“Practically, what can an introvert DIL do to communicate that she means no disrespect by wanting her own time?”

Patriarchy can’t survive without hierarchy and rigid but complex rules that ensure everybody knows their place. So Indian daughters in law in traditional and patriarchal families may not give their opinion but they are expected to be gregarious extroverts in some situations. 

Reading or quietly listening to music, spending time with their own social circle or not wishing to interact with (and seek approval of) the social circle of those who are higher in the family hierarchy is considered disrespectful and non-sanskaari. 

They are expected to be Sanskaari Extroverts who know how to win the approval of the third cousins, friends and acquaintances of those who are higher in the family hierarchy. 

‘Letter from another Indian woman’ asks  how to deal with this and more. 

Dear IHM,

I have been following some of your recent guest posts about dealing with abuse[link] and manipulation [link], as well as the letters that are often published in your blog. I am 28 years old, and I have been married for about 6 months now. From what I have observed around me, and in my relations with my husband’s family, I have a few questions that I would like to use as topics of discussion.

As background, I married my long-term boyfriend, whom I have known for some years. We met while we were at grad school . I have met and interacted with his parents several times before we got married, and during that period, they seemed fairly normal. My mother-in-law has an advanced degree and was a working professional all her life. His parents often lived in different cities, owing to transfers. My husband was primarily raised by his grandmother, and when he was older, was put in a residential school. Whenever I have spoken to my in-laws, they seemed proud and supportive of my education and career. I found these welcome; I was very clear that I wanted to marry someone whose parents I could get along with, and who would not be unreasonable when it came to my personal choices.

We went back abroad after the wedding. I came to India (without my husband) for a vacation this month, and went to spend some time at my in laws’ place. My husband told me to visit them only if I felt like it – I went because I thought I could get to know them better. I stayed for 10 days. However, I realized to my shock that there were sides of my in-laws that I had never anticipated.

Every day, she had at least ten different friends and relatives over, to ‘introduce’ me to them. She made coffee and snacks (I helped as much as I could in a foreign home), and I was expected to serve it to them and receive praise for being such a ‘good daughter-in-law’ (no, I was just being a decent host-helper). My achievements (education-wise and career-wise) were emphatically repeated to every group. The audience oohed and aahed and congratulated my MIL for getting ‘such an accomplished bahu’, while I cringed with embarrassment, yet smiled politely. It felt really uncomfortable to be made into some sort of a trophy. Their conversations were not something I could participate in: they gossiped about their other friends, their sons and DILs that I was sure the minute they left he house, they would gossip about me as well. And then my mother-in-law bade me to touch the feet of all the women who had come home to ‘bless’ me. Some of us don’t believe in falling at people’s feet. When I expressed my inhibitions to my mother-in-law, she said that this was de rigueur in her circles, and besides, it was ‘good manners’ and ‘polite’ to seek people’s blessings. Some of these people were her bosses at work, so I was supposed to ‘make a good impression’.  Her tone made it sound like she thought I was ill-bred.

Secondly, I realized that she has a temper issue. Whenever she is stressed, she shouts at whomever happens to be nearest to her that she considers her inferior. This includes her household help, people who live in her building and her siblings. I noticed that while they say nothing to her face (they mostly grin and shift their weight), they say nasty things about her behind her back.

I was with them for just 10 days, but I had her shout at me for no fault of mine three or four times. The last time, I lost my temper too and said I had done nothing wrong, why was I being shouted at. She replied saying I was ‘disobedient, talking back to her, had no respect for elders, acting like I was smarter than her, trying to one-up her to gain her son’s affections (!)’ accusations that I now know don’t apply to me at all. However, I was very hurt at that time. I have not been able to talk to her normally ever since.

My FIL took me aside and said that this was normal with her, and ‘if I ignore the temper and harsh words, she is a wonderful person’. He also said that she regrets not having spent time with her son when he was little, and now feels bad that he was not able to get leave and come down to be with her.

When I discussed this with my husband, he said he would speak to his mother when she was in a better mood, and that I did not have to be there any more and go back to my parents’ place. He also said that my MIL had been abused verbally and physically by her father when she was young (they could not answer back when shouted at, or they would be beaten). While I feel sorry for her, and understand where the cycle of abuse began, I don’t think it excuses her behavior.

So here are my comments/questions:

1. I am quite introverted by nature, and meeting lots of people for an extended period of time, gossip and small talk tires me out. However, in Indian families, the DIL is supposed to be gregarious, extroverted and quite the life of the party.While I found it difficult to play this role for 10 days, I shuddered to think of DILs who live with their in-laws and have to face an onslaught of people on a daily basis. In fact, I have heard it said in some homes: “your daughter is not outgoing enough, how is she going to adjust with all the people at her in-laws’?” Why this expectation? Further more, signalling that one is introverted and reserved gets her branded as ‘impolite’, ‘haughty’, ‘thinks too much of herself’ etc. Practically, what can an introvert do to communicate that such expectations are too much for her, and that she means no disrespect by wanting her own time?

