The first time I met my sister-in-law, I knew we’d hit it off. It was 25 years ago, and I’d just started dating her brother. She greeted me with open arms. I’d never had a stranger more excited to meet me, and she was genuinely interested in getting to know me as a person as soon as possible. I wasn’t sure that was going to happen; this was her younger brother, and he had never brought anyone home.
Plus, the response I’d gotten when I first met his mother was chilly. When he introduced me, there was no hug, not even a handshake. Only a once-over glance and a forced smile. I knew she was close with her daughter, so I was sure her feelings about me would spill over. I was wrong.
My soon-to-be SIL had a calmness about her that put me at ease. Even though she lived across the country — it was a fifteen-hour flight just to get to her hometown — and I only saw her once a year, we stayed in close contact. I asked her to be a bridesmaid at my wedding, and I was one at hers. She helped me design a website when I was trying to start a jewelry business when I was home with my three little kids. She sent me an unforgettable care package after my first child was home: Mama soaks for the bath (which was so needed), dark chocolate, and a gift certificate to my favorite sushi place because she knew how much I’d missed it. When she came to visit, she is always willing to jump in and help when all of my other in-laws want to be waited on and didn’t notice I was drowning.
When my ex-husband and I decided to divorce, he told her first. She called me right away. We both cried for a long time. She was there for him — but she was also there for me, without feeling like she had to take sides, which says a lot about who she is. She loves everyone unconditionally without judgment, and even though I technically wasn’t her family any longer, that didn’t change a thing between us.
My SIL was my only in-law who checked in on me during and after our divorce. She was the only one who continued to send me special gifts for Christmas. She called me on Mother’s Day to wish me a happy day, she’s never missed my birthday, and whenever she comes home, she makes time to see me. My SIL is well aware her brother and I divorced for a reason, but she never made me feel like our relationship needed to end just because the marriage did. She never took his side or gave me the impression she thought it was all my fault.
Now, six years later, she is going through a tough divorce of her own. Her soon-to-be ex-husband is refusing to cooperate, affecting her and her two kids. She needs a lot of positive support right now, and as a result, our bond has grown even stronger. She’s called me many times, and I’ve talked it through with her for hours. She asked me many questions about how my ex and I handled things.
During one of our conversations a few weeks ago, she told me how glad she was that I was in her life. and I agreed. “I’m so thankful you didn’t cut me off after we divorced,” I said.
“That thought never went through my mind,” she replied.
If you are going through a divorce of your own and you’re worried about how it will affect your relationship with your in-laws, I can tell you this: Things might very well change, and it will be hard. However, a true friend is a true friend. A real friendship will make it through anything. You don’t have to give up on a great relationship you have with your in-laws simply because you aren’t married to your ex any longer.