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  • Writer's pictureAngela Larimer

How to Cope with Unruly Relatives

Divorce offers opportunities to make a fresh start and improve your life. For help with your divorce in Chicago, call Angela Larimer at 773-370-0600

or email Angela at

Dealing with unruly in-laws and often your own relatives can sometimes be complicated and frustrating. People tend to take sides during a divorce and things can escalate and quickly turn ugly. It’s always best to try to avoid conflict and drama, if possible.

We often advise our clients not to involve family and friends. Family and friends want to help and take sides. That can often lead to more anxiety and frustration when the ancillary people involved do not know the facts or law. Everyone becomes an expert in your divorce and you can cause yourself by this involvement to emotionally drown. Try to set clear boundaries with those who are creating additional havoc during your divorce. Let them know you need their love but are receiving your advice from you trusted counselor and divorce attorney.

Divorce is already stressful enough as it is. Ex-in law’s or even your relatives may feel that they have a right to give their opinion on your circumstances, but the fact of the matter is that they don’t. Your in-laws might try to make situations more difficult for you and your children and/or your own relatives might try to take your ex’s side during arguments. Navigating child support, a parenting schedule and holidays is already enough stress and coping with external stressors doesn’t help. The best thing to do is to try to maintain strict boundaries and keep everyone at a healthy distance.

Setting boundaries can be challenging. Try using simple and to the point language. Try not to let their side comments, opinions or insults affect you. Yes, I know, easier said than done! At the end of the day, this is between your ex and you. The primary goal should be to try to keep the peace and keep a healthy environment for your children. It’s best to use phrases such as, “When ______ happens, it makes me feel ____” or “I need ______ and this is my boundary”. There is an excellent novel written by Henry Cloud called Boundaries. I highly recommend anyone struggling with how to establish boundaries in their life to read it. It offers plenty of therapeutic communication skills and tools!

Sometimes you might need to have written agreements or excel spreadsheets of schedules with in-laws, friends or relatives who might be helping with childcare. Keep the focus on the children and avoid retaliation or other threats. Pouring gasoline on fire never helps the situation. If they cannot respect your boundaries, then it is best to consult with your attorney for alternative methods for maintaining constructive and respectful means of communication. Always try to remain polite and cordial, even in uncomfortable situations. Remember not to take things too personally. Sometimes people get too invested in your situation because they might not have anything ‘interesting’ going on in their own lives. Sometimes it’s easier for people to fixate on your problems in order to avoid whatever problems they might be going through on their own lives. It may not seem fair but it is always best to be the bigger person, especially for the sake of the children.

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