The Mother-in-law Question

Mansi, one of the readers here, asked the following question:

“We all know that in almost 100% of the cases:- mother in law and daughter in law clash – why is this?  Please do a post on this.”

Mansi’s question appears as a comment in this post:

https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/relationship-with-mother-in-law-an-email/

I will answer the question the way I see it.  I would welcome others’ thoughts, experiences, and perspectives.

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In a patriarchal system, women take up positions of inferiority.  The girl child, teenager, and the young woman is taught or coerced into the following during the formative years(the opposite traits I’ve listed in parentheses):

  • unquestioning obedience (versus reasoning, questioning, analysis)
  • acceptance of fate or destiny (versus proactive problem solving)
  • a sense of weakness, vulnerability (versus strength, confidence)
  • inferiority (versus a sense of equality)
  • shame in one’s body (versus seeing it in neutral, biological terms)
  • shame in the pursuit of pleasure (versus seeing it as a natural human trait)
  • no personal interests or hobbies or achievements (versus encouraging personal accomplishment)
  • assigned pre-ordained roles (versus having choices)
  • constraints on the smallest things (versus having daily freedoms like going for a walk safely, taking the city bus safely, going to college safely, going to work safely)
  • constraints on life decisions (choosing whom to marry, choosing whether to marry or not, choosing not to stay in an unhappy marriage)
  • permission seeking fit for children (as opposed to adult freedoms – permission to visit parents after marriage, permission to work, to not have kids yet, or to not have kids period)

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Some of the above have changed with times, primarily:

  1. education and careers – girls and women now pursue these – but even here the context remains vastly patriarchal – do they have control over their paycheck – do they know how to spend, save and invest their money – do they have the freedom to work where and when they want in a field they choose, the freedom to travel for a job – do they have the supports needed at home to succeed at work or do they carry the triple burden of work, home, and kids
  2. some of the other factors mentioned above have changed for some families (who raise girls as humans that are allowed human joys and weaknesses, and granted equal rights) but remain true for the vast majority to different degrees.

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So, what happens to girls and young women raised with these traits?  They develop low self esteem.  They have been constantly told of their lack of worth and they begin to believe it.  Not just about themselves but about all women.  Their gender is the dreaded gender, they are the unlucky ones.

The all-pervading misogyny is internalized by women.  Different women react to this in different ways.  They develop coping mechanisms such as –

  • judging other women (partly because they genuinely believe women should be judged, society has given everyone the right to judge this group of human beings, but partly because they see themselves in other women.  “She is a lazy stay at home mom who watches TV all day.” because they’ve heard this comment over and over again and unthinkingly repeat it.  Or, “she is too selfish and not a good mother, look at her, travelling so much” because this is another stereotypical comment that they’ve heard over and over again
  • petty competition – women in a patriarchy must compete for male attention to win a few crumbs of freedom – putting other women down has a concrete advantage
  • becoming a martyr – in a patriarchy, you can either be a Goddess on a pedestal or evil incarnate – ordinary human traits like ambition and pleasure in women become evil – self-sacrifice is considered virtuous.  Some women engage in self-denial and sacrifice to feel rewarded by the families and societies they live in.
  • passing the baton – the teaching of these “feminine” rules and traits strangely falls upon women – victims create more victims in the process – women are taught early on “to be a good example to their daughters”.  Every time a woman doesn’t toe the line, her parents and her upbringing are blamed.  There is an entire cannon of virtue that needs to be passed down the generations – and some women assume this role whole heartedly.

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All of the above come into play in the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law situation.

The mother-in-law belongs to a generation of women that have been denied an education, the right to work, the right to choices.  They have been raised with low self-esteem and their most ardent sacrifices have been barely acknowledged.  They have never enjoyed the companionship and respect of their life partners.  Rather they served their lords and received nothing of worth in return.

The typical difficult mother-in-law is not an evil woman – she is an ordinary woman reacting to the above factors related to her upbringing.  She is coping in her own way, trying to find in her own distorted, sad way – some kind of path to perceived happiness.  All her life she’s been controlled by other men.  So she sees control as the singular thing absent from her life.  She tries to exercise control over the one person who is in the lowest rung of the patriarchal ladder – the daughter-in-law.  She fails to realize that genuine happiness comes from control over one’s own life, not control over another’s.

That said, there are mothers-in-law who understand where the problem truly lies – with the patriarchal set up (and not the “bad” daughter-in-law).  Even if they did not live a life of fairness, the better adjusted women (those who’ve developed a healthier response to a difficult life) may obtain happiness by breaking the cycle and treating the daughter-in-law with fairness.  They may themselves have more freedom in their later years – having developed an awareness of their rights and an assertiveness that comes with age and experience.

The mother-in-law versus daughter-in-law problem is not a women versus women problem – it’s a problem created by patriarchy.  The need for male privilege creates the need for female inferiority.  When inferiority is made systemic right from birth and reinforced right through old age, it breaks the psyche and can have extremely unhealthy emotional consequences resulting in unhealthy coping behaviors.

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Here are 2 posts that may shed further light on this:

https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2015/02/26/the-men-in-our-lives/

https://indianhomemaker.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/a-woman-is-not-a-womans-worst-enemy-patriarchy-is/

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Relationship with mother-in-law (an email)

A letter from a reader – I’ve asked the LW if I can share her letter as so many women find themselves in this situation and the discussion could be helpful to many women if it happened here – the LW agreed to share –

As you read the below, ask yourself:

