I was having a text conversation the other day with a friend. As the conversation wound down, he told me to, “Enjoy my in-laws”. (They were visiting so this was appropriate.) As I thought about his comment beyond the obvious, I was hit with a realization. What does a person who is not married but has been with the same person for 20+ years call their wife’s parents? The rest of this post is my mental meanderings about this topic. (It is not my purpose to discuss the merits or non-merits of this arrangement. It is only a discussion of how to best reference the parties involved.)
In many states, once a couple carries on for an extending period of time in a married fashion, they are awarded the designation of “common law” marriage. (If the title is not awarded, it may be simply them claiming the title.) While I refer to my wife’s parents as the “in-laws” or “mom and dad”, I have a suspicion my friend refers to his common law wife’s parents the same way. (Technically, I suppose “mother in common law and father in common law” are the correct title.) While it would be appropriate for parents in-laws to call son in-laws by their first name, I cannot think of more than a couple of times I called my in-laws by their first names. Fortunately, the kids of common law parents face no confusion – mom, dad, parents, uncles, aunts, and grandparents share the same titles regardless of the parents status.
Is this a fluff posting to meet a quota? It might be. Is it a real thought I had within my brain that needed to see the light of day? Debatable. Do I celebrate marriages but still hold those who stay in committed heterosexual relationships in high regard? Absolutely!!