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A personal account about a mother-in-law’s inability to cut the apron strings that tied her son to her, that created a rift between the author and her husband.
Recently someone requested me to share my experience regarding ‘Emotional Conflict of a Man Stuck Between his Mother and Wife’. I agreed almost instantly as I found the topic very relatable. I have experienced this during my brief marital life. Here goes my story.
My ex-husband is the elder one among the two brothers. He has an elder sister too.
My mother-in-law got married at an early age, when she was still in school. When even after five years of marriage, she couldn’t conceive, she got very anxious. I have heard that at that point of time, her mother-in-law threatened to get her son re-married. She made my mother-in-law furious and she retorted by telling her mother-in-law, who was a widow, to re-marry herself, if she was so keen about re-marriage. The old widowed lady got the shock of her life. Then after consulting various doctors in Kolkata, my mother-in-law conceived after five years of marriage and gave birth to a girl child, my sister-in-law, who cannot be called ‘beautiful’ by the standards of beauty set by Indian society.
Three years after her birth, my now-ex-husband was born. Contrary to his sister, his features are handsome. This, coupled with the fact that he was a boy, made both his mother and grand-mother very happy. My mother-in-law now regained her lost prestige in her matrimonial home.
By this time, both his parents shifted to Kolkata where my father-in-law worked as a school-teacher. Because of his fair complexion, his mother nick-named him ‘Gora-chandan‘, which was later abbreviated to ‘Chandan‘.
When Chandan was a child, he often insisted on sleeping in his mother’s bed. So when his brother was born seven years later, his mother ensured that this son didn’t develop too much of an attachment with her. After the initial years, his brother slept with his father and he, with his mother.
Ours was a typical arranged marriage. I knew very little about him or his family before marriage. On the day of our reception, my mother-in-law was telling every second guest how much her son loved her, and how he would never think about living separately with his wife. After my marriage, she told me repeatedly about her son’s devotion towards her.
A few months after our marriage, I felt the need to live separately with my husband due to various reasons. To this, she replied that her son had his mother and siblings, with whom he couldn’t part. Meanwhile, I got pregnant and came to live with my mother. My mother-in-law never liked the daughter-in-law of her household living at her father’s place for reasons beyond my comprehension. She called me, saying that her son was feeling very lonely in his wife’s absence. If this continued any further, she would have no other option other than getting her son re-married. I was sick and tired and simply told her to do as she pleased.
During my pregnancy, my husband used to come to my parents’ home on weekends to visit me. After a few weeks, I suppose on his mother’s instructions, his visits became infrequent. When my son was born, she visited us in the hospital and told me to return at the earliest possible, which I bluntly refused to do. Consequently, she created a ruckus in the hospital saying that this child was not her own grand-son and she’d not allow him to enter her home without without a DNA test. My relationship with my husband had also hit a rock-bottom.
Even after our divorce, my husband refused to return my wedding ornaments gifted by my parents. And guess who is the mastermind behind this sordid act. It’s none other than my mother-in-law.
Once upon a time, Chandan used to be a very loving, caring and honest person. That person no-longer exists. What exists now is a shadow of that person. A person suffering from depression. I have heard that he doesn’t return from his office every night. When he is at home, his room is always closed. He doesn’t talk to his family members or to his mother any more, other than asking for food when he is hungry. Yes, he still lives with his mother. And I came to know of all of these from his mother herself.
Late one Saturday night, when I was composing the e-mail on this topic, some fleeting thoughts occurred to me. What was the the biggest obstacle in between me and any marital happiness? For any woman, in fact – is it putting up with the frequent mood-swings of a partner, or catering to his needs? Or does the root of the problem lie deeper?
A deeper introspection revealed that the root-cause of all the suffering of a woman is the other woman in her man’s life: the much-dreaded mother-in-law, like she was in mine. She was the mastermind behind the unfolding of the real story. She forgot her own struggle, that ‘saas bhi kabhi bahu thi’.
Header image is a still from the movie 2 States
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