“My in-laws don’t hate me at all. But ‘love’ isn’t about all this. ‘Love’ is about letting your loved one ‘live’.”

Sharing an email.

Loved the sensible and powerful message that accompanied it. What good is ‘love’, if it does not include respect for the loved one’s happiness?

Dear IHM,

I request you to put this up in your blog, because most women think that you need to fight back only in extreme situations such as an abusive spouse or money-minded in-laws or something. Many women and men think that it is enough if their spouse has a “good character”.

With my story, I want to show that it isn’t. My in-laws don’t hate me at all. FIL has never hesitated to buy my favorite vegetables or fruits or tiny treats that he knows I like. MIL and grand MIL are actually quite affectionate. But “love” isn’t about all this. “Love” is about letting your loved one “live”. Love is supposed to be unconditional, and if you don’t have it, you shouldn’t pretend to have it.

I want readers, especially married women, to know that it is important to fight back for whatever is important for them in their life – happiness, career, hobbies etc. And this fight should be fought regardless of who snatches this away from them – parents, in-laws, spouse, why, even children.

Thanks a million!

My story- “adjustment” in Indian families.

I have been silently reading your blog for quite some time now. With your last post “In my bubble marriages are the stuff of feminist dreams!” I finally decided to comment.

I had what you’d call a “love-cum-arranged” marriage. My in-laws are very orthodox and I was brought up in a much liberal environment. As far as “adjustment” goes, mine is a long saga.

1.

I was 22 and I had just finished my PG and joined a job. Like most young women from non-conservative backgrounds, I had no clue about cooking or other complex household duties. I only used to help my housewife mom in small chores. After my honeymoon, when I joined work, my workplace was more than 20 kms away from the house. I had to live with my husband’s brother and his 70 plus paternal grandmother. I used to wake up at 5:30 a.m. (considering I was newly married), bathe, and stare at the kitchen, wondering how I should cook. MIL and FIL weren’t living with us. Grandma was too old to wake up so early. I used to feel so alone and lost in the kitchen, with no one to help me, as the entire house was sound asleep, unaware of my woes.

Grandma eventually taught me cooking and helped around a bit, considering her age, but as far as DOING it was concerned, I was totally at loss. My workplace being far away, I would come home late, cook, clean then repeat the same chores the next day. NOBODY helped me. I had no option but call my mom and pour my heart out. My husband was working from home then, and you’d be surprised how little sympathy I received from him despite having dated for 3 years.

2.

We are *** (community), famous for our orthodoxy. My in-laws were even more so. Apart from the above, I was also pelt with a huge onslaught of religiosity and mindless rituals; being isolated while menstruating, bathing before cooking, taking madi baths, performing special poojas on auspicious days, cooking complex meals for special occasions I had no clue of, trying not to touch uncooked items after touching cooked items (what they call patthu in our language) – things that were totally unheard of in my parents’ place.

You guessed it; my husband was clueless and wasn’t bothered about it as long as he wasn’t directly affected. Everyone, including my own family, told me to “adjust”.

3.

Eventually I learned managing the household and completing things on time before office. But I was still a one-woman army. Nobody even as much as picked up their used coffee cup from the table. Grandma started commenting on my incapacities in managing the household, citing examples of herself and my mother-in-law. My own mother commented on my “slowness”, “laziness” and “incapability”.

I would like to point out that by this time, all my hobbies were gone. I was a voracious reader, and totally into DIY art projects, was learning music before marriage. Now, I wasn’t even given the allowance to watch my favorite programs on TV. Everyone else hogged the TV. I had no time for ANYTHING. People said that is the sacrifice a “working woman has to gladly make”.

4.

Relatives would pop in (both sides), and would look at the house I disarray. I was blamed again, being the WOMAN of the family.

5.

It was around this time that some harsh realities clearly established themselves. My FIL, as I found, was not only extremely domineering and violent, but also used to drink and smoke in the house. He paid no attention to the fact that I had asthma and was allergic to smoke/dust. The common bathroom would reek of nicotine every time they came visiting. He is extremely finicky about food as well; a grain of salt missing and he would simply toss the plate at my MIL’s face. He also used to emotionally blackmail everyone into giving him what he wanted and used to beat up MIL if someone didn’t budge. This beating was used as leverage for his blackmailing. MIL is a total slave of this family and she is shown as the example of the ideal MIL.

6.

FIL forbade me from wearing jeans in his presence, ordered me to quit working if necessary to have a male baby to carry his line forward and told me to learn from my MIL. With several talks, my husband started intervening in this one, though he too told me to “adjust” as did several other women of “my age and status”.

7.

This went on. I finally cracked and attempted suicide several times, though not with the full conviction or courage; I barely even injured myself. This was all thanks to my sanity and courage urging me to stay back and fight, and battling against my desire to run away from all this.

It showed up on my health. I gained a lot of weight, and had to quit my well-paid and well-loved job due to attacks of migraine. Moreover, I wanted to try for higher studies, but due to some problems, that couldn’t materialize.

I was a housewife now. Day by day, as many working women would attest, I started going mad with mundane housework and being constantly bothered by lazy family members to do chores for them. I tried to re-join my old company, but they had too many formalities in re-taking ex-employees. I decided to work from home.

“Adjust” as I did, people bothered me the whole day and never let me sit at my desk in peace for more than 5 mins at a stretch. I decided that I didn’t care what happened. I went to a doctor, put the headaches in order and joined work again; this time with the conviction that I will clearly say “NO ADJUSTMENT” when I CANNOT.

