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My son-in-law wants nothing to do with my family and I'd really like to change that and have him as part of the family.

Some background information about how we got here is needed, my daughter met him when she was 18 and he was 17, they quickly fell in love and were inseparable. At the time however he was addicted to methamphetamine and god knows what else, he had left home at 15 and was rumored to be involved in gangs, needless to say my family were not impressed and actively tried to break them up over the next 7 years, it was really quite bad what they would say and do but they always thought they knew best. I never joined in with this as I knew him as a very kind and gentle person who would do anything for my daughter but had taken a bad path early in life, I always thought he might just figure it out.

He knew about all of the things my family had done and said to get rid of him, he not surprisingly avoided us at all costs. Eventually he found his way off the drugs and out of trouble, got into software development and today is extremely successful, running his own business and providing a life that I couldn't have even imagined for my daughter. He's 29 now, they have been married for two years and the family now approves of him, but now whenever we invite them to a family event he never shows up (he always encourages my daughter to go) unless it's Christmas in which case he will show up but he's extremely distant yet very polite, he shows no animosity towards us but he will not initiate conversation, he'll answer questions but that's pretty much the end of it.

I find him to be quite an inspirational figure finding his way out of that darkness with only himself and my daughter, I'd like him to spend more time with our family as I feel he would be a good role model for the younger ones in the family and to be honest I really like him and would like to have him around more. I have no idea how to approach this though, it's hard to find a way to bring it up as he always so polite and has apparently has never said a bad word about us so it feels strange asking him to not "hate" us. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

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    Have the family members who tried to seperate them apologized to him? – QEDemonstrandum Jan 17 at 12:14
  • I tried to once but he stopped me and asked me not to continue, everyone else doesn't feel that they have done anything wrong. – SadDad4099 Jan 17 at 12:17
  • Could you give us a bit more details about the goal you want to achieve? "Appoaching this" Is still quite broad. What is it you wan't to achieve? First at least getting to know why he is so distant? Getting to know his side of the story? Or just have him joining the family, as if he would have always been invited to the past years? Try to figure (and tell us) what exactly it is you would expect to get from that approach, then we can possibly help you finding a way how to do that approach. – dhein Jan 17 at 13:07
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    So... your family actively tried to drive him off for 7 years, and now want him to act like that never happened? Is that the goal? – baldPrussian Jan 17 at 15:21
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I've been in the son-in-law's position. My prospective parents-in-law did not approve of me, though it was because of my age (I'm five years older than my husband, not a big deal now, but it was when he was twenty.) and my religion.

I don't know what your son-in-law heard, but for me it was that my MIL called me his "little friend", and said "you know what that sort of woman is after" and other things of that nature. Never to my face, but I heard about them from other sources.

I bore a lot of resentment toward my in-laws after the fact. I didn't go to the extreme of totally dissing family parties, but I avoided contact with them whenever possible. It was fortunate that my husband was always very supportive of me, instead of urging me to "make up" with them. His willingness to be on my side made reconciliation much faster for me. I only tell you that in the hopes that you will not pressure your daughter to push him to "fix" things.

My opinion is that it is time, more than anything, that will heal the breach. As long as you simply and quietly keep trying. Do you think he's an inspiration and a good role model? Put it on Facebook. Don't make a big production about it, but don't be afraid to go public with your pride in his accomplishments. Of course, don't mention anything about his troubled past, even if it is to talk about how wonderful it is that he pulled himself out of that, just be positive about him and brag a little.

Don't send him a birthday gift, but holiday cards and maybe an anniversary and/or Christmas gift for both of them. When kids come, there will be birthday gifts for them, and it is here that you will have your greatest opportunity because loving his kids is the best way to a parent's heart. At least it was for me. My kids are both adopted and developmentally disabled, and the way my in-laws treat them has won me over completely.

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    This has some good ideas, but I'd also add to be careful with praise. Done to excess, it will be seen as patronizing and buttering up the subject of your praise. – baldPrussian Jan 17 at 18:02
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Reconciling a broken relationship is a hard thing. I've tried that with other relationships not nearly as broken as yours, and there's a lot of baggage to deal with.

Let's start with viewpoints: I don't read you were an active participant in this. However, I also don't read that you didn't refuse to take part in it. If I were your SIL, I'd lump you in with everyone else since you didn't actively do anything to counter my feeling unwelcome. He's polite, but I also am with people I can't stand. I don't know his feelings but were I in his shoes I'd most likely at best feel complete indifference toward you. You'll have to face that possibility - that he really dislikes your whole family and is only there because he has to be to support his wife.

The first thing in mending fences is to apologize, which I also don't read your having done. It's long overdue, and it needs to be both sincere and detailed. Your apology needs to explain how you were wrong and what you could have done better. And... you owe your daughter a separate apology as well.

Time will help, but you can't spend it sitting around and waiting. At the same time, trying too hard will only frustrate things as well and may make matters even worse. In cases where I've mended a broken relationship, I've needed to pay attention to the other party. What are they in the mood for? Are they willing to accept my presence? Can we address the elephant in the room together - with that being my behavior?

That's what I know about interpersonal skills.

In the end, this may require an experienced therapist rather than some well-intentioned folks on the internet, whose qualifications you don't know. And you'll need to attend that therapist first - I suspect your SIL will feel that he's done nothing wrong, and being invited to a therapy appointment for something he didn't break would not (I'll repeat that: NOT) help things. A trained family therapist can help with that discussion as well.

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Let me add my two cents, having been involved in an "in-laws situation" myself and in relation to how I deal with my sons-in-law. It's important to realize that your daughter and your son-in-law are now both individuals and also a unit. They can speak for themselves as individuals, but they can also speak for themselves as a unit. So, if one side of the unit isn't working, then you can try the other side.

Since your relationship with your daughter is OK, talk to your daughter and get her suggestions as to how you can best mend fences with her husband. Trying to deal with your son-in-law directly may not work due to lack of trust, but if your daughter supports your reconciliation with her husband, then maybe she can help figure out how you can make that happen.

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