How a Close Relationship With Your In-Laws May Decrease Your Odds of Divorce

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Many people dread spending time with their in-laws, but several studies have shown that maintaining a close relationship with your in-laws is a sign of the stability of your marriage, and the likelihood of divorce.

Studies Prove the Connection

It’s obvious when you think about it. Family is very important, and if you or your spouse is having serious issues with your in-laws, it may point to future issues between you, either due to a perceived distance or lack of respect.

A recent study, conducted by Terri Orbuch, a psychologist and research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, followed 373 couples after their marriages in 1986. The men and women were asked to rate how close they felt to their in-laws, on a scale of one to four, and their relationships were tracked over time.

After 26 years, the study found that when a man reported having a close relationship with his wife’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce decreased by 20%. However, women who said they had a close relationship with their husbands’ parents saw their risk of divorce rise by 20%.

The Difference Between Men and Women

When trying to explain her findings, Orbuch said: “”Women value a close relationship with their in-laws but may ultimately view them as meddling, while men are more interested in providing for their families, and take their in-laws’ actions less personally.

Because relationships are so important to women, their identity as a wife and mother is central to their being. They interpret what their in-laws say and do as interference into their identity as a spouse and parent.”

Wall Street Journal columnist Elizabeth Bernstein believes when a husband makes an effort to get along with his wife’s parents, his wife, by extension, feels taken care of, too. “He has forged a relationship with them, and that reads to his wife as if, boy, he cares about me if he’s going to bother with my parents. If he’s going to take care of my parents, he’s going to get to know my parents, [then] he really cares about me,” Bernstein said.

After this study, Orbuch advises parents to be mindful of behavior their daughter-in-law may interpret as “meddling,” and to bond with their sons-in-law. Wives boundaries with their in-laws should be respected, and husbands should offer their in-laws respect. By respecting boundaries and offering respect, relationships will last.

For more information on this topic or any other topic related to issues of divorce, custody, support or family law in general, contact Colgan & Associates to schedule a consultation to speak with one of our family law attorneys.

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