Goodbye In-laws, Hello Happiness

goodbye in-laws

Four years ago in a coffee shop, that’s the last time I saw my husband’s brother and his wife. Calling them in-laws feels traitorous to the warm relationships I have with most of my in-laws. It was a rather mutual decision to not be in each other’s lives. They didn’t like me and that had escalated over the course of half a decade. Yep, it’s not a happy story.

We got married without them, we moved to a new city without them, and we welcomed our daughter into the world without them. At some point, we stopped talking to my father-in-law as well. My daughter doesn’t know these three individuals and I doubt she ever will. So what’s that like on a daily basis?

It’s weird. When folks ask about extended family, I talk about my in-laws as if the ones I speak to are the only ones that exist. For me, it gets easier each year, but for my husband, that means basically not referring to memories of these individuals lest someone ask – “Wait, you have two brothers?”

It’s hard. I struggle to balance my own desire to not have these individuals in my life with the fact my husband wishes the relationships were different. Every so often he considers reaching out to see if anything has changed. When he doesn’t pull the trigger, I feel relief + guilt. I’m the reason he doesn’t talk to his brother. That guilt and the feeling of being unlikable used to make me physically ill. Even now it’s still a part of me.

It’s confusing. My gosh, I have no idea how to even begin to tell my daughter about her grandfather and uncle. Should I? They are part of my husband’s story, of our story. In a way, they’re part of her story. We moved to Austin because we needed a fresh start. After moving here, I found a job with stellar benefits and maternity leave. Having a child and a career finally felt doable. So we did it.

I’m happy. In all honesty, I’m happy those three individuals aren’t in our lives. The relationships didn’t bring us joy and we didn’t bring them joy. I’m happy we removed them from our life before my daughter was born. Mostly, I’m happy that my daughter will grow up knowing love and seeing the love between the family we created.

It used to be a dark secret that we cut family out of our life but the more I open up about it the more I realize I’m not alone. So as weird, hard, and confusing as it all is, we’re happy we let go of those relationships. If anything I wished we’d done it earlier rather than cling to them as if our next breath required it.

Anyone else have a story of letting go of a relationship for your family?  

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15 Responses to Goodbye In-laws, Hello Happiness

  1. Katie K July 5, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    So I loved your new blog entry. Just the other day, I learned that my little brother and his wife thought I got pregnant “just to ruin their wedding” I’m crushed. I realized it was the reason I wasn’t invited to be in the wedding, and why they’ve both treated my little girl so distantly and coldly. I honestly don’t know what to do, I already REALLY didn’t like his wife but now I’m just straight up angry…

  2. Lindsey July 5, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    Thank you for this Courtney!! I needed to read this today. We also moved from Dallas to Austin, and left behind my mother in law, step father in law, and a few others close to them. It was a toxic relationship, full of narcissism and abuse. My husband and I finally had enough and cut them out. I still get pangs of regret & moments where we wonder if we did the right thing, but we know deep down that we did! Her love had conditions and I was merely someone standing in the way of her son & grandson. I was constantly talked about behind my back, ridiculed & belittled. I am with you in that it feels like we can be the only ones who don’t speak to certain family members, but hearing stories like this give me more hope, peace & validation! Thank you for being vulnerable & sharing!

  3. Charlotte Howard July 5, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

    Sometimes for everyones mental health it is best to let go. It is definitely healthy to open up and talk about these things and not just bottle it up and expect the worst. There are a lot of similar circumstances from individuals, you aren’t the only one.

  4. Janet July 14, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    I just went through this after 8 years of turning the other cheek to abuse from my husband’s sister. It sucks and it’s sad but family should bring joy, not stress. We moved half way across the country to get away from her toxicity and we’re all (me, my husband, and even our 5yo) are feeling lighter without the constant pain. I don’t think we’ll ever go back!

  5. Casey in Ca. July 18, 2017 at 9:08 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article. My husband and I have experienced this with his brother, brother’s wife and his mother. I was not liked from the beginning. I was always judged for ever single thing I did, yet they all believe the fabricated truth my brother in law lives. I came to a point that I was done, but let my husband make his own choices. Eventually he saw for himself and made his own choice. It is sad that my children will not get to know their cousins, but it is a sacrifice we have to make to keep them away from the toxicity. We are SO much happier and It is such a relief. Good to know there are others who experience similar circumstances.

  6. Tiffany Ashley July 20, 2017 at 10:27 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this. We so often feel like we’re the only ones, so it must be us, right?! It’s been years, and it is never easy to “pretend” things are okay or to open up to people with the truth (so much back story to share). What’s even harder is that we have found ourselves in the same, tight-knit community with some that we have cut out of our lives. Nonetheless, it comes up more often than not. Yes, the guilt! I know it is never easy on my husband, but he does it to protect my honor, to protect our relationship, and to protect our children. It is necessary, my head knows this to be true, but my heart is forever sad that it couldn’t be the way it was “supposed” to be.

  7. deb July 21, 2017 at 4:13 pm #

    It’s been nearly eight years since I had any type of conversation with my sister. It’s sometimes easy and sometimes very difficult. Not a day goes by, however, that I don’t think of her. However, the turmoil, dishonestly and chaos she thrives on has never been missed. do realize that our children won’t know their cousins, and that is sad, but without that toxic person, I have peace and that is priceless.

