Newlyweds and InLaws
July 8, 2004 6:39 PM   Subscribe

I am getting married this November. My SO and I have a great relationship with her parents and siblings, who live in the same town as we do (actually, she's living with her parents until our wedding). My family is 3,000 miles away from us. Now, I have a job offer that would require us to move about three hours away from her family. We can also stay where we are. Is it a good idea to be in close proximity to family as newlyweds? Is it more important to break away and start out on our own?
posted by willpie to Human Relations (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When my wife and I got married, we were living in her parents' house. Given the complete lack of privacy and their habit of fighting, this drove us insane.

So we moved to the town where I had spent most of my childhood, which of course meant we were ~30 minutes away from my parents. My parents didn't annoy us *too* much, but it was still within striking distance of *her* parents (she's an only child, so they'll do ANYTHING for her), and so the combination proved to be too much and we were no longer happy.

So we moved to NYC, putting us four hours away from mine and three hours away from hers. By carefully planning to be busy most weekends of the month, we've managed to cut our parental visits down considerably.

Long story short: If either sets of parents are clingy and/or overbearing and/or have a tendency to fight and/or any other qualities that drive you progressively insane, make sure you are not within frequent visiting difference. Break away and start out on your own. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it, but do as much as you can on your own terms.

(AskMeFi: Now with catharsis!)
posted by Remy at 6:57 PM on July 8, 2004

If the family bond is strong and the in-laws aren't prone to situate themselves forcibly in your newlywed lives, I'd say take advantage of such a close support line. But, even 3 hours is pretty close - short enough to reach in a day.

How soon do you want kids, if at all? My sister lives minutes away from her in-laws, a real blessing with a 3 year old and one still in the crib. It was a little crazy at first with family always wanting to come over and see the kids, but once the ground rules were set, sis is very glad to be able to send the kids out to lunch or even overnight with grandma and grandpa. This was doubly true with the arrival of her second child.
posted by Sangre Azul at 7:05 PM on July 8, 2004

Three hours isn't that far. I mean, you could meet her folks somewhere in the middle for breakfast every Saturday morning and hardly notice the drive.

It doesn't seem to me to be the sort of distance that would terribly rend your relationship with the in-laws; it's just enough to make the phone calls long distance so no one will be tempted to stay on the phone chitchatting all night, but not so far that you'd have to miss any important holidays or whatever.

Sounds good to me!
posted by bcwinters at 7:08 PM on July 8, 2004

What Remy said. x1000.
posted by Quartermass at 7:34 PM on July 8, 2004

My inlaws live a long, long day's drive away. It's perfect. My parents live an hour away. It's perfect. My sister-in-law lives five minutes away. It's perfect.

Why's it all perfect? Because those distances are just right to keep them at arm's length.

Her parents can drive us both insane within hours, and they're just the type to drop in or wish to visit every few days.

My parents would drive us insane within minutes if they were guests. They're close enough that they go home the rare time they visit, and close enough we feel free to drop in if we're down in their town.

Her sister is extremely busy, once lived with us for a year, and my wife and her sister often work together. We visit once in a while, but it's just as likely to be going out for coffee as to be in each other's houses.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:35 PM on July 8, 2004

Four hours drive is still TOO DAMN CLOSE!!! Oh wait, that was MY parents and BEFORE we got married.

The proximity of both sets of parents had nothing whatsoever with my marriage falling apart. About the only effect our parents had on the marriage was having convenient babysitters once our son was born.

The only adverse situation I know is my brother and his wife moving next door to my parents. Those two literally drove my parents from their home. They even got an unlisted phone number and four years later, they still have not given it to my brother.
posted by mischief at 8:22 PM on July 8, 2004


Even if it is the best of relationships, move.

Making that break now strengthens your marriage. Later when the kids come you could move back closer-but the apron strings will all be cut and the relationship will be on a mature footing.
posted by konolia at 8:45 PM on July 8, 2004

mischief, that is hilarious. (Not about your marriage, but your brother, obviously.)

willpie, no matter how well you get along with either set of parents, I'd highly recommend that you guys get some distance and establish your own relationship, patterns, etc., just in principle.