By this time, my husband had warmed up to my situation a lot, as I kept sensitizing him. I understood that his apathy was not because he was sexist himself, but I discovered that he was a worse victim of this patriarchy than I was. He just didn’t share those problems with me and when I told him mine, it frustrated him even more. We started sharing our problems. I went for counseling. Our relationship improved.

8.

As fate had it, my FIL brought the house down with his mad whim once again. He took voluntary retirement and along with his second son, forced my husband to buy a house he couldn’t afford at all. FIL wanted to brag about this house as his brother too had brought a house recently. My husband and his brother paid the EMI. This house was 40 plus kms away from my workplace. People advised me to quit. I didn’t quit, but I also “adjusted”. This was just 2 months before my first anniversary, so you can imagine the financial crunch of having to cope from marriage expenses and now that of a large duplex house as well.

Husband had quit his work-from-home job and taken up work at a company close to my own, so he realized how harrowing it is to make long commutes to work everyday. He realized how shitty it feels to work at home after a long commute.

We moved to the new home in September 2013. My bro-in-law went to work abroad (escaped from this mad household I’d say). I, hubby, grandma, FIL and MIL occupied this house.

9.

FIL threw tantrums every day. The drinking and the beatings were too frustrating to watch. MIL expected us to support her when he beat her, but being the slave she was, she’d also chide us if we said anything against FIL, especially me. Those beatings were “their private business” and we had “no concerns whatsoever” with them, but we were supposed to “adjust” so that FIL would be happy.

This was the final straw. We totally stopped “adjusting”. I and hubby moved out of this house this Feb’14 and have been the butt of censure ever since, what with “budhaape ka sahaara” and the “duty of a married woman to her in-laws”.

My parents finally became supportive. I and hubby have tasted our freedom after more than 1 year of marriage. We’ve had total privacy for the first time with no one eavesdropping on us. We can finally breathe.

Yes, we still pay the EMI and live with a financial constraint that is not our fault at all (My FIL spends lavishly to appease the society, expecting my husband to pay for it as “they raised him and educated him”). But, today the man, who once didn’t lift a finger for me fearing his family’s commentary, now openly washes vessels for me and even cleans the toilet. He doesn’t hesitate to support me before his family now. We are finally a happy couple because we have stopped “adjusting”.

We have faced the music though. FIL has waged a cold war. He has declared that he will have nothing to do with me hereafter (interestingly, he is supposed to pay the mortgage for my jewellery which was pawned to pay for his exorbitance). But, then, what the hell! Good-riddance!

I guess this is a long mail, IHM. But, I just want to say that “adjustment” is a vicious cycle. The more you repress yourself, the more you want to take it out on someone. And, you eventually will- a spouse, children or even your own DIL. You can always make a few mutual sacrifices and agreements, but the word “mutual” is to be heeded here.

Everyone has their own set of negotiable and non-negotiable. Some women actually don’t mind wearing saree all the time to please their husband/in-laws. Some women don’t mind quitting working. Maybe… but, I am not one of them. The point is: Never negotiate even slightly on things that are non-negotiable for you. Also never hesitate to negotiate on things that don’t matter much in the long run.

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88 thoughts on ““My in-laws don’t hate me at all. But ‘love’ isn’t about all this. ‘Love’ is about letting your loved one ‘live’.”

    • you know, this is exactly my thoughts. So many of us do not realize what we are putting ourselves and the next generation through in the name of ‘adjusting’. While the LW definitely had a tougher battle, so many of us can relate to some or the other part. From what to wear, when to wake up, what to eat, when to eat, how to bring up your kids…. every decision seems to have been made for you.

      And as the LW so wonderfully put it, men are victims od patriarchy too – they just don’t want to take the trouble of addressing it till they are shown the mirror.

      Like

  1. Kudos to the letter writer for turning her situation around, but I can’t help feeling that the whole mess could have been avoided if she had gotten to know who her husband and in-laws really were before marriage. How is it possible to date someone for three years and not come to the realization that his family is comprised of a bunch of lazy, entitled orthodox jerks? Did the LW ever discuss finances, living arrangements and domestic division of labour with her fiance? Did the LW even know that her FIL was a domestic abuser before she married? (That in itself is a huge red flag – men who have witnessed domestic abuse are more likely to repeat the pattern). By the way, LW, your parents aren’t liberal. They might be less orthodox than your in-laws, but people who tell their abused daughters to suck it up are not truly liberal by any stretch of the imagination.

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    • Also, is the part of the post that is in italics by the same person who wrote the bulk of the post? I can’t reconcile the description of a FIL who buys treats for his DIL with the depiction of the wife-beating scumbag that appears below that (but maybe that’s realistic – even the worst abusers aren’t abusive all the time).

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      • Generally, abusive and violent people are not always being violent or angry, they have their caring moments too, (It’s easier to control a victim who believes the abuser loves them) this is what makes it difficult for a victim to recognize the abuse, or to walk out.

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        • Wanted to add that it’s similar to the story of putting a frog in boiling water Vs letting the water heat slowly. It’s hard to identify the exact threshold where the situation tips into abuse. However, in hindsight, we can see that the signs were always there.

          Also, it’s often easier to recognize something unpleasant happening to someone else than when it’s happening to us because there’s such little awareness on this topic. Plus most of us – understandably – do not imagine that *we* could be victims of abuse. Many wrongly believe that “strong” people cannot be abused. No. Abuse is ultimately psychological manipulation where the abuser controls a victim very subtly into thinking he/she deserves it. Hence the lw’s mil appears to be convinced that it’s a “domestic matter”

          Also, would ask the LW to see if her husband needs additional therapy given the general environment he has grown up in. Watching abuse so close up can have a profound impact on a person’s psyche.

