When you marry someone, it truly is a package deal. Not only do you marry that man or that woman, you marry all of his or her family. This list includes parents, siblings, siblings-in-law, cousins, cousins-in-laws, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and any children he or she might have. Not only that, if you marry someone who already has kids from a former marriage, you marry the biological parent of that child and his or her new spouse. You may marry firmly convinced that you and your intended make the perfect match. But once the in-laws step in, the harmonious match you envisioned may not be so harmonious after all.
I have been married two times prior to this marriage. They say three times makes the charm. Hopefully, my current husband will truly be my husband for the rest of my life. In all three of my marriages, I was really blessed to always get along well with the parents of my spouse. It was when you carried the equation to beyond just them that tension sometimes brewed.
The parents and only brother of my first husband were always lovely to me. It was the wife of my brother-in-law who I found to be rather abrasive. She was determined to always get her way. She was very demanding in what she wanted. This was ever the challenge for me as my husband liked us to frequently take our vacations with them. My reaction to her was one of the contributing factors to our eventual divorce. I seemed to lose my ever-positive, cheerful demeanor when I had to be around her for too long of a time. Years later, I felt rather vindicated to know that my former brother-in-law eventually found reason to divorce her as well.
My second marriage was one of those less-than-wise rebound marriages that lasted less than one year. I was well aware that when I married him, I was also marrying his sweet nine-year-old son who called me Miss Debbie. I felt confident that we could have happy visits when it was my husband’s turn to have his son visit. I never counted on the fact that I was also marrying his ex-wife and her new husband. My husband turned into a Dr. Hyde when having to deal with either of those two individuals. He was so enraged by some of their decisions that he would yell and curse her over the phone and make homicide threats to me in reference to them. I do not do well with people who rant and rave. I do not enjoy confrontations and being contentious. I realized that our four-month engagement did not prepare me to know that I had married a rage-aholic and a bully along with his other faults of being a spend-aholic and being thousands of dollars in debt on mostly baseball paraphernalia. Once he tried to turn me into the enemy as well, when I would not support his wishes to commit homicide or suicide or declare bankruptcy because it was no fun to have to pay the bills, I knew it was past time for me to make my escape. And escape I did – literally! My second husband’s only saving grace was that I truly loved his parents and his two sisters. They were a true blessing to me when I was having to spend night after night dealing with fake (or were they real?) suicide threats. I was sorry to lose them; however, I felt certain that my husband’s anger was soon going to turn violent. He had already begun all other types of abuse. I figured that physical violence was his next step.
During my third and last marriage, I am once again blessed with a wonderful mother-in-law. She is one of the sweetest human beings you would ever want to meet. My father-in-law died two weeks before we married. My husband’s only sister committed suicide years ago due to being bi-polar. Her son was 3 ½ at the time. My husband and I held off from getting married for five years as I did not want to be stuck with his teenage nephew trying to move in with us. From the age of 3 ½ to 16, he was being raised by my husband’s elderly parents. This boy was diagnosed with Obstinate Defiance Disorder, was possibly Bi-Polar, had made life miserable for his grandparents by punching holes in the walls, throwing furniture, and tearing up things when they tried to tell him no, etc. He also received a speeding ticket and a DUI during the first few days of getting his driver’s license. A few weeks later, he and some friends stole liquor from a convenience store. It wasn’t until the Juvenile Court Judge sentenced my husband’s nephew to go live with his biological father’s relatives in North Carolina, and he had reached legal age, that I finally felt ready to marry. I was in no way prepared to be a sort of step-mother to a teenager who loved to make trouble for others.
My final experience with the premise that when you marry, you marry somebody’s family was my own experience as a child. My father was from Indiana and my mother was from New York. They met and married in California. They both were of two different Christian denominations that were not at all compatible. Since my father simply wanted us to attend the same church, he seemed perfectly content to attend my mother’s church. His parents and only brother, on the other hand, were horrified with that decision. On their twice-yearly visits to us in June and December, they would secretly sequester my older brother and me, trying hard to evangelize us. After several visits where this took place, I finally begged my father to make them stop. He actually had the gumption to write them, telling them that if they intended to continue this practice, they no longer could visit. They respected his wishes; however, the practice continued in more subtle ways.
My mother and I both had our challenges with my paternal grandmother. She did not seem to know how to be discrete. She would proudly announce private information about my father or us grandkids to waitresses, store clerks, etc. She loved telling everyone that my father won a contest as a toddler for having rosebud lips. She had no reservations about announcing to these same people that I had started my menstrual cycle. I was mortified.
My grandmother also had an opinion about everything, including how she felt my siblings and I were to be raised. She was strongly political. Once I was old enough to vote, she would regularly bombard me with literature of her preferred political party. She also continued to try to influence my religious choices when my parents were not around. As I grew older, I learned to say, “Grandma, let’s just agree to disagree. Also, let’s not discuss religion or politics ever.” I later grew to really admire and love this grandmother for other reasons, but it took me several years to reach that perspective.
Due to my experiences growing up, I very clearly understood that when you married, it was a package deal. I knew that I would be marrying his parents and siblings as well. I just hadn’t counted on how far-reaching this situation would be. So be aware that when you marry, you need to not only see how compatible you are with your intended, you need to see how compatible you are with all the relatives and in-laws and former spouses and friends of the one you plan to marry.