2. It appears like most families want a woman who can answer questions in a checklist, fit into a mould that they have crafted of an ‘ideal DIL’, not a real woman. I don’t think any real woman can be all that! And I think this expectation is fairly universal – it is the rare parent who is actually open to getting to know a person, as opposed to a checklist. Practically, what can a woman like me do to convince my in-laws to get to know the real me? Is that likely? Is that even a good idea?

3. When I told my close friend about these incidents, and asked for advice to deal with it, I was told that ‘I should have inquired more’ and absolutely verified they were good people before marrying my husband. ‘Now it is too late, why complain now? Just adjust.’ was the refrain. I found it astonishing, but realized it is fairly common. The narrative that if you have a bad husband, or bad in-laws, then it is your fault is too prevalent today.But that’s not really true! Can one ever know a family so intimately without practically living with them for a month?

4. My in-laws are in their 60s, and getting older. While I don’t foresee living with them since we live abroad, if they are sick and ailing, I would want to take care of them. I want to have cordial relations with them if I can. But I am also sure I don’t want to be shouted at repeatedly for no fault of mine. Practically, what can I do to inform them that while I would like to be cordial, I don’t welcome intrusions and certainly not temper tantrums?

5. The very idea of a DIL (or even the son) negotiating boundaries with in-laws is considered rude, impolite and disrespectful. But I don’t think the MIL-DIL relationship is hierarchical. I am just a woman who happened to marry her son. How do we negotiate boundaries without it coming across as disrespectful? What is the best answer when one is accused of disrespect, when all one is doing is negotiating boundaries?

6. I have observed that my MIL inhabits a very hierarchical society. She fawns over her bosses (she practically sat on the floor at her boss-lady’s feet while she had coffee), and expects anyone younger than her to fawn over her. She takes it lying down when her bosses shout at her, apparently, and expects her ‘inferiors’ to not retaliate when she shouts at them. This is symptomatic of a larger social problem.

I don’t consider myself having significant problems. My husband is very fair and understanding, and we get along well. He protects me from having to face intrusive questions (about kids, etc.) from his extended family. I don’t have to live with my in-laws. However, just going by my experiences, I feel like I have experienced a taste of what so many many women in our country go through every day, and how that wears down their confidence and erodes their sense of self. This is practically human rights violation, it shouldn’t have to happen to anybody.

I request you to publish this letter, so that I can hear from your readers.

Thank you!

Related Posts:

“Someone ate without showering, someone didn’t bring mithai! These are trivialities, not social problems.”

‘Older people in our society need to learn to have a life of their own. Instead of seeking happiness in their kids’ lives, …’

‘I feel that arranged marriages are for extroverts, and there is no place for us introverts here.’

‘If you don’t mutter under your breath “I hate you” atleast once in your life, I am not doing my job properly.’

Display of respect to those in power, in Indian culture.

“When there are guests I don’t get to talk to them because I am in the kitchen all the time …even wearing a Nighty is considered indecent.”

Are you an Extrovert or an Introvert?

Recognizing Emotional Abuse

Some assertive ways to deal with manipulation.

The Men in Our Lives

“I thought it would indeed be wonderful to live with my in-laws.”

‘And if you are unlucky, you will get an American daughter-in-law.’


50 thoughts on ““Practically, what can an introvert DIL do to communicate that she means no disrespect by wanting her own time?”

  1. I too am in a very similar situation like you. My in-laws were very supportive of my education and career before my wedding, and now after my wedding too. But, at the same time, they expect me to behave in front of guests and relatives like a very good “bahu” and get a good name. This obviously means acting like a obedient and silent mute DIL. I have also been shouted at.

    From my experience (4 years since my wedding, and 4 years before my wedding), this is my personal gauging of the situation: Please do not put up with your MIL’s temper tantrums. Act in a diginified manner, and try to put it across that having temper tantrums is not a grown up thing. Do not shout back, because it will stress you out more. Instead say in a dignified and stern tone that you are ready to discuss it when your MIL is in a more relaxed and normal mood.

    Also, do not touc others feet or do anything that feels hypocratic. Be who you are… In time, your in-laws will also learn to accept you and respect you for who you are. If you do not feel confronting or arguing about this, try visitng them less often and make your discomfort obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear LW,

    Do you shout at your mil? No? Why? Because it’s not nice to shout at people, right? It’s simple common sense. So, why does your mil shout at you? Because she can? Because she knows the rules of common sense don’t apply to her? Because she is surrounded by people who will explain/condone/approve of her shouting?