  8. Jenn July 31, 2017 at 9:24 am #

    Our family has done the same thing with my aunt and uncle… it has been two years and our lives have been drama free. I understand the guilt, but then I remember why we made the choice. Narcissism is the word I would use to describe them and it is unhealthy to be around anyone like that. I did not want my children to grow up with that example. I had tried to get my aunt to go to counseling with me to talk about some things with someone who would help us understand each other better but she refused and did not see the need for it…. after that i had to choose, is this behavior something I can accept? The answer was no. When my aunt and uncle come to my mind I pray for them and I truly hope they have a change of heart and mind. I hold no anger or bitterness toward them, I just do not need to see/hear of them hurting people I love.

  9. Brit July 31, 2017 at 7:01 pm #

    My MIL hates me because she “lost a son” when hubby and I married. She caused so much trouble when we were dating but ever since we had kids, she’s been a little better. It seems all my girlfriends who have MIL issues specifically have husbands who are only children. Interesting. Their moms can’t accept another woman in their lives. My hubby has always had my back and has asked me to just fake it–my acceptance of her. I hate faking it and would actually prefer to remove her out of our lives altogether.

  10. Lauren July 31, 2017 at 11:26 pm #

    I appreciate your vulnerability in this article, I know it’s not easy to put yourself out there like this. Reading this though, I felt sad when you expressed that your husband wishes things were different. This is his father and brother you’re talking about, very monumental relationships in a person’s life. You don’t have to be BFFs with them, but I think it’s worth it for your husband’s sake (and your daughter’s) to have some sort of relationship with them, to keep communication open, and to be the bigger person. Believe me, I know it’s easier said than done. I pray you will be able to forgive and work towards a relationship with them.

  11. Taylor August 9, 2017 at 3:12 pm #

    Oh how I know this feeling and am always Googling to find other people like me anytime a situation arises or a holiday comes up. It is a relief to read your story. I feel like we need a good positive support group for people like us who have forgiven and wish those loved ones well, but see no other way than removing them from our lives to have peace. It is so much harder than anyone who hasn’t had to do this understands. It’s fighting against everything you have heard about what family is supposed to be. It is easy to think someone removing themselves is selfish, but It’s so much deeper than that.

  12. Amanda December 27, 2017 at 7:03 am #

    My father is textbook narcissist and also bipolar. He spent most of his time running around w other women, but when he was home, he was terrible. The emotional abuse. The terrible names and yelling. As an adult, I kept putting myself out there, hoping and praying he had changed. That he could finally be a Dad. Therapy helped me understand that HE isn’t capable. It’s not me. So 10 years ago I cut him out of my life. It was instant peace. No regrets.
    This summer he had quadruple bypass surgery and many complications. My brother and I spent every day w him for 3 months. Caring for him, being his advocate, encouraging him, literally bathing him. Why? Because that’s what you’re supposed to do. He went home July 1st and we havent heard a word from him. Back to “normal”. And that’s what is best.

  13. Sylvia January 2, 2018 at 9:10 am #

    One thing that has worked for me to avoid the guilt is realizing that before you met this adult man, he had a family. They may not be accepting of you but they are his people. After all, the fact that he still married you means he chose you over their opinions. It is not fair to have him cut that tie as an adult because deep down, it is not what he wants to do. Moving away is a good call, because you want to raise children without the toxicity. However, encourage him as an individual to still reach out to them, even visit them by himself.

  14. Ruth February 8, 2018 at 11:12 am #

    Wow, those of you who listen to someone write about how terrible people made their lives, and you counsel them to “still keep in touch, for the children, for your husband” are really not living lives with those people in them. My sister was a toxic, terrible person, and when I stopped being around her, every year I was a little happier than the year before. Getting her back in my life would have reawakened the vile, demeaning, cruel behavior that I had cut out of my life. And you would counsel me to just stay in touch, after all she’s family…?? Really?
    I say yes, you are doing the right thing, and it shows because you are HAPPIER, your husband is HAPPIER. It shows not that he wants to reach out to his family but more so that he is NOT LIKE THEM that he has moments when he wishes things were different. That is healthy, that wish, but don’t be fooled into that “distance makes the heart grow fonder” line. THEY HAVEN’T CHANGED, THEY WILL NOT BE DIFFERENT. The pain, the unkindness is still there, no matter how much you wish it wasn’t. My sister died a couple of years ago, and when I called her old friends to tell them, they really didn’t care. They said, “She was the meanest person I ever knew” and “The world is a better place now.” I really appreciated their honesty.

  15. Kim April 23, 2018 at 2:10 pm #

    My MIL has hated me since my husband and I got married over 20 yrs ago. There were nasty snarky comments about my weight, parenting, marriage…. These comments started to get so bad I would be sick to my stomach before visits and finally I would do vodka shots to get through. 3 yrs ago I had words with her and our relationship ended. My husband is struggling with the estrangement. I don’t know what to do. I want him to be happy but I can not personally be involved with these people. Is it possible for him to have a relationship with them without me being involved with them?

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