Frosty Receptions

Families can be so complicated, I am sure that it was always thus. Now we have more family than ever, even though the old fashioned extended family has gone by the wayside we now have a new fashioned extended family because we have our in-laws and we now have out-laws.

No, I don’t mean Billy the Kid or the Great Train Robbers, what I mean by out-laws is that we now have the assorted ex-in-laws.

We have our own ex-in-laws, if there are children involved and we are lucky we may have a reasonable relationship with them. Then we have not only our new partner’s family – the in-laws, we have the ex-in-laws and that relationship in whatever state it is. To top that we now also have our siblings’ ex-in-laws and possibly new in-laws as well. Phew, who has a big enough table for that family gathering?

With the best will in the world it is hard to maintain good relationships with all these new “relations”. Family responsibilities may become very confused and boundaries are ever more difficult to maintain – ah! There is the “wild west” motif sneaking in again – fence wars, boundary problems!

For many of us healthy boundaries within our immediate family may be quite enough to concentrate on, let’s face it – not many of us learned about healthy boundaries whilst growing up. By immediate family here I mean our partner and whatever children we may have between us, for some even this distinction is not clear.

I recently had a conversation with a sibling who assumed that by immediate family I meant my siblings, I was quite shocked and so was my sibling. You can imagine the conversation – sibling: but we are your family; me: yes, of course you are still my family, I now have a bigger family and more immediate family priorities with my partner and my partners children; sibling: where do we come in?; me: I actually left that unanswered and I’m still trying to figure it out, hopefully my sibling is also giving the matter some thought…

Family responsibilities are not clear and easy to deal with for many people and now with all the added family it has become even more difficult.

It may be the case that because of a particular skill you possess you may have taken on the role of doing certain jobs or having certain responsibilities within your first in-law family. When divorce or separation enters the picture that role may not be as clear as it was.

It may be that you wish to continue providing that skill to the now ex-family and there is resentment coming from others in that family, on the other hand perhaps you would prefer to keep very clear boundaries and withdraw from that level of family involvement and other family members resent you for doing that!

It’s even worse if there is simmering resentments or bitterness in the out-law family, not necessarily from your ex, sometimes these resentments come from your ex’s siblings and that can be very difficult to deal with. These feeling can sift downward in the generations, perhaps becoming exaggerated as they do and then affect the children no matter what age they are.

Even trying to write that is confusing, never mind actually trying to live it. Think I will put the kettle on and have a nice cup of tea.

I hope your day is not filled with confusion…

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  1. Good morning Scribhneoir from AZ, You certainly did hit close to home with this post. I am divorced, 2 grown sons from 1st marriage, I’m remarried, he(ex) is remarried (3 more times), and we all live in the general locale. At an Easter dinner at my youngest sons home not too long ago I found myself sitting at the table between my husband and my ex. Then the conversation turned to things the boys did when they were little and we were all together. Well, of course, no one else at the table could join in because myself, my ex, and the boys were the only ones at the dinner who knew what things were like when they were little. Very awkward until one of us managed to change the subject. My husband, Doug, has never been married before and has no children and had not a single clue what the conversation was all about. WHEW!

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