Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Survival Guide for Daughters-in-Law

Edits at the bottom.

Disclaimer -- The following article is compiled from firsthand experience and hearsay (i.e. gossip and advice) and is intended to be only a guide. For once I am not laying down the law.


When I first got sucked into the world of mommy blogs, one of the reasons I bonded so strongly with all the mothers out there furiously typing away in secret snatches of time was that most of them had a complicated relationship with their parents-in-law too. It's no secret that I have plenty of issues with V's parents, and they with me. But over time, and aided by A Bhablet (and my own mother who gives me very sane advice), things have reached a fairly promising state. I don't think my mother-in-law and I are likely to hold hands and walk off into the sunset any time soon, but we may just manage to rub along during the hours before without actually feeling homicidal towards each other. So, going by what worked for me, and taking into account everything I've heard from my parents, friends, relatives and fellow bloggers, here is how to survive your induction into a new family:

1. Never forget that you are a daughter-in-law and not a daughter. You may be given the same love and spoiling as a daughter receives, but your duties and the interpretations of your actions will always be different. Which I think is a good thing. Daughters-in-law have much to do in imbibing traditions and passing them on to the next generation, teaching the kids how to treat their elders, looking after aging parents-in-law and giving them a security that only sons' wives can give.

2. When the criticism starts, put a brave face on it. Confide in any one person who can be trusted to let you pour your heart out and then do nothing about your woes, but do not tell the world (i.e. more than that one person). In my own case, my mother heard me out patiently and obviously, worried quite a bit about the situation. But to her credit the only two times I have heard her say something even comparatively derogatory was when she thought V's mother was more concerned about her ego than her son's happiness and when it was felt that V's parents didn't show enough interest in The Bhablet. Even then, when I told her about later progress, I think she was even happier than I at the change.

3. This sounds so retrogressive -- but put your heart and soul into learning the ways of your new family. I came from a family where everybody is constantly poking their nose(s) into each other's business(es) and I hated it, but I was also used to it. The unconcern V's extended family showed towards me was a bit of a shock. I was used to being invited over and warmly received all over the place as my parents' daughter. V's family always seemed happy to see me but they never invited me, they never asked to know much about my life. It has taken me a long time to realise that this doesn't mean they hate me. They are like this only. They are a vast family, and used to interacting regularly only with small units.

So yes, alongside learning to cook to please the menfolk also learn what not to say in front of which aunt, which families not to call over on the same day, remember their children's names and what they all do. Even if you don't do puja (like me) learn to help out at one, if puja is a big deal in your new family.

4. When the going gets rough, don't expect your husband to do anything about it. This was the hardest part for me. I could have dealt with criticism much easier if V had stood up for me. Actually, I believe there would have been less criticism if he had stood up for me in the first place, as I did for him in my family. (I told my family to back off, to wait and watch and then comment. Since I managed to browbeat them into actually doing this, they discovered that they quite like him far sooner than they would have otherwise.)

But V had his reasons for keeping quiet. Like almost all other men, he wanted to stay out of 'women's fights' and hoped that we would resolve the problem on our own.

I lost a lot of ground waiting for V to stand up for me. I lost my trust in him and a lot of faith in myself (Why would he speak up for me? Was I not worth it?)

In retrospect, that was just silly. I should have known that in such situations men are best off doing ostrich impersonations, since that is what my father usually does too.

5. Retain your individuality. This does not clash with point 3, actually. You are the person you are. You are bringing your personality, your talents, your prizes, your knowledge into this family and you are enriching them as much as they enrich you. This is so easy to forget, but if only we can remember this, dealing with difficult in-laws can be compared to dealing with difficult bosses -- testing but not the end of the world and certainly nothing calling for a divorce. Remember what you are worth, even if you have to write it out on a piece of paper and carry it about with you, and if you never lose sight of that, everybody else will also recognise it one day. My day hasn't come yet, but I'm hoping if I work hard enough at it, it will get here.

6. Put away all the bad memories and refuse to go through them. Sometimes forgiving and/or forgetting is just not an option. I don't think I will ever forget all the things V and his parents put me through. And while I remember, I don't think my forgiveness will be very thorough either. But I can refuse to brood on those times. They happened, yes, but other, nicer things are happening now. The better times only began once I started forcing myself to let go of the bitterness, little by little. V is the man he is, better and worse. So if last year I saw the bit I didn't want to accept, this year has given me my Joe back.