    The very first time someone shouts at you, tell the person, “I don’t like to be shouted at,” and immediately leave the room. Refuse to engage in any conversation that involves shouting. Insist on a respectful tone. If the shouting doesn’t stop, leave the house, and don’t return until there is a clear understanding on the shouter’s part that a normal tone needs to be used with you, at all times. Disagreement is okay but it has to be expressed politely. Don’t tolerate rudeness.

    When your mil is able to use a polite, normal tone, tell her your preferences. Tell her you would rather not meet with so many people because you don’t enjoy it. Be polite but don’t over explain. There is no need to justify why you don’t like meeting so many strangers and falling at their feet. Same thing goes for any other personal choice – what you wear, what you eat, who your friends are, when and where you go, etc. Please don’t explain these things. You are an adult, therefore you get to decide these things.

    Yes, it would be great if you get along with your in-laws and enjoy cordial relations with them. But it takes two to tango. If they are unwilling to respect you, nothing you do is ever going to make the relationship cordial. The most important thing you can do for your relationship with your in-laws is to draw clear boundaries and keep up your respect. The rest is up to them. If they want cordial relations with you, all they need to do is treat you with the respect that any other human being deserves.


  3. @the LW–I live with my in laws and do not fit the stereotype of being the ‘life of the party’ at all. I’m quite introverted and I’m very wary of who I spend my time with–I’m never going to be the kind of person who goes out of her way to accommodate a large group of people. But that’s me and I’m okay with that. If certain people call me haughty and impolite then so be it, I’m not going to lose an ounce of sleep over the opinions of doofuses.

    I’ve seen someone bend over backwards trying to be the ‘life of the party’ ‘bringing snacks from the kitchen’ etc etc type of ‘daughter in law’ (it’s like this person has seen one too many TV serials and is dying to be one of those women) and you know what? This person probably gets the least amount of respect from anyone and everyone including the domestic staff.

    Be yourself–don’t be rude to people but don’t go out of your way to be polite either. Don’t lose your temper and shout at people but do say ‘I’m not okay with you speaking to me in that manner’ in an assertive voice and leave the situation.


  4. 1. Practically, what can an introvert do to communicate that such expectations are too much for her, and that she means no disrespect by wanting her own time?
    – I have been considered uppity just because I was introverted. I think i would just explain to people once that I am introverted and why I need my own time. There are some comics explaining these things and leave it at that. We cannot control people’s willingness to understand. How they choose to accept (or not) is their choice.

    2. Practically, what can a woman like me do to convince my in-laws to get to know the real me? Is that likely? Is that even a good idea?
    – Explain once. If they show no interest and don’t want to get to know the real you, well really, it is their choice and loss. Again you cannot make anyone do anything.

    3. Can one ever know a family so intimately without practically living with them for a month?
    – I doubt that. Most people have resigned to the fact that it cannot be changed and they cannot fight their in laws. So the best way out that they see for peace is adjust. Other way is to fight it all the way out and it is so exhausting.

    4. Practically, what can I do to inform them that while I would like to be cordial, I don’t welcome intrusions and certainly not temper tantrums?
    – Live nearby but do not move in to the same house as them. Anytime your MIL shouts, explain to her that she cannot shout at you for no fault of yours. If she continues, you will not oblige her or talk to her. Our willingness to be guilt tripped and giving in to emotional blackmail is the reason many people think they can get away with it. If we refuse to put up with shit, they have to stop. If they don’t just cut them out of your life. If someone feels that threat is real and you will do it, they might not want to continue with their behaviour.

    5. How do we negotiate boundaries without it coming across as disrespectful? What is the best answer when one is accused of disrespect, when all one is doing is negotiating boundaries?
    – This is a classic. Anytime you do not do what they want, you are rude and non sanskaari. Call his ridiculous behaviour out by stating this obvious fact in a calm voice. If they still choose to be offended understand that this is manipulative behaviour and just refuse to be manipulated.


  5. I’m writing this anticipating that a lot of advice will be shared on how to negotiate. I might be ripped apart for saying what follows, but I think it needs to be said:

    If you do plan to have kids in the future, their relationship with grandma will be important. You can isolate yourself from her now but it’s trickier to keep kids away from grandparents. Not impossible, just tricky. So if you don’t establish boundaries now, it will be hard to do so then. Something as simple as “no chocolate between meals because mom said so” has the potential to start a massive battle. Grandparents who don’t understand boundaries will view every rule as a threat to their grandparental love unless they’ve been sensitized otherwise. So while you don’t need to have a personal relationship with your MIL, you’ll still need a working relationship with grandma before kids arrive. Pregnant or Post-partum are not the right time to be negotiating boundaries so I think you need to start thinking about it much before you plan for kids.

