In-Law Abandonment

Real Relationship Advice

We are continuing our discussion on in-law issues. Many couples will experience some in-law friction at some time in their marriage/relationship. You are not alone. Interestingly enough, you would think that in-laws would remember their own experiences before they interfere or disrupt their child’s new family. There are clear theories of why this occurs. People tend to separate themselves from experiences. We may say things like ‘I don’t want to be like my Dad/Mom when I grow up’ and assume that that is enough to separate ourselves or divorce ourselves from that ever happening but it really has the inverse affect. What we resist persists.

There are other theories that are predicated on attachment and separation issues. Whether it is the husband/wife having issues with setting real boundaries with her/his parents or it is the Mom/Dad who can’t let their baby go, this is directly related to childhood issues. There are parents who believe that a child belongs to them. There are parents who believe that the child belongs to the world. In both scenarios the parent has the best of intentions however, one is more likely to develop an independent child and the other will find independence as a threat to their own roles in the child’s life.

When we have a baby, we make a lot of decisions based on our emotional attachment. If we parent through fear of the world, we will raise a child who tends to be clingy. If we raise a child with trust of the world, we will raise a child who trusts that you are there but will feel safe to venture away. That is our role as the parent. As a child, we also have responsibility for our own being. We can always see ourselves as our parent’s child or we can create our own existence separate from our family of origin.

We realize this is a little heady but we must understand that issues with in-laws are fundamentally a representation of how differentiated we are from our family of origins. We have spoken of differentiation before on CoupleDumb. We can’t discuss relationships without discussing levels of differentiation. The more we can separate our emotions from dysfunctional family of origin behaviors the healthier we are. For example, if your parents have an argument, how do you react? This question is just as important when we are 10 and 30. Within this scale, we go from extreme dysfunction and enmeshment to healthy boundaries and non-co-dependent behavior.

Many In-laws who have issues with their child’s new family or spouse take the boundaries that are set as personal affronts to their role in the family. Unfortunately, there is little you can do to assuage their feelings without abandoning your own boundaries. These are extremely personal issues that a person must decide for themselves. Much like you must decide whether you will allow someone in your life that reacts negatively to boundaries, you have to do the same with in-laws. It comes down to what is more important to the in-laws; their pride or family.

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