An email from an Indian Husband… and a Good Indian Son.

This email affirms what I have always said, that Patriarchy victimizes not just women (of all ages) but also younger men. Younger men find it tougher to complain (or even acknowledge the abuse) because they are not openly ill treated, their abuse is less visible, because it is generally disguised as parental love (and hope and expectations – i.e the concept of Shravan Kumar and Sri Ram like sons).
Dear Indian Homemaker,
I stumbled upon your site a couple of days earlier and was suitably impressed by the quality of discussion on display. Congratulations on providing an excellent sounding board to people who really need it.
I see that it is mostly women who write to you, but since my situation has aspects which relate to some of the issues raised frequently on your blog, I would really appreciate it if you could provide an unbiased opinion to me as well. I am really at my wit’s end here and any advice is welcome. I have spoken with friends, relatives and acquaintances, but what I really need is an opinion from someone who is close to neither me nor my wife and can therefore judge the situation on it’s own merits, without any bias whatsoever. So here goes:
I basically come from a middle-class family that is settled in India. My parents are orthodox in their worldview and beliefs, and have manufactured a comfortable existence for themselves with plenty of like-minded people around them. I benefited from the good education provided to me and by the age of 21, ended up at the place that was then the mecca for Indian software engineers. Living in America was a transformative experience for me. I took to the culture like a fish takes to water. I guess I was already a bit disillusioned by the conservatism of my family and America provided a great break from that. 

Soon, however, my parents started pressurizing me to get married. I did not really want to, so I resisted the pressure for a while. But it slowly became too much to bear. You must understand my situation here; I was already feeling guilty about leaving my parents (who were not in the best of health) and working halfway across the world. They started talking about how much they wanted a grandchild and so on. It just became too much for me to handle and I gave in. That was mistake #1. The second mistake was to agree to have an arranged marriage. I guess that was really foolish but the emotional blackmail did me in.

To cut a long story short, I got married and my erstwhile happy life disappeared in a puff of smoke. My wife is a great person, very caring, very supportive and so on. But the mismatch between us is too great. She comes from a very conservative background, where the “pati-parameshwar” jazz is kind of gospel truth. Unfortunately, I am simply not comfortable with that kind of thing and feel smothered by her constant mothering and cares.

She hated America from Day One. The culture and lifestyle was too different from what she was used to, and she pined for home. Happily, I know that it is not possible to have a partner who meets every expectation of yours, but in my marriage, neither of us meets each others’ expectations at all. Our whole idea of marriage is worlds apart. I find it quite impossible to playact at being the dominant “head of the family” kind of guy. I also feel intensely irritated when she finds it necessary to consult with me before making the smallest of decisions for herself. For instance, I recently bought her a cellular phone and she actually asked me for PERMISSION to call her mother. She once even called me up in the middle of a conference because she had gone to the market and wanted to purchase a deodorant for herself! It is not a question of money. Fate has been kind on me in that regard and we have more than enough to lead a good life. I have never once refused to give her any amount she wanted and as far as I am concerned, my money is her money. She can do whatever in the world she wants with it. I just have a terribly hard time convincing her of that.

Religion is another bone of contention between us. She is a devout Hindu, while I am an atheist. That is not a problem in itself ; she could believe in the Loch Ness monster or the great ZooZoo for all I care. The problems begin when she starts trying to impose her religious beliefs on me. Certain things must not be done on certain days, certain foods must not be eaten, certain drinks must not be consumed. She does not assert these demands forcefully or vocally, but the emotional manipulation is usually enough to make me give up and fall in line. I am tired of falling in line.

The list of problems goes on and on.

There is no emotional connection or intimacy between us. There is no feeling of having lived together more than two years. There is no feeling of being in a romantic relationship. The little disconnects of perception and worldview torment both of us.
I daresay she has a long list of problems with me too. I know this, because I can make out that she is dissatisfied with our marriage. I have even seen her crying about it on occasion and it is really impossible to express how horrible that makes me feel. For some reason, she thinks this is all her fault, when I know it is not. If anything, it is my fault. I was aware of the disconnect between us, but like a damn fool, I thought it would go away with time. I even had these romantic notions of being the savior who would provide her a “better” life.