And my in-laws are old people. It is their prerogative not to change if they don't want to. On the other hand I gain at least as much as they do by reaching out, by letting go of the past. I gain a happy V, a spoilt Bhablet and some measure of acceptance in that family. So it's not about who wins and who loses. If your in-laws lose so do you. And you can only win if they win too. Think about that.

And before I end, here is a joke that became less than funny last year --

Overheard, one woman telling a crony about her son-in-law and daughter-in-law:
Oh, my daughter-in-law is so lazy, she actually asks my poor, hard-working son to get her tea in bed in the morning. But you know, my son-in-law is such a treasure, he gets my daughter tea in bed every single morning!

---------------------------

Edited to add the following:

Mona adds a point I had thought of but forgot to put down, and I'll make it number 7.

7. Avoid family fights like the plague. We are all opinionated (why else would we blog?) and we all want to step in when we think we can be of help. But it never fails to rebound on you. To quote Mona, "because you're still always an outsider, you can't get away with siding with one member or saying something about another. they can and WILL collectively gang up on you. its like instantly they forget why they were upset with their brother/sister/parent and remember that you just dared to criticize said family member."

Before you label it as yet another form of in-law prejudice, think about your own sister-in-law. Would you take kindly to her criticising your brother in front of you, even when you know she's right? You may keep quiet, but at some level you resent it.

Sur Notes also adds a point.

8. You have an incentive for all this giving in, all the insults you accept. At the end of the day, you discover strengths within yourself that you didn't know you had. And unless you are very unlucky, I'm told that these trials by fire do draw your in-laws closer to you in the end. Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi, don't you know?

9. Some in-laws are just so alien to our systems, it may be impossible to fall into their ways. The only way to deal with such a situation is to practise the old adage of live and let live. You don't like the way they do things? Ok, but keep quiet about it. They must have done something right to produce the man you married, right? It's their genes at work creating the man you love. Try to find him in them. This helped me when I was really down, thinking that V's parents couldn't care less about The Bhablet. V is really fond of babies, and he gets that from his mother. I needed to focus on that. Because long ago, way before things soured between us, his mother and I once spent a happy evening playing with a friend's baby.

They may try to push their lifestyle on to you and Katy showed me how to deal with that one... smile a lot, politely, say yes, a lot, and go right ahead and do what you want to do. After a while they get the message and leave you alone.

10. Argee also made a lot of sense when she pointed out that problems immediately acquire a new perspective when they involved in-laws. Keep that in mind and ask yourself if the issue would be so distressing to you if it had been your own family instead. If you couldn't reach a solution, would you not have let it go for your own family? Can't you do it for your husband's family as well? I know this is much harder than it sounds. I personally have so many issues with my own family, thinking along these lines doesn't initially make me feel any more conciliatory. But yeah, if I substitute parents for family, then I do know that at the end of the day I would give in to my parents sooner than keep fighting them. Because they have already accepted so much for me.

Now, having been pushing the whole compromise angle all this while, how exactly does one go about it? Personally, it took me a few months but I managed to figure out what I was willing to cave in to and what I would go down fighting for. I refused to change my name (V couldn't care less and I don't mind being called Sunayana Niyogy. It's just that I'm Sunayana Roy to me and want to always be.) I fought to wear the clothes I wanted to wear. I'm usually careful to suit my clothes to the places they go, so yeah, when we visit relatives, especially in-laws, I usually wear sarees. It helps of course that I'm very comfortable in them. But I want to be able to walk around in my spaghettis when I think they are appropriate. I wanted to have my separate bank account, to be able to meet my friends, male and female whenever I wanted. To be allowed to eat as much or as little as I like, to eat only what I want to. To go out whenever I need to. V gets all these things as a matter of course and I cannot imagine my life without them.

But I was willing to learn Bengali properly, to spend time learning to cook in their style, to do household work, even clean bathrooms. I have a fetish for clean bathrooms and the brother-in-law is disgusting in his bathroom habits, so I preferred to clean up each day than put up with the disgust. I was willing to be polite, even friendly to their friends, notwithstanding my actual opinion of some of these friends, and I was willing to take on family responsibilities. I tried to keep track of relatives and tried to remember stuff about each (no mean feat, I assure you). I was willing to not have too many late nights, and to not come home reeking of ganja/cigarette smoke or alcohol fumes. (This was pre-Bhablet, remember.)