    As a fellow introvert, I sympathize with your troubles. I have to pretend to be outgoing a lot of the time, it’s not IL’s specific or even country specific. Lack of respect for boundaries feels worse to introverts because we need more space. It’s hard for extroverts to get our need for downtime. To them I say, imagine the space an extrovert needs in a new place with new people and then double it. If you’re 28 you would have developed some coping mechanisms. Use them extensively. My favourite is to hide in the kitchen making more chai or getting more snacks and if I’m at my IL’s place I say, “Oh you should catch up with them. I know how busy you all are and how little time you get together”. Or I clear up the chai and snacks plates. I appear sanskaari to boot 😉 Yes that’s sneaky but it’s easy. Unless you’re willing to take out a TV ad, you can’t change society. If you are, let me know I’d like to contribute!

    Here are a couple of posts that you might find sympathetic. No advice, just a sense of fellow feeling 🙂


  6. Hey I am extremely introverted too. I absolutely cannot make small talk, not even with my mother or my husband or my closest friends. I don’t say anything when I have nothing significant to say. I can sit with any of them for hours and not say much. I painstakingly pick the people I want to spend time with, and when I want to spend time with them. If I don’t want to spend time with someone, it doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I live with my in laws too, but I am extremely reserved and spend no time at all chatting anyone up. This doesn’t mean I have anything against them or don’t like them. I do. It simply means I am reserved and don’t like chatting people up.

    What becomes detrimental to relationships, however, is when people whom you should be close to assume you’re keeping away from them because you don’t like them.

    This can be avoided to some extent by letting them know of your nature. Being reserved does not mean you aren’t kind and considerate. You don’t have to relate to people to be kind to them.

    Once in a way, there is no harm in getting into company, even it if its only to make someone else happy. Social interaction, whether we like it or not, is a very important part of life and is what gives us the edge in many situations. Give and take is an important part of relationships. That said, socializing is not for everybody. Keep it to a bare minimum if you don’t like it. But, do give the people who matter a chance understand you – let them know that you are a reserved person by nature and nothing can change the way you are. If they care, they’ll respect your boundaries. If they don’t, well, you have the choice to keep away from them too. 🙂

    How much you let others’ opinions bother you is something you have full control over. Learn to disconnect.


  7. Your MIL is a bully and your FIL is an abuser by proxy, condoning and enabling her behavior. He has very right to tell her to stop inviting people and harassing you, but he does not. And no, she’s not a “wonderful person”. A wonderful person is one who treats everyone consistently well, not someone who treats someone based on hierarchy. You are not obliged to spend time with them unless they decide you are worthy of their respect.

    Does your husband get bullied this sway when he visits your parents? Is he expected to serve chai and get patted on the head for how “good” he is? Touching random peoples’ feet? I’d have packed my bags and left or moved into a hotel.

    Talking of hierarchies at work, I often hear people in India refer to a colleague as “my subordinate”. Makes me cringe every time.


    • I think abuser and harassing are very strong terms and are not required here. Her MIL just has certain expectations of her which she is free to not live by. Hierarchies are everywhere. I prefer the asian system where the hierarchy is clear as opposed to the american/western system where everyone acts like they’re equal when they’re not. At least this way,you know where you stand and can opt out when you want to.


  8. I have generally polite in-laws but completely empathise about your need to maintain your space and not do things that are against your principles. I’ve pretty much told mine that I am an introvert and that parties etc stress me out. They dont like it and are a bit wary of me but so be it. I did try for a year or so but couldnt keep up appearances because i loathe small talk so intensely. I’m producing grandchildren so I’m not a complete disappointment :-p


  9. Omg seems like you just described my own MIL…..I was in the same situation.Being paraded like a trophy, my hubby too lived with his grandmother…..Same temper issues.
    After 8 years of marriage we have arrived at a truce….she knows I wont budge over certain things like silly rituals etc.
    And I make sure that I project the image of an ideal bahu wen I m visiting her.I dont intract with her friends at all….I just smile and move in ASAP.
    Be firm and define your boundaries.Theres no need to bend over backwards to please her.She will have a problem initially but later on she will have to live with it.Again it depends on the person….One more thing I learnt no matter what you do.You can never please them all.In laws crib over something or the other.Ignore it.
    Just concentrate on your own married life.