  • what was my experience and how do/did I deal with it
  • what can I suggest to the LW that could be helpful
  • what are some things we should be doing as friends and family of someone in this situation
Dear Priya,
I like reading your blog and your posts on IHM’s blog. I have found myself nodding to almost everything you write and have found strength in your words to listen to my inner voice, to be assertive in order to keep myself happy and content.
I’m a 34 year old woman living outside India with my husband and 4 year old son. I had a very difficult childhood growing up in a sort-of broken household with a non-existent father who emotionally abused my mother every chance he got. My mother( who got married young without much skill or education but a sharp brain) stood her ground and put up with him to give me and my 2 sisters and one brother the best education she could(I’m now in a position to financially support her and help her start a small scale business all because of her stubbornness to not let her girls end up like her).
I got married to a wonderful man who is nothing like my father and has helped me a lot in letting go of the bitterness I have bottled up in my heart.
However I’ve had a very tough time integrating into my husband’s (very educated and status conscious) family following my marriage and have had conflicts with my mother in-law on more than few occasions in my 9 years of being married. She was against her very intelligent son getting married to me at such a young age (we were both 24 and just out of college with our first jobs) without going for higher studies as she had planned. I understand her disappointment but the taunts that we were subjected to went for far too long. I don’t look back to my marriage or my short stay at my husband’s place with any fondness.
Fortunately my husband got a better job offer outside India and we moved out. After struggling for two years we found our footing and got better off financially and things improved considerably between me and them.
This year when my brother-in-law was about to get married in a ‘proper arranged marriage'(unlike ours) to a bride of respectable profession ( read doctor) I voiced out some of the glaringly obvious double standards at display which again took our relationship back to square one. Having learned to be more assertive of my choices over the years, I spoke to them at length and cleared misunderstandings and brought things from the past to a closure (or so I thought). I kept in touch with them and helped them with the wedding prep, had them come over and stay with us for sometime all happy and merry.
I found out that I am pregnant recently and my mother-in-law started giving me well-intentioned but unsolicited advices about how to go about it. I told her very politely how I think I should be left to deal with it as it is not my first time going through the experience. She has been giving me the silent treatment ever since. I tried reaching out to her once but got no response. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t hurt me because it does as I thought we had reached a place where we could have genuine conversations.
I wanted this relationship to work for the sake of my husband who is a great son-in-law himself and my son to whom they are wonderful grandparents. But now the efforts are weighing me down. I’m having some trouble at work and have the additional pressure of this pregnancy plus my regular life that I don’t have the energy to deal with my mother-in-law anymore. Is giving up on this relationship the right thing to do? I would want my children to have grandparents and my husband to continue to have good relationship with his family. I just don’t want to be the only one putting in all the efforts anymore.
Best regards,
A
Repeating questions from above
  • what was my experience and how do/did I deal with it
  • what can I suggest to the LW that could be helpful
  • what are some things we should be doing as friends and family of someone in this situation
  • please share any other relevant thoughts not covered under the questions

​Sharing an email I received. Please help and advise.

Sharing an email I received. Please help and advise.

I’m not asking if I’m right or wrong. I know this might not be as bad as what some of you have experienced.
I just ask for support. Please do not judge me. I can’t find that kind of support here because Americans don’t know what it is like to be an Indian DIL.
Am I crazy? Am I really self-serving? Is name calling verbal abuse?
Why do I constantly feel like I’m a horrible person for not being able to forgive?

 

Hi IHM,

I’m 30 yrs old working as a Software Engineer in USA. I’m an only child and my parents have gone out of their way for my education and dreams. They raised me with great pride. Growing up I figured I wouldn’t get married because most guys only want to look after their own parents. And if I did get married, I wouldn’t live with my in-laws. I got married about 5 months ago to someone from different cultural background and broke all my rules. And I had never dreamt in my life that that would be the undoing of my life.

My husband is born and raised in USA. When I met him he came across like a level headed, calm, liberal, and progressive. What I did not realize or chose to ignore until I couldn’t anymore that he is a complete mama’s boy. His dad is a recovering alcoholic and growing up his family was dysfunctional. He had told me that we would be living with his family from the beginning, and even though I didn’t want to, I agreed thinking that’s what you do for people you love. His father is sick and they need financial support. I did tell him that that’s not what I want long term, so maybe few years down the line we should get our own place. He agreed at that time. This is before marriage. Initially, everything was great. I used to think that I lucked out with the in-laws if I marry this guy. Things changed quickly.

His parents, as I’m realizing since the wedding, are the typical patriarchal type. Neither completed school. MIL won’t live in jamai‘s house; a bahu is solely responsible for the entire family’s happiness; bahu is also at the bottom of the ladder in the family and has to prove herself; bahu has to respect no matter what; after marriage sasural is where the bahu belongs etc. etc. My MIL made sure to tell me that she’s not like typical Indian MIL because she doesn’t expect me to cook for the whole family or give her foot massage (what decade is she from?!)

There was a LOT of drama from his mother, sister, brother-in-law even before our engagement. This led to huge fights with by husband (boyfriend at the time) because he saw just their point of view. Fights that involved name-calling, yelling and basically making me feel like I’m a horrible person. His family never tried to even ask what the matter was, nothing. Assumption and judgment. And everything was my fault.

I tried to break up, but I was weak to not stand by that decision when he begged me to not break up. Red flag ignored.

Anyway, we ended up getting through and getting engaged. I had already started resenting his family but kept thinking that if he stands by me, then I’ll be ok. I need my partner to be my rock.

The drama didn’t end there. Things like my MIL getting angry that I texted her about my mum’s birthday outing just a day before (and she couldn’t make it. Her opinion is that if I respected her then I would have let her know a week ahead on the phone) leading her to yell at my mom (who was visiting at that time for our Roka ceremony) on the phone, and us having a show down at my place. My husband supported me during that time, somewhat. He still validated his mom’s opinion and actions, which is where it started to go downhill. I agree that I should have been more mindful, maybe I should have called her as soon as the plan was made. I apologized for it. But how is it ok for a MIL to yell over the phone at my mother and tell her that she hadn’t taught her daughter anything? Who gave her the right to yell? And she left telling my mom that I had “issues” and that she has none. So, her actions were justified and it was because of my behavior that she acted that way. See the trend here?

You must be thinking why I didn’t break it up? Indecision. Thinking it would get better after marriage. The many stories from my mother about how much crap she had to deal with. I just figured I could deal with it and I’m strong. My parents basically left it to me. I wish they had put their feet down, but they didn’t. I try not to put any blame on them. Ultimately, it was my decision making or lack thereof.

My husband isn’t a bad person. He helps around the house, kitchen, around the home. He is supportive of my career up to a point, he doesn’t think I should move away if I got a good job offer because he might not be able to shift (because of his family) and he should be my first priority always.  I found this out post-marriage. Different things were assured before.  Name calling and yelling has always been an issue with him during arguments. I have given him many chances thinking don’t abandon the ship just because there is choppy water. But I think I’ve had enough.