I made a mistake and have been paying hugely for it. Worse, someone else is having to pay for my mistake too. The only way I know to correct the mistake is divorce by mutual consent, but that would be like using sulfuric acid to clean my teeth. Even a casual mention of divorce is enough to cause my wife to start crying. And I know that where she comes from, a divorce would cause her to be stigmatized for no fault of her own. How can I bring that on to someone who trusted me, to someone who I promised to protect? I cannot.

But what else can I do? I see little hope of things improving between us. Divorce would probably be like the end of the world for her. I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place and have no idea what to do.

A friend recently suggested marriage counseling. Do you think it might be helpful in our case? Do you have any other suggestions? If so, I’d be infinitely grateful if I could hear them.

Eagerly awaiting your reply.

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What do you call this relationship?

Have you seen such relationships?
Hi IHM,
What do you call this relationship?
Supposed to be husband, but don’t know what he is. .
  • Responds to his wife only where there are no controversial issues.
  • He talks only when he wants to say something, but never listens to what his wife says.
  • Does not blame his wife for anything and does not like to blamed also.
  • Does whatever he feels like, do not mind if wife also does whatever she feels like.
  • Speaks big about career women, longs to have a wife who is more enterprising.  Feels for children whose mothers are at work.
  • Like to have well kept house, says maids are too expensive.
  • Loves to have financial support, but loves wife when she cooks good food.
  • Sits hours infront of TV, but diet and exercises find time, if not for children and family.
  • Too tired to give hand in household work, but relaxation is must as he works hard.
  • Thinks Wives can be multitasking,, but himself is an earning member and that is all he has to do.
  • Expensive hobbies, but house hold needs are unnecessary expenditure.
  • Believe in taking responsibility, but never commit to responsibility.
  • Love and respect towards wife is mutual and conditional. Give and take policy.
  • No advices given, what if it backfires on him.
  • No empathy or sympathy.
  • Always says “you are not the only biggest gift to the mankind”
Mr.Whatever, Your life is a biggest mismatch with your wife.
Wife says,” Life has to go on for next 10 years with same man, atleast for kid’s sake so let me adjust this Mr.whatever”

Kyonkee Husbands bhi kabhi Sons the.

One hears about men “caught between the woman who raised them and the woman they have to spend their life with.”

I have met mothers who seem to want to protect their adult, married, sons from their spouse’s lack of consideration and ‘attempts to dominate’. And I have met wives who want to undo the damage caused by a neglectful mothers.

One mother said her son complained that he missed hot chappaties because his wife was working and he wished she would work from home. He told his mother that he wished the younger woman was like her, well read and intelligent, but also an efficient homemaker.

Does he sound like he was caught between two bickering women? His mother did demand the daughter in law changes her job, I blogged about it here, but at the time I had blamed only the mother.

Another son complained that his wife couldn’t keep the house as clean as his mother did and wanted the mother to teach her how to run a house (in this case he was unemployed and had lost the mother’s savings in poor investments, but I am sure one doesn’t need to be unemployed to object to incompetence). The incompetent wife is under the impression that the son had an unhappy childhood because the mother was busy making a career, he missed being served hot meals.

Does he sound like a victim? He says the quarrels between the two of them make him go crazy and perhaps he needs to be ‘strict’ (this was meant to be a joke). He reminded me of Ruchi’s husband.

A third son I know had complained to his mother that the wife was not capable of taking good care of the children. I know that in this case his mother advised him to participate in child rearing. This same man also complains to his wife about his mother’s lack of interest in cooking during his childhood, but the wife hired a cook so she could give more time to the kids (who were anyway doing great).

Obviously these are just a few cases, but I am sure there are many more such husbands and sons.

In the first half of a two-part series, clinical psychologist Salma Prabhu advises men on how to keep mother and wife happy.

Do take a look. (Thanks for sharing Kavitha)

Here are some parts I noticed.

“… if a man is unable to take decisions alone it reflects upon the mother. Such a relationship could become overly protective and hamper growth. “

“…you both are going to raise children together, send them off into their own lives and grow old together…”

“Respect is the most vital element… Your mother loves you unconditionally and will ignore disrespectful behaviour, but a wife has expectations and cannot forgive transgressions…”

What do you think?

Related posts:

The Invisible family member in the saas bahu post..

Ruchi’s husband.

My dreams are more precious than yours.

[‘Kyonki Husbands bhi kahbi Sons the’  translates to ‘Because husbands too were once sons.’ ]

Sasural Simar ka. Don’t we all wonder about our future?