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        • I agree SB.
          This is what makes abuse difficult to walk out from.
          1.’Abuse is ultimately psychological manipulation where the abuser controls a victim very subtly into thinking he/she deserves it.’
          2.’Watching abuse so close up can have a profound impact on a person’s psyche.’

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        • who are these people who have given 12 thumbsdown for your comment IHM??? I seriously want to know who are these who just go about thumbing down sane comments.

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      • This behaviour is typical of abusers, bullies, who operate through emotional blackmail. They’ll throw at you tokens that will be hugely material as well as visible to “show” and “convince” others of their “love” or “concern” (of course, those mean nothing to them). It’s just that they have no respect for others’ needs – they are so caught up with satisfying themselves. They will also always exact a manifold return for these “token” they throw at you. That’s how it works. It’s totally believable. Did you watch Udaan? – how the father beat up the kid and “said sorry”? But his sorry too was something his victims had to feel grateful for… And that his apologies were always closed; never open to a challenge or rationality.

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    • This.

      I absolutely agree with the author’a point regarding mutual compromises with ‘mutual’ being the key. However, the issue with this particular scenario, seems to be that the couple didn’t discuss the future adequately enough. Did the husband present himself as an egalitarian individual prior to the marriage and then change after?

      Also, while I’m glad the husband changed for the better, I do not understand how he’s a worse off victim of patriarchy in this whole thing. It seems to me that he sat and watched his wife get abused for an entire year without lifting a finger. I wish the LW clarified that. I also don’t see him helping her with the dishes as something to applauded–it’s something I (or anyone else raised in a liberal household) would expect.

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      • Yes, I simply don’t buy the LW’s assertion that her husband isn’t sexist and that he’s a bigger victim of patriarchy than she is. We see this over and over again on this blog – women blaming everyone but their husbands, when it’s clear that their husbands are either indifferent to their suffering, or they tacitly approve of the way their wives are being treated.

        Having read the letter again, I think the tipping point for the LW’s husband might not be the abuse meted out to his wife; it might be the fact that his father took him for a ride financially. If his father hadn’t done that, the LW still might be stuck in that hellish situation.

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        • When everybody else including – the LW, her parents, her friends (same generation) and colleagues thought she must adjust and work harder to please everybody – then it is not really surprising that her husband who grew up in that family, watching his father beat his mother and watching the mother defend his father’s violence and watching her being considered a good wife and MIL – he was as brainwashed as everybody else.

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        • I do understand that the husband is also a victim in many ways. Yet I would like the LW to clarify (if she chooses) why he’s a *worse off* victim of patriarchy than she is in this scenario.

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        • I really think it’s just one thumbs downer.. Imagine the sort of life h/she must be leading if they can clear cache/thumbs down 53 times. wow.

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      • Yes, I’m baffled by the statement that the husband is a worse victim of patriarchy. I can understand that he’s a victim too (financially, more than anything else)- but he was once a part of the problem.
        I’m glad that the ‘ending’ is happy.
        I’m glad the LW took a stand and managed to save her career and marriage.

        The MIL though- still being physically abused, yet refusing intervention from her DIL and son- that’s heartbreaking.

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      • Some serious downvoting going on here, Kay🙂 I really did not find anything controversial in your comment or mine below :S

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        • Most of it is probably just one person (same old loser) hitting the refresh button and pressing the down vote button. Never underestimate the amount of crazy on the internet, lol.

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        • When this happens, add the scores! Let Thumbs up PLUS thumbs down scores be treated as the correct score to assess the comment. The comment must be special if the thumbs downer/downers hand pick it for brutal treatment.

          If there was a way for them to reduce the Thumbs up score too, they would do it.
          Some of these chaps sometimes write to me privately and send me copies of their unpublished comments! I wonder why me?

          I wish I could share with you what one of them wrote to me on the previous post (Sub: In my bubble marriages are the stuff of feminist dreams!”) It’s so nasty that
          IHM will not allow it to appear here if I quote it.

          Regards
          GV

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    • @Priya, LW got married at 22-23 so she was pretty young and naive. You don’t ask someone you intend to marry if their father was violent with his spouse but it definitely comes up in the discussions. Then there is something called politically correct or aspired answers that come out such as, “Yes, my father abused my mother and I hated every minute of it so I pledged I’ll be nothing like him.” Over time when relationship problem solving skills are next to nil and conflict resolution learned from past experiences means threatening, emotional blackmail and actual violence sooner or later person falls into the similar pattern. All those so called promises made to self no more matter.

      But this young man like many other men chose not to resort to spousal violence to beget peace from his father’s badgering. More research should be directed towards men coming from violent homes who have not perpetuated cycle of generational violence to understand what motivates them to stay non violent and keeps them non violent.
      How a person paying attention to a new member’s needs/interests can be violent and manipulative in other relationship is a very common question. And Answer is not so common because
      1. abuser has to beget allies and not antagonize everyone especially the new member who is yet to learn about his/her truth.
      2. abuser has a punching bag that he/she knows is not going anywhere so all aggression can be directed there.

      May be these links help in understanding nature and modus operandi of abuse:
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/signs-of-an-abuser/
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/emotional-abuse/
      http://girlsguidetosurvival.wordpress.com/all-about-relationships/how-abuse-begins/

      Peace,
      Desi Girl

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  2. I’m sorry but I have no respect for a man who is as insensitive as your husband was for the first several months of your marriage. He let you suffer emotionally, financially and physically. You went so far as attempting suicide! Reason #452490834 that couples should live on their own and figure out their own little routine and system. Nobody else should be able to have a grip on your life the way your in laws have. You guys have to put your foot down and find ways to get out of paying the EMI on the house that you don’t even live in.

