Coulda-been-in-laws are family members of your significant other whom you get very close to over the course of your relationship but get stuck with even after the relationship ends. It’s painful to form relationships with them, prepare financially, emotionally and mentally to be part of their lives, and then experience a break-up with the person that brought them into your life. It also becomes very complicated trying to analyze, what kind of relationship to maintain with them when you are no longer with their son/daughter, uncle/aunty, brother/sister, niece/nephew, etc. How do you introduce your ex’s sister to your new beau when you run into her in the mall? How do you relate with your ex’s mother that took you in as a daughter or son? How many of these awkward relationships do you want to have in one life time?
Some relationships fail after a long time which might make meeting and knowing each other’s family almost inevitable. Sometimes, you unintentionally, meet the person through their family member which might give you the pre-in-law status very early in the relationship. But there are some very unnecessary acquisitions of COBIL. COBIL might make it difficult for you to move on; constantly expressing wishes that things had turned out differently or bringing back memories that you may be trying to suppress. In my opinion, the more of those we have in our life, the more complicated relationships we acquire too. I have observed three common situations that lead to unnecessary acquisition of COBIL.
Helpers: Very early in relationships some people begin to run errands, buy items for the other person’s family, attend intimate family functions etc. Sadly, some people see it as a way to secure their place in the other person’s life. While it’s unrealistic to have set time when these things should happen, it should be when the two people involved have decided they are part of each other’s future, not when the relationship is new with uncertainties. As nice as it is to help the family of someone you care about, when it happens too early, you only endear yourself to the family and vice versa without taking enough time to build on the relationship that actually counts. If you two end up together, you have the rest of your lives to buy gifts and help each other’s family. If after you advertise yourself as a ‘helper ’and the relationship doesn’t work out, all you have is a family that loves you and a man/woman who doesn’t. You would have acquired COBIL.
One Chance: There are those bad-belle people who look for people to date because they see a gap in their family that only that kind of relationship can fill. They have no long-term plans for you or the relationship, just the service they want you to offer. A few years back, one of my girlfriends entered a relationship. After a few weeks, the young man asked her to travel alone to another state during her free time to help his elder sister that just had a baby. (Bros!! how far?). So, he found a girl that he thought was good enough to send for Omugwo. My friend is sharp; she didn’t go. They broke up a few months later; you can imagine. The list goes on: for women who turn young men to their family bank, or the guys that find a girl and promise her heaven and earth just so that she can help his mother when he travels abroad. Sadly people fall for this plot and enter one chance. When they realize what’s going on, it’s too late, the relationship has gone too far, and someone has dashed them COBIL.
Back Door: These are the people who on purpose go through family members in an attempt to win a person’s heart. This is called using the ‘back door’. In this case the people either have unsuccessfully tried to approach the person directly or believe using a family member is a surer and faster way. They get close to the person’s family members, buy gifts, inject themselves into their lives, and use them as weapons or use their own family members as baits and tools to lure the person to themselves. There’s a high chance of not winning the person of interest through the back door; this might equally earn you or make you give someone COBIL.
On the part of the family, it’s not also fair to introduce someone to them, and yank that person out of their lives when the relationship fails. I’m sure some of us that grew up with uncles and aunties know that feeling of pain when the person that supplies you biscuit and sweet stops coming. I mourned the end of some relationships of my relatives. Not just because of the goody-goody, but the connection that was made with these people was lost and I missed it.
Bringing family members very close at the beginning of a relationship has its downsides. They make decision-making and building a relationship a little tougher. I’ve witnessed situations where family members like a person more than the other part of the relationship duo. Hearing your mother’s voice in your head about how awesome a man or woman is, when you don’t feel the same, might just mess up some things for you. Of course if the opposite is the case, the hatred or dislike might not allow you make a right decision on what to do.
Finding a life partner is not easy; I’m absolutely convinced that family plays a huge role in the decision. I support discussing the person of interest with family, talking about qualities, asking questions, etc. and hopefully having someone in your family that you confide in and get guidance. But a face to face meeting, I believe should come later, because personal interaction is a different ball game. The marriage will be between you, the person and God. Those are the only people who should matter at the initial phase. I like to think of it like building a house. You start with the foundation and you make it as strong as possible. Get to know each other to a certain extent; at least be sure to a point that a future potentially exist. Then you can build the ‘house’ further by bringing in family. A strong relationship foundation can withstand a lot, peradventure you have issues with family acceptance but a weak one won’t stand a chance. When that foundation is strong, family love and acceptance will strengthen it and not complicate it. You also minimize the pain of a break-up when it’s necessary and save your family the trouble.
For those of us that are still yet to tie the knot, I suggest we avoid coulda-been-in-laws (COBIL) so there would be space for the real ones.
These are just my thoughts. Who agrees? Who has had an unnecessary COBIL or an encounter that might have led to one and how did you handle it? Who has a different opinion on when family should be involved, at what point and why? Do not hesitate to share in the Comments below.
While you’re at that,
Have a Winning-Day!