Fast forward to wedding planning, his mother hardly contacted my parents for any wedding discussion. Even getting back on dates was an issue, and my husband would just let it be saying “My mom is like that only”. Red flag ignored.

They wanted us to show them “respect” by giving the close relatives tokens of welcome. And, I’m sad to say my parents did. Even when I tried my best to stop them. In return, there was no show of respect for us. We don’t expect gifts, but my MIL’s behavior throughout the wedding was that of her attending the destruction of her world (son). No appreciation for the effort my parents put in to find a place for them to live in, checking in on them when we could, sending them homecooked food etc. etc. All we heard all the time were complaints. They didn’t show much respect for our culture but expected 110% so that they wouldn’t have to hear anything from their relatives! They expected the ladki wale to be at their feet, serving them because they are ladkewale?

On the day of the wedding, immediately after the pheras, my MIL forced me to put on the lehenga she had picked out for me (mind you, didn’t even pack the chunni). When my mom asked her if it was necessary since she had bought my benarasi with great love and would like me to keep it on, she snapped at my mom in front of her relatives saying “Do what you want! No respect for us”. Everyone in the hall noticed it. She made my mom cry, on my wedding day for a stupid lehenga. Rest of the night my MIL acted as if it was the saddest day of her life. My parents had also bought our traditional groom wear for my husband, but his mom didn’t let him wear all of it. Just the kurta under the “designer” sherwani they had got made. So is that not disrespectful towards us? My mom then has full rights to create a scene too like my MIL? But she didn’t. Were my parents sad about it, yes; did they lash out? No.

And what I’m about to write about is probably the day it solidified in my mind that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. My parents, husband and I had gone to visit my dadi since she could not attend the wedding. My dad developed a fever on the way back, so we dropped off my husband at his maasi’s house (he didn’t even want to come to his “sasural” because his parents weren’t with him) and we came back to my house. My dad went to the doctor to get medicine. Within the hour, my MIL calls yelling at my mom that I had disrespected her, I had hurt her by not stopping by (ok, I agree maybe I could have taken 2 minutes to do that and that’s my mistake), how embarrassing it was to find her “married” son come home without bahu, that people have been talking about how I’m not very bahu like, my mom had not taught me anything, and on and on she went. And then she also dared to ask my mom why she was so attached to me especially since I had been living abroad for the last 12 years. What mother asks that of another mother?? Do you love your child less because she lives somewhere else? Or is my mother to prepare mentally that I’m to go away and serve another’s family so she shouldn’t be attached to her child?

I called my husband and demanded to know why his mother thought she could yell at my mother, and he simply defended her.
Later I came to find out he was there the entire time that his mother was yelling at my mother and he lied to me saying he wasn’t there. He justified her behavior, he defended her act. They both blamed it on me and my parents.

No apologies, nothing. And, now I’m living with them. To see them every day is a reminder of everything my parents and I have tolerated. My parents don’t even want to come visit anymore because of my MIL’s actions. I have been called names during fights with my husband, labeled as “selfish”, that I don’t like his family etc. etc.

I have tried to forgive and forget, but I have been unable to. I’m still hurt and my parents are too. I keep thinking that something is wrong with me that I can’t forgive yet. I have been made to feel bad that I can’t forgive, by my husband, who says it’s a mental choice, if one really wants to forgive then they can in a snap. I don’t think so, but I have no one to back me up.

My parents still try to maintain good relations with my husband, and he thinks it’s because he is a great son-in-law. In his family, I have realized that they believe they are wonderful people with perfect manners, and if they act rudely then it’s another’s fault. His mother and sister make decisions for him and don’t even communicate with me. He lets them and if I protest, then he doesn’t understand why it’s wrong because it’s his family. I literally feel like he’s married to his family.

I have ruined my life. The person I thought I was marrying turned out be another family puppet. He has no backbone to call out the wrong when his family does wrong. He will defend them for everything. And sadly I got to see the worst after the wedding not before.

Now I’m at a point where I want to take the control of my life back. I want live by myself, with or without the husband, I don’t want to serve his family or even call them my family. I used to take pride in being a feminist, always fighting for equal treatment. I’m not sure who I am anymore. Every point I feel selfish because it’s not aligned with what my husband/in-laws might want.

Mentally I have decided to separate in a year’s time (my parents are supportive of this decision) and do my best until then. I don’t see myself ever fitting into their mentality, lifestyle etc. I don’t want to have kids and have them grow around my husband’s family. And I don’t want to stay in this family because of kids.

I’m not asking if I’m right or wrong. I know this might not be as bad as what some of you have experienced. I simply ask for support. I don’t think it’s right for my parents and me to have to tolerate and put up this kind of family for the rest of my life. There is no point in counseling because (1) I don’t want to waste my energy and time and time (2) he had made it clear, it’s him and his family together or nothing.

I think I have chosen, but not acted upon it yet.

Like I’ve said, I just ask for support. Please do not judge me. I can’t find that kind of support here because Americans don’t know what it is like to be an Indian DIL.

Am I crazy? Am I really self-serving? Is name calling verbal abuse?
Why do I constantly feel like I’m a horrible person for not being able to forgive?

Just wanted to clarify/add some things.

– I wasn’t fully aware of the extents of the traditional mentality my in-laws have until and after the wedding. I’m sure I must have had seen signs that I ignored, but it didn’t hit home until those words were spoken.

– After coming from the wedding, I had told my husband that I could not live with in-laws who disrespected my family. It really upset him and he called me “selfish” and walked out of the apartment where we were living (moved in with my in-laws after a few months). We had a huge fight where he involved his family and threatened me that if I did not come and settle the matter with his family, then we will end it. I regret not having the guts to end it then. I regret that I let him treat me like that and I went to apologize. I regret sitting and listening to their patriarchal view. I have so many regrets and I feel helpless. 

They complained about my parents not being attentive to them post the pheras (even though it’s not true and I have witnesses), about the bloody lehenga, how in general we didn’t show them sufficient respect etc. etc. I just sat there listening like a coward and did not do anything. I did not stand up for myself or my family. I am so ashamed of myself. All through this my husband just sat there. In his silence, he showed whose side he was on. I did not tell my parents about this until months later after keeping it to myself. I blamed myself for all of it and still do.