In the end none of that mattered because V's mother somehow got around to thinking that V and I were moving into a place of our own (a 5 min walk away) only because I wanted to entice him away from his family. Not because there was a baby on the way and I couldn't stand the thought of having a baby in a room which didn't even have enough space to hold all our (V's and mine) combined clutter. Sometimes you cannot anticipate all the reasons why they will hate you.

But you can rise above it. I didn't and it took me many long, fraught months to start mending the relationship. It created unimaginable troubles between V and me. I use to scream out at him that he could just go please his mother and divorce me as she had wanted, because I truly felt unwanted and unloved. It's hard to be hated so strongly, and I don't believe V ever understood that. He understood that I was deeply unhappy but does he understand that whatever relationship is built now will be built over those foundations?

That's basically why I wrote this post. My mother gave me great advice and a shoulder to cry on when I needed it the most, but I could have done with other friends of my own generation telling me how they coped with it. In retrospect I accept that the only way to resolve the problem lies in bending and giving. Because once they understand that you are not challenging them, it becomes a little easier to bend and less is demanded.

Even then, things don't change overnight and I wouldn't want to give you the impression that such a volte face is likely. My mother-in-law fell violently ill with a bad stomach attack yesterday. My father-in-law was out of town and it fell to V's brother to hold the fort. V stayed the night over and the presence of her two beloved sons seems to have helped a little. I tried to stay in the background after a while because I realised, at times of crisis such as this, without being precisely an outsider I'm still not close enough for her to want me hovering around when she is ill. I'm ok with running for medicines, taking decisions, arranging food, but I'm no good at holding her while she is throwing up, sitting quietly beside her while she sleeps, coming up with ways to make her feel better. I tried my best but none of that came naturally and I don't think a sickbed is a great place to practice my PR skills, so I did my stuff from the sidelines. It helped that the glow that lit up her face when V held her hand faded when he left the room and there was only The Bhablet and me. I accept this state of things and I know even this is better than I would have imagined a year ago, when even entering their place was unthinkable. So yeah, baby steps are the best one can hope to get, but baby steps do lead to bigger, better things.

So I tell myself.

48 comments:

dipali said...

Words of wisdom from one so young!
Actually profoundly practical.
Collars up, Sue:)

RJ said...

Your post is so timely for me. I guess when I am feeling low (very often now a days since I am living with in laws), I'll look up to your post. Thankyou.

Gauri said...

This post of yours Sue, I guess, should be archived as a pearl of wisdom. Honestly !!

And that last paragraph says it all, does it not ?!!

Ron said...

Great post Sue. All the pointers you have outlined make so much sense.

the mad momma said...

:p hmmm... what's your inspiration for this post ma'am? *asks the intrepid young reporter*

Tithi said...

on days I feel bad about just these things, I shall surely go back to your words. thanks :-)

Mona said...

oh yeah. in addition to your daughters-in-law will never be daughters, i'd like to add this:
doens't matter how good you have it with the in-laws, never get pulled into a family fight. because you're still always an outsider, you can't get away with siding with one member or saying something about another.
they can and WILL collectively gang up on you. its like instantly they forget why they were upset with their brother/sister/parent and remember that you just dared to criticize said family member.
i don't need to elaborate anymore, yes?

SUR NOTES said...

broad grin in response to this post...been there- trying to do all thats in the post...some less, some more...but in the process have also discovered a tyrant/tigress lurking inside of me-and i like it!

Just Like That said...

A gem of a post!

Funny, but you're the third blogger I'm reading, in the last couple of weeks, who's saying not ALL bad things about the ILs.

One thing you said is SO true, Dils will be looked upon as dils, never daughters, especially when it comes to relationships with the siblings-in law.

Anamika said...

Ma, is that you?? :)

But seriously, I always hear this from my mother, especially #1. And I keep it in mind, all the time.

Poppins said...

Ouch what's this and all, all of you ganging up to show me for the BAD D.I.L that I am ? First Mad, now et tu?

Seriously, all great advice. I don't care if it sounds retrogressive or anything, it works every.single.time

aargee said...

great post. Till date I haven't had any problems with my in-laws.They are very good and really don't interfere much in our lives. What I feel is, if we can consider them like our own parents and keep them happy and compromise on certain issues, problems don't arise atall. Its fine if they are always at the receiving end of happiness. I feel no one is satisfied with anybody. We have conflicts with our own parents, hubbys everyone..but when it comes to in-laws we see it in a different perspective.;I don't know why.. anyway that was really a nice post and nice advice....

aargee said...