Now you can’t watch the news without being reminded to blog, I saw this promo on CNN IBN this morning. 🙄

Don’t we all wonder about our future? What do you think of this ‘Sasural Simar Ka‘ promo?

And what did you think when you thought of your future as a young adult? Did you wonder if you could do more than just wish your family takes all the right decisions to ensure a happy future for you?

How romantic or thrilling is it to have no idea but all one’s hopes set on how the person one is going to spend one’s life with, might turn out to be? What do you think of the what-ifs and the expectations and the fears, and hopes in this promo?

Let me translate what Simar’s sister is saying.

Every girl wonders how her ‘sasural’ (her in-laws’s home) would be. 

You also must have wondered, no, what kind of mother-in-law you will get?

Will you be given love there, like you are given in your parent’s home (maika)…

Will the house be big or small?

And your pati-parmeshwar (Lord and Master)! Will he be the way he looks? 

My sister Simar is being married off 🙂  How’s her ‘sasural’ going to be? What do you think?

Response from Anon Super-wife.

Anon Super-wife’s response to reader’s comments to her email here.
To all your readers, a big thank you, for taking time out to read and ruminate about the situation and to try to help.

And, I would like to add that I did solve the problem by doing something I wanted to, but couldn’t because I wasn’t sure that it was right. In my mind, I did want to just speak out in my own way and not just pretend things were okay, but my preconditioning wasn’t allowing me to.

The comments of the readers just got me doing it –  simply by refusing to cook. When despite me cooking, I don’t get to eat, it is only fair that I don’t as well cook.
I can eat a pizza or grab a Mac. let the people who do want rice, roti, rasam and sambar cook it for themselves.

Needless to say, no one cooked and pandemonium ensued. At least I was full and spent more time with the baby. All worth it, I guess.


As for working – I guess this is the way we are conditioned. My gran has always taught us grand kids to “tolerate, keep quiet, and understand” – this she says works miracles in any marriage. After a lifetime of seeing women that way, little wonder then, that we understand that this is the way it should work.
My mom who always wanted me to be financially independent – because, she thought that it would help me chart my own course – also implicitly gave me the same advice. Earning is important if something untoward happens, it isn’t something that you use, to wriggle out of your responsibilities. It is ingrained like religion is, or fear of putting your finger into that electrical socket is, you follow it without a question.

Practically it is difficult for me to get a maid, because I need things to get sorted by 8 AM and trust me when I say the leading set of people who give IST a unique meaning is this sect of maids. Where are they when you need them?

It’s not that I resent doing the work at home. I enjoy keeping my home clean I enjoy cooking for my husband, I do stuff for the MIL because I understand she’s worked hard at her place and I would like to let her relax when she comes visiting.

What I do not like is the attitude that says, “This is YOUR home, YOU and YOU alone are responsible for this home”. So, when food falls short, or when I’m working late and cannot handover the milk coupon to the watchman, or even when I’m rushing to office and cannot water the plants – it’s probably ONE time – the ONE time in a month that they have to do it – but it is MY home you see, MY plants. When I don’t have milk for tea – no one notices, hell! no one even notices if I’ve had tea or not (she can always drink it at office) but if for some reason the undergarments aren’t color coded and folded the way they have to be, I’m a “lazy girl”, “always in front of her laptop girl” or just plain “Sigh  … I never can seem to find anything at all …. old age might be. In India, we always spend half our lives searching“.

And you know what they say? That tidal waves are influenced by the waxing and the waning of the moon? They should also add something like – husband’s MCP factor is influenced by the coming and going of his mother. (actually, scratch that – the effects linger long after the mother has done the damage and exited the building). (Another post discusses this here – IHM)

So, to all your comments and suggestions, yes, this has to change. maybe the workload, but definitely the attitude.

I am not conditioned in a manner to raise my voice at home – like I said, “The finger in the electric socket syndrome”, but I know this has to change.

The reason I reached out to you, is because  I wanted to know if you felt the same way I did.

So are the men offended?

Believe it or not, there are many who think the Star Plus anthem is great because the woman is being allowed to work, to have a girl-child, fly kites, jog, wear track pants, dance, blow kisses at her husband from her terrace; her husband finds her worthy of his attentions, her in laws don’t object to this, (because) her mother in law is not abusive, and her family cares to celebrate her birthday.  What more can a woman ask for?