  10. Dear ‘Another Indian Woman’,

    I’m answering this from my point of view, as a 26 year old who is going to get married soon.
    From what you say, you seem to have gotten a great deal – a loving and supportive husband, living abroad without any need to stay with your in-laws etc.
    1. You were visiting your in-laws for just 10 days – in this period, serving food to people and making conversation with them shouldn’t have been a big deal. In fact, you just needed to give polite answers, smile and nod – generally older people wrapped up in their own conversations don’t expect much beyond that. You can’t do that because you’re an “introvert”? Come on, you’re a 28 year old who went abroad for grad school and are now working. Don’t tell me you’re yet to learn how to make small talk!
    2. Touching people’s feet – this is part of our Indian culture and frankly, I don’t see anything wrong in doing it for a few days just because your in-laws wanted you to.
    3. Yelling back at your mom-in-law – I would have probably done the same if I’d been provoked repeatedly and that’s one thing (perhaps the only thing) I can relate to in your letter.
    4. In-laws are aging – But you’re not planning to look after them or keep them with you anyway – so what’s the problem here?!

    Frankly, this whole letter gives out a whiny “Me too has baaad in-laws” vibe. Give-and-take and adjustment is important for any relationship, be it with your parents, spouse or in-laws. I don’t see you as ready to adjust even the least – though you’re in a better situation than most people.
    Go through the other letters on this site – those are people with real problems, yours is just a trifle!
    Sorry to speak so harshly, but somebody has to tell it like it is.


    • At 26 I would have agree with you. At 32, I’m not so sure. Look, she isn’t saying her IL’s are bad. Neither are mine. Nor are most others. However, there is a massive culture gap that can’t be wished away.

      I care for my MIL as she does for me but we just don’t have enough in common to ever be friends. But we have an implicit understanding. Her rules apply in her house my rules apply in my house. In her home we have such a constant stream of visitors that I wear salwar kameez and make small talk with visitors. I don’t want her to face gossip because of me. In my home I wear capris and tees and speak my mind.

      She knows I make and effort for her and she reciprocates for me. We respect each other for it. What if she didn’t make an effort? What if ihad to follow her rules in my home? What if she made a big show of accommodating a “modern” DIL? What if she didn’t respect my rules when being around my kid?

      It’s never about good and bad people – except in the cases of out and out abuse. Even here I’m not sure if there was no verbal abuse. It’s about good and bad relationships.

      Touching feet itself isn’t the issue. I did it too. I don’t care. But when i did, my MIL acknowledged that I made an effort to do something against my nature. Here the issue is the implicit assumption that you have to change just because you’re a DIL. That must be addressed if you need to have a healthy relationship with IL’s.


      • So in your case you make small take with her guests and touch their feet and she ‘reciprocates’ by letting you live your way in your house. You mean that’s something ‘she’ does? She doesnt make a fuss about you being modern. Is that even an adjustment? Do you expect her to behave modern in front of your guests? I think we have set the bar such low that we dont see such expectations as abusive.


      • Wondering if your husband is expected to touch the feet of people he doesn’t know at your parents’ place. Does he dress one way around your parents and another way at home? Why does your MIL expect you to do something “against your nature” in the first place? What does she gain by you touching someone else’s feet? Do you expect her to overtly demonstrate her allegiance to you by doing things that are against her nature? Is she expected to go to the gym or pub with your friends (a hypothetical example) when she visits your home? I guess not.

        It seems that in many Indian families, the DIL has to bend over backwards to demonstrate “adjustment”, while all the ILs have to do is breathe and refrain from being overt narcissists.

        In the LW’s case, I wonder if her MIL also shouts at her son-in-law. No, of course not, ‘cos he’s not considered inferior.


        • I’m going to reply to both @Purple Sheep and @Indian Warrior here:

          I appreciate your right to an opinion. However, I think it does a disservice to a debate when someone jumps to conclusions and fills in the worst from their imagination in the absence of relevant information. I feel no need to justify my relationship with my IL’s but I am going make a logical argument. Where is the information in my comment to indicate what my MIL does or doesn’t do when she visits us?

          Purple Sheep asks: “Do you expect her to behave modern in front of your guests?”
          I did not state either way in my comment. Yet the assumption seems implicit that I am grateful for something. What do you mean by “behaving modern”, anyway?

          Indian Warrior asks:
          Do you expect her to overtly demonstrate her allegiance to you by doing things that are against her nature? Is she expected to go to the gym or pub with your friends (a hypothetical example) when she visits your home? I guess not.

          Wondering if your husband is expected to touch the feet of people he doesn’t know at your parents’ place. Does he dress one way around your parents and another way at home?

          You asked questions, you answered them yourself. There was no information to indicate either way. I did not feel the need to elaborate on what my MIL or husband do do or don’t because it’s irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Also neither my husband nor my MIL consented to becoming a poster child for some type of character on a feminist forum so I don’t need to cite specific examples to prove they meet your standards of acceptable two-way adjustment.

          To both:
          Where did I say that my MIL expected me to go about touching people’s feet or do anything else for that matter? In fact, I said “the issue is the implicit assumption that you have to change just because you’re a DIL” which to me would indicate that I do not, in fact, have such a problem with my MIL. Which to me further indicates that I choose to
          act out of nature occasionally out of my own wishes
          . My MIL appreciates the effort I’ve made because she knows I’m a vocal feminist. Appreciation doesn’t equate to a pat on the head for being a good girl.

