I’ve tried to convince myself that maybe we should call up these in-laws and invite them out, but to be honest, I’m so hurt and somewhat angry at them that I can’t follow through.
Do you have any suggestions on how I can resolve my feelings or handle this situation?
There’s a reason that relationships with in-laws are notoriously fraught—while one’s adult children have fallen deeply in love, their respective parents suddenly find themselves related to people they themselves haven’t chosen. Even so, I think that this situation will feel a lot less painful if you can separate your feelings about your ex-husband from your feelings about your in-laws. Granted, if you were in their position, you would reach out to both sets of parents and take great care to treat them equally. But the fact that your daughter-in-law’s parents haven’t done that may not mean what you think it does about you or them.
Let’s start with what you’ve said about your ex-husband. You described him as superficial and emotionally abusive to both you and your sons. You, on the other hand, probably worked hard at being a good parent and spouse, despite the treatment you endured. And because your husband knows how to “schmooze,” he was probably well liked socially, leaving you to watch with confusion and maybe even rage as other people sought out his company and considered him a great guy. This mismatch between your experience of your ex-husband and others’ experience of him may have felt colossally unfair, much in the way it does for children whose parents treat them badly but are nonetheless beloved and admired out in the public sphere.
Now, though, it feels even worse. After all, the people your ex seems to have fooled aren’t just casual acquaintances—they’re your in-laws. How can this be?, you may be thinking. I’m the good parent, and yet here again I’m the one who’s being slighted.
So let’s do a thought experiment: Imagine instead that you have a different ex-husband, one who was a kind and loving father and husband, and that the marriage ended because you both agreed you weren’t compatible partners. Let’s also say that this ex-husband is an avid wine connoisseur or vintage-stamp collector or fantasy-football fan and so is your son’s father-in-law (but your current husband isn’t). How might you make sense of your son’s in-laws socializing with your ex? My guess is that you might still feel somewhat left out—but also that you’d feel less angry, less apt to interpret this as a personal critique, and less likely to consider this a case of their taking sides.
If you can view the situation through this clearer lens, you might see that your in-laws probably aren’t “judging” your husband for being older or introverted—from their perspective, they simply have more in common with your ex and his wife. I’m sure you, too, reach out socially to those you have more in common with, and while it’s nice if in-laws choose to socialize with one another outside of family occasions, it certainly isn’t expected.