In this day and age, it’s not uncommon to maintain close ties with your ex’s side of the family. Divorce is no longer an all-out war played out by the entire extended family. Instead, divorce is getting reframed as an arrangement that worked in the past but no longer does, and “calling it quits” doesn’t have to lead to a messy or ugly family feud.
As public sentiments change about divorce, technology makes it easier to carry on relationships while maintaining a physical distance. Facebook/Meta’s Messenger video, Facetime, Zoom, and Skype are just a few examples of video chat technology that allow you to feel like you’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone miles away from you. Extended families no longer have to feel completely cut off from their loved ones going through a divorce, especially the children.
In addition to communication technologies, apps for divorced parents like Dcomply, 2Houses, CustodyXChange, and FamCal make it easier for co-parents to keep communication neutral and focus on shared parenting responsibilities while maintaining a physical distance. Technology is helping the whole family move past “fight or flight” mode after divorce to a place where emotional wounds heal faster, and there is less pettiness. After some healing time, reconnecting with extended family becomes easier.
A. It benefits you— Maintaining a positive relationship with your ex’s parents is like keeping up with a childhood friend. It does your heart good, their heart good, and who doesn’t benefit from more loving, caring people in their life?
Some people are closer to their in-laws than their own family, especially if their own family life was conflicted or their parents or siblings are no longer in the picture for whatever reason. For some, splitting from in-laws would be like tearing a child from their adoptive family.
Maintaining a close relationship with the ex-laws could result in a speedier, happier post-divorce relationship with the ex.
B. It benefits your children — Helping your children maintain the bonds they had with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on your ex’s side is important for their emotional development and adjustment after divorce. As a bonus, albeit self-interested, maintaining these relationships also gives you more options for a babysitter.
Consider the people involved in your quest for a close relationship with your former in-laws. In a neutral, unemotional way, talk to (or message) your parents, in-laws, ex, and children for their input. They may be able to shed light on concerns you haven’t considered. For example, if your ex-spouse is dating and their significant other would feel uncomfortable with you being so close to your ex-family, respect that and suggest arrangements where you can still keep in touch in a non-threatening way.
● Talk it out– Be willing to reach out to the other side of the family tree first to see how they feel about continuing a close relationship with you. After a divorce, your ex-in-laws may not know how to act, what to say, or how often they should speak with you. They would likely love for you to open the lines of communication.
After you let them know that you would like to stay close to them, be ready for rejection. Apologize and own up to any wrongdoings. Let them know that they have an open invitation to reconnect with you when they are ready. Try not to take offense at their hesitancy or harsh feelings. Their stand-off-ish-ness may have less to do with you and more to do with a loyal show of solidarity with their child.
● Schedule it– Attempt to be as fair as possible with scheduling, keeping your ex’s feelings in mind. You may want the relationship with your ex-spouse’s parents, but your ex may need space and time before coming around to it, so you may have to settle for whatever tiny victories they give you. Consider birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions that both sides of the family would want in on. See if both sides are willing to celebrate together or if they need individual time.
● Set Boundaries– Speak up if an arrangement would hurt your feelings and listen if your in-laws open up to you about their own worries or feelings. The same goes with your parents. Your ex might be the one who wants to keep close ties to your family.
Try to think of scenarios that you would be comfortable or uncomfortable with. For example: Is it okay for your family to go to things your ex invites them to? Are vacations with your ex out of the question? Can they go anywhere with your ex as long as they check with you first? Can they invite your ex to anything?
Set boundaries and expectations for visitations with your kids, too. Let in-laws know that it is not okay to start a conversation about your divorce with your kids or bad-mouth a parent or new love. You can stipulate that visitations with in-laws during your custody time occur in your presence to prevent any negative talk, if necessary.
Wanting a close relationship with your ex-in-laws is a reasonable, healthy, and achievable goal. It helps you and your children quickly readjust after divorce and improves your mental and emotional well-being.
Technology, like Facebook Messenger’s video function, can support your endeavors, keeping the line of communication open and accessible, especially when physically removed from extended family.
Need to “let the dust settle” on your divorce before requesting visitation time? Technology is helping with that, too. Parenting apps for divorced couples are making it easier and quicker to move past hurt feelings with an ex and focus on a shared goal of raising healthy, well-adapted children.