          Is it so inconceivable that a person might want to take the path of least resistance in a place where they do not have to live through the consequences? I cannot fight every battle I came across. Sometimes I choose to concede. You are obviously entitled to your opinion but that does not entitle you to judge my choices based on what you might choose to do nor may you judge my feminism through your lens.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’m taking this thread over to my blog for anyone who’s interested. The discussion’s getting way too off topic. Heated, I don’t mind 🙂


        • @SimblyBored
          Exactly. Your post did not have enough information when you said: “She knows I make an effort for her and she reciprocates for me.” I’m sure she does go out of her way to demonstrate her affection and acceptance in myriad ways that you haven’t listed. I wasn’t assuming that either she or your husband meet my definition or standards of feminism.

          But, I thought you did (I do read your blog) was genuinely curious about what you meant by “reciprocation”. Was it that she tolerates you being different, or does she actively reciprocate? Not that she has to, but I didn’t get an idea of what you meant by “reciprocation”. I’m not judging your choices, but when you explained it in terms of the “path of least resistance”, you answered by question.

          Thank you.


      • So, if you change the way you dress to appease her, does she similarly change the way she dresses to please you?

        You know what the most potent form of power is — it is the ability to demand that others modify their behaviour based on rules that they didn’t set.


    • From an introvert’s point of view, being forced to interact with a throng of people one doesn’t know day in and day out is not just annoying. It’s draining and highly unsettling.

      Introverts often get bullied by some extroverts (in this case the MIL) simply for being introverted.

      There is a clear social implication that being extroverted is the “norm”. Besides, there is less pressure on men to socialize with random people that there is on the woman, especially in the Indian setting. If you are an introvert, these are not “trifles”.


    • Darling, you get married first, spend a few days with your in-laws and then come back and read this again. Unless you experience all this, you won’t know or empathise I guess..


    • Oh Preeti, you do not know how we introverts tick. We are as comfortable with small talk as Hindus are with a plate of beef curry before them. Gag gag gag. I know some are able to pull of short performances but after a point in life it just doesn’t seem worth it. Why can’t people relate on an authentic basis rather than expect enactments plucked from the middle ages? And yes, people are in worse situations and better situations. But while that lends some perspective it doesn’t take away from our own lived experience.


    • I got married at 23 and then I would’ve agreed with you. I recently celebrated my 5th anniversary back in India with the entire family and no longer agree with you. Who gave that random uncle of my husband the rights to tell me how I should tie my hair, change my name and put a bindi on? Small things add up. If you don’t draw boundaries to start with, there never will be one. I hope you don’t have to learn these things the hard way.


    • If you are happy adjusting to people’s random rules even if they make you feel uncomfortable, fine. Don’t tell others though how to feel in certain situations. You were not there when the letter writer got practically bullied into touching random strangers’ feet – which I think is rather humiliating – and while you state that adjustment is needed in all relationships, you don’t seem to expect the writer’s MIL to adjust. Why should only the letter writer adjust while the MIL is allowed to behave like a spoilt brat?


  11. Well, your husband told you not to go there if you didn’t like it. The woman didn’t even raise her son. And you live and work abroad. So why are you getting all worked up ? You just need to put up with her for a few days.

    As an introvert and hyper-sensitive person myself, I’ve learnt to know my own boundaries and respect them. When I’ve had enough, I just disappear to recharge my batteries. I may start reading the newspaper on my mobile or go out to buy something, or sit outside or go to my room saying I’m unwell or saying nothing. If I don’t do that, then I may get snappy and fights would happen and I would blame myself, when what I wish is smooth interactions.

    Your inner peace is more important than silly gossips from people you barely know. And since you live abroad I think your focus should be more on your relationship with your husband, rather than with his parents. Take care.


  12. 1. If you don’t want to touch someone’s feet just politely smile and say namaste.
    2. Making small talk with your in law’s friends for the few days you are with them is really not a big deal. I don’t think you get a pass because you’re introverted. I am too,but I still talk to anyone who comes to visit my parents when I’m living in their house,because it’s polite.
    3. Do not put up with being shouted at. Just assert yourself by saying “please don’t shout at me,I don’t like it” and then don’t say anymore until your MIL is calm.


