Q&A with Geoff: Is it Worth Trying to Rebuild Trust with In-Laws Who Have Betrayed You?

q&a with geoff Dec 13, 2023


I'm at a loss with what to do with my in-laws! My husband's mom has blamed me for so many things. Things we thought were said in confidence, his mom blasted to family. She's started drama between my husband and several of his family members. He has no relationship with his siblings because of her. She lies and twists things to make her look like the victim.

His parents only had a relationship with our kids when it was convenient for them. They would make plans, with our kids, and cancel, last minute, because a member in their church/neighbor/someone they know would have a child/parent that had some sort of event like a wedding, farewell, or funeral. Basically, everyone in their town/church comes before their own grandkids.

A few years ago, our oldest daughter came out as bisexual. She asked us to tell my husband's family. When we told his mom, she asked, "Well, are you going to talk her straight?" For me, that was the final nail in the coffin! 

For our kids, we decided to try and have a conversation with his parents to try and work stuff out. Didn't happen. She lied and denied several of the things/conversations, including the one about our daughter. Yet, she remembered the day she started hating me, 20 years prior when she found out my husband and I moved in together, unmarried. We left their house more upset than we were when we got there. 

Fast forward two years later, his parents have been texting him and trying to have a relationship as if nothing ever happened! 

How should we deal with them? Straight up tell them they owe us many apologies and need to be honest with the rest of his family? Tell them they can shove it? Keep ignoring them, they'll eventually get the hint?


The challenges you face with your husband's family, particularly his mother, are indeed profound and painful. I can tell you’re at the end of your rope after trying to resolve differences over the years. Let’s talk about how to get clarity on your situation.  

Even though it’s not helpful to criticize your mother-in-law, it is helpful to de-personalize her treatment of you or your family. I recognize this is easier said than done. I believe that your mother-in-law's behavior, as described, seems entrenched and possibly reflective of deeper issues. This doesn't excuse her actions, but it may help you and your husband manage your expectations about her capacity for change. 

It's essential that you and your husband present a united front whether you continue trying to communicate with her or not. This is not just your battle; it's a shared struggle. Mutual support and understanding between you two are crucial in dealing with his family. Are you both united in how you approach his parents and siblings? If there are divisions between you, make that your focus of repair before trying to engage with the larger family dynamics. 

This is also a good opportunity to revisit your own personal limits with his mom and other family members. I believe there are plenty of modifications that can be made before completely cutting off a family member. Like amputating a limb, cutting off a relationship should be the last resort only after other measures have failed. For example, maybe you decide that you’ll be more selective about the information you share with his mom. Perhaps you don’t pull them in as primary supports for your family. This is not about punishing his parents but protecting your family from further hurt and chaos. Boundaries are about what you will or won’t do. They’re not ultimatums or threats to control an outcome. 

You can also continue to clarify and make requests. However, recognize that you may be at the point where you simply need to decide the type of connection and relationship you want with his parents and siblings. As families grow and spread out, it’s important to take responsibility for your own personal relationships with each family member instead of going through the parents. The hub and spoke model of going through the parents for all family communication is a recipe for perpetual drama. 

While it's reasonable to desire apologies and accountability, it's also important to prepare for the possibility that they may not come. Your mother-in-law's denial and past behavior suggest she may not readily accept responsibility. Are you prepared to accept that this may never resolve? If so, how will this change how you interact with the family?

Ultimately, remember that your primary responsibility is the well-being of your immediate family, including your children. This might mean limiting or even ceasing contact with his parents if their behavior is harmful. You’ll know what your children need and whether extended family are supportive or undermining their well-being.

Let’s also talk about helping you receive the personal peace that is available through forgiveness. Forgiveness is often confused with feeling pressure to trust someone who isn’t trustworthy. Forgiveness is not about condoning hurtful behavior; it’s about freeing yourselves from ongoing resentment and pain. It doesn't require reconciliation or trust, but it does free you from trying to exact justice as a path to personal peace. 

FREE: 3 Steps to End Your Marriage Argument

Download my free PDF guide and start making real progress to healing

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.