daily fieldnotes

Alone with the In-Laws 4

As in-law relationships go, I have a very good one with JJ’s parents.

I know I love them, and they love me. JJ and I have spent a lot of time in Spain since we met nine years ago, so we’ve had ample opportunity to get to know each other. I already spoke Spanish and had lived in Spain for two years when I met them, so we had an easier start than other international families. “Que suerte has tenido” JJ always tells his mom, teasing that she’s lucky I speak Spanish since she knows little English despite private lessons once upon a time. We know each other well enough that we’ve been able to navigate the inevitable clashes over how JJ and I are raising Basil without lingering resentment. Lately, I talk to them as often as JJ does so that they can see Basil over Skype. We’re all comfortable together.

This trip to Spain is more of a business one for JJ. He is spending the weeks in Barcelona, the weekends here in Toledo. It’s the longest time I’ve spent without him at his parents’ house. With Basil at the center of things, it feels easy. I know their routines well, and I have my own here. We all know what to expect of each other.

But I know they’d always rather have their son, just like at the end of the day, I’d rather have my family. It’s the way it is, with in-law relationships. These ties created by marriage. Strengthening the ties, turning them into real feelings of family, takes time and effort. When you are crossing cultural, national, class, political boundaries, it takes a lot of patience and humility too, like learning a new language. And even when you’ve done all that, when the relationship is pretty good, you’re still the in-laws to each other. They didn’t choose you, and you didn’t choose them.

I feel good about the relationship we have. But I know we’re all glad to have JJ home for the weekend.

If you are married, how is your relationship with your in-laws? I’m especially curious, if you crossed some kind of big boundary in your marriage (religious, cultural, etc.), how have you navigated the differences with your in-laws? Do you spend much time with them without your husband or wife?


  1. Megsie

    07/05/2013 at 3:17 pm

    I have been with my husband since I was 16 years old. When I was in college my in-laws would pick me up at my dorm and take me on the road so I could go to Jeff’s hockey games. The car rides were long. And that was before we got married. I spent more time with Jeff’s mom than his dad. We were close friends, and at times I felt “a part of the family” but there was always a difference. My in-laws were/are definitely of the “blue-collar” class and my family is definitely of the “white-collar” class. There were/are judgements both ways his parents judge mine and mine judge his. Money is the great divider, and it is sad that our parents could never get over that. But my parents and Jeff get along most of the time and I get along with Jeff’s dad most of the time. His mom is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s now, but we got along great!

    A lovely thought provoking post! xo

    • Willow

      07/08/2013 at 2:29 pm

      Money is so often the great divider, isn’t it?

  2. lizardek

    07/06/2013 at 12:35 pm

    I get along fine with my in-laws…they were so welcoming (and so glad we chose to live in Sweden!) to me. I have lots of expat friends who have terrible relationships with their in-laws, so I know how lucky I am. They are part of the reason my Swedish is so good; neither of them speaks English so I was kind of forced to accelerate my language progress!

    • Willow

      07/08/2013 at 2:28 pm

      Why do you think so many friends have such terrible relationships with their in laws? I feel grateful too. Especially because of how very different JJ’s parents are from my own.


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