  13. I do feel as Indians our mentality is screwed up a little by the time we are adults.
    Before I comment on your letter let me tell you something about what I experienced. I have always been am obedient child of my parents. I was in some subconscious way thought I had to impress my guests and relatives who came at home and I always did so. This kind of mentality that my parents/society/elders/relatives knowing or unknowingly fed into me has stayed even as an adult where I think that approval from others/elders is what I need to kee everyone happy. When I started living outside India and started working with people who were much elder to me, this notion that I had learned as a child kicked in and I somehow turned into an obedient colleague who listened to her elder colleagues and those who were superior to her without questioning. Little did I know that such non-questioning conforming behaviour only works with a typical Indian mentaluty. In other places conforming and a non questioning behaviour is considered a weakness and something that needs to be worked on. Thats when I realised that questioning and keeping my identity doesnt make me disrespectful. It makes me an individual that I am supposed to be. Somebody once rightly said that children and pet animals are supposed to be obedient, not grown adults who have the ability to make their decisions and chose to live their life their way. Why are indian women asked to be obedient? How is that even a virtue to be had? A lot of time I have encoutered problems when I was too obedient and respectful and suddenly theu just expect more and more from me. I hope you havent been trying to impress your MIL and FIL in the first place. I think you should just be straightforward and who you are as much as possible. Even if you touch the ladies’ feet, tell your MIL and make sure she understands that this is not your thing to do and that you are not comfortable but you are just doing it out of respect. You might have to let your ideals go and just do some things so as to avoid creating a scene or seem inflexible, but please keep your stand with your MIL. Tell her the things you like and dont like. Don’t try and be overly sweet or nice to get their approval. Be loving but also the person you are.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think more introverts are considered haughty and arrogant by many people ! So why blame in laws if they think if you come across like that ?
    When loneliness strikes introverts they are told to go out of their comfort zones and mingle with people ! Even I am introvert and find it difficult to small talk and befriend easily but the day I realised loneliness becoming more frequent for me ( I am single) now I go out of my way,have relearnt social skills,being more tactful ( I have no filter when I speak sometimes) because that’s how the world is ! Nobody is going to come and talk to me if I constantly hide from social interactions !
    Now I realise how unfriendly and rude I must have needlessly come across when my parents did all the socialising while I hid behind them – a convenient barrier !
    So,see how things are ! You are not going to meet your Mil’s friends again and again so little nicety now will go a long way ! Otherwise, when you are at your home,nobody can befriend you by force ,you will be free to be introvert !


  15. Except for the few comments almost all of them are giving the advice that DIL should make an effort to have a conversation with her MIL’s guests or hide her introvert personality behind kitchen door pretending to be busy. But I want to know is it even fair to have these expectations from someone? If its give and take…what is she getting in return? Who is adjusting here? Some have normalised touching of feet. I dont know how can we normalise such a practice which clearly puts one person beneath as the other. Will it be ok if a DIL has the same expectation from MIL? First lets state if these expectations are fair and then give advice.


  16. @Simply bored

    I asked you if you expect her to behave modern because you asked a question what if she made a big show of accomodating a modern DIL? So what exactly is a modern DIL? You have stated the efforts made by you. And you mentioned she reciprocates and then there is a list of what ifs…pray what is the relevence of that list to the discussion since you think my comments serve no purpose. I do agree that for some the path to least existence works but making anybody touch people’s feet is abuse. Just because we conditioned to it doesnt mean its not.


    • “Least resistance” doesn’t mean “least existence”. 😉

      I think a modern DIL (and a modern MIL) is someone who refuses to stay stuck in useless and exhausting power games. A mature adult who acknowledges her strong and weak points and tries to live as best she can. If you are in introvert, know your own limits and don’t blame other people or even yourself for being who you are. This is the internal perspective, acting on yourself, for healing and growing… maybe changing interpersonal relationships and then people, although that is not your primary goal.

      You, Purple Sheep, are taking a societal, external perspectiven, the goal is not exactly the same.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. What’s wrong with being an introvert?

    It’s just a personality and you can’t change one’s personality since they are born with it. You are better off being you and they should respect you for that. And DIL’s being the extrovert kind? Wouldn’t that make them more outspoken and fiercely independent? I always though they were supposed to be the quiet and obedient, doing what they are told w/o uttering a word ! I do agree with some comments that the way she treated you was only short term, it’s not like you have to be this way all the time. As for gossips, ignore it.


    • My two cents- When I think of what the LW’s mother-in-law wants, I think of a line from the movie Maine Pyar Kiya where Reema Lagoo’s character, while playing Prem’s (Salman Khan) mother asks whether a daughter-in-law with short hair and shorter skirts can be respectful toward her elders, friendly with her peers, and loving toward those younger than her. There is an expectation that such traditional daughters-in-law are extroverted and outgoing but only toward the “correct” people. They are sacrificing, willing to stay up late to cook extravagant and elaborate dinners with no help, willing to fall at the feet of those who are older, and still be friendly toward one and all who come to the house, whether or not one knows them.

      I know many extroverted kinds in my own family, all of whom have fallen in line with the sanskaari bahu demands- very traditional, ensure all festivals and traditions are observed to the T, friendly and outgoing, but only to those within the same community.