And in return of all these privileges (which the rest of the family always had anyway) all she has to do is be a never tiring, ever smiling, uncomplaining super woman.

GB explains why it’s okay for a woman to not be perfect and still expect to be loved.

I’m really tired of seeing women who don’t get tired. Or pissed. On some days, I just wake up feeling pissed. I make carping statements, I invite fights, I act like my hair is on fire. In short, I make life difficult for people around me.

But I also believe that I’m effing worth the trouble.

I don’t need to be an angel to be wanted or loved. Because the people around me are not angels either. And I put up with their drama because I care about them. So why in god’s name do I have to keep smiling … in order to be the perfect woman? (Click to read the entire post.)

Preeti Shenoy wants to know,

“Why is she so happy that she has to wake up before everyone else while that lazy lump of her husband sleeps blissfully and then she also has to give him his towel in the shower between cooking her children’s lunches!” (More on Buzz)

Amrita of IndieQuill wonders,

What’s the kid going to grow up thinking – “My mom works and cooks and cleans and dances and sings and is nice to all the birdies in the sky. My dad… um… he drinks tea and goes to work.” Way to be a hero to your kid….


Seriously, it’s men who should be offended.

I wonder what the men think.

____________________________________

To read my interview with ‘Spark’ click here.

Eleven questions the family elders ask women in unhappy marriages.

And answers by Anonymous Confused Wife.

1) So what’s new here? It’s an age old issue.

Once upon a time that’s exactly what people said about child-marriage or widow burning.

This is important to me because it’s an issue to ME. NOW.

It’s an age-old issue and yet the only solutions anyone can come up with are “slog it out” or “leave, he’ll never change” or “Please adjust”. Doesn’t that say something about how great a job we’ve done by pushing all such issues under the rug?

2) The husband seems to be a nice chap in every other respect. Only his being a “mama’s boy” seems to be the irritant.

That’s not the same as saying he doesn’t drink tea instead of coffee. “Every other respect” gets affected by his being a mama’s boy.

[IHM: A ‘mama’s boy‘ may be defined as a husband who expects his wife to see him and his family as her world, but who does not think she should expect to be his first priority. He might also expects her to be an obedient and dutiful ‘elder-caregiver’ to his parents but again he may not feel the need to reciprocate.]

3) He risks being called “Joru ka ghulaam” or ‘Mama’s boy’. Neither is pleasant to hear.

I’d like to believe it IS possible for a grown adult to just be HIMSELF without being either a Joru ka Ghulam or a mama’s boy.

[Indian women continue to be seen as Paraya dhan‘ (property of their in laws) and Indian sons as providers of elder care through their wives. The system has resulted in a male child’s parents expecting special privileges.]

4) We have heard only the wife’s version. We have not had an opportunity to hear the husband’s version and that of the mother-in-law.

If this were a court of law, you would have.

It saddens me that a woman is not taken seriously when she says she’s miserable enough in a relationship that she’s willing to be single again, willing to go through a breakup and a divorce, willing to face social stigma and whatever other consequences, because she does not see herself being happy with him.

It saddens me that unless I choose to sacrifice my happiness, my commitment to my marriage is questioned.

My expression of my experience in this marriage are taken as an attack against which my husband and In-Laws need to present their defense. And what then, will someone rule that I can’t leave? That I have to stay here and remain unhappy?

[And yet it is not uncommon for the in-laws to complain to her parents about a daughter in law’s incompetence, disobedience or lack of respect. One doesn’t generally hear demands for her version. This could be because in the past the wives were much younger than the husbands and were treated like their wards.]

5)  If the husband or mother-in-law reads this, we would hear a version of the entire story as viewed from the other side.

Of course they’ll have their own take on the situation. Of course they have every right to be vocal about it. And of course it won’t be identical to mine. That doesn’t discount the fact that my experience so far makes me unhappy and hopeless enough to make me want to leave.

Is my happiness not necessary for their happiness? Is it fair to expect me to ensure their good at the cost of my own happiness?

6) I am sure a joint counseling session moderated by a respected family elder, or a professional counselor in which the mother-in-law, son and wife thrash out all issues, would ease tensions.

IHM: Family elders tend to ask all the same FAQs that have been asked here. Age does not automatically mean better ability to be unbiased.

