My Outpost with the In-Laws

20130527-161100.jpgYou don’t just marry your husband, you marry his family!

I suppose some would take exception to this, particularly if the in-law relationship is strained. But for me it is a true and welcome arrangement. Just as my affection for my husband has grown over the past 18 years of marriage, my affection for his family has grown too. Particularly since moving to Texas a year ago, my parents-in-law have nurtured me in ways I never would have expected. Their home has become an outpost for me in my new state.

Our Journey To Texas

My husband and I are from different states. He is (mostly) from Texas and that’s where most of his family still lives. I’m from Ohio and that’s where most of my family still lives. We met in my home state of Ohio when my husband was in seminary. In our early married life we lived a number of years in Indiana, and a short time in Florida. Throughout all that time we always talked about getting back to Ohio–my family was there and my husband had put down roots there as well.

Finally we made it back to Ohio when my son was a toddler. It was everything I thought it would be for getting reconnected with my family. My parents and brother made it to every birthday party for my son, and we got to see each of them at regular intervals in between. I got to go to events for my extended family–weddings, funerals, holidays, family reunions, and more. I was finally home again!

I really thought I would be in Ohio for the rest of my life. When it was time for my husband to find a new congregation to serve as pastor, we tried very hard to find a match in Ohio. Meanwhile, we agreed it would be okay to do some looking in Texas too. I didn’t really take the Texas thing very seriously though. I was sure I was “home” in Ohio, where I belonged and didn’t really want to think about leaving.

The more we talked about it though, my husband made a strong case for getting back to Texas to be near his family. He made a really positive connection with the staff of the synod where we are now serving. Soon after that, this beautiful match came together with our current church in rural Texas. And to top it all off our current church is only 1 1/2 hours away from my husband’s parents.

My Attitude in the Beginning

Objectively, I know this is just part of the price of marrying a Texan–we will never get to live near both of our families at the same time. Naturally, it is only fair that my husband should get a turn living near his family, right?

While I recognize the realities of it, the move to Texas was rather disorienting emotionally. I didn’t take very well to the idea of being uprooted from my home state and my family all over again.

People tried to cheer me up, “Your husband’s family is your family too!”

I have always appreciated my in-laws and enjoyed spending time with them. There have been normal tensions of learning their expectations, but never anything we couldn’t all have a laugh about later. Overall, I’ve had a pretty good relationship with them.

Still, the idea of trading them for my family just didn’t seem like a fair deal. I knew them as well as I could having seen them once or twice a year over the course of almost 20 years of being involved with their son. But I didn’t know them like I knew my own family! And they couldn’t replace my family!

His Family IS My Family

In the interview process we had stayed with my in-laws on two different trips, and when we first moved down we stopped for a couple of nights to stay with them before we completed our journey to our new town. Their hospitality, and their home were familiar things to me in this new state.

After we made the move we seemed to find frequent excuses to make the one-and-a-half hour drive back to Houston to visit with my in-laws. I found that it wasn’t just my husband making excuses to see them, but I was too. I liked being with my in-laws and getting to know them better. Seeing them more frequently meant we could bond more than ever.

I hesitated to say much to my in-laws about the challenges of the move. I didn’t want to “mess with Texas” and I knew they were so excited to have their youngest son back in Texas. But I had become comfortable enough with them that one day I just blurted out a litany of unpacking woes. I shared that I had kind-of stalled out on unpacking having unpacked enough to get by, but not enough to feel really at home.

Without giving it much thought, I rattled off a list of things–mostly kitchen stuff–that I had not yet unpacked that would make life so much easier! The next morning when I came down to breakfast there was a small assembly of exactly the types of things I was missing. My mother-in-law gathered these duplicates from her own kitchen for us to borrow as long as we needed them.

The kitchen stuff was a big help, of course, and I also came to a new appreciation for my in-laws through the whole exchange. It turned out they were not upset by my rant about how hard the move was for me. Beyond that though, they showed that they cared how I was really. Folks for whom I don’t have to pretend to be okay, they’re my people.

So, even though I don’t get to be near the family I grew up with, my husband’s family is my family. I continue to look for excuses to visit them and draw comfort and strength from being with them. I’m feeling more at home in our new town now that we’ve been here for a year, but my in-law’s home is still my outpost where I can go and relax and be myself.

Where are your outposts in life? Who are the people you can be yourself with?

One response to this post.

  1. […] in Texas has had its ups and downs for me. I’ve had the joy of getting better acquainted with my in-laws, and the honor of being with my mother-in-law in her dying days. I’ve enjoyed spending time […]

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