I am now on my second attempt to write a blog about in-laws. The truth is, once I started writing the first one and I got to about the 576th page, I realized that this may take several volumes. So be advised…I’m just chipping off a little piece of the iceberg. Right now, I’m tensing just about every bone in my body as I attempt to slide down this slippery slope of a relationship. I hope you appreciate it. I know I’ll be feeling it tomorrow.
I have found that there’s usually no middle ground with in-laws. Most people, when you ask them about their relationship with their in-laws after the death of their spouse, don’t say, “Well, they’re fine. I enjoy them when I see them, but if they don’t come by I’m okay with that too.”
That would be Choice A. And the two of you out there who have it…well…you’ve struck gold.
Then there’s choice B: They might be genuinely loving and helpful. And suffocate you a little on the side.
Choice C: You’ve filed a restraining order.
And then there’s the rarely chosen D: The ones who have great parents AND great in-laws with whom you genuinely enjoy spending time with. Together. At the same time. Those of you who have that have either really paid your dues at some point or were saints in your former lives. I have no idea what the hell happened in my previous life, but my in-law karma is not the best.
I’ve got a theory. You know I always do. As uneducated and misguided as it may be.
I think that most of the time, when the in-laws fall on the more likeable side, it’s because you may have had a little bit of a rocky relationship with your own parents. And that’s okay. I’m not judging. Shoot. The fact that my parents will even throw me a bone, much less go to dinner with me…well…that speaks volumes.
No…I’m not kidding. I was not always as put together as you think of me today. At one point in my life, I would really speak my own mind. I would say what I thought before the thought had even fully formed. And then I would watch my parents’ faces as they looked like they were getting blind-sided by a semi in slow motion.
Thank God I stopped doing that last week.
I wouldn’t trade the relationship I have with my parents for anything. Heck…they’re great. Beyond great. I’m thinking about erecting statues in my front yard of my entire immediate family. God knows they’ve earned it for putting up with me during the last few years.
I’m just waiting on HOA approval.
But if there are deals to be made…could I exchange about 5% of my good relationship with my parents for a 5% increase in my relationship with my in-laws? Tell you what…I’ll give you one extra disagreement with my mom about my wardrobe if you give me a couple of birthday cards for my kids from my in-laws. Deal?
Wait…who in the hell am I talking to? Ah yes. Reality. And Reality hasn’t listened to me in a few years, so I guess I better just save it.
So here we are. We promised “til death do us part.” And, if I remember correctly, there was no fine print. There was nothing that said:
Unless the first party should pass on waaaaaay earlier than the second party (that’d be you) anticipated, therefore entitling the second party to a lifetime of servitude and polite smiles while the third party (that’d be the in-laws) shall run over the second party with an emotional steamroller, thereby ensuring the second party at least 30 extra years in therapy.
The truth is that even in good times, the in-law relationship is a little complicated. Those men out there who are reading this…I’m sorry…you can usually complain all you want about your mothers-in-law. But try navigating a relationship with a woman whose baby you stole and had the nerve to marry. It’s not pretty. For most of us women…our parents were just happy to get us off their hands. I mean, my dad told me that he would give me $50 cash and a ladder if I promised to elope and spare him the cost of a big wedding.
I was about 12 at the time.
So we’re all already up to our ears in in-law quicksand and then our spouses get sick or die suddenly. And if that doesn’t complicate an already complicated relationship, I don’t know what does. If you were able to get through the illness without incident, I applaud you. If you managed to get out of the hospital on speaking terms, you should get a medal. And if you happened to get your spouse to his/her final resting place and still have any sort of contact with your in-laws, then I’m going to add you to those statues I’m putting up in my front yard.
Unless you’re one of those people who fell under choice D. You guys have had it too good already.
© Catherine Tidd 2010