The Counselors, the Lawyers, the parents,  and the Police are the products of the same society. Bias is a way of life in a Patriarchal society. Hearing different points of views is fine but an individual must trust her own judgment in the end.

6-b) Did you notice that the father-in-law never figures in issues like this? What is it about women ? (Aurat hee aurat ki dushman? A woman is a woman’s worst enemy?)

To an extent it’s BECAUSE the F-I-L wasn’t a prominent figure in his wife’s or his child’s life that the onus of fulfilling his wife’s emotional needs falls on his son.

7) You do not have enough valid reasons to walk out of this marriage. You have been more fortunate than most Indian women whose problems are far worse than yours.

Yes, a lot of Indian women have it worse. To me this doesn’t justify any of their behavior either.
Also, a lot of PEOPLE – including Indian men – do have it better. I know *I* had it much better before I got married. So regardless of whether or not others think I have “enough valid reasons” I do believe I have a right to my happiness.

8 ) Your ONLY grievance seems to be that your husband is a “Mama’s boy”. But this term is frequently abused and misused. It’s sometimes relative. What is “mama’s boy” to some might be seen as “filial respect and regard from an ideal son” to others.

At no point have I mentioned that his respect or regard for his parents bothers me. His OBEDIENCE to them and their wishes, however unreasonable, however unfair to me, definitely does.

We don’t see parents of married daughters having similar expectations of ‘filial respect’ from them because daughters in India are expected to put their spouse and their marriage before their own parents. How can a marriage be truly happy if one partner is being reminded that the other must not be his priority (but she must still see him as her priority)?

9) Cheerfully put up with 10 days of possible tension and live the other 355 days happily. Remember that these 10 days cause tension to the Mother-in-law too! Married life is not always a bed of roses. You have been married for only two years. More serious problems are yet to come. Children, their upbringing, health problems as one grows old, career ups downs etc are all yet to be experienced.

If only! In those 10 days, I am constantly insulted and deprived of basic rights. My family is insulted and called names. It’s not like I can turn off a switch on the 11th day and be happy for the next 355. And what about the days I lose because of the weekly phone calls?

I’m CERTAIN I didn’t have that many unhappy days a year when I was single. And if more serious problems are on their way, I’d rather not stick around until then.

10) Walking out of this marriage is no guarantee that you will find happiness in some other marriage or in remaining single. Instead of “Mama’s boy” you may end up with something far worse.

Yes, there’s that risk. I might choose it over guaranteed unhappiness.

11)  I am not convinced that you have a winnable case.

So I lose and my “punishment” is staying in a marriage that makes me unhappy? Out of curiosity, why do you not consider being a divorcee a “worthy” punishment for me?

Loving husbands who devote their days and nights to maintain peace in the family.

Anju wonders if this man fits into the label of a ‘Maa Ka Ladla’ or  a ‘Joru Ka Gulam’. ‘Few days back I visited a patient and I was amused at the way the patient was being pampered alternatively by the wife and the mother. It was like who will take more care of the man.’

Anju feels for this man, ‘how tiresome it must be for him to pamper both the egos, to make both of them feel important and let both feel that he cannot do without either of them’

***

I wonder if women face this problem.

Are women able to take better care of  themselves on their own? We know they don’t. They need as much care as everybody else does.

So why don’t women have their mothers (or fathers) and their spouse competing to take care of them? He is supposed to be ‘Budhape ka sahara‘ of one and ‘Pati Parmeshwar‘ of the other.

What makes two family members almost fight to take care of this adult, male member? Is it because they each feel they must win a closeness to him? Are they insecure? If yes, then what makes them so insecure? Does this insecurity benefit the man in some way? (I don’t think so.)

Has tradition taught women that their lives must revolve around their husbands/husband’s family? Is the rest of the population given the same values?

Has the same tradition made mothers feel that while some of their children learn to take care of themselves (female children), some of them (male children) need to mothered all their lives?

Married daughters are encouraged to develop a healthy relationship with their husbands, but married sons in India are expected to ‘balance‘, which includes things like making sure their wives are respectful, subservient, obedient to their family etc.

Do I sympathize with this man? I feel I sympathize with the situation and with the families involved.

Indian mothers still look for and ‘bring’ obedient and pliant daughters in law for themselves when they arrange marriages for their sons. Often compatibility and companionship between the couple are not considered as important, as the wife being obedient and respectful to the in laws. Sons who feel this is unfair are labeled Joru Ka Gulaam.