– I wonder if I’m in an abusive marriage. It’s not explicit with physical/verbal abuse so it’s so hard to gauge for me. But there is always an undercurrent of tension I feel at all times. Fights almost always involve name calling and yelling especially if it’s about his family. I don’t respond well to yelling at all, so I shut down which makes him further angry. I’m not an angel, I have yelled back too when I reached my limits. Almost anything I say where I don’t want to do something with his family, results in “you just don’t like my family”, “you never want to do… for my family”, “are you telling your mother how depressed you are here?” “if you love me unconditionally, then you should do/accept/act…” “you’re selfish” etc.

And, then comes a honeymoon phase, where I have given into his/their thoughts/opinions, and he showers me with hugs, kisses, and care.

Is it somewhat bipolar in nature?

He doesn’t expect me to cook, clean or wash for him. I can dress as I want, go where I want, meet whoever I want. Yet I have to conform to how he and his family wants to live.

– Even though I said I will wait for a year. I’m not sure why I would do that. I tend to dilly dally a lot. Sometimes I think this year, before the 1 yr anniversary. This is significant because it will bring me no joy. I don’t even want to look at my wedding photos/videos. They only bring back bad memories. Why would I celebrate, esp with his family, 1 yr of the day I wish never took place

Am I beyond help? I’m scared of what his family will do… make me pay for things/rent (since we are renting a house right now) / insult my family and me some more.

From,

Your blog is my support group.

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

Sharing an email.

Hi IHM,

I really wanted to bring up an issue I have been facing since a few months as a topic/post on your so that I get some tips/perspectives on how to handle this messed up situation.

I had an intercaste love mariage 5 years ago and at that time agreed to stay with my in laws. It seemed like an ok thing to do as I had little interest in domestic chores and my FIL had just recovered from cancer. Me & my hubby are only children and hence both sets of parents depend on us for thier emotional fulfillment. My MIL is an educated woman who has been a science teacher all her life. She loves to wear western clothes and even enjoys an occassional glass of wine and beer. I thought that it will be a modern, liberal family. My husband too openly communicates with them. I thought it would indeed be wonderful to live with them. My parents stay in the same city and I see them every fortnight. We had proposed for them to move close to our place, but they have a good social circle where they live and may move closeby only when the need arises. Life seemed pretty sorted.

Then the reality struck. And hard.

My MIL began telling me how bad my dressing sense is and that I should wear brighter colours like her, doll up with jewellery like her and ensure I am the best dressed at every family get together. I laughed it off for a couple of years, sometimes playing along. Then it was about the cooking. ‘This is how it is done’. Then housekeeping ‘Not a speck of dust, not even a handkershcief out of place’. Then the way I interact with people ‘Touch feet, say namaste.’  It was still ok. I did most of it on most days, although it didnt come naturally to me. Then the issues got deeper and the complaints serious. Right from lifestyle choices, to me meeting my parents, to do keeping the house well, to not cooking reguarly,to not respecting them enough (displays of respect) to not spending time with them. If I tried to tell her that I have different views or that maybe her percpetion is misplaces, I was accused of being bad at taking feedback and being too stubborn. Everything we, especially I did was wrong, bad, immature and not perfect. I wish I could get into details and give situations but honestly it is exhausting to even think about it. Lets just say most of the MIL-DIL typical  issues discussed on this blog.And like most modern day DILs, I felt like a badly behaving unwanted guest,who was suffocating every single day.

But that is not the issue I wanted to discuss.

Around 4 months back, my husband and I took the decision to move out of thier house and live close by (precisely 3.5 kms away). This would give us our independence and space as also be close enough to meet them every week and take care of them. I had first discussed this with my husband around 2-3 years back but he wasnt ready emotionally then and we thought things will improve if we just let them be. But the point is, they werent letting us “be”. Moreso me. Because I was the bahu they wanted respect and seva from me, something which didnt appeal to my sensibilities and not sustainable for the long term. My husband and I thought the move will make my relationship with them better as the everyday nitty grittys go out of the way and we can actually spend quality time with them when we do, without a list of complaints. When we first discussed it, they let thier dejection be known, but also said that since you are turning dependent on us, so you should experience living alone.Exact words were’ Wait till you live alone with each other, you will know each other’s bad side. Because of us being around, there was a check.’

But the absolute very next day, the silent treatment began. No eye contact, no words being spoke by my MIL. A frown on face for days. She even gave up eating for a couple of days. FIL stayed glued to TV but at least spoke when spoken ti. This went on for a month. My hubby and I didnt budge and engaged them in conversations to open them up. There were accusations of how insensitively we are abandoning them at oldage (they are 62, active and healthy),how ungrateful we are, ‘humse parvarish mein kya galti ho gayi’ ‘ to all sorts of statements one often hears in TV serials. The most oft repeated one was ‘Log kya kahenge”soceity mein log kya sochenge’ ‘ I dont want to be seen as  a bad MIL’. There were times when we felt incredibly guilty, but then realised that it is only emotional blackmail as when we felt bad and remorseful, they felt better and came back to normalcy immediately. Anything that made us happy,brought back the behaviour. Anyhow, a couple of weekend vacations and many dinners and movies with them later, they seemed to be coming to terms with it. But none of the relatives knew yet that we had moved. My in laws were against telling anyone in the extended family as joint families are the norm in the community, and their izzat would be at risk.

Recently my husband grew tired of leading this dual life and told his parents to tell the relatives about the ground situation so that we dont have to pretend to be living in thier house anymore. We didnt expect support from the relatives, but the least they could do is make my in laws feel better. But my MILs own sister has actually ignited her further and aggravated the situation further. She spoke to us about how bad this decision is. She rubs it in with my MIL every second day as to how her son would never do something like this. How her DIL will never move away (in a seperate one to one discussion her DIL told me that if they had financial independence, they would have probably done it too!Of course this was told to me in confidence so cant disclose it during the family discussions). This has made my in laws feel like they have lost a battle, and moreso my MIL feels she has totally lost her son to me and has turned against us fully. Now every meeting is an emotional episode and a taunt and guilt spree. My MIL even spoke to my Mom and accused her of hatching the whole idea. She was upset with my parents for not ‘stopping us’. I dont know what to talk to them independently anymore and dont feel like it either. But I realise that will end the relationship, so i make some small talks. They only drive guilt in my hubby about being the disappointing son, whereas he is a very loving and kind person.Just that he also loves his wife and ‘gets’ the MIL-DIL conflicts and their implications. He is very supportive towards me and is patient in dealing with his parents, but I know it is hurting and stressing him to hear extremely hurtful and manipulative comments from his own parents everytime they speak. He wants us to make extra efforts to make them feel better about it but it only backfires.