Btw since your blog accepts only google accounts, it doesn't take you to my actual blogging site..which is actually http://aargeesworld.wordpress.com

david mcmahon said...

Very interesting, Sue.

Then again, I got star treatment from my in-laws, so I was very lucky.

Cheers

David

Grafxgurl said...

its so hard for me, because ive suddenely been dumped into this dysfunctional family who now wants things.. and im torn between mercy and tough love.

Rohini said...

That is efreshingly mature of you. I am so far from being there, it's not even funny

Opaline said...

Ha, you remind me(and I have absolutely no idea why) of an aunt of mine who threw the most godawful fits at her own wedding reception because she had to wear a silk saree and be social. But she gets along peachy with her motherinlaw now. My ma had some trouble with my thakuma too. I guess everybody does?

Sue said...

Dipali -- Wisdom hard come by and not practised enough.

RJ -- Keep compromising because trust me, it does get better, even when you think it won't. But always ensure you can respect yourself, so never compromise (or be vindictive) enough to upset yourself. We're all DILs together, here. *Hugs*

Gauri -- Yes! I just couldn't find it funny, even though I know it is.

Ron -- Yes, unfortunately, under stress, sense is what is lost soonest and we all pay for it.

MM -- My dear young woman, one day you too shall have difficult in-laws and two children driving you up the wall. Then you will realise exactly where the inspiration comes from -- sleepless nights.

Tithi -- If it helps, I'm glad. I'm always there on the chat if you need to scream your heart out, you know that.

Mona -- Oh yes. Am editing this post, must remember to put your point in.

Sur Notes -- Exactly! That was the whole point. It's only when you come out on the other side that you realise how much you have got out of the whole experience!

JLT -- I'd love to bitch and I have all the reasons to. But they are becoming old hat and I have this thing about fairness.

Anamika -- Yes, it's me, so you better be paying attention here!

Poppin's Mom -- What, what'd I say? I just put out some pointers for the newbies at this game, is all. You're an old pro, no?

Argee -- It's cool that you allow them the right to always be compromised for. Some of us have to actually work to learn that. But yes, it's worth learning. I hope lots of people read your comment.

I do have your link, don't worry.

David -- You're the son-in-law... need I say more?

Grafx -- Actually, I did think of you after I'd posted. See edits.

Rohini -- No, for those of us stuck in the vicious cycle it is very far from being funny. This post was written in all seriousness, and for once I just couldn't find anything to laugh at in the subject.

Opaline -- Oh yes, that is given. I probably remind you of your aunt because I hated what they did to me at the reception too. Will tell that story when I get over the trauma one day.

Y said...

Tag! You're IT!

Middlest Brow said...

No way. I sympathize with you but there is no way I would give this advice to a young woman. The whole compromise mentality is what makes women feel unbearably guilty if the in-laws start playing up. And that leads to more DIL harassment and whatnot. And the men who say nothing about this are equally to blame.

No, what I would do is to really really talk to the husband to figure out why I'm getting ill-treated and what he can do about it. If he loves you, provided you are reasonable about it, he will listen. If not, to hell with him. And he SHOULD stand up to his parents. Its only mummy for crying out loud!

We would probably collectively agree that hte best thing for all of us is to move out of the city or country. And then maintain polite-but-distant relationships. So they'll be unhappy. Mummy will threaten suicide or shed great big crocodile tears. Let her. Daddy will badmouth you. Let him. They're just pulling rank and bullying you because they're older. Fuck em.

And then live your life happily ever after.

Yeah, thats what i would tell them young girls.

- MB

Sue said...

MB -- Talking to the husband didn't help. That's all I ever did, until we moved out and all contact with in-laws ceased. I did mention that, didn't I? Failing this, and when it's clear that whatever their failings, your husband still doesn't want to completely cut all family ties, it's up to us wives to rework a new relationship. Only if we do it can we decide what it's going to be like.

My strategy is basically sneaky if you like, but effective.

I'm saying we should take control. We should be the ones to decide to compromise, not have it forced down our throats. And yes, if compromise helps your children to have both sets of grandparents, and if it makes your husband happy, then I for one am willing to try it out.

