A relative from my husband’s side of the family recently posted a funny but somewhat inappropriate meme. In my view, it was harmless fun. It wasn’t directed toward anyone, and while I’m sure many people ignored it and kept scrolling, one person saw it and took offense. Facebook drama ensued.
Well, at least that’s not my problem, I thought. It’s his family, not mine.
That’s what I initially told myself.
My husband and I have been married just shy of ten years, and together for twelve. And after thinking about it for a few days, I caught myself: how dare I say his family? I’ve always said “his family” or “my in-laws” or some variation that manages to create separation between me and them. But is that how things should be?
I’ll be honest, I haven’t always had the greatest relationships with my in-laws. For a while I even disliked my father-in-law a lot. We had a lot of disagreements. I remember a few years ago while in a public restaurant we got into a disagreement that led to me yelling an expletive at him. It was embarrassing to me and hurtful to him. But I had allowed myself to feel like he was the enemy. In the process, I put my husband in a place where I made him choose between me and his family. That was wrong. He should have never been put in that box.
After this little Facebook dispute I realized that they are not so much his family as they are our family. When I married my husband, I made a commitment to him. In a sense, I also made those same commitments to his family. Through sickness and health, for richer or poorer, better or worse, ‘til death do us part. That wasn’t just a thing between me and him, but also between his family and my family. We were no longer separate families. I married him—and therefore married into his family.
I’ve spent the last ten years assuming that it was “his family” or “my in-laws.” That was wrong: the people that created my husband and raised him are most certainly not only my husband’s family, but my family as well.
How could I not see this all these years?
They’ve treated me like family. We’ve had our share of problems, and they have come to our rescue more than once. My children love them; that’s their grandparents! They never treated me like an outcast, but welcomed me into their home with their granddaughter. They never just called me “Tom’s wife” or “his baby momma,” but “Whitney, our daughter-in-law,” or “our daughter.”
As I reflect upon this discovery, I couldn’t be happier. These people are family by choice. I didn’t get stuck with them; I chose the son whom they raised. And I choose them. They are my family even after death. We may be family through marriage, but their grandchildren—my children—are the blood link that makes it solid. No matter what happens these people will be my family.
Photo credit: Shauna Hawkins/Flickr