Its gotten extremely messy with relatives calling us and doing the same in the name of love and concern. What could have been simple has gotten very complicated and messy.

So some questions/perspectives i need at this point to tide over this  are:
— Is there anything different my hubby and I need to do to assuage the situation?At the very core of it, is it even required?

— Has someone lived or know someone having in laws in the same city but living in different houses? How has the experience been? Did the relations improve?

— What does a son do when the parents are, to put it crudely, mean to him and use guilt as a weapon? Any tips on how to deal with it?

— Does the cycle of in laws appeasement for a DIL ever end? Can she ever make choices which are truly independent without the burden of guilt or the disapproval of people around her…

– AP

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An email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law…

Brave new Indian family or no Indian family? Why Indians resist social changes.

Why do Nuclear Families face so much criticism?

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An email. Aren’t the sons supposed to have their own family lives?

“He has decided that we will stop trying to have a child now as he wants things to improve between his mother and I.”

If we truly valued our happiness and our peace of mind more than we valued other people’s opinion of what our priorities should be – how would our lives change? 

Sharing an email.

“I will have a nervous breakdown or sink into depression.  Imagine as an Indian woman… 2nd divorce isn’t an option.”

Hello,

I would like you to post this on your website and I am looking for advice and opinions as I feel just so stuck.

I got married 7 months ago, against my better judgment I fear. This is my second marriage, I was married for 5 years previously but we didn’t have any children. It was a turbulent marriage from start to finish and I was so happy once I managed to get out of it.

I never thought I would marry again, or have children and I was happy to finally have my freedom to see my parents and friends as and when I liked. To dress as I liked to drive my career and just be me.

However, a year after I left my ex-husband I met another man who was just lovely, simple and gentle in nature. Sensitive and caring and just someone I loved being with. I had a boyfriend I was content until he started talking about marriage/wedding etc. He was ready to settle down and he thought he found what he needed in me.

I couldn’t fathom the thought, also he was from a privileged family whereas my were less well off. They were well known in their community and mix with other rich and prominent people in their community. My sisters-in-law is still single and lives at home. My father-in-law retired many years ago, and my mother-in-law is a very backward, narrow minded and traditional woman. She is impressed by superficial things namely money, be it hers or other people’s, she is easily regaled with stories of people with successful businesses. My young sister in law warned me that her mother was superficial, that she didn’t care much for the love between her son and me, and she would only be interested in what people think, about how I dress and behave.

I just fobbed this off as her being a little silly but now I am married into this family and lo and behold, it is true.

It has been a pretty bumpy 7 months. I genuinely don’t like my MIL.  She is old fashioned, narrow minded and VERY petty. She wants to tell me what to wear and when and how I should do things… there is an endless amount of unsolicited advice and criticism and snipping at every turn. I keep my mouth shut because if I don’t it would be pretty unpleasant. I have a temper but I have kept it well hidden from her, I use my husband as a sounding board and he usually understands.

So we live in a joint set up. My husband, my sister in law and mother in law and myself – we live in a big and beautiful house but it isn’t a warm and loving house. Never mind I am here now and I have to make the most of a bad situation. My husband has been troubled by the degree of distance and lack of cohesiveness between his mother and me and he has acknowledged that she is a difficult character and unfair etc (he even said before marriage that if it became unbearable living with her we would move out). It is definitely a different tune now.

She has complained to him about my room, my décor, my lighting, my blinds, my clothes, my jewellery, my personality, my behaviour, my existence essentially. She doesn’t like that I am not from their community and she doesn’t like all the clothes I chose to wear. He has complained about what people will think and that I just don’t look right to go into her society or community dressed as I do.

I should also add that we are older than the average couple; I am 36 about to be 37 and my husband is 38. He has decided that we will stop trying to have a child now as he wants things to improve between his mother and I before we start again. Until I dress and behave how she wants we won’t try for a baby. This has crushed my world and I feel more trapped and stuck than when I was in my previous marriage. I am starting to hate him, I don’t want to look at him and I have to share a bed with him every night. We no longer have long chats and giggle about nothing nor do we hug the night away like a couple in love. It feels destroyed, I feel destroyed and I don’t trust him and never will again.

He says if I do all the things he asks for to please his mother and if she still complains we will move out but this doesn’t make me happy because all I think about is that fact that he has used my greatest desire against me and he is preventing us from having a family. We have had some fertility tests and I am still fine but he has a low sperm count so we’re not even sure we’ll be able to conceive naturally.

What do I do… is it fair that our marriage be contingent on the mood and misgivings of my mother-in-law? Do I give up the dream of having a family of my own?

I desperately need advice as I feel like I will have a nervous breakdown or sink into depression.

Imagine as an Indian woman… 2nd divorce isn’t an option.

Please help, advise and guide.

Sincerely, most desperate

Related Posts:

An email: “I said I would look for second marriage with following conditions.”

When she says she no longer wishes to stay with him, why isn’t her word enough?
Are Happily Married Daughters a status symbol in India?
Feminism has gone to women’s head. Divorce has become like selling onions.
An email: My problem is quite common, but that does not make it any easier to handle.

An email from a Divorcee’s Daughter.

‘His family seems a bit traditional type.I googled “how to behave with in laws after marriage in India.’

An email from a Happily Married Indian Daughter in law…

My husband gives me the usual ‘you have not just married me, you have married my family..’ sermon

“I don’t want such education… I want no career… I want to be loved.”

“Is this really it? the only person I’ll ever find? A sweet guy who has no interests?”

“Her husband has told her she can leave if she wishes, she does not have a steady income of her own.”

Sharing an email. What do you think are her options? Does the husband seem to value their marriage? 