Mystic Margarita said...

Sue, You definitely are wise beyond your years. Every word you've said is very relevant and practical. I have gone through many of these points myself - learnt through a lot of tears and self pity - wish you had written this sooner. Love ya...

david mcmahon said...

G'day Sue,

Enjoyed your reply to my comment! Just thought I'd let you know that as a proud Calcuttan, I'll be posting a couple of personal Mother Teresa recollections today to mark the tenth anniversary of her death.

Do have a look if you have time ...

Cheers

David

Terri said...

Wow, Sue, how old are you again?!! I guess putting up with crap gives one a maturity beyond one's years. If that's the case, I hope I never have to wisen up.

Anitha said...

((Hugs)) to you Sue. I can understand how much you have gone through. The hardest part as you say is the husbands not standing up for us even when they know their parents are on the wrong side. Mine just laughs and shrugs it off. It sometimes really makes me wonder if he has any love & respect for me. I cannot stand anybody talking ill about him, even very slightly. Hmm. I am bookmarking this.

Terri said...

Another thought: How can you still fight with V? It sounds like you've fully figured him out ;)

the mad momma said...

I sorta agree with poppins, grafxgurl,rohini, Middlebrow, terri... you get the drift? compromise is not all that easy and its not the best advice. i thikn getting into a relationship on the whole willing to bend backwards only works with some ppl. most others see a willing, young girl and immediately the vultures begin to hover overhead.

its a little bit of both, but highly dependent on the people and situation. wow.. that was vague!

and oh - yes - sure. i will wait till i am a mother of two

karmickids said...

Moral of the story in para one: A daughter in law is never the daughter, but then the mother in law is never the mother too....

Shyam said...

What a lovely, lovely post. What excellent advice. I can imagine exactly how things would be if I had a horrible mother-in-law. Luckily I dont. But I did have a very very VERY difficult maternal grandmother and she made life pretty miserable for the few years I lived with her (my parents were abroad).

Grafxgurl said...

sigh, its easier said than done though... i have a hard time with my in laws.. they dont say much.. but its the undertones that are so evil that i quake each time i have to go visit them.

unfortunately, NO ONE in the family says anything ... avoiding confrontation is what they love most.. but in that they avoid each other as well.. so its a merry go round non stop.

Queen of Dysfunction said...

Wow, this is great advice that should be printed up and handed to every bride in a sealed envelope to open after the wedding day.

I admit to struggling with #6 myself in particular. Sometimes the best thing we can do is let go of the ugliness in order to reap the rewards of the present.

Michal said...

great post. after all, loving your in-laws is one of the best gifts you can give your husband and children. not always as easy as we'd like, but well worth it.
(i wandered over from david mcmahon's blog.)i'll be bookmarking your blog for future visits.

Tharini said...

Sue this was AWESOME!!! Simply wonderful compilation. I can sense all the pain that has gone into learning and settling for each point that u have put here. You are a very practical and earth-ed person with a good sense of reality and hopefulness.

I could relate to each and every bit of this. I have far from the perfect r'ship with my own MIL, but we get by. Its easier when we are continents apart and interactions are restricted to ohonecalls and once a year visits. And I hope I will have your courage and sense to get thru the future where living with them will become a reality. But just great Sue!

You should bookmark this post on your sidebar, as a very special one. One that all your readers loved!

Sue said...

Mystic -- If it helps someone else out, even if only by showing them that others survive it, I'm happy I wrote it.

David -- I do check out your blog regularly. :) I'm just a lurker at heart, I'm afraid, but I keep your stats up.

Terri -- I hope you never have to wisen up either. If anyone hassles you, offer to bite them. That's actually simpler.

Anitha -- Thanks. I know what you are saying. They take it for granted that we will always stand up for them but never see the need to do it for us. How did such a relationship ever get established?

Terri again -- I may have figured him out but that doesn't mean I like/accept all that I see...

MM -- You keep compromising. You do it for the same reasons as I do. For people like us, married to the men we chose, there really is no other route. I know that however badly my parents treat V (which has not happened) I would still like it best if he could accept it and carry on regardless, and not expect me to move far away from them or cut contact.

Kiran -- As always, you bring it out best. Maybe I should just send you the idea and you tell me how best to bring it down into one line? Will save me much typing.

