minimal. You may believe that your in-laws have no reason to shun you after a divorce that was not your fault, or after a mutual divorce, but the reality is that you cannot have expectations in this regard. The best thing to do is to approach the situation respectfully and realistically and gauging your in-laws’ interest in maintaining contact with you as you go.