Sharing an email.
I really wanted to bring up an issue I have been facing since a few months as a topic/post on your so that I get some tips/perspectives on how to handle this messed up situation.
I had an intercaste love mariage 5 years ago and at that time agreed to stay with my in laws. It seemed like an ok thing to do as I had little interest in domestic chores and my FIL had just recovered from cancer. Me & my hubby are only children and hence both sets of parents depend on us for thier emotional fulfillment. My MIL is an educated woman who has been a science teacher all her life. She loves to wear western clothes and even enjoys an occassional glass of wine and beer. I thought that it will be a modern, liberal family. My husband too openly communicates with them. I thought it would indeed be wonderful to live with them. My parents stay in the same city and I see them every fortnight. We had proposed for them to move close to our place, but they have a good social circle where they live and may move closeby only when the need arises. Life seemed pretty sorted.
Then the reality struck. And hard.
My MIL began telling me how bad my dressing sense is and that I should wear brighter colours like her, doll up with jewellery like her and ensure I am the best dressed at every family get together. I laughed it off for a couple of years, sometimes playing along. Then it was about the cooking. ‘This is how it is done’. Then housekeeping ‘Not a speck of dust, not even a handkershcief out of place’. Then the way I interact with people ‘Touch feet, say namaste.’ It was still ok. I did most of it on most days, although it didnt come naturally to me. Then the issues got deeper and the complaints serious. Right from lifestyle choices, to me meeting my parents, to do keeping the house well, to not cooking reguarly,to not respecting them enough (displays of respect) to not spending time with them. If I tried to tell her that I have different views or that maybe her percpetion is misplaces, I was accused of being bad at taking feedback and being too stubborn. Everything we, especially I did was wrong, bad, immature and not perfect. I wish I could get into details and give situations but honestly it is exhausting to even think about it. Lets just say most of the MIL-DIL typical issues discussed on this blog.And like most modern day DILs, I felt like a badly behaving unwanted guest,who was suffocating every single day.
But that is not the issue I wanted to discuss.
Around 4 months back, my husband and I took the decision to move out of thier house and live close by (precisely 3.5 kms away). This would give us our independence and space as also be close enough to meet them every week and take care of them. I had first discussed this with my husband around 2-3 years back but he wasnt ready emotionally then and we thought things will improve if we just let them be. But the point is, they werent letting us “be”. Moreso me. Because I was the bahu they wanted respect and seva from me, something which didnt appeal to my sensibilities and not sustainable for the long term. My husband and I thought the move will make my relationship with them better as the everyday nitty grittys go out of the way and we can actually spend quality time with them when we do, without a list of complaints. When we first discussed it, they let thier dejection be known, but also said that since you are turning dependent on us, so you should experience living alone.Exact words were’ Wait till you live alone with each other, you will know each other’s bad side. Because of us being around, there was a check.’
But the absolute very next day, the silent treatment began. No eye contact, no words being spoke by my MIL. A frown on face for days. She even gave up eating for a couple of days. FIL stayed glued to TV but at least spoke when spoken ti. This went on for a month. My hubby and I didnt budge and engaged them in conversations to open them up. There were accusations of how insensitively we are abandoning them at oldage (they are 62, active and healthy),how ungrateful we are, ‘humse parvarish mein kya galti ho gayi’ ‘ to all sorts of statements one often hears in TV serials. The most oft repeated one was ‘Log kya kahenge”soceity mein log kya sochenge’ ‘ I dont want to be seen as a bad MIL’. There were times when we felt incredibly guilty, but then realised that it is only emotional blackmail as when we felt bad and remorseful, they felt better and came back to normalcy immediately. Anything that made us happy,brought back the behaviour. Anyhow, a couple of weekend vacations and many dinners and movies with them later, they seemed to be coming to terms with it. But none of the relatives knew yet that we had moved. My in laws were against telling anyone in the extended family as joint families are the norm in the community, and their izzat would be at risk.
Recently my husband grew tired of leading this dual life and told his parents to tell the relatives about the ground situation so that we dont have to pretend to be living in thier house anymore. We didnt expect support from the relatives, but the least they could do is make my in laws feel better. But my MILs own sister has actually ignited her further and aggravated the situation further. She spoke to us about how bad this decision is. She rubs it in with my MIL every second day as to how her son would never do something like this. How her DIL will never move away (in a seperate one to one discussion her DIL told me that if they had financial independence, they would have probably done it too!Of course this was told to me in confidence so cant disclose it during the family discussions). This has made my in laws feel like they have lost a battle, and moreso my MIL feels she has totally lost her son to me and has turned against us fully. Now every meeting is an emotional episode and a taunt and guilt spree. My MIL even spoke to my Mom and accused her of hatching the whole idea. She was upset with my parents for not ‘stopping us’. I dont know what to talk to them independently anymore and dont feel like it either. But I realise that will end the relationship, so i make some small talks. They only drive guilt in my hubby about being the disappointing son, whereas he is a very loving and kind person.Just that he also loves his wife and ‘gets’ the MIL-DIL conflicts and their implications. He is very supportive towards me and is patient in dealing with his parents, but I know it is hurting and stressing him to hear extremely hurtful and manipulative comments from his own parents everytime they speak. He wants us to make extra efforts to make them feel better about it but it only backfires.
Its gotten extremely messy with relatives calling us and doing the same in the name of love and concern. What could have been simple has gotten very complicated and messy.
So some questions/perspectives i need at this point to tide over this are:
— Is there anything different my hubby and I need to do to assuage the situation?At the very core of it, is it even required?
— Has someone lived or know someone having in laws in the same city but living in different houses? How has the experience been? Did the relations improve?
— What does a son do when the parents are, to put it crudely, mean to him and use guilt as a weapon? Any tips on how to deal with it?
— Does the cycle of in laws appeasement for a DIL ever end? Can she ever make choices which are truly independent without the burden of guilt or the disapproval of people around her…