Shyam -- It's not the same thing exactly. Your own relatives can be pretty horrible, but at the end of the day you know your place in your own family, right? With the in-laws, somehow even that little security is denied you.

Grafx -- You really need to meet Katy then. She does it so well, too. Whatever they say, she agrees in a non-committal fashion, and then does what she wants. They bitch about it but since they cant force her to do stuff, they eventually give up on her. Most inspirational!

Dysfunction -- So much easier said than done, though. *Sigh*

Michal -- Welcome! I don't know about loving, but I'm certainly working on getting along. That'll do fine, if that's all that we manage.

Tharini -- Thank you, much. I wish I could move far away, so that day-to-day annoyances would be lessened, but then, The Bhablet would miss out on both sets of g'parents instead of only mine. Also, I think it reassures V at some level to be within walking distance should they need help. I can understand that.

EVERYBODY -- Thanks for your response, support and questions. It's a complicated relationship, but I think we mostly all want to make it work if there is any chance of that happening. More power to us all for recognising the need, at least.

karmickids said...

BTW, you are tagged. From Karmickids, not thirtysixandcounting...

david mcmahon said...

More power to you, Sue

D said...

I just happened to stumble on to your blog. And am so glad!!! Loved the post because I completely relate to it - every bit of it. And isn't it strange how many married women feel this way? I mean, how is it that so many people have such similar experiences?! I always wonder.

Sameera said...

thanks sue for sharing and caring :) enough to let others know!

good luck with everything.

Squiggles Mom said...

Sue - why don't men have the same issues with the in laws as the women?

Middlest Brow said...

squiggles:
1. Because parents of desi girls are so grateful that someone married their daughter that they look upon the SIL as the collective Knight in Shining Armour. On the other hand, parents of desi boys always think that their son sold out cheaply so the DIL has to go through the entire song and dance (sometimes titled Compromise, other times titled Slavery) to convince them otherwise.

2. Because SILs don't care to ingratiate themselves with wife's parents whereas DIL's care. Because we've been taught to as part of our "good women" role, along with the "don't drink, don't smoke, don't have premarital sex, don't study math" bit.

3. Because its still the default in Indian society for parents to be looked after by their son and so given the physical proximity, the DIL would be hopelessly impractical not to go out of her way to be nice to them. SILs don't have the same issue.

4. Because even if they do, i.e. he has to look after their wife's parents and the parents were nasty to him, men have the financial independence to walk out of a bad marriage and the societal sanction to marry again after a divorce. Double whammy.

5. Because desi men just won't tell their parents off (esp mothers) when parents are cruel to the wife whereas desi women will fight with their parents (esp mothers) for everything.

Go figure.

- MB

Sue said...

Y, Kiran -- Next post, I promise.

David -- :) That's what I say, yeah!

D -- Because people don't differ so much in these basic emotions. We are taught to let our daughters go but not our sons.

Sameera -- My pleasure. I only hope you'll never need any of this.

MB -- First, you have to understand that I am a well-educated, decently-connected girl from a fairly stable background. I don't need marriage for social/financial stability. To address your points:

1. Compromise and slavery are very different things. I don't think too many wives going through the more violent harassment (dowry torture etc.) read my blog anyway. This guide is to help you deal with the daily pinpricks, the continuous veiled insults.

2. Not true. I wasn't taught this, I just wanted a stable new family, because I have plenty of issues within the family I was born into, and hoped that I would find stability and acceptance in my new one. Naive, but that was me.

3. Again, not true any more. More and more daughters are looking after parents because DILs refuse to. I have a feeling my MIL had/has these fears. She's the gullible sort.

I would take up their responsibility as earnestly as I would expect V to take up my own parents, should they ever need it. That understanding at least we have, and we married with that.

4. So do women like me. I can afford single parenting, should I choose to go back to work, and who the hell cares what people say about me marrying again. (Although I must admit I can't see myself being suckered into marriage twice! :) )

5. True. In V's case especially, it would help if he realised that his mother is basically looking for reassurance that she has not been replaced by me/my mum. He rubbishes the idea and doesn't understand why she may feel that way.

Sqiggle's Mom -- Men do have the same issues, at least V does have some and could have had many more. It's just that I anticipated most of them and tried to ensure that everybody felt secure enough not to resent each other.

dipali said...