And this explains what Supreme Court meant by, “No impression should be given that she can be thrown out of her matrimonial home at any time,” a bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.”

Edited to add: This email is written by the wife’s friend.

I was just wondering if you would have any link that outlines the legal rights of a wife.  The wife has a young daughter is in a quandary – her mil has come to visit indefinitely, appears to be demented “as and when convenient”, husband refuses to send her back and has told wife she can leave if she wishes.

 

The wife does not have a steady income of her own, although she does get something off and on.  No joint accounts.  He hits her whenever he “gets irritated” and openly declares that he can hit her if she irritates him.

No qualms.  She is refusing to go to the police yet, as she is not financially sound and is not sure what her rights would be if she went in for a divorce.

 

She is worried about the future of her child.  Normally a very outspoken, strong woman, she seems to be totally broken and unable to think straight.  She does not have any familial support and she does not believe that the women’s cells would really help (going by what she reads on the net).

 

They have been married for almost 7 years now.  She says they were fine earlier on, it was only after the mother in law appeared on the scene that all this started.  Their’s is an inter-community marriage and the mil has appeared onto the scene only in recent times.

Related Posts:

A daughter in law’s legal rights in her in law’s house are the same as her husband’s rights. Whatever is his, is hers.

The interference of parents in the married life of their daughters…

When a newly married Indian woman gives up her career, what else does she give up?

How can the society ensure that marriage (and homemaking) does not result in women becoming financially dependent on their husbands?

An email from an anonymous Confused Wife.

“His parents had already found a girl from his community who they feel is ‘perfect’ for him.”

From the modern, Indian woman to Shravan Kumar.

“When wives become too possesive of her husbands and do not want the affection to be shared with their near and dear…”

Should couples’ assets be treated as joint property?

Can you be equal if you are not allowed to make equal contribution?

Paraya dhan and her limited rights.

My wife will inherit my family’s property, her brothers too will share their property with their respective wives.

Haryana panchayat cuts off married girls from parents’ property

An email: My principal fear is my wife is not going to be able to love my parents as much as I do.

“My wife often rakes up property issues, or rues the expenses on my father’s ill-health.”

But it’s not just financial dependence,

An email from an anonymous Indian Liberated Wife.

An email from a Mother in law.

Sharing an email. 

Hi,

I am V. I need your honest opinion on the following about my family:
A month ago my only son got married (arranged one) to a working girl. Till today he is transferring his salary to his father’s (my hubby) bank account excluding his monthly expenses. Whenever any need arises for money he use to communicate to his father nicely and there was no misunderstanding between them. All his shopping bills, credit card bill are paid by his father only. For better future my hubby has invested considerable amount in various investment schemes on our son’s name and its entire yearly premium being paid by his father. My son trusts his parents. We are very happy family and consider my son’s wife as our own daughter and we have told on her arrival at our home. We believe that she also considers us as her parents. Two days back my DIL received her first salary (INR 30K) after the marriage. She informed my son that we should open joint bank account so I can transfer the salary. She also set a condition that 15% of the amount of her salary will be invested in Recurring Deposit on her own parents name and 50% of the amount will be utilized by self also no amount will be given to IL unless they plan to purchase another separate house for them. Actually we own big 2BHK flat in prime location of the Mumbai city with all amenities and that too very near to her office. Also they are getting full privacy and already been given separate bedroom with attached toilet, TV, AC etc. etc. Now main thing is that my hubby is retiring after few months. He was getting huge salary and we were enjoying our life plentifully. There is no question of pension as he is working in private firm. My son is against the decision of his wife as mentioned above. We also feel hurt and disappointed on her decision. We will be facing big financial crisis post my hubby’s retirement. Kindly let me know how we can resolve the issue amicably without hurting our DIL and only son.

Related Posts:

If I made Baghban.

An email from an anonymous Indian Liberated Wife.

It’s amazing how it is believed that women are divorcing more easily today, when they seem to be doing everything possible to avoid divorce. I am sharing an email from Anonymous Liberated Wife.

Do you think anonymous Liberated Wife should walk out of this marriage?

We married for love. I had had a failed relationship and had promised myself that I will never let anyone treat me like that again, when I love next, I will be standing on my own two feet, not leaning on an arm that can slip away anytime.

He wasn’t romantic at all, hated being seen in public with me, but in private, he couldn’t live without me, and well, he was steady, and very reliable. He may not make me happy, but he will always be there for me and he truly cared for me. and he was a very good friend. He had seen the worst in me and still loved me.

His mother did not like the match. neither did my father. There was colossal parental pressure, but we persisted. The engagement day was spent crying because my dad was warning me off the alliance in some very strong terms. The wedding was months away. They were not easy months.

We realized that distance will kill this relationship, we needed to be together. So, I gave up my job and moved to his city, because we could not make anything happen in my city for his job.

The wedding itself was a disaster. it was not how he wanted it or how I wanted it. Everything was done the way his mother wanted the marriage of her “only child”. My parents could not bear the expenses, and they had to take a loan. I didn’t want that at all. my mother had to pawn her set to buy my wedding jewelry. I can’t forgive myself for that. To his credit, there was no dowry, and he has not allowed his parents to accept ANY gifts at all, in all these years, from my parents. The pressure has been from my parents, who want to give, and both of us have steadfastly refused. The wedding expenses was the only thing he could not put his foot down on.

The happiness in my marriage lasted less than a month, then we had our first fight. The alienation was complete by the first anniversary. The first two years were spent trying – you don’t have a sense of dress, you can’t keep home, you don’t cook well enough, you are not physically appealing at all… there was very little physical intimacy, once every few months, because I wasn’t good-looking enough. I could not call him during office hours because it disturbed his work. Nothing I cooked was right. If I spent 1000 rupees on myself, I heard about my extravagance for a few days at least. If his parents asked for a few lakhs, it was to be given, no questions asked.

I had an ectopic surgery. I remember going alone for the scan, though we expected the news of our child being miscarried. I did not want him around. I was ready to sign on my own indemnity papers and go into the OT. The hospital would have none of it. So he was called and he took some time deciding. What was his mode of decision-making? Calling up his mother in another city. Then she called up a doctor, and only after that doctor in the third city said that an emergency surgery is needed, did he agree to sign the papers for the surgery.