Especially while your newlyweds, you owe it to yourselves to have the space to really define how you're going to relate to each other, just between the two of you. Even if/once you have kids, three hours is not that long. (And by that point, hopefully you'll have had the chance to live a few different places together, have some adventures. Who knows where you'll be?)
posted by LairBob at 8:47 PM on July 8, 2004

I'd like to point out that the "distance" thing is a very American perspective (perhaps British, too - I don't know). I'm American, and an ogre about my privacy, so I tend toward the distance idea. But I live in a very different culture, where proximity is usually seen as beneficial. I think the question of whether distance is a help or a hindrance really has to do with the personalities of all involved - will your life be richer or poorer with less interaction? Do her parents feel like friends? If so, would you ever consider moving away from friends to benefit your relationship?

Partners need intimacy and personal traditions, true, but one's spouse/s.o. should never be expected to represent the fulfillment of all emotional needs. In many cases, the presence of family nearby can lighten the emotional load instead of straining it. You should judge your situation by your own shared needs and preferences, not by an abstract idea of what is good for you as a couple.
posted by taz at 11:08 PM on July 8, 2004

When my sister got married they moved about an hour away and we never saw her. Then she had a kid and moved so she was about 20 minutes away. My parents now provide free childcare 6 days a week.

Seems like a good deal.
posted by Pockets at 11:39 PM on July 8, 2004

Jeez, how completely fucked is our society when we are calmly and reasonably discussing just how far is far enough to be from our parents?
posted by jaded at 5:43 AM on July 9, 2004

My in-laws are five hours away; my parents are eight hours away. This was fine/terrific for newlyweddedness, but now that we're in the parenting stage, I really wish we were closer. My parents make top-flight grandparents, but only get to see their granddaughter four or five times a year, and I have come to regard that as very unfortunate. It'd be an additional boon for us because we'd have low-cost reliable childcare to boot. I'm not keen to leave my city, and their jobs keeps them in place, so that's just how it stands.

But for childless newlyweds? You'll probably appreciate the privacy.
posted by blueshammer at 6:10 AM on July 9, 2004

I think you already said it. It totally depends on the kind of relationship you already have with both parents. We lived within one mile of both families. Mine were great and he thought so too. His bugged me at first and he spent too much time at his mother's house at first(mama's boy and all that), but when our two children arrived his were the greatest grandparents/babysitters EVER and mine made it clear they were grandparents but not the babysitters. Looking back I would not have changed a thing.
posted by oh posey at 6:42 AM on July 9, 2004

My Parents and Her Parents are clear across the country, usually that's far enough.
posted by rschroed at 6:43 AM on July 9, 2004

I live about 1800 miles from my parents, and farther away from my partner's. It basically means that I have to use all my vacation time to see them every year. Not an ideal situation.
posted by hyperizer at 7:47 AM on July 9, 2004

My sister moved exactly 1/2 way around the world from our parents. Complete opposite hemisphere.

I think she thinks it's far enough now.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:46 AM on July 9, 2004

Don't move unless you want to. Just establish AHEAD OF TIME, the rules for the parents. Don't give them a key, tell them they must call before they drop by, and if they don't do it, keep reminding them.

You might find that you love being near them. My husband and I are 5 minutes from my parents and it's great. But I have awesome, fun, interesting parents. If they start to drive us nuts, we just decline their invitations, don't go to their house as much, and don't invite them over (until we've had space for long enough and then we start again)...and they get the picture. Now my mom and dad provide 2 days of day care a week, which is great. It's great for them and for Lucy.

However, like others said, it depends on the parents. If they obnoxious, clingy, and don't respect your space and you don't think setting rules will work, then move. But don't change your life unless you want to.

His parents live 3000 miles away. They come about every 2 months to visit (esp. now with Lucy being around) which is fine. But I don't have enough vacation to visit them very often, which is tough. I'm glad they're far away (sorry honey, if you read this) because i don't know how well his mom would take the rules. For example, when I was pregnant, we asked them 3 times to not come out and stay with us the day I was wait 2 weeks, and she cried and cried and eventually said "tough. We're coming out whether or not you want us." Once I picked my chin up off the floor, I was glad that they live 3000 miles away. Can you imagine?
posted by aacheson at 12:23 PM on July 9, 2004

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