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      • The dislikes are for saying “You guys have to put your foot down and find ways to get out of paying the EMI on the house that you don’t even live in.”
        1st you leave the home and now you want to stop EMI. Slave to people appeasing and self aggrandizement bite more than you can chew and make others pay.
        Now let us see how many dislikes DG gets.
        DG

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      • Issues and too much time! Who on earth has the time to sit and refresh their cache that many times :S I could use a few hands around the house you know!

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    • I think the writer has made the same perceptual error that most women make. They interpret the absence of support and empathy from the husband to mean that the husband is basically misguided, doesn’t see how things really are or is just a victim of circumstances.
      I understand why women need to use this defence mechanism but ladies, if your husband is happy to watch you being ill-treated by his birth family, then he probably doesn’t care much about your well-being.
      What would you do if the situation was reversed? Would you be equally indifferent to your spouse’s unhappiness?

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  3. I read the entire email. It is good that your husband is becoming more sensitive to what you are going through. But I dont understand how the craziness was not apparent earlier. And the earlier write up is by the same person? She wrote ‘her inlaws dont hate her at all’. But the next part makes it look like they dont want anything to do with her. I am confused.

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    • That is what she has mentioned in the first part, that although they were affectionate and caring, this was not love – because they didn’t care for her happiness, they expected her to do the entire family’s share of work and also, neither they nor the rest of the family and friends saw the abuse. She was not being beaten, the husband was not cheating – meant for many that she was ‘Happily Married’.

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  4. Ever notice how a son settled abroad is a point of pride but a son living in the same city but in a different house is a cause for shame? Talk about double standards!

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  5. LW, I’m happy for you that things worked out for you.

    I guess from your experience we can learn that :-

    1. Dating isn’t enough but communicating about the future is important. Like his needs & yours. Your dreams & his, Things that are non-negotiable for you & him, finance related talks like how much to save & how much goes to the family (if they need your support), the involvement of his parents & yours, living arrangements.

    2. Communication and understanding between partners is very important. Both must support each other however difficult the situation. If one is undergoing stress due to financial issues or housework it must be discussed & they must try to come up with a solution.

    3. Adjustments happen in every marriage. But it’s important not to let these adjustments harm your health – physical & mental, which basically means, both must try & adjust for each other.

    4. Boundaries must be laid out initially.

    5. Everyone regardless of their gender must learn to cook at least the basic for survival purposes. This can come in handy at anytime & would reduce dependency.

    6. One must communicate with their respective in laws about their expectations (if possible) so that instead of reprimanding about not meeting them, there is a possibility that they may help you instead.
    (Of course looking at the LW’s case that didn’t look possible)

    There is something I wanted to ask though, just to understand. I know your MIL chides you and everything & she maybe that way because of years of physical & emotional abuse by your FIL, so my question to you is, have you tried speaking to her in private regarding this? That it is wrong that she takes all this abuse upon herself? That she needs to break free from it? What is your husband’s view point on the same?

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  6. “Never negotiate even slightly on things that are non-negotiable for you.” Completely agree.
    I grew up in a joint family and saw the bad side of the deal. Lazy, selfish, misogynistic males with a strong sense of “entitlement”. Servile, “tradition”bound, educated-yet-not-questioning years of nonsensical mental abuse, enslaved to domestic work, incapable of thinking outside the box, women.
    When my parents started the whole process of finding me a husband, they did not for a moment think that their daughter would want something that was not a repitition of their own lives. I had to think for myself. Rise above the immediate surroundings and imagine what kind of a married life would make me happy. No, this was not about material things. This was about my day to day life. Like not wanting to live in a joint family, seeking a guy with egalitarian mindset, a self made, self reliant individual, with a sense of humour, non-ritualistic-tradition bound individual etc. After a few disastrous “boy seeing” ceremonies, I wrote up my list of non-negotiables on a piece of paper. Of course it was easier to write them out than find someone who would match those needs. After countless “boy seeing” ceremonies and rejecting proposals, I gradually realized that the chances of finding the kind of egalitarian marriage partnership I was looking would be hard if I limited my search to India. So I tried very hard to get a work project abroad and was successful in doing so. After some years of living on my own abroad and further honing my non-negotiables, I was able to find Mr Alright.
    I strongly urge girls to step back and get to know yourself before getting into marriage. Know what makes you happy. Be realistic about your own strengths and weaknesses. Know what is non-negotiable and what is negotiable. Empower yourselves with a good education and job. Try to step outside the influences of immediate family and society to know the world around you. Remain positive. Evaluate all options. Do not let the naysayers steal your confidence or spirit. Do not be passive and definitely do not get into a marriage hoping that things will work out. If you find someone who you think is a good prospect for a husband, make sure you discuss day to day life with them. Understand where he stands in regards to his family, especially when it comes to tough situations when there is a conflict between what you want and what his family wants. Do not expect good things to come automatically to you. Be prepared to take bold, confident steps to achieve your happiness.

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      • Laughed out loud at “Mr. Alright” – I think we can go ahead and replace “Mr. Right” with “Mr. Alright” in most, if not all relationships, and it would be rather more appropriate.

        This is exactly why most traditional/patriarchal families get their daughters married early – they are still “malleable”, and haven’t formed their list of non-negotiables. I remember an older male colleague telling me that I should get married soon, as I won’t be able to “adjust” as I got older, and lived on my own longer. *rolls eyes*

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    • I missed one word in the statement – “definitely do not get into a marriage hoping that things will work out.”
      It should read “definitely do not get into a marriage blindly hoping that things will work out.”

