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Letting Go of Your Ex-Spouse’s Family


Published on December 17th, 2021

For some newly divorced people, letting go of their extended family is more painful than losing their ex. Concerns over losing contact with a spouse’s family might even delay a divorce that both parties agree is coming. If you’ve developed close ties with your ex’s family, you likely have questions about what elements of those relationships can be sustained. It’s a tricky yet highly common scenario that warrants a closer consideration of the needs of everyone involved.

Common Concerns Involving the Ex’s Family Post-Divorce

Divorce is a legal procedure. It doesn’t necessarily have to impact relationships between the two families, although it usually does. As your divorce approaches, the first step toward addressing issues involving the extended family is to clarify what your concerns are. Common scenarios include:

  • Your parents still love your former spouse.
  • You’ve developed a strong relationship with your former in-laws and don’t want to sever ties.
  • Your ex wants to avoid contact with you, but his or her family does not.
  • Both spouses want to maintain the same sense of family for the sake of the children.

Once you recognized what the issues are and how you feel about them it will be easier to start mapping out a way forward.

When Your Ex Is Still Considered Family – and Vice Versa

When a couple has been together for years, the spouses may have developed strong bonds with each other’s parents, siblings or cousins. Blended families will often vacation together, share holiday time, and expect impromptu visits from one another. Naturally, any abuse in the marriage or even a history of fighting can be cause for limiting contact for the safety of both families. Otherwise, maintaining a friendly relationship with your former in-laws can be beneficial, more so if there are any children involved.

How to Navigate Relationships with Your Ex’s Family

Consider these tips on how to establish a healthy new normal while retaining ties with your ex’s family:

  • Establish clear boundaries with family members. With larger families and longer-lasting marriages, it’s natural for relatives to have their own opinions and feelings about the divorce. Establishing boundaries might mean that your mother must ask you for permission before inviting your ex to a family event. Be sensitive to the emotional needs of others, particularly those of your children and your ex, and request that they do the same for you.
  • Create a roadmap for visits. Determine in advance when a visit would be appropriate so that your ex won’t be blindsided by your presence in their parents’ home. If necessary, establishing a schedule with a mediator can ensure that everyone’s boundaries are respected. This would be a good time to hash out what the holidays will look like and who gets to see the kids.
  • Prepare the kids. This moment is an opportunity for both partners to communicate their values and what they hope for the family. If you and your ex share children, decisions should be made with their best interests in mind. Talking to your kids about the new family dynamic can help them feel comfortable during this transition.
  • Voice your needs. This new normal will take some adjusting, especially if the divorce took others by surprise. Prepare to reinforce your requests more than once. Others may not be in touch with what the new boundaries are and why they were established.
  • Find out what your former in-laws would like. Do you know if your ex’s family members still want a relationship with you? Even if they’re fond of you, feelings of loyalty or protection may make them want a clean break from the past, at least for now. It helps to approach these conversations prepared to respect their wishes, even if they differ from your own.

Even if your former in-laws miss you and can’t wait to hang out, it’s important to reflect on your underlying motivations. To move forward and establish new relationships, you might be better off limiting your time with people that represent your married past. If you or your ex harbors any hope of getting back together, this point particularly holds true. It may be healthier to stay in touch with the ex’s family through email and social media rather than in person.

Divorce is a major life transition. Ideally, you and your ex can work together to establish a new normal that benefits everyone involved without opening any old wounds. To get help with any aspect of your divorce, contact one of the family law attorneys at Davis Friedman. Call us at 312-782-2220 for a consultation today.

Have questions? Contact us about working together.

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