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Handling your spouse’s parents

When you decide to expand the family with your spouse, your spouse’s parents become part of your family. This is what’s called the extended family. Sometimes I come across cases where the parents haven’t accepted their children’s romantic relationships, but when they realize that they are going to have grandchildren, they feel that the time has come to move past it, to be involved and sometimes even give financial help in the process.

We chose to tell my parents and my spouse’s parents and they were involved in every decision and every step of the way - but we also set clear boundaries regarding which choices were not theirs to make, even if they thought we were making a terrible mistake.

Set your boundaries and don't feel that others, even if they’re family, can make decisions for you just because they’re helping or paying for the process. Set boundaries when it comes to involvement in the way of “my son’s going to be the first father... / convert the girl... / they should sleep in the bed with you... / this donor isn’t suitable...” etc.

Once the children are born, the relationship with your spouse’s parents become even more complicated because they are now your children’s grandparents. You’re discovering a whole new world. Suddenly you’ll need these people, who you used to only see at family dinners or holidays, and they will be at your home sometimes twice a week (or more). Sometimes they’ll be there because you’ll need their help and sometimes they’ll just stop by unannounced. On one hand it’s important to get help from them and from others in general (the secret to happy parenting is knowing to ask for and get help - even financial if needed).

On the other hand, it means that the help comes at a cost - remarks, criticism, annoying recommendations, and a presence in your life that may even surprise you. You have to remember that it’s not forever, and even if it’s a bit annoying it’s mainly positive and extremely helpful. This situation is temporary, and later when the babies grow up a bit and you get the hang of being parents, the frequency of visits will decrease, and you’ll have more space at home. It’s important to set boundaries with this as well: surprise visits, getting involved in household cleaning, feeling free to walk around at home in your underwear, etc.

Later, it’s important to pay attention to situations that require gentle intervention on your part. Occasionally there are situations where the grandparents are only starting to accept the couple’s relationship, and it’s problematic because someone who doesn’t really accept the relationship might not perceive the non-genetic child as a grandchild: “This child is my grandchild and the other one is the spouse’s kid” (an extreme and painful case, but it happens). Help them speed up the acceptance process to change their perception of genetics, expose them to their non-biological grandchild as much as possible to foster an attachment.

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