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  7. This post is a perfect description of pressuring someone into domestic slavery. The LW has managed to revolt and find her own breathing space, which is great. However the only way to stop domestic slavery is to put a stop to this ‘adjustment’ nonsense and to unequal ‘duties’ on the DIL’s part. The very first time a woman is told something like ‘you must cook and clean for everyone even if you work as many hours as your husband (while no one else in the family will do any share of chores)’, we need the default answer to be ‘no’.

    We need to teach our daughters and more importantly their parents to say no. Why do her parents prefer to see her as a slave than let her risk annoying her in-laws? Who gives the in-laws this power over them? Religion, culture, etc.. basically us. If we stop, it stops.

    This kind of slavery cannot carry on without the women’s covert consent and without their parents/ peers/ society’s covert consent. When we tell her to ‘adjust’, we give her abusers the power to abuse her. This is why financial independence is really key. If she isn’t dependent for survival, she can ignore society and say ‘no’ when push comes to shove. The ‘no’ can then start with her, as it did here, even if her parents/ peers/ society fails her. We need to break this cycle of ‘adjustment’ and abuse.

    Besides all of this, I cannot believe that the FIL opens beats the MIL and that this is simply allowed to carry on in a joint family. I would call the cops on my own family if someone was doing anything like this at all. No shred of a doubt in my mind.

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    • Oh and Mr down-voter troll (yes I’m convinced you’re just one person.. one sad lonely person), feel free to have a go as many times as you like. I couldn’t care less.🙂

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    • All this becomes much easier if the couple simply refuses – or in an arranged marriage scenario, the parents of the ‘paraya dhan’ start seeing their daughter as an individual with human rights and refuse to arrange her marriage into a Joint Family setup.

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    • In addition to this, the shunning and devaluing of divorced women needs to stop.
      I have had numerous women in the 50+ age group tell me that divorce is more common now because women refuse to “tolerate” and “adjust”.

      Look at how horrendous our society’s ideas of marriage truly are. Under the guise of conformity, tradition, culture and morality, we force women to stay in fundamentally unhealthy marriages.

      Instead of using all our might to con women into enduring bad marriages, why don’t we teach men to be better husbands?

      Why do we force women to endure untold suffering when a little change in men’s behaviour would be way more effective?

      Why this blind insistence on safeguarding male privelege (by only asking women to adjust?) Who does this benefit?

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  8. I think this family is one of the most dysfunctional I’ve heard of and that is a bigger problem than the usual ‘guy is spineless’-type issues.

    No family has sounded as alarming as this one. Beating the MIL, smoking and drinking and calling themselves “orthodox”. Also, buying a house like buying peanuts? I’ve never heard of an Indian family squander money like that.

    I’m going to be a little harsh and say I’m surprised when people actually agree to marry someone from such a family, especially when it’s not arranged. My ex-girlfriends father was someone I didn’t respect because he was a big-time receiver of bribes and I felt he had low morals. That was the precise reason I broke up, since I know I have to meet him for decades to come.

    Btw, I also think ‘adjustment is a vicious cycle’ is a blanket statement. Everyone needs to adjust when people live together. The key is people need to cooperate, not have one person submit to make the family function.

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    • Orthodox customs only apply to women. Women are the upholders of custom and tradition.
      Men are seen to be above custom and tradition. My maternal aunt is in a physically abusive marriage.
      You’d think my mother’s family would pour scorn and censure on her husband. No sirreebob. While they convey their disapproval covertly and obliquely, the abusive husband is still treated with all the respect due to the family’s son-in-law.

      Bravo Indian social customs. The man who abused your daughter for 35 years is STILL entitled to respect and polite conversation.

      He’s the son-in-law and not just a mere mortal. I’ve begun avoiding members of my family.

      I do not understand a mindset that lays the blame for a bad marriage solely on the woman while excusing the husband of the most egregious acts.

      Like

  9. Hmpf! What part of ” I work as much as you do, in an equally challenging job and am as prone to fatigue as you are and since you are NOT paying me to clean up after you – stop sitting on your ass and help out” don’t people understand ?

    I feel it is so important to set out on your own when you are in a new phase of a relationship. Find your own place. Of course, this does not mean you have to disconnect from either sets of parents. But it does help ease you in into the new phase. Maybe later, after you have known each other adequately and tried and tested the new phase, have each others backs you can consider moving in with other family members if required.
    I understand that not many ppl have the luxury of doing this. But given an option I would certainly pick getting our own place (even if my in-laws were super nice).

    Like

    • //” I work as much as you do, in an equally challenging job and am as prone to fatigue as you are and since you are NOT paying me to clean up after you – stop sitting on your ass and help out” //

      Not ‘help out’ – do their share of chores. It’s not her work that she needs help with – it’s everybody’s share of work that she is being forced to do.

      Like

  10. LOL looks like this blog is being raised by people who don’t like hearing feminist views. They also seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that we care about thumbs-downs.

    Anyway, LW, what a horrifying picture you have painted. I totally disagree with the posters who are blaming you for misjudging this situation. It IS ridiculous to describe a husband who watched you get abused as a “worse victim” than you, and it IS very very strange that all a husband needs to do is wash dishes and clean toilets to be celebrated as an amazing guy. But I totally do not think you are to blame for it. Look what kind of society you live in! Look what you have for parents! This is the true tragedy of oppression: it brainwashes the oppressed to believe that oppression is normal, so that what is actually normal becomes unbelievable heaven.