My friend stayed with him during my surgery. She vouches, to this day, to his grief and his ongoing repetition – I don’t care if we never have a child again, I just want her safe. But within two weeks, he was shouting at me for not getting up enough, for not helping with the housework, and for needing help to even get up from the bed. We went for a follow up appointment and the doctor had to tell him that after this big a surgery, I will need help getting up for at least a month.I was supposed to be in my room after he came home. If I went out, it disturbed his TV viewing and I was to be shouted at.

Alcohol had always been frequent, and now it became regular – every single night. I couldn’t take the silence and the grief of having lost my first baby any more. I took up a job in another city and left him. Then, he started missing me a lot and calling me home. I was having none of it.

We got together exactly once, and I conceived that time. I came home. I had always wanted to be a stay at home mother. In the 4th month of pregnancy, he told me that I will have to work, no matter what, because he will not feed me, even for a day. I separated our accounts that same week, and refused to let him see my accounts or investments thereafter.

His alcohol and anger issues were so big that I had to lock my room in the night to avoid getting physically hurt in the night. That was the only time he came close to hitting me, but he “pushed” me 5-6 times. I was pregnant and scared stiff of losing this child too… so I would come in and lock the door. [Updated: Liberated Wife emailed to say that was the only time when she feared violence.]

Since the child’s birth 5 years ago, he has slept in another room. We have had no physical intimacy at all. He refuses to give a reason. when I do press him, it is, “I don’t like your attitude any more. you have become too aggressive for my taste.” All of me aches for another child, but we cannot have another child, because he won’t do anything and will not go through IVF also. I also don’t want another child because I want to work and stay financially independent. All this, and the hormonal imbalance, leaves me with acute depression. I am on medication for anti depression and for hormonal imbalance, but he doesn’t know anything about this.

He talks to me, but I feel like he is only talking to a wall. He only wants someone to listen to his office problems and his health concerns. He doesn’t really care what happens to me. He complains that earlier, I wouldn’t talk to you and you had a problem, now I talk to you and you don’t talk to me at all.

And finally, why am I not separated already?

Because we are co-parents and because my child needs a father. I don’t have a husband, but the child has a father. And a reasonably decent one at that.

And the truth is, I really do feel a lot of affection for him… he is a very nice guy.

Here is what is good about the relationship:

1. Financially, he is very secure. He pays for all household expenses and the child’s upkeep. I pay for all my personal expenses, holidays that I take alone, or with my child, (he doesnt like holidays, we dont take any holidays together, and I cant remember our last holiday together that was not to his parents house), for my clothes and my own investments.

2. He has always given me complete independence. My work involves meeting with a lot of people at any time of day or night, and he has never given me the suspicion thingie.

3. He shares housekeeping and babysitting to some degree. For the first 2 years, he didn’t even acknowledge he had a child. Now, he shares the responsibility to some degree.

4. In some strange way, I get the sense of loving him, in spite of all this.

– Liberated Wife

What do you think? Do you think Liberated Wife is justified in thinking she has a problem?

Related Posts:
1. An email from a daughter whose mother endured everything because she did not want to ruin her daughters’ lives.
2. An email from an anonymous Confused Wife.

Tell me IHM/ your readers where do I stand in all this?

An email from, ‘I know it but I don’t know it‘. 
IHM,

I am regular reader of your blog and love the exchange of opinions and open discussions. I am writing you about a problem I am facing and want to know if there is anybody else in the world who can relate to this. Please help.

I married the man of my choice this April. His job involves a lot of travel and we have shifted base 8 times within 30 days of our marriage. Unfortunately, we are now at a place so different from our earlier cities/small towns that it is taking time to adapt, not to mention the hideous/extreme weather (perspiring at 7 a.m). This place doesn’t even have basic facilities like milk parlour etc. It is a notch better than a village. My Husband fell very sick and was almost hospitalized. With the help of my father, we shifted him back to my hometown for treatment (the doctor here wrongly diagnosed & infection increased). It took him 10 days to recover. Now he’s fit and fine.

Last week, we decided to visit his mother since she could not visit her sick son because she herself is 75yrs. The age gap between MIL and me is 50yrs. The night we landed at his place, she did not even look at me let alone speak to me. My instinct told me something was wrong but I left it at that. The next morning, all the pent up helplessness and anger in my MIL came out in waves and she uttered words I am unable to forget. I had gone home “alone within 15 days of my marriage” regd certain bank formalities and had to stay back for 3 days. This did not go down well with MIL and therefore she very easily blamed me for her son’s ill health. She told me that I had ran away from that place leaving her poor son at the mercy of street food and unboiled water. She told me I was causing disrespect to her late husband by not wearing bindi and bangles at home. Every human on earth would wonder “why my MIL had chosen such a DIL“, it seems. As if I had begged her to get her son married to me.

She lectured me about how husbands have to be taken care of like flowers and how she had sacrificed her life for her husband. She very conveniently forgot who had nursed her precious son back to good health. She is unable to understand why her son cleans used plates, brings water for me, makes tea and enjoys if I join him for a game of cricket with his guy friends. She has already concluded that I am punishing her darling son with “household work”.

Her darling son in all this drama is politely but firmly telling his mother that whatever she’s speaking is hurting him. He’s telling her that it is impossible to expect so much from a new family member without giving neither time nor breathing space. His mother thinks I have brainwashed her precious son to utter such words. It angers her when he speaks. She takes out that anger on me. I tried reasoning with her but she just doesn’t even make the effort of lending me a hearing ear! She either folds her hands and begs me to stop or continuously prays at the million God photos to be by her side! She calls me arrogant because I wanted an open discussion. Infact, I was willing to give this relationship a chance, if atleast that could create a path for conversation.

They are religious and I am an Atheist. I married knowing fully well my position and discussing this topic to death with my husband. Sometimes, I am unable to believe that such an MIL could bring up such a gentleman. My husband is their adopted son and only son. I understand her loneliness, her age, the way she was brought up, her past with her husband…everything. I am doing everything on my behalf to atleast have a decent conversation (including wearing bindi/bangles/salwar kameez– if this can atleast be a conversation starter). I was brought up very liberally and wearing shorts at home was no biggie! But the first time I went to her home, I made the “mistake” of wearing pyjamas and that has etched itself in her mind.

