Has anyone with a strained in-law relationship ever thought to them self, “This is not what I signed up for?” I know there have been many times that I’ve not only thought this, but I’ve even uttered the words! However, it’s a phrase everyone has heard at least once in their life regarding marriage; “When you marry him, you marry ALL OF US!” But is this really what you sign up for when you say “I do”? To be committed till death do us part to an entire family?
While I think most people understand that marrying one person, means having to interact with the other person’s extended family with some level of frequency each year, but are you pledging the same vows to your spouse’s family as you are to your actual spouse? For the purposes of this blog, this question really comes into play when there is a strained relationship between a wife and mother-in-law. When there is continuous disrespect on all accords with no hope in sight, as in the case of Melissa and Betty, should you continue to forgive time after time and work on continuing a relationship because it’s your spouse’s family? Or is there ever a point in which you say, “I married you not your mother/ family and I’m done?”
According to Dr. Phil, one quarter of divorced couples report that in-laws were “somewhat” responsible for their marriages ending. That’s 25% of divorced couples! It’s amazing to me that people outside of a marriage can have that much influence on what goes on between two people within a marriage. Maybe as our expert, Kimberly Gist Miller explained as it relates to the field of psychology, there are not only 2 people in a marriage, but at least six and maybe more! To some degree you do marry your spouse’s family when you say I do. You have intentions on building genuine relationships with them, taking part in family gatherings and accepting and loving them as “family”.
And ideally you move forward with a new “extended” family. But does this mean you must have, and/or feel, the same level of commitment to your spouse’s family as you do with your actual spouse? Are you saying vows to not only your spouse, but to his or her parents, siblings and extended family? To know your spouse is to know their family in most cases. But is “to know, to love”? Or better yet, does being committed to your spouse mean you must be committed to his/her family?
Bottom line, when you get married who is the commitment really with?