Traditionally the society is fine with sons spending most of their time with their friends, but traditionally the same sons are not encouraged to see their wives as their best friends. Some sons have no real relationship with their wives for many years (often never). The mother remains the friend and companion (or male friends do). This would still be fine, if the daughter in law also had the option of maintaining a relationship with her own parents and old friends – this generally does not happen. She must make her husband and in laws her world, but she must accept that she is not their world.

Double standards don’t make for happy families or a just and fair society.

The invisible family member in the saas-bahu post.

An excerpt from an unpublished comment in response to, ‘From an Anonymous  DIL, Wife and Daughter‘ :

The biggest and most funniest thing is that it is a tussle between TWO WOMEN RPT TWO WOMEN. No feminists mentions this. This reminds me of an old saying in Hindi — Woman is the biggest enemy of another woman. Mother-in-law and newly DIL fighting over a bone. Pity the poor husband.

______________________________________________________________________

Why do I feel there would have been no saas-bahu post if it wasn’t for an invisible member?

Because no bahu would need to worry about what the saas thinks she should wear, eat, cook, drink etc … if there wasn’t a man who quietly conveys that he would not like it if she did not.

He has the society, custom and tradition by his side. He and the society forget that he is the reason why the daughter in law is in this relationship.

And it’s supposed to be a partnership.

Who should be held responsible if she feels, “...petty things seem impossible to handle and everything looks like its going to collapse…“? [More here]

Here was a girl working, studying, meeting friends, living a normal life.. and then suddenly everything changes. It doesn’t have to.

Times are changing. Whether we like it or not, women are beginning to have choices. They are realising that there’s more to life than getting married to a man who doesn’t think they are an equal partner. Soon, it’s not going to be possible to force a young girl to live an unhappy life.

If we want families to get along, or even stay together, we better make it worth while for the one member without whom it would be impossible to have this family system.

If we do not acknowledge that the system is biased, and if we do not change it fast, husbands will increasingly find themselves having to choose between a divorce or moving out with their spouse to make their own homes. (And nothing wrong with that either).

Maybe then Live-in relationships will find favour because they might free women from one-way-relationship responsibilities?

Traditionally husbands could live in reasonable comfort while remaining  invisible.  Infact they were discouraged from ‘interfering‘, which basically meant they must not support the wife. This generally made a new family member feel isolated. Today it should not be difficult for a middle class husband to imagine the wife’s discomfort – more so if they have had a similar upbringing, studied in similar schools, read similar books – how would he like to live with her family in similar circumstances?

I know of this man who stopped his wife from objecting to being bullied by his mother. He even convinced her to apologise to his mother sometimes. He  claimed to be stressed and fed-up with the situation at home, but continued to subject the equally (or more) fed up and stressed wife to it. His younger brother joined in finding faults with everything his brother’s wife (bhabhi) did.  The siblings said everyone is their house must obey their mom. Then the younger brother got married. He moved to first floor, made it clear that his wife was ‘modern‘ so she could wear whatever she liked and they went out whenever they pleased. I wonder how the older brother felt when he saw this? The family accepted the situation, they knew this son always had a mind of his own, while the elder one was the dutiful, obedient one.

I think the younger brother learnt from the example of the older one. He realised it was not possible to have a happy family unless his wife was happy. He refused to stay invisible.

_______________________________

*Bahu – Daughter in law

Saas- Mother in law

Bhabhi – Brother’s wife

From an Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter.

This post was selected by BlogAdda as one of the top posts for this week’s ‘Spicy Saturday Picks’.

Blogadda's Spicy Saturday Picks

I am publishing this comment and my response to it, from ‘How Important is it for a girl to get married?’ because I agree with Ramit when he says, ” IHM This topic that has been raised by Anonymous, needs a separate post in itself so other girls can relate to it too and get a few pointers to stand up. It’s high time they need to stand up… Unbelievable that India has put men on the moon and our mother in laws even after migrating to London are still living in the 15th century! Utter crap!

Here’s the comment.