She is unable to go beyond my physical appearance. This is causing a lot of bitterness between us. I think one sided effort is a waste of time. Abusing me for who I am is in itself a mistake. Expecting me to listen to her tantrums and sit by my husband’s feet all day is torture! What amuses me is when her own son is asking her to stop and calm down, it seems to anger her!

I am dreading my future with her and their annual family get-togethers twice each year. Fortunately, we are staying apart and that will keep me sane. But I have a feeling that there is every chance of her insulting me and my appearance in public. Please keep in mind my MIL is 75 yrs of age, orthodox, has an adopted only son, is a widow and brainwashed to the core. She lives for people’s praises. She wants the whole world to know that she’s not at fault for anything. I have already warned my husband of my fears and he says he’ll stand by my side. But imagine, 25 elders & their power over 2 youngsters like us!

Before we left for our new home, we “fell to her feet for blessings” (this ritual is compulsory in their family. The elders even ask youngsters to fall to their feet if we forget!!!). As I got up and looked at her, she had eyes only for her son and palms only on his head. Hubby was oblivious to all this!

I am fed up of being blamed for things that run only in her head…things that have never happened. The final straw was her wishing aloud to her son that she wanted to commit suicide because she’s unable to cope with the “change”!!!!!!!!

( What change I am asking you?!?! It is me who is forced to change!)

The thought of her Wanting to commit suicide has her son distraught. He cried uncontrollably unable to understand what brought this on!

Tell me IHM/ your readers where do I stand in all this?

Thanks in advance

I know it but I don’t know it- Plz Help!

A daughter in law’s legal rights in her in law’s house are the same as her husband’s rights. Whatever is his, is hers.

Parts of this post are taken from and roughly translated from हू के क़ानूनी अधिकार from Nari blog (in Hindi). My comments in red. Rachna added some more points in her comment here.

A daughter in law’s legal rights in her in law’s house are (seen as) the same as her husband’s rights? Whatever is his is hers? So any talk of a daughter in law’s rights is creating unnecessary controversy perhaps?

Also, this ensures a woman’s financial status is affected by her marital status. What if she does not have a husband (does not marry, is in an in-living relationship, divorced, widowed or separated)?

But now that we are beginning to talk about equal rights for married daughters, then how is it wrong to talk about a daughter in law’s legal rights too? (Remember unless they are earning and self reliant, their financial security depends on these rights.)

If there is no Will, then who inherits a Hindu woman’s property?

All married women should read this post. They should be aware that they have no legal right on anything that belongs to their mothers in law.

Generally the in laws’ give jewelry to a bride (stree dhan). Some during god bharai, some with baraat, and then some more during the mooh dikhai.

Often most of this jewelry is taken back when the bride reaches her in law’s place, she is only allowed one odd piece which was bought with the amount that was given by her parents (pre-negotiated). This is done to showoff to the society. Sometimes the entire joint family’s jewelry is given to the bride and after the wedding it is all taken back.

In many families where there are more than one sons, whatever is given for mooh dikhai (a ceremony where the bride is introduced to her husband’s relatives and neighbors etc ) is taken back, it stays with the mother in law. And this same jewelry is given to every new daughter in law who joins the family (and then taken back).

According to this post (in Hindi) whatever the daughter in law is given as gifts (stree dhan), even if it is in safe keeping of the mother in law, legally belongs to the daughter in law. If the mother in law dies without leaving a will, the daughter in law has a legal right on it, not the son.

Please note that only a rare bride would have proof for the gifts (streedhan) received during these customs.

While now one talks about equal property rights for daughters, there is no talk about the daughters in law being given a share.

I feel, Daughters in laws are also daughters, just like Sons in laws are also sons – I wonder if either needs  rights in their in laws’ property?

But then,  do they both have responsibilities in proportion to their rights? (comment by s)

Brothers sometimes take offense when sisters are given their share because they feel their share was spent on their weddings (dowry and expenses), and they also receive when they get married (dowry and gifts). And brothers feuding over inherited property are very common.

So how does one end this bias?

Either one has no expenses on weddings, no accepting or giving. Or else the give and take should be legally, clearly defined.

Or all expenses should be shared by both ladke wale and ladki wale.

If parents were forced to give equal rights in inheritance to daughters, dowry would pinch more and might encourage them to let their daughters become self-reliant and perhaps even choose their own life partners. Dowry does not empower a daughter, while inheritance can.

When a woman dies her husband and children have equal rights on her property.

If the sons are married, their wives (the daughters in law) have no rights; all the rights are the sons.

But even if a daughter is married then she is still entitled; if she is dead, then her children have a right to the grand mother’s property. (This is often seen as wrong because we believe after all, the daughter has a husband and whatever is his or his parents’ is hers!)

The mothers in law can control this by making a will. What the last generation did does not matter.

Making a will is always a good idea but,

1. What about the daughter in law’s own inheritance? (from her parents)

Would it not be simpler if every child, male or female, married, unmarried, divorced, or widowed, inherited equally?

One of the reasons for not wanting a girl child in Haryana is that the brother who does not have male children loses his share of the agricultural property to brothers/cousins who have male children. If daughters have equal rights, they would be free to sell, farm, or hire someone to work for them, just like many sons who live in cities do.

The excuse that the daughters have to get married and relocate that is why they can’t be given a share , doesn’t make sense, since sons don’t lose their inheritance rights if they move to big cities/abroad. (Does this bias benefit women in live in relationships?)

(Not sure about the exact legalities here, please correct me if I am wrong. Accurate information, preferably with links, is welcome.)

2.  And if everybody were allowed to keep and use their ‘gifts’ as they felt appropriate, instead of handing them back (for safe keeping 🙄 ) to the one who gave the gift, there would be lesser chances of their gifts being recycled.) Maybe it should be made a crime to take back the gifts given to a bride?

3. I also feel the Will makes the daughter in law depend on the will maker’s considerations.

A son in law faces no such conditions, where does his financial security come from? Would it be better if the daughters in law’s financial security came from the same source?  Basically from self-reliance and from inheritance from their own parents. What do you think?