      I am an introvert and I am the one who questioned the practice of a girl’s parents having to pay for a wedding and paid for her own wedding ceremonies, “went off” and married a White man in a different country and “had the gumption” to speak to the Hindu priest herself regarding the wedding arrangements.



  18. Hope at least some of these comments are useful:

    Practically, what can an introvert do to communicate that such expectations are too much for her, and that she means no disrespect by wanting her own time?

    I think this is very hard to convey in words, but you must try. It’s very difficult to explain the need for personal space, if the other person has never been exposed to it as a concept. Based on your conversations and interactions so far, you probably have an idea of what sort of language she understands. You’ll have to use that in conveying what you feel. Easiest would be to find someone she really likes who is an introvert and use that person as the base point of the conversation.

    Practically, what can a woman like me do to convince my in-laws to get to know the real me? Is that likely? Is that even a good idea?

    If she is not open to knowing you as a person, there is no point in trying. However, given that your relationship is young, it might be worth exploring it from her angle if you have the patience. Indulging her in things she likes to do, which make her happy and then slipping in info about yourself and seeing if she gets it. Also then making her a part of things you like to do and getting her to know you through these activities.

    Practically, what can I do to inform them that while I would like to be cordial, I don’t welcome intrusions and certainly not temper tantrums?

    Look, if she has behaved this way all her life, you asking her to treat you differently is not going to go down well. I think you must accept this, so that the threshold for attempts is high! If someone shouts at me and I think it is unjustified, I a) lower my voice significantly in response – not meekly, just crisp and basal. It brings down my bp too, and b) tell them in that voice that they can’t be thinking reasonably in that frame of mind. Why don’t they cool down and then let’s have a chai to talk it over? c) walk away after this delivery. Look person in eye the entire time. Watch body language.

    Abt hierarchy: esp with household help, why don’t you just treat them the way you want to? I think MIL will be amazed and annoyed, but if you do it consistently and tell her that treating people nicely is non-negotiable with you, she’ll think you are cuckoo but leave you to it. I can so understand feeling embarrassed when someone you know behaves this way.

    What is the best answer when one is accused of disrespect, when all one is doing is negotiating boundaries?
    I respect you that is why I am talking to you about my real feelings. I respect you, which is why I want us to have a nice relationship and not bottle up our thoughts.


  19. I don’t know if there is anything that you can specifically say and do to get your mother-in-law to understand because we are introverts and we live in a world in which extroverts and being gregarious are idolized to the extent of making introverts feel “abnormal”. Think about it- we are who we are. Who went and made extroverts the standard to live up to?

    I have realized that unless one is an introvert there is very little to no realization of how much an introvert needs to stay away from socializing at times, especially the constant “come see what an accomplished d-i-l I bagged” barrage of relatives and friends you are being paraded in front of.

    I am Indian and when I lived in India I was constantly asked why I was “hiding” away and why I did not talk when company was over. I sometimes enjoyed just being with people without having to make constant conversation (in my extended family if you are not constantly smiling and speaking and going out of your way to be friendly to everyone you are automatically labeled haughty and arrogant) and this constant questioning got to me to the extent that I just stopped socializing except for a select few people. I haven’t been to India in over 7 years and unless there is an emergency I don’t intend to visit because the last time I visited I was paraded, by my own parents no less!

    I’ve tried explaining my point of view but because it isn’t taken seriously I just stay away. This may not be an option for you so the only thing I can say is to ask your husband to talk to his parents about this issue and to ask them to back off. You can also do the same and then stick to your convictions come hell or high water. You WILL be labeled haughty/arrogant/non-sanskaari but you have to decide whether your peace of mind is more important or being seen as a sanskaari bahu is.



    • I remember how desperately I tried to be an extrovert in college.

      I wanted to be one of the “cool people” — confident, extraverted and gregarious.

      I don’t know where this unspoken assumption that extraversion is wonderful and desirable comes from.

      I’ve found that many adults can’t deal with being around introverts either. They think that someone who’s not cracking people up and being the life of the party is not worth being nice to.

      I’ve never understood why one has to associate with people whom one doesn’t like much, and who matter little in one’s life.

      I only spend time with people who treat me well. If I get the faintest “bad vibe” from someone, I minimise all interaction with them.


      • Neha, I’ve often wished that I could be outgoing and an extrovert until I finally read a lot of the literature on introverts and realized I was trying to be something that I was not. Ironically, I am in a profession which demands that I spend a lot of time with people and after one of my work days I am about done and don’t even want to answer the phone, but I also love what I do. Just do what seems right to you and the rest will follow.



  20. Pingback: An email from the Accused Guy: ‘I would request all to respond once again after reading the other side of it.’ | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s