Dear IHM,

I am a 24 yr old newly wedded girl. got married 4 months ago and moved to the UK with my husband. i know this is a problem every indian DIL faces and I guess I am falling in to it too. my family is very liberal and they do not really believe in following all the customs that the entire world harps on. My inlaws on the other hand are super duper orthodox and for them every custom under the Sun is important no matter how inconvenient it is for the other person. My MIL like any son’s mother thinks that I am the luckiest girl on earth because her son decided to marry me. because her son is in the UK and he is the only one in their family to be living abroad, whereas in my family, every second person is in some part of the word other than India so to me its not a big deal at all! in fact i refused to marry this guy because he is not in India but since everyone in my family insisted that they know this guy very well and I got convinced after speaking to him a zillion times that he is genuinely good at heart.

Now my MIL has a typical characteristic trait of pointing out everything. Even if you miss a small safety pin that was supposed to be given to her or her daughter from my parents’ side, she does not waste a single moment in pointing it out and making it obvious that she is unhappy because the “custom” has been broken. Her daughter is the world to her. I am the world to my parents too but she is a little weird. During the entire wedding, she was not anywhere near us. Kept insisting my SIL stays with us all the time coz she is the daughter of the house. And made sure my SIL and her husband were served everything properly. She does not care if anyone else is not properly taken care of, but with her daughter no chance! So much that once they had their invitations ready, they sent it to my SIL first got her approval and then bothered to send it to my husband coz his approval was not necessarily important though he was the groom.

Somehow, the wedding went on very well with the help and support of a lot of family and friends. Now when I was moving to the UK, I’d left all my jewelry, silver and gifts at my parents’ place. Somehow I was not very comfortable leaving them with my inlaws coz my MIL tries to find fault with everything she sees. In some piece she will think the design is not good or she will say that we should never buy gold at a jewelry shop but make sure we get it made by a goldsmith etc etc. So since I would not be around, I did not want my mom to listen to all her nagging everytime she met my inlaws. Even though my mom asked my MIL if she wants her to get all the gifts and all and leave it here. I did not want her to ask about the gold though.

My question # 1:

Is it not my choice about what I want to do with my things? Do I have to seek my MIL’s permission for everything I do to “my” stuff? Each and every piece of that jewelry has been bought by my parents. None of it is what my inlaws gave me. The stuff they gave me is with me here. But do I have to take her permission before deciding what I want to keep with me and what I don’t? My parents will definitely not need my jewelry. They have enof of their own.

Now coming to it, she has spoken to a common friend of my family and his family recently. She has very conveniently told him that she has no idea what I have done with all the silver items (including 2 sets of thali and glass gifted by my parents) I had and all my jewelry. She tried to convey that she thinks I have given even the thalis and all to my parents and they are happily living on it. The thalis and glasses are as a matter of fact with me and with her proper knowledge coz she was pissed off when I said I want to take them with me. My whole point was I did not see any sense in keeping them safe at home when we could make proper use of it everyday over here. )

Question # 2:

Is it right on her part to speak like this about me and my parents in front of a third person? Is she not kind of insulting me and my parents?

Now the more interesting part, my SIL’s husband does not have any family of his own. His parents passed away years ago and his elder brother and all are only for the sake of being there. So all that my SIL had are at her parents’ place. So she has a valid reason to leave everything with her parents. Now for everything my MIL has one excuse that since my parents dont know all these customs, she is trying to tell them the customs.

I had no intentions of having any ill feeling towards my in laws but this is making me very very sad. I wept all of yesterday and as soon as my husband came home, he realised something is wrong with me. He managed to get me spill out everything (and i am cursing myself for it), spoke to his mom, my mom and tried to convince me that his mom is only trying to tell us the customs and all. He is otherwise very understanding. he knows how his mom has a very weird character and tells me the same thing but when it comes to this particular issue, he says it was a casual talk between my MIL and that common friend and he took the liberty to call up my parents and speak to them about it. What I dont understand is if this ‘casual talk’ was a month ago, why did that man call my parents now and speak to them? I am a new DIL and so I am not supposed to question anyone. All I am supposed to do is keep quiet and see my parents being nagged every now and then because they did not some custom about a piece of haldi or a saree that was supposed to be given.

Question # 4 :

Is that all my parents are supposed to do all the time? Keep giving things to me and my husband? They do give us a lot but is there no break to it? Do they have keep giving us gifts all their life? They have already done enof for us, is it not our turn to make sure they have everything they need and care for their wellbeing (including his parents). Is a piece of jewelry and a set of clothes the only way to show they love us and care for us?

