Wondering how to relate to your second set of in-laws?  If all else
fails, keep the spotlight on their relationship with your stepchildren
(their grandchildren).  That is the relationship that most needs to

When I started obtaining endorsements for my book, Stepparenting
the Grieving Child
, I picked up a lot of advice about what to include in
the book.  One comment that caught me by surprise was, “Make sure
you offer suggestions about how to relate to the second set of in-laws. 
I didn’t know what to do with mine.”

Let’s take a moment to explain these relationships.  Bear with me! 
This is more complex than a double shot, skinny, sugar-free latte. 

You and your spouse each have parents, who are therefore your kids’
and stepkids’ grandparents and stepgrandparents.  I know that not all
these relations may be alive or available, so let’s concentrate on those
still maintaining an active relationship with their grandchildren.  Your
spouse’s parents are your in-laws.  That’s set number one.

But your spouse’s ex-spouse also has parents.  Thus there is a second
set of in-laws on (therefore more grandparents) who may have already
established a close relationship with your stepchildren.  Whew! 

What does this mean for you as a stepparent?  If your spouse’s ex is
still alive (i.e. they divorced), he or she will probably maintain the lines
of communication with your second set of in-laws.  But, if your
spouse’s ex has died, how will your inherited second set of in-laws
keep in touch with their grandchildren? 

By keeping in touch with you and your spouse.

One of the stepfathers I interviewed for my book, Adam, developed a
very good relationship with his second set of in-laws.  They are the
parents of his wife Lily’s former husband George.  Lily and George
were divorced and negotiated the parenting of their three girls.  Adam
and Lily married.  Then, later, George died in a plane crash. 

George’s parents had already made a tradition of coming into town
about two separate weeks each year to visit with their son and
granddaughters.  Committed to a relationship with their
granddaughters, they weren’t about to stop visiting after George
passed away (progress step number one).  Lily provided the bridge to
her continued and their growing relationship with Adam (progress step
number two).  Adam was willing to step out of his comfort zone and
get to know them (progress step number three).

My own experience with the second set of in-laws is not as happy.  Nor
is it terrible.  It’s simply civil, and that’s all. My husband Brian’s former
wife, Cathy, died quite young from breast cancer.  I already knew
Brian and appeared on the scene rather quickly (complication number
one). Cathy’s family members were in the throes of their grief and
weren’t in a position to receive me non-judgmentally (complication
number two).  They and Brian didn’t have as strong a relationship as
Lily had with her in-laws (complication number three).

You can see how various factors can affect the relationship with the
second set of in-laws – the relationships themselves are as
complicated to form as they are to explain.  As with any human
relationship on this earth, if both parties open their hearts to work with
each other, everyone will make some progress.  Otherwise, you have
to do the best you can with what you’ve got. 

Keep the spotlight on the grandparent/grandchild relationship.  That’s
the relationship that most needs to flourish.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in
Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book,
go to



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