    The brainwashing is not your fault. It’s not your fault that nobody ever taught you what to look for in a husband. It’s not your fault that you went to live in a joint family, It’s not your fault that they tortured you. It’s not your fault that your husband never stopped them abusing you. It’s not your fault that you don’t think it’s his fault! It’s just the culture… the brainwashing… the crazy skewing of what is normal and what is not, which is to blame. In other words, patriarchy.

    You’ve taken some amazing steps forward, I hope you can keep moving on. Enjoy your freedom, savor it, but don’t be too wedded to the idea that you have found perfection now. Take every chance to grow and read and become aware of all the ways our culture makes our thinking messed up. And if the day should come when you realize what wrong your husband has done to you…. don’t be afraid to talk about it, and acknowledge the truth of it, and confront your husband about it if necessary. Only by identifying the problem can we hope to fix it, be the problem as big as patriarchy, or the relationships in our own life.

    Like

    • I agree and I am sick of commentators time and again blaming the women for not seeing right through these men while dating. Well don’t we have instances of men agreeing to everything and then later moving back on their words. So does telling him your deal breakers work with your own parents telling you to adjust? Nobody is perfect and we are all prone to misjudge and make mistakes. More than the individual it is the collective fault of the society because individuals are product of conditioning by the same society. I loved Nandini’s comment.

      Like

      • Yes, completely agree. IF only it was as simply as doing all your checks before marriage! Would the FIL have come out and said ‘by the way I beat my wife to blackmail my family’? It’s easy to lay blame on ‘misjudging’ bit completely misguided.

        Like

    • @nandini, and @IHM , i really want to agree with you. i mean women have been manipulated,suppressed and taken advantage of for a very long time here , i know .because i m one among them , but Don’t you think ADULTS SHOULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS OR IN ACTIONS. I mean , lets see it from the other side, say the husband grew up in patriarchy too , he saw his father beat his mother , other men ill treat and mock woman around him…and the guy grows up nd starts beating his own wife as its his birth right! is it not his fault? all he saw growing up was this..he thought it to be normal, and nobody told him its wrong ..for all he knew, women are supposed to take it!!

      i want to stress here what part of being an adult means its okay to be influenced by society or some other prejudice? because if we think that way, rape culture, racism, communalism can all be justified saying… cannot blame them the ‘society’ does it to them. i believe as an ADULT its my duty to employ discretion, make my own (informed) choices and also take responsibility if those choices turn out to be bad. Bec only then i can make progress , move ahead to better choices and hence better life.

      In here, the letter writer normalises abuse meted out to her, she talks as if the husband has got nothing to do with it..aren’t they his own parents? I have seen so many people do it ..”the in-laws are bad people but my husband is very good…come on put the blame where it is.. if your husband was good..he wouldn’t let you go through unjust ill-treatment and watch like a spectator. Isn’t the letter writer being partial by putting all the blame on others when she ‘married’ her husband??

      Secondly, what the letter writer did is definitely appreciable, she took atleast some action..but her action is in the similar lines..” drinking is bad? lets ban it. going out is unsafe? lets stay indoors “”my inlaws house is too tough for me to handle lets get out”(she still is paying the EM !! ) offcourse its a temporary nd effective solution but doesnt solve the problem .. the core problem here is her husband, i m shocked she expects so little of him. should i respect women who settle for less than equal marriages and preach to others ?? i would rather support her if she said so far i could do this, now i want to work on my marriage .. may be go to marriage counsellors? i mean a woman attempts suicide multiple times bec of tensions with in laws,marriage and only ‘she’ goes to counselling ?Really? didn’t the doctor suggest couples’ counselling? isnt it the least the husband could do ??

      As it already looks like a rant, i want to go ahead and say whats bothering me too, please don’t mind. i think women like the letter writer, like a lot of women i see around me these days, they don’ t want to see it , find fault with their husbands, because if they do then they have to ACT , do something about it…that might mean marital discord or even divorce…and nobody wants that !! In-laws are easier to get rid off and also a “bigger” pain. hence do that feel very happy about yourself or just bluff yourself into seeing things you want to see nd stay blissful, turning blind eye to all the lil unfair things u have to do in your marriage..! Man, its so disappointing and sad i cannot tell you, i feel my parents marriage (yester years arranged marriage where i feel my mother got the raw end of the deal) is more “equal” than some of these marriages!! the feminist in me dies a lil bit every time i see such marriages. let me explain what i understood abt the letter writer’s marriage .(ready between the lines)

      Husband addressing wife : ” you cannot get all equal partnership – i wont stand up for you, i wont make amends for all the shit i made you go through, i wont even do as much as acknowledge the abuse meted out by my parents nd my silence , just be happy i moved out (because commute is tough on me too) , wash dishes and clean toilets nd even worse make you tea or buy you something”

      And the wife lives happily ever after!!!

      Dont Blame me if i dont for a second buy this bullshit.

      P.S: when the letter said its been a year since her marriage my mind went blank…i mean it felt like atleast 12 years… the LW for sure painted a rosier picture in the start..there were so many deal breakers… like her suicide attempts, yet she still thinks highly of her husband’s adjustment capabilities…just un freaking believable..!

      Like

      • @enthusiastd: culture is to blame for teaching us that oppression is normal and acceptable. In addition to this, perpetrators of violence and oppression are to blame for hurting people because they are personally choosing to hurt people.

        So in cases where a husband beats his wife because he thinks it is normal, he is to blame AND culture is to blame. Yeah? Blame is not a zero-sum game. Extra blame can always be created to assign to those who deserve it. It is not maths, it does not have to add up to 100%. In the case of this LW’s husband or inlaws or a wife-beater, it adds up to 200%. This is okay, because it is the truth. For crimes that are encouraged by culture, both the criminal and the culture are to blame.

