So you’re in a happy marriage. Everything is great with your husband as long as you or he don’t have to deal with his parents, right?
Every day friction, the feeling of being bossed around, of being trapped, or constantly being interfered with – does that sound like something you’re going through?
You don’t want to be the one to break up the family but sometimes it just feels impossible to live with them under the same roof – have I hit the nail on the head?
Marriage always come with the additional gift of a brand new family, be it in India or anywhere else in the world. As a girl you are always taught to grow up and “keep the family together”. But when you actually step into that new family, suddenly you’re expected to become “one of them” overnight, and that can be pretty overwhelming. Out of all the emails I get every day asking for advice, almost forty per cent are from ladies like you who are feeling stuck in this push-and-pull relationship of in laws. So, I decided to come up with a little something for all of you, based on professional and personal experience both, that can help you make this transition easier, especially if you’re about to get married. Here are my pointers that can foster better relations with your in laws:
Give it time
You will be expected to mingle in your new family as soon as your relationship is formalized with your husband; sometimes this starts right after engagement! The elders will call you with instruction to different rituals with an admonishing of “you better do it right”; for the youngsters of the family you will suddenly assume new identities like “Chachi”, “Bhabhi” etc. and a separate set of inherent duties and responsibilities that come with those designations; and of course, there’s the MIL (mother in law) about whom you had dreams that kept you awake at nights with dread! Despite all that is expected of you out of your family and theirs (yes, your parental family also starts pushing you in the other direction and follow that they want, doesn’t it?), you must give everything time to settle down. It may be expected of you, but it does not mean that you MUST adapt to whatever everyone is saying overnight. Taking your time will not make you a bad person. You may be misunderstood initially, but then, who isn’t? I know families where the DIL (daughter in law) has taken 5-6 years to be truly accepted in the family! It is definitely a better idea to take some time, ideally a year or two, to take it slow, understand all the family members and their dynamics, and slowly adapt yourself. Let them see the person you are, and that you can be lovable as you are!
It is highly possible that there is another DIL already in the family into which you’re going. And the worst part is, she seems to be tuned into everyone and loved by everyone. You so want to be her! But wait – stop and accept the fact that she has been there for some time before you. In a few years you will get there too. And who knows what she has gone through to get where she is? We tend to lose our identities when we acquire the tag of DIL and try to become like everyone else in the family. You can still be an important part of the family and be yourself. If you can feel confident in your own identity, you will be able to attain true happiness in your marital home. If she is loved for her qualities, who says you can’t be loved for yours?
Keep an open mind
It is a well-established and well-researched fact that when we have negative expectations, we view everything in a biased light. Unfortunately, “in laws” is a topic whose scary stories you grow up with and that is bound to colour your perception. So if your MIL’s peeping in to your room seems like interference, her insistence on having the whole family at all meals seems bossy, or their way of dealing with finances seems controlling, stop and think – am I viewing this in biased light? These may just be demonstrations of care, a wish to spend time with the whole family, or a past where they saw financial hardships and have come to be strict with money. A simple trick – next time your MIL peeps in to your room and you feel irritated, just think – “what if this was my mom right now? Would I be irritated or would I call her in for chit-chat?” and do what you WOULD HAVE done. Believe me, your MIL would get the surprise of her life!
Give some room to hubby
You know, in some ways, it is not easy for husbands either. Now they too are in a perpetual tug of war between wife and parents and trying to make everything work. It is my serious request that you consider the fact that for him, they are his parents and it is truly difficult for him to tell them that from now on he will listen to the person who has been in this house for a few months over them who have raised him. Just put yourself in his shoes and think if you were to tell your parents that all of a sudden whatever your husband says is perfect and they should not interfere, would you be able to do it? Moreover it creates a fertile ground for presenting a more misunderstood image of you towards your in laws. C’mon, you are an independent individual, fully capable in tackling your household issues on your own. Do it! Of course by this I don’t mean that you shouldn’t talk to hubby if something is bothering you. Simple trick – share, don’t complain. When you ‘complain’ it just goes across as ‘everyday drama’ but when you ‘share’, your point automatically goes across and he will surely understand you way better.
Speak up for what you believe in
Being a good DIL does not mean that you keep everything inside you even when things seem truly unfair, unlike what they would have you believe in TV shows where all the important conversations are unspoken dialogues! If it really feels like your MIL is being excessively harsh to you, speak up. It is important for your in laws to know that you have beliefs and preferences too. After all, you are a person on your own. When you speak up, make sure you convey your point precisely, firmly and clearly but not aggressively. When we say something aggressively to anyone, their defensive walls go up automatically and you instantly become the enemy, so there’s no need for that. Your point will make more impact when conveyed assertively, rather than aggressively. Simple trick – instead of saying “Why are you doing this? This isn’t right!” try “I’m sure there must be another way to try and achieve this, why don’t we try something different?”
I know you may have started reading to learn how to give it back to in laws, but I wish I could tell to just tell everyone to go to hell, and do your own thing. But you know as well as I do, that it will never do anyone any good. If there was a choice between detachment and harmony, wouldn’t you pick harmony too? If you can just follow these five tips and really give yourself a chance, you would find that a new world opens up to you. People are just people everywhere. In-laws have not come from another planet. So just think to yourself, have you not managed to foster good relations with your colleagues, your boss, your professors, your friends – some of whom were truly difficult people? Then why not in laws? They are just people in your life too and YOU CAN DO IT!
DISCLAIMER: If you are being harshly treated for dowry matters, there is no reason for you to lay low and take it. This author does not condone atrocities by in-laws for dowry and if you’re facing that, please contact the nearest women’s helpline.