Interesting debate going on.
Middlest Brow, if I may: I definitely appreciate Sue's willingness to understand the psyche of all parties concerned. She is not speaking of the entire demographic of Indian women, but of a miniscule number who have entered into marriage out of their own choice and to a partner of their
own choice, and not out of economic necessity either (though many of her guidelines apply across the board). She also comes across as a person with a deep commitment to her marriage and family. As a mother of a son, it is clear to her that the mother-son bond can be very strong, and mothers often feel threatened by the daughter-in-law's arrival on the scene. Enriching her son's life by enabling her in-laws to interact often with their grandson is something also very positive. Tackling issues as they come, with solutions found with love as their basis rather than with one's ego as the basis seems to be a far more inclusive, win-win kind of situation. A mother-in-law also needs to learn to become a good one- it is as new a role for a first-time MIL as it is for a DIL.
More than anything else, physical and mental space, the learning of one's territorial limits, plus essential love and goodwill towards one's child (as distinct from possessiveness)are the determinants of these relationships. I see Sue making a valiant effort at having a more inclusive family, and yet keeping her integrity intact. More power to you, Sue.
My one addition would be that a new bride needs to be a non-critical observer for a while, as she becomes familiar with the routines and mores of her new home. A slow introduction of any changes she feels she must make would probably be more acceptable to her new family.

chandni said...

lot of food for thought for me....will write you a mail

lethe said...

am going to keep coming back - especially on those sleepless nights ! such wise words
from su of www.ifyourkneesarentgreen.wordpress.com

Sue said...

Dipali -- I responded to your comment in another post, I believe. (Feels like so long ago!)

Chandni -- :)

Lethe -- It's worked for me and I hope it does for you.

Saintly Sita said...

I have a question Sue: What should the husband's role be while the new DIL is making all these mental calisthenics.

I appreciate and understand the pragmatism and maturity of your post. However, it seems unfair to me that men in these situations are allowed to cop out by pleading helplessness.

It seems fair to me that the man play a more active role in fostering goodwill and harmony in the MIL-DIL relationship since he's the reason for the existence of the relationship.
I've never heard of a MIL-DIL relationship post divorce.

Since he's such a crucial element in the equation, shouldn't he play a more active role in fostering all-round peace?

Our customs and our attitudes enable men to escape responsibility under the guise of not understanding "MIL-DIL issues".

I'm sorry to say this, but it appears that your husband basically threw you under the bus and left you to negotiate and figure out difficult family equations yourself. You have gone through immense mental and emotional trauma and his being present by your side would have helped enormously.

You truly have a generous and loving heart that allowed you to love and respect him despite all that he put you through.

A woman like me would have cut all ties with the ILs in the face of so much disrespect and criticism.

I hope he appreciates the depth and degree of your love and committment to him. Most men seldom do, so I doubt that he does either.

I hope your ILs recognise you for the wise and loving person that you are but my heart wept for you when I read this.

Sue said...

Sita -- Speaking years after I wrote this post, I can tell you, the situation affected my husband quite as badly as it did me. It caused even more trouble in our marriage than I've mentioned here. However, I cannot regret what you call 'mental calisthenics' -- it is because I tried to keep my mind open to the possibilities that we three spent any time with my father-in-law in his last years. That alone would justify every sacrifice I made and every hot word I swallowed. It is also true that over the years my mother-in-law and I had our moments. I didn't make the effort for her; I did it primarily for my husband and my son and also in part for myself.

My husband did not abandon me. That is how it comes across because that is how I felt when I wrote this post. However, beyond a point I would much rather he stayed out of my relationships with his family. These have been created because I married him but they are fostered by me and the relative in question, not by him. In turn, he has his own equations with his in-laws and I stay out of that. We are all adults here and need to nurture our own relationships.

Cutting off ties is the easy part. I've done it myself. Before I can do that though I as an individual in my own right need to be sure I have done everything I honestly could to not reach such an extreme.

I thank you for your sympathy. Believe me, I appreciate it.

Seeta said...

Sue, Loved every single word of what you have written. I have another reason to add for why we cannot expect husband's to step in. Like it or not, the two women involved are the two most important to him in his life.. add to it the inability of males to resolve things from an emotional perspective... and there you are, you will realize that its more confusing for them to do anything at all. At the end of the day we have made the choice of marrying this person, we need to learn to make the best of it... esp. make the best of the family he comes from.