        Most importantly, though, victims are never to blame for their own victimization.

        I do not blame the LW because the LW has not hurt anybody, or stood by watching someone get hurt when it was her responsibility to stop it. She has done absolutely nothing to harm anybody else. Rather, she is the injured party. It is morally bankrupt to blame victims for getting victimized. Please don’t do it. I know our culture encourages it, and we are always taught to blame women no matter what (seriously, my own mother blames Aishwarya Rai for Abhishek Bachchan’s flailing career!) but our job as feminists is to fight this. BLAME WOMEN ONLY WHEN WOMEN HURT OTHERS. Not when women themselves get hurt.

        Like

      • @enthusiastd–I agree to a certain extent. I find it odd that victim blaming is mentioned here because none of the comments above ‘blame’ the LW. Asking questions such as ‘did she know about the family’s dysfunctional and abusive situation prior to the marriage’ isn’t blaming her–it doesn’t translate to ‘you didn’t do your research so you deserve everything that you get.’ Going by the other letter, the LW did know about the abuse beforehand. This still doesn’t mean that she deserves to be treated that way.

        I do agree the core problem with this situation is her husband, and I also agree that she doesn’t quite acknowledge this–I do not think that pointing this out is victim blaming in any way.

        Like

        • @kay i exactly mean what you said, i never saw it as victim blaming, @nandini all i m saying is just because of the societal pressure./conditioning.the women or men for that matter should not be exonerated of their bad choices..it was a bad choice so what? we all make bad choices, choices that don’t really turn out to be working in our favour, doesn’t mean i wasn’t at fault at all!! If i don’t accept i screwed up..how else will i move on? How will i learn to not make that mistake again?

          Like

      • THIS! I really don’t think I can add anything to it. I would not blame the LW herself but at the same time, it is her sole responsibility to find her way out and deal with her problems. So far she has managed well, and taking baby steps, but it will become better. But I also think she needs advice in this matter as she really does not understand the implications of what is happening around her. I don’t understand why they are still paying the EMIs of the unnecessary flat. Do something about that fast.

        For me too, it felt like 12 years a slave!

        Like

  11. Hats off to u……u finally realised n escaped frm tht mad house….wen ppl r dating its easy to imagine a rosy picture n LW was quite young wen she married so its not right to blame her for not accessing the situation at her in laws place.
    Besides in india we hardly get any advise on how to choose right family n right partner.So its fine if she made a mistake.
    The good thing is tht she realised in soon n rectified it.
    LW I wld suggest u to get hold of ur finances before planning a family.Since ur hubby n his bro r paying the EMI so get it registered in their name rather than FIL.
    He will mortgage it n drink it away.
    Stop support ur FIL’s extravagent expenditureur.ur anyways being labeled n bad bahu why not take advantage of it n become totally badass🙂
    I hope women learn frm this n stop adjusting… even minor adjustment will lead to bigger expectations.

    Like

  12. The post started off with “this is an example of why you should fight back even when it is not extreme”, but I fail to understand. When the LW moved in she faced:

    1. Unfair expectations of labor from the entire family
    2. No support or sympathy from the husband
    3. An abusive and alcoholic FIL
    4. Health issues
    5. CONTEMPLATED SUICIDE

    What about this case is not extreme?

    Like

    • I had an issue with that as well–I’m actually confused as to whether the intro was written by the LW or someone else entirely. This situation was definitely one of the most extreme ones even without the FIL’s abuse.

      Like

    • I have a strong suspicion that the reason the LW felt it was not fair to use the term ‘extreme’ is that she was not being beaten up black and blue by a smoking raging alcoholic of a husband. Nor was he an insecure loser who insisted she share all her mail pwds,pick up his calls on the very first ring, give him her monthly salary,cut off all ties with her parents and siblings,and share other details like who she goes to lunch with etc. Endless possibilities,eh?

      Like

  13. LW you are lucky to learn this so soon. I had a love-cum-arranged marriage with both of us working in US at that time, 9 years back. I adjusted and got pushed too much and thought its how Indian marriage is. Told only few things to my parents.
    Like you did not know much cooking, and stuff but know how to manage alone in a new country on my own.
    Now after 9 years i finally fully learned that adjusting is never successful one-way.
    Now i have started being vocal about my limits and doing only what i think i want to do and is much happier.
    So kudos to you. Btw, my in-laws are very normal people, no abuse and stuff but does compete with their relatives like u said, new house and such. These competition never ends, until you end it.

    Like

  14. I totally relate to so much in your story. To be loved by the inlaws is so so important. its funny how they expect the new daughter in law to do everything absolutely without a second thought. mine is a love arranged marriage too. but they expect me to work even aftr am back from work at night as late as 10!. but if my sil stays home n sleeps she is tired!! these are little things tho!. you are right. there is such a thin line in adjstment also.
    hatsss off to you for turning the tables around! wish ypu all the best!

    Like

    • //these are little things tho!//
      The way the conditioning works! I’ll assure you Rashmi these are not little things.

      Like

  15. 8 years of freedom after 3 years of ‘adjusting’ and a miscarriage. I could very well relate to the letter writer. Too much of adjustment, the suppression and repression, does lead to depression and related diseases. It’s only the first ‘NO’ that is tough. Afterwards, everything (well almost everything) falls in line.

    “I understood that his apathy was not because he was sexist himself, but I discovered that he was a worse victim of this patriarchy than I was.”
    That’s the actual problem in almost all such cases.

    Feels good to read that the letter writer has finally go bailed out of the prison.

    Like

  16. Sorry to pitch in quite late on this post and also for missing out on the earlier posts.
    I had been unwell but I feel better today.

