Marriage brings with itself a tornado of changes. And, they are not always easy. One of the most important changes that marriage brings with itself, especially, in Indian culture is living with in-laws. Moving to another house, leaving your parents and family back, adjusting at a new place, accommodating your old life with the new responsibilities – all these can make a woman restless and stressed out. Post-marriage fatigue is real and is experienced and reported by multiple women.
Whilst discussing this subject, it would be foolish to not talk about the effects of the pandemic on families living together and staying at home for more than six months now. Some families report that they have been cherishing this time together whereas report straining relationships where people are finding it hard to cope with living together. Especially, for women who have in-laws who are senior citizens and in failing health – their cup of responsibilities is overflowing.
If you are somebody who is trying to find answers to the question of how to deal with Indian in-laws living with you, keep reading!
Living with in-laws
No matter how difficult it gets to live with in-laws, and no matter how much of negativity you experience – it is important to stay respectful in all situations. By being respectful, we don’t mean that you have to become submissive, rather try standing your ground, taking a stand for yourself but respectfully. Using harsh language, or a body language that communicates disrespect will hurt your in-laws and would make your relationship more bitter.
Have meaningful conversations:
Many times women are confused and agitated over the question of how to deal with mother in law living with them. Well, the answer lies in holding meaningful conversations. Generally speaking, a typical mother-in-law wants the wife of her son to be a replica of herself. She wants that the wife of her son caters to all needs, demands, and wishes of the son and the family by herself even without being asked to do so.
However, every woman can’t handle everything at once. We are all unique individuals and have different emotional bandwidths and mental capacity to deal with our responsibilities. Sometimes, these points of disagreement can be handled through meaningful conversations that are gentle, kind, and comprehensive.
From the very beginning of living with in-laws, you need to set and maintain boundaries for all little and big actions at home. Setting a boundary with your partner may sound like, “It would be helpful if you do not discuss our personal conversations and problems with the in-laws.”
Another example of setting a boundary with your mother-in-law may sound like, “I will be happy to complete all the kitchen work while I handle my work from home only if somebody else helps me out in the kitchen too.” As time passes, it will be important for you to reinforce and maintain these boundaries. Otherwise, you will crumble under pressure.
Set realistic expectations:
Sometimes, women because of their desire to seek validation from all members of the family put up this mask of “perfection” at the beginning of their married life. This perception of the perfect daughter-in-law sets unrealistic expectations for you by the other family members.
And, in the longer run, you will find it difficult to adhere to those expectations. Hence, it is advisable to not exaggerate behaviors or to not overdo anything that might distort the perception of the real you in front of your new family members. Stay authentic to your self, and don’t do anything to seek validation.
Share chores and responsibilities:
One cannot emphasize enough on the importance of sharing the chores of the household. One human cannot handle everything. All the chores must be equally divided among all the members of the family, and not just the women of the house.
Sharing is indeed caring. When we share responsibilities and chores, we birth the feelings of a sense of belongingness, a sense of being together, you vs. me complex gets replaced with us and we.
Tips for a healthy relationship with in-laws:
Sometimes living with in-laws results in adjustment problems as we fail to build a positive, healthy, and nurturing relationship with our in-laws. The tips listed below will help you in making a healthy relationship with your in-laws.
Look at things from their perspective:
It is helpful to look at issues from the perspective of your in-laws to better understand their problems with you. Looking at things from a different perspective will give you the opportunity of assessing the situation from a different angle, allowing you to think differently. Thereafter, you can communicate and reach a middle ground with your in-laws.
Using I statements:
Multiple times while having a conversation, we start blaming other people for our sadness. Sometimes, this may occur unconsciously. Firstly, it is wrong to blame anyone for whatever problems arise in any situation. You must never indulge in the blame game, rather stay assertive and use I statements while communicating. For instance, you may say, “I don’t like it when you treat me like that.” Another example can be, “I feel hurt by your behavior towards me.”
Stay kind and forgiving:
Forgiveness is one of the most cherished capacities that all humans possess. No mistake is truly unforgivable. Always try to be a bigger person in the situation and stay kind towards all family members. Your kind and forgiving behavior would most likely be mirrored by your other family members.
Finally, remember that behind every bad behavior there is a large structure that is benefitted through those bad actions and negative behavior. For example, the perception of the “bad” behavior of your mother-in-law is benefitting patriarchy.
It is important to note that your mother-in-law has been equally affected by patriarchy and there may be situations that seem toxic because she does not any better. There it is your job to educate her and show her that another progressive way of dealing with things exists.
No family is perfect, but we can learn to stay peacefully if we try genuinely.