January 19, 2016

Ask Me Anything: Wife Hates Living With In-Laws. {Weekly Advice Column}

Flickr/Guian Bolisay

*Editor’s Note: Elephant Journal articles represent the personal opinion, view or experience of the authors, and can not reflect Elephant Journal as a whole. Disagree with an Op-Ed or opinion? We’re happy to share your experience here.


Dear Elephants,

Welcome to this week’s Ask Me Anything, where no question is out of bounds! To submit questions for next week, please email me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you! ~ Erica


Dear Erica,

I am the kind of person who absorbs the vibes in the environment. Now I am married to my boyfriend of four years.

We live in his parents’ house, even though this trend is quickly changing in India.

The problem is multi-layered.

My husband believes in being there for his parents under the same roof. While I’m all for being there for parental figures, I think that if your spouse feels uncomfortable and ill at ease with your family, you should not force them to live there.

I’m extremely uncomfortable with his mum. She is a Christian who is not open-minded toward all faiths.

She’s always treated me pretty shabbily. Once we got married, she turned in to this cloyingly sweet person who, instead of going step by step in our relationship, insisted on suddenly being best friends from day 1, forcing fruit down my throat, insisting I wear her jewellery etc.

Even though this sounds like she has taken to me, she has not. I know this because we had this disagreement about whether or not I get to practice my religion within the premise of the house.

During that discussion, she became highly passive aggressive and spoke very derogatorily to me, completely turning the conversation around and proceeding to bully me.

Why don’t I get up early in the morning and help out (even though she hates anyone else taking control of house and kitchen.) Why does her son enter the kitchen—the men in her house don’t do any work in the kitchen.

I come from a liberal family where the old school men are learning to help around the house. Basically she didn’t let me get a word in edgewise and controlled the whole discussion.

I’m still traumatized by this discussion. She expected me to forget about the whole incident and move on and be normal the next day. Not a single word of apology. And this is supposed to be an educated business woman.

These people are so ultra careful about their possessions and keep giving me instructions about how I should handle their utensils, furniture, microwave etc. I’m from a cozy house with few rules.

Whenever I want to have a discussion about any of these things, my husband asks me to postpone the discussion because his folks’ problems take priority.

The other complex layer you need to understand is that as a family they have a lot of issues with each other. My mother-in-law has many issues with my father-in-law. My husband says he doesn’t remember them sleeping in the same room even when he was a child. I should add that we tried to get her to talk to a family counsellor, but when we suggested it during that discussion, she became aggressive.

While we could leave, I don’t think it would be a good idea because my husband would essentially end up blaming me for estrangement from his family. I’m thinking along the lines of leaving this unhappy family for a while, so that they can be a family again and reinforce themselves while I can take a breather and think about what I want to do.

Please give me your views.

~ Disoriented

Dear Disoriented,

It is clear you are a highly sensitive person and that—though you are from the same culture as your in-laws—you hold very different values. This makes living with them a challenging, unpleasant exercise.

You don’t mention how long you have been with your husband, but presumably you knew what he and his parents were like and what they expected before you moved in with them. I only bring this up to clarify that you entered willingly into the situation and therefore must share ownership of it.

The main problem I see is that you and your husband are not working together to resolve this as a team. He is unwilling to discuss the problem and you—instead of drawing closer to him— believe that leaving, alone, might be the only answer.

This is not how married people successfully navigate their worlds.

If you are committed to your marriage, you need to sit down with your husband and have an honest talk. Instead of going to a family counselor, you should go to a marriage counselor. Once you and your husband get on the same page and have each others backs, everything else will be much easier to handle.

If your husband refuses to do this, however, your leaving the house either temporarily or permanently might be the best option. Life is too short to feel attacked and mistreated in your own home, by your own family. Before you take this drastic step, give your husband every chance to step up and be a partner you can count on.

This is a big adjustment for him as well, and given time and support, he may be able to handle it better than you think he will.


Dear Erica,

I come from a family where education is not valued. Neither of my parents finished high school and my two brothers dropped out when they were both 16.

Despite that, I have always had good grades and love gong to school.

Now it’s time for me to graduate and I’m not getting any support from anyone to move forward. I want to go to college so badly, but my family just expects me to start working more hours at the restaurant we own. Whenever I even bring the idea of going away to college up they lay a huge guilt trip on me and start screaming—their defense being that they didn’t need college to be successful so why should I.

My other problem is—I secretly think they might be right. Even though I want to continue on in school, I have no idea what I want to do, so isn’t that just wasting my time? If I knew I wanted to be a lawyer or something specifically, I think I would be more confident in my goals, but I don’t know. When my parents ask me why I want to go to college, I don’t even know how to answer them. Then they accuse me of being selfish and wanting to spend family money on something that’s just for me.

Am I being selfish? Am I being stupid? Should I just let my dream go and do what everyone wants me to do?

~ College dreams

Dear College,

It’s not always a bad thing to be selfish, and it’s never a bad thing to have dreams—even if they are somewhat ambiguous at the moment.

You are in a challenging situation. You are still dependent on your parents, and you and they have very different ideas about your future. But just because you’re not seeing eye to eye doesn’t mean you don’t have options.

The very first thing I would recommend is going to speak with your high school counselor. These people are trained specifically to help students like you. The conversation you have will be an ongoing one, in which you explore different schools, scholarships and financial aid. Plan on dropping by her office a lot—you want to develop a strong personal relationship with your counselor, as she will be your first line of defense and your best chance at getting this sorted out.

Because you know where your parents stand on this subject and that they are set in their opinion, I would stop speaking with them about it. Just take it off the table and work things out on your own. When you finally do make the move to go to school, expect that they will not be happy. Don’t let their unhappiness slow you down—this is your life. You only get one.

If, despite getting the help of your counselor, you still can’t manage to figure things, don’t despair. College doesn’t have to happen the second you graduate from high school. You can determine to work in your families restaurant for a year or two and put away as much money as possible. This will help you learn to budget and when the time comes, you’ll have the resources to move out on your own. You may have to go to community college for a couple of years while you keep working and pay rent on your own apartment—this will also be a good lesson in independence and resolve for you.

As far as not knowing what you want to do once you get to college, fear not! That is exactly what college is for—figuring out and exploring who you are and what speaks to you.

Most importantly: don’t give up. If you work hard and keep your goals in the forefront of your mind, you can make this dream come true.





Ask Me Anything: Abandoned Wife Struggles to Move On. {Weekly Advice Column}



Author: Erica Leibrandt

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: Flickr/Guian Bolisay 


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