    Glad to read that the letter writer finally solved the problem.

    In our own family, my mother went through a similar experience but the next generation (me and my brothers) learned useful lessons from our family history. Neither my elder brother nor I ever lived as a joint family with my parents. My younger brother did so for some time after his marriage but soon learned the hard way and moved out with his wife. Neither party was to blame. It was just the tensions that occur quite naturally when too many people are crowded into too little space in a flat in a Metropolitan city. After my brother moved out, my parents too finally enjoyed their breathing space in their own home and their freedom to live their own life, after all their sons moved out. Their three daughter’s in law (including my wife) were able to maintain very cordial relations after moving out. This continued till well into ripe old age of my parents and then they moved in with us and we, the brothers, took turns to tend to their needs during their last few years, without any family friction on this issue. For some time, I myself had four old folks living with me. My parents and also my in-laws. But at that age, it rarely happens that the old people try to control the lives of their sons or daughters in law. They need looking after. They have no energy or the will to be troublesome.

    In this case too, moving out was the only thing the letter writer could have done to solve the problem. Reforming the FIL would have been an impossibility.

    I believe every young couple, must check if they can live on their own, before marrying.
    If necessary, let the marriage be postponed till this is practical.
    Even if they live as a joint family, for other reasons, the couple must have the option to go their own way if the situation deteriorates.

    Most of the problems get eliminated if a young couple live their own life in a separate house or apartment. By all means, let them stay in touch with parents and in laws, meet and visit each other, but let them not share the same roof permanently.

    Let this be a lesson and warning to all young couples planning to get married.
    It is immaterial if the marriage is an arranged one or a choice marriage. The problems are the same after the honeymoon period is over.

    As regards this FIL, nature will punish him. Even without smoking and drinking, I have had my share of health problems as I got on in age. In this FIL’s case, with all his habits, an unhappy and diseased old age is in store for him, after he crosses sixty, if he hasn’t done so already and he will have no one to blame but himself. I feel sorry for the MIL and reserve all my sympathy for her.

    if the letter writer is paying the emi’s then it makes sense to get the house in her and her husband’s name without any delay. If they are sharing the emi with the husband’s brother, then they must discuss and come to an understanding on who will get the house and how the other brother will be compensated. Let it not be left to the last will and testament of the FIL.

    I wish the letter writer all happiness and peace of mind in the future and am relieved at her not being successful in her suicide attempts.
    Regards
    GV

    Like

    • Wise words about the FIL. I feel like a heartless monster saying this, but when he leaves his mortal coil, there may be nobody left to mourn him.

      Like

  17. Countless number of times, I have heard the ‘Hubby helps with dishes,he is God’ line. No matter how much I try, I fail to make the women understand that its not a reason to place him on a pedestal.I tried explaining seriously,casually,with humor,without,aggressively,but nothing worked.
    These women I am talking about sincerely beleive I am pure evil for saying men and women need to pitch in where household chores are concerned because they are NOT a woman’s job.
    .
    One girl even stopped talking to me.Which is really sad because I was her only shoulder.She had a ‘love marriage’,lives with her in laws,has two toddlers,living in Australia and works in a reputed firm.Her family is big time beleiver of ‘shut up and adjust’ and now she lost me too.

    I understand its the conditioning that breeds this line of thinking.
    But how to undo the conditioning? How to make this female and countless others go up the unlearning curve? It breaks my heart to see little girls as old as 2 and 3 following their mum around the house doing chores and little boys playing Catch with their Daddy.

    Like

    • Seriously. It’s not a favour, it’s not help, it’s him doing his share! He eats in the plates so it’s no favour is he cleans them!

      I recently came across a survey of hour much housework men do and Indian men were right at the bottom, amongst the least in the world. On top of that we have Indian women who probably have some of the lowest expectations in terms of sharing housework. So much normalisation of domestic slavery!

      Like

      • The problem with such generalized surveys is they portray one side of the picture. Perhaps Indian women are among the least interested in being financially independent? Of the dozen-plus women I’ve met (girlfriends, arranged marriage alliances), 3 of them have been truly financially independent. That’s a poor ratio, isn’t it?
        Both sides need to change for this to happen.

        I’m not denying that Indian men need to do more, I’m only saying surveys show one side of the coin.

        Like

        • I don’t entirely agree with you. My experience may be anecdotal and limited by the particular socio-economic background I belong to.

          However, in my family, only one woman of my generation is a stay-at-home mom and they live in the US.

          Most middle-class women work full-time because middle-class life is virtually unaffordable on a single income.

          I am talking home loan EMIs of 45000 and saving money for retirement+kids’ s marriage and education.

          A middle-class lifestyle increasingly needs two incomes

          Like

  18. This was heart touching. But whatvy said is right. We try to be adjusting all the time coz v think doing so will bring us love, appreciation and praise from them. But then, some incidents happen that get us back to the basics…had they been affectionate, they would have been accommodating since beginning. So its totally right to take things in ur own stride and put ur foot down since beginning. It will at least get the right message across to them.

    Like

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  20. You make yourself and all the women in these “adjusting” situations proud ! Somehow I hate this whole notion of when you marry a guy you marry his family crap. I don’t understand why is the converse not true. Why is it that only the girl who marries in is expected to make all the “adjustments”. Indian society is largely to blame for this sick mentality. Anyways, kudos for turning your life around ! Wishing you a great and peaceful life ahead !

    Like

  21. This is the story of almost every Indian daughter in law. You were fortunate to have a husband who was willing to take action and you deserve kudos for standing your ground instead of letting the hopelessness get to you.

    Like

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