The Indian husband...torn between the mother and the wife

Is there a way for a couple to keep their relationship above everything that happens with either sets of in-laws, asks Prerna Shah? We are looking for those relationship lessons at Bonobology.

Prerna Shah | Posted on 08 Jun 2016
Bonobology | The Indian Husband | Torn Between Mother & Wife

One evening, not many moons ago, my friend texted me late in the night. She wrote, “The third person in my marriage is my mother-in-law.” I laughed then, but I knew that my friend was going through a difficult patch in her relationship with her husband.

We met that weekend and this is what she had to say: “My mother-in-law doesn’t like me. Period. And she shows it. She is here to visit us for six months and during these months, my husband and I, fight all the time. She makes unpleasant remarks, finds fault with everything I do, and has clearly told me, that if it were she who had zeroed in on a bride for her son, I wouldn’t have stood a chance. When my husband comes home from work, I am so upset and frustrated and when I tell him what has happened, he clams up. Every night, we go to bed sulking.”

Strangely, this conversation reminded me of the one I had with an ex colleague. Newly married, he had come to visit me and my mother. And I remember him saying, “I don’t know how to balance the act of being a good son and a good husband. I try, but it’s difficult. I end up hurting either my wife or my mother. My mother has become all the more possessive of me after I got married, and if I try to say anything on my wife’s behalf, it only makes things worse. I am torn between my mother and my wife.”

I now know, that it isn’t easy for both – the husband and the wife, even though it may appear that it is the women who are at the receiving end more often than not when it comes to jibes from their in-laws. Eventually, it becomes a very delicate task and something that often takes years for the couple to work out - a sort of an unspoken agreement. An agreement in which they work hard to not let their relationship be affected or embittered by what happens between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, or the mother-in-law and son-in-law. There is no single approach or a solution and each couple has a different formula. For instance, one couple that I know of, has managed to maintain the peace and love in their relationship in spite of the rocky and often turbulent phases with the husband’s side of the family.

The husband says to his wife when he thinks she was unfairly targeted: “Sorry. I apologise on their behalf. I can’t force anyone to change, but please let it go.” When he thinks his mother deserves the apology, it goes to her on his wife’s behalf.

Obviously things aren’t that simple for everyone.

That is why, we want to hear your stories. We want to know how you as a couple manage to come to a place of understanding when it comes to resolving issues regarding each other’s families. What are the mistakes that you have made and what have you learnt from them? From men, we want to know, what are the pressures they feel when it comes to doing a balancing act between the two women in their life? What is “acceptable” to them, what are the “non-negotiables” and how important is it for them to have a working, pleasant relationship between their wife and their mother? And if there is no peace on that front, how does it affect their relationship with their spouse?

We have had two very interesting stories from our contributors on this thread. Preeti Talwar writes about sustaining and working on her marriage in spite of some very unpleasant incidents from her in-laws’ side. Read her story here...

Mira Pawar gives us a first person account of how her husband made her feel secure and happy in spite of his mother’s disapproval of their marriage. Read her story here...

We would love to get your perspectives on this one. Share the relationship mantras that keep your relationship above anything that happens between families on either side, in our comment section!


Prerna Shah

Prerna Shah is a former journalist and now works with Bonobology as an editor. She holds degrees in English Literature, Mass Communication and Journalism and also in Creative and Life Writing. She loves the written word, and would read just about anything, even labels on shampoo bottles!

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