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?  


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. My inlaws are the meanest people I’ve ever met. I’ve been bullied by them since day one. My husband and I have been married for over 18 years now. Nothing has changed after all this time. We have cut ties after a long battle with feeling we were obligated to them as they’re family. It has literally saved our marriage. I dont feel guilty anymore because his family has always been rotten to him and they’ve never made effort with us or the kids. To get me through the hardest times, my mom would tell me “you have no control over how they’re going to treat you or what they’re gonna say about you to others. All you can do is stick up for yourself”. I had a very rough beginning in life, but the abuse I endured from my inlaws is by far the worst thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. This whole experience has made me want to be the best MIL and grandmother I can be because I would never want to risk losing my children because of my bad behavior and mistreatment of their spouses.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here