Question #5:

My parents still dont have an account of how much they might have spent for my wedding coz his parents wanted a grand ceremony because they were not taking any dowry. I’d already told my parents that I dont mind staying single all my life but I don’t want them to pay a single penny as dowry. I am beautiful, educated, had a very very good job and I am self sufficient in all ways. There is no need for someone like me to get married by giving dowry etc. My husband also was very particular that he did not want anything as dowry. So since there was no dowry in question they wanted the event to be a grand one. My parents wanted the same thing and so they made sure everything was remarkably exotic much against my wishes coz I dont see the whole point in spending so much money on something which lasts just a day or 2. Is a simple ceremony not worth enof to get married?

I am soo disappointed now that I can’t express it in words. I wanted a family where human values are more important than customs. Thankfully, to my husband all that matters is human values and feelings but I am very disappointed by his parents coz I realised that for them customs play a higher role than human values.

I wanted to spill it all out coz I am just not able to take it anymore. I am a regular reader of ur blog and all I could think of was you when my mind went completely blank.

Please help me.

From
Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter.

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And my response.

Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter I was thinking maybe this should be published as a post … it’s such a typical situation!
At 24, and when you are married, you should be left alone and not suffocated with such controls!

I am amazed women achieve so much despite such cruel and horrible circumstances. Just be brave, remember that you are absolutely justified in wanting to be free of such controls, and you are NOT WRONG in expecting your parents to be treated with respect and basic decency. Malicious gossip against a DIL’s family is not something a girl can be expected to respect. And what you do with your jewelery is upto you, even if you do sell it or give it away she can only express an opinion – no matter what our conditioning tells us, it is wrong to to try to control another adult’s life. She is also trying to control her adult, and married, son’s life.

The sons grow up and are conditioned to believe that since mothers only want what is best for them, it is fine if they also want to monitor their entire lives.

This is where Joint Family and patriarchy are so wrong.

And don’t feel guilty if common sense tells you this is wrong, just because somebody is older or is a spouse’s parent, they do not automatically become right.

Expecting your parents to keep spending is wrong; discussing them with anybody, least of all mutual contacts, is not going to build bridges. Discussing you is immature and cruel, and I think if they really care for the son’s happiness, then it is essential that his wife is shown respect… your MIL does not seem to realise that no man can be really happy if his wife is treated like this. Happy wives make happy families.

Don’t feel guilty – you are right, and tell your parents to be stronger, I always say, Strong parents have happy daughters.

Don’t give in to such controlling, keep your jewelery where ever you prefer to keep it.  And quite definitely not with your MIL. Not even if it means a lot to her (Why should it mean a lot to her?). Not even if it makes her feel you love her like your mother. Not even to please your husband. Keep it pleasant but be firm. Maybe just smile and change the topic.

You could tell your mom in law or husband that even if this is done in every next house, you do not like such indulgences in petty gossiping. Convey that you may find it difficult to show respect to  your mom in law unless she (and he also) show the same respect to your parents.

No harmony is possible unless their is justice. Bitterness and oppression can not bring peace. Be tactful, remain polite and respectful, keep your cool …. but do not accept such treatment.

I wish you (or any human) didn’t have to go through this, but since you have to …

Also ask your husband to remember you also have the same feelings, how would he like to be treated EXACTLY the same way by your parents? If parents love their children, shouldn’t they be nice to their spouse too…?

He cannot keep speaking to his mom on your behalf – she will start calling him a JKG. he just has to very clearly let her see that he will not allow his family to treat his wife shabbily, when a husband stands by his wife, nobody from his family bothers her.

Take a look at this post,

No jeans for an Indian Daughter in law.

Two more posts by Unmana you may like to read,

In-Law Advice: What Husbands Should Do

In-Law Advice: What Wives Should Do

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Response continued,

@Anonymous DIL, Wife and Daughter, Of course human values are more important than any customs … in fact the only purpose of all customs is to bring us together and make us happy, ‘customs’ by themselves are of no other value, don’t get bogged by all these thing that you forget that these are the best years of your life, remind your husband also.

I fear sometimes elders use customs to show they know more or know better … I feel bad for them, maybe they feel you know more in some other ways so at least here they can show some superiority .

Newer customs will be brought in by newer generation … we  will  change with times, so will the customs.
You will be fine, be brave … hugs, God bless, IHM