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Mother in law problems are common in Indian families as expectations clash and power play ensures. A reader shares her anger.
Every Thursday, the Women’s Web expert panel with the support of Healtheminds, answers questions from readers facing relationships issues, emotional and mental challenges and other such issues.
Last summer, my in-laws were visiting us in the United States and stayed over for 3 months. My mother-in-law is very dominating but I sort of got along. They generally visit once in 2 years and stay for a month, but last year was different as I wanted them to help us with our 3.5 year old daughter so I could handle my long commute back and forth to work. (I have one daughter who goes to school and continued doing so from 8am to 6pm while my in-laws were over.)
The only request I had was to pick my daughter at 6pm before the school closed as my husband’s working hours are late and I had a project 45 miles away, so it was tough to get out at 4.30pm. My father-in-law helped out in picking up my daughter everyday from school, which is a 7 min walk from our house.
However my MIL would throw a fit if my husband helped me in the kitchen; she seemed to be here to spend time in the mall rather than at home with us or with her grand child; everyday from 4 pm to 8 pm she was at the mall and on weekends she would ask us to take her to malls too.
My husband’s cousin is here and they don’t have kids and his wife is staying at home; my MIL would spend time at her house or with her shopping in the mall. She would nag me for everything I did, take money from my husband and shop or ask him to buy things because she’s asking her son and I should have no say in that.
I expected that once in a month my husband and I could go out for a dinner as my in-laws can watch over our daughter but that never happened. I was amazed by my MIL’s greedy and selfish nature. My husband understands some of her traditional thinking and unfair treatment towards me but I just am very stressed.
My MIL is very modern in her dressing sense – wears western, drinks only in the US socially (not in India), but her thought process is very traditional. She will make excuses like she cannot understand her English accent, for not playing with her grandchild so that my husband and I can have some time alone.
My husband and I fought like crazy – probably every weekend since the time they were here till about 4 months after they left as our relationship was really put through so much stress. My husbands understand at times when I was angry and blew up at my MIL…it was just too much!
Things with my husband are good…He helps me in every possible way and was always like this except when his mom comes.
I am still suffering this mental stress of not letting go of what she did and how she treats me. Everyday I have this anger for her that I don’t want as I want to focus my energy on productive things in life. She is not here but in India and we (mostly my husband and daughter) do Skype with her every weekend. On Skype she understands my daughters accent and in person she refused to! This rekindles my anger at her selfish behaviour every weekend. My MIL will speak to my daughter as if she’s dying to see her and when she’s here she had nothing to do with her. Unfortunately my husband cannot see through all this.
My friends who have met her say the same that she is very selfish and dominating. MIL doesn’t get along with her other daughter-in-law, same kind of concerns, but we don’t speak about it, as I don’t know how much to trust to share information.
Do you recommend that I see someone to talk through my anger and stress on this?
Good that you shared these thoughts with us. You know, there is almost the same kind of story in every Indian household with some differences here and there.
I understand the trauma you are in especially when she is no longer there with you, but her unfairness still lingers and troubles you in the form of memories.
Yes, you are right in your concern that you need to talk to a counselor regarding your anger and stress. Somehow, it all has to come out time and again, during such sessions be it face to face or on line consultations.
Do not feel guilty for harbouring such feelings against your mother in law. This is only natural. Your husband faces the typical ‘Indian boy’ dilemma – caught between the whining/complaining mother on one side and the hurt, seething, angry (but unable to show her anger all the time) wife. And caught thus in this worst scenario, if you start telling him repeatedly (even when you may be absolutely correct), he will vent his anger on you.
Dear, you need to realize that you are giving too much power to your mother in law, unconsciously or unintentionally. Please stop and reflect. There is no point in showing your frustrations and anger to your husband even when she is there and more so, especially when she is not there. Why do you want to spoil the relationship between you and your husband? Please do not ask your husband to take sides. He will never be able to do it. And if at all he has to choose between you and his mother, his mother will always win.
To put it in a tongue in cheek fashion – Why are you letting your mother-in-law win?
If you really want to retain happy relations with your husband, stop expecting your husband to solve the problem. He or any other “boy” son in his shoes will never be able to handle it and as a result, your own relationship will wilt under undue pressure – created by your own thoughts.
At the same time, your angry thoughts that are waiting to erupt like a volcano, needs an outlet to vent the said/unsaid anger. Here, a counsellor will certainly be able to help you eject the venom of traumatic memories / anger from your very insides and you will feel immense relief. Do not expect magic in one session alone, but you will definitely feel the difference after one session.
To reiterate, handle your relations and emotions smartly and you will emerge the winner. For this, the sessions with your counsellor will help you to gain emotional regulation and the art of distress tolerance.
Also, the art of forgiving is also essential in this case – not because the other person is right; but for our own happiness, mental health and well being.
– Amita Puri, Psychologist, Healtheminds
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I am able to relate to this as I too have faced issues and still harbor an unreasonable amount of anger. The only thing that I have felt to help is to engage in something else which brings in cheer and positiveness. It is not easy to forgive and def not easy to let go too. Have just let the time to perform the healing. The problem is we cannot totally cut off such relationships and we are forced to meet and interact time and time. When such interactions happen, the anger and bitterness tends to erupt at the slightest provocation.
And I agree to the comments of Bhawana. The husband should step in, primarily because the girl come into the family only by marrying him. It must be his responsibility to ensure her emotional well being. Instead of hiding behind the “typical indian good obedient son” tag, I expect my husband to step in and handle the issues in objective manner. Need not be biased to anyone, can handle the issues instead of just letting the scenario get worse.
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