Study looks at in-law relationships as key divorce predictor

Here’s a flash to prospective marital mates: The future husband should start openly bonding now with the parents of his to-be wife — especially her mom — and the future wife should just as keenly avoid doing the same with her future mate’s parents.

In other words, future husband should freely promote familiarity and actively go about breaking down boundaries with the impending in-laws, while future wife should take pains to avoid doing the same and to keep that shield up to some extent.

Even if that sounds a bit ironic, it is the prescription in many cases to a divorce-free union, concludes a nearly three-decade study of 373 couples tracked from their first year of marriage until now.

The chief researcher in that study, professor Terri Orbuch of the University of Michigan, has sifted through a lot of factors to determine those that most fundamentally dictate marital longevity or marriage dissolution, and she firmly believes that outcomes often flow from relations with the in-laws and sex-based differences.

“Women value a close relationship with their in-laws but may ultimately view them as meddling, while men … take their in-laws’ actions less personally,” Orbuch says.

When it comes to relationships, that means that men more than women tend to not sweat the details, while women dwell much more on how in-laws interact with them.

And that interaction — especially if it is unduly close and lacking boundaries — can often lead to a woman’s perception that she is being judged as a wife and parent. Men, says Orbuch, think that way less frequently.

Conversely, most women are flatly happy to see their husband cozy up to mom and dad.

One Wall Street columnist and commentator on Orbuch’s study says that the thought process going through the minds of many women who see close husband/in-law interaction is that, “He cares about me if he’s going to bother with my parents.”

Orbuch’s research posits that the divorce risk goes down by about 20 percent in marriages where the husband has close ties to the wife’s parents. Conversely, the risk goes up by about the same percent if boundaries are too low between a wife and the husband’s parents.

Source: Huffington Post, “In-laws and marriage study: son-in-law key to lasting marriage,” Nov. 27, 2012

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