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Dear Fiona: My Relationship With My In-Laws Is At Breaking Point – Should We Cut Them Out Of Our Lives?

The problem…

“My husband and I have had issues with his parents since before we were married. It’s been over 10 years now – and they’ve tried to encourage him to divorce me, swindled money from us, and edged him out of the family business.

“They are extremely traditional and have never supported me working outside the home.

His father is verbally abusive to his mother and expects my husband to treat me that way as well.

Obviously, my husband does not; we have a good relationship and he supports my career.

My in-laws are hardly involved in our children’s lives and ignore me at family gatherings, but they’re extremely close with their other grandkids. We try to keep his parents informed and invite them to events, but they rarely show up.

“I think we’ve come to a breaking point in our relationship with them, and I’m unsure how to handle it.

They’re starting their estate planning and it seems they plan to cut my husband and children out completely.

They’re being extremely secretive about it and while my husband used to be able to talk openly with his mother, now he’s caught her lying to him and she’s being very standoffish.

“My husband is an extremely forgiving person and loves his family deeply, despite the years of financial and verbal abuse towards both of us.

He’s always forgiven them in the hopes of having a good relationship, but I feel like we’ve finally reached the last straw and I want to cut his mother and father out of our lives for good.

“He’s told his parents he doesn’t care what they do with the inheritance, he just wants it to be transparent. Should our relationship be over until they are willing to be honest with us and have a relationship with our children? Or should we keep trying to have them involved for our children’s sake?”

Fiona says:

“It would seem that while you want to cut your in-laws out of your lives, your perhaps husband still wants to maintain a relationship with them – however flawed that relationship might be.

For that reason, however much you might not want it, they will always be a part of your lives, and you will have to manage the limited relationship you have.

“That doesn’t mean you have to put up with being insulted by them, and if they’re still encouraging your husband to divorce you, you should perhaps limit the contact you and your children have.

For some reason – perhaps because you’re an independent woman – your in-laws have taken against you, and this could be why they don’t care for the grandchildren you’ve given them.

It’s sad, but at the end of the day, it’s their loss. Your children certainly shouldn’t be made to suffer in any way, so trying to force a relationship where none exists seems pointless.

“It seems extraordinary that they’ve managed to swindle you out of money but, as you don’t explain how they’ve managed to do so, I can only assume your husband was persuaded to part with it.

I would suggest you sort your finances out in such a way that his parents can’t touch it – making sure things are in your name might help, or changing bank accounts to one they know nothing about.

It might be sensible that any withdrawals from the account, above an agreed small amount, require both your signatures.

“As for their estate planning, obviously they are entitled to dispose of their assets in any way they think fit. It might seem unfair, but perhaps they are leaving the money to those siblings still involved in the family business.

You say they are being secretive about this, but wills are very private things, and I can understand their unwillingness to share details.

Most people only find out what is in a will after the person making it has died – so please try and let that go and encourage your husband to stop worrying about it.

They shouldn’t have to be transparent about it now if they don’t want to be – what they decide to do with their assets and how they share them out is entirely their choice.

“You ask if your relationship with them should be over until they’ve met conditions around honesty and your children – but there is no real relationship, so could you perhaps just let it slide?

Let them make the next move, if they want to see you and be close to your children, I think it’s now down to them to try and make that happen.”

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