This is a reality many married women face in India. You could be living with your husband’s family or you could be living in a separate residence but when your husband chooses his family over you then it’s a constant battle that you have to keep fighting in your life. In Indian families, the son is expected to prioritize his parents and siblings even after he is married and has his own family. So most often what happens is the husband keeps fulfilling the financial and psychological needs of his family and the wife and his own children are often asked to compromise.
In many cases, it has also happened that a husband has relocated his entire family abroad because his parents wanted him to stay near them. As his wife, you could have been devastated by this decision but your husband chooses his family over you and tells you, looking after his family is his duty and you have to accept that since you are married to him. But instead of festering and fighting with him, you could think of taking some steps so that he could balance his own family and your aspirations as well.
While this can become a sore point in the relationship, it’s not something you may want to jeopardize your marriage over. Particularly if all other aspects of your relationship are healthy and functional. This brings us to the perennial dilemma of what to do when your husband is too attached to his family.
12 Things To Do When Your Husband Chooses His Family Over You
As his wife, you might have often heard that it is your job to make his life easier and not harder. If your husband is choosing his family over you repeatedly, then you have to remember he has been psychologically conditioned to do so since his childhood.
When children are socialized in India it is drilled into their head that your parents will always be your priority and even now when sons want to have a separate residence after marriage there is severe criticism not only from parents but also relatives and the neighbors who keep saying: there goes the son tied to the wife’s pallu.
As a wife, you have to realize when your husband chooses his family he is actually making a tightrope walk and succumbing to a lot of pressure. It is not that he loves his own family any less but he is unable to do the balancing act because of his mental conditioning.
So, when the signs your husband puts his family first are staring you in the face, don’t lose heart. Here are 12 things you could do to make the dynamics of your relationship with your husband vis-a-vis his family more streamlined:
1. Accept your husband’s strong relationship with his mom
They could be working or they could be homemakers but it is a fact that the Indian mothers’ life revolves around children. Unlike when in the UK or US where mothers often stop to have a drink after work before heading home, you would always see an Indian mom rushing home from work to help her child with homework or toss up delicacies for them. And as well all know, Indian mothers do not let go of their sons even after marriage.
Take the example of Meenu and Rajesh, who are both well in their 50s and have been married for more than two decades. They have a largely happy married life, except for one aspect – the sticky mother-in-law woes. Rajesh is a protective and caring son, and Meenu treats that affection as an affront to her place in her life.
To this day, all their conflicts around Meenu’s complaint, “My husband always supports his mother.” No matter how much she resents him for it, Rajesh continues to be the dutiful son. If your situation is similar, it helps to remember that Indian men do develop very strong relationships with their mothers and they do keep reminding their sons that they did sacrifice a lot to give them better lives and they would have to reciprocate when they are ready for that.
So if he has money to buy one Kanjeevaram saree, he will buy it for his mother. Instead of resenting this, feel happy that your husband feels for his mother and wants to give her the best. This is alright – as long as it is not a repeated thing. Small gestures of love do not imply that your husband chose his mom over you. Don’t taunt him for being a mama’s boy. A caring son could also mean a caring husband.
2. Chalk out travel plans
It could be that your in-laws and his siblings are always included in your family travel plans. This could get really annoying because this is one of the tell-tale signs your husband puts his family first. Besides having a family holiday does not mean having the elderly with you all the time. And for them, you have been giving that zip-lining and bungee jumping holidays a miss. But what to do if your mother-in-law tags along everywhere?
Tell your husband that if you are traveling twice a year let one be with his family and the other one be with his wife and kids. You can work on a budget accordingly and make a list of the activities you would want to do. Tell your husband to ask his parents to choose one destination and the second holiday destination will be your choice. You will not get to crib then that your husband chooses his family over you and he will be satisfied by doing his bit for his side of the family.
3. Work out a budget
If you see that most of your husband’s income is given away to his parents for the upkeep of their home and you are left struggling with the finances at the end of the month, then it becomes really frustrating. What to do when your husband is too attached to his family and considers it his responsibility to fulfill their needs and desires?
Sit with your husband and work out a budget as to how much should go to your husband’s family and how much should be kept for your own. Tell him while you will ensure that you are not overshooting the budget, he has to ensure his parents are doing the same. That way your husband does not get to choose his family over you.
Related Reading: How Destructive Are Indian In-Laws?
4. In case of emergencies
Has your husband been constantly visiting his cousin in the hospital after work because she is recovering from an accident? And you are struggling with your children’s studies and could do with some help from him in Maths. Or does he rush to help his little sister with every little crisis she may have, leaving you grappling with the feeling “my husband always chooses his sister over me”.
Make him sit down and explain to him that while it’s wonderful that he feels that his cousin needs him in the hospital and he visits her every day or that he’s there for his sister but he could also feel for his son and help him out with Maths. So it could be an alternative day arrangement. One day he visits the hospital, the other day Maths with a son.
Related Reading: Setting Boundaries With In-laws – 8 No Fail Tips
5. Cut down on relative visits
Does your home feel like a Dharamsala where relatives walk in without even calling and expect you to leave everything and make tea and snacks for them the moment they show their face? This is a reality in many homes in India and wives are expected to entertain relatives because the husband is choosing his family over his wife. Most of the time he is not realizing the pressures he is putting on his wife by having an entourage of relatives always at home.
Tell him to have the weekends for such visits. If you are living with the in-laws you cannot really restrict relative visits because the elderly people are usually free to entertain guests. Then make it very clear to your relatives without being rude that you have work to do when they are dropping in so if you remain confined to your room, they should not hold it against you. Create your own boundaries, your husband will start realizing what is possible and what is not possible.
6. Work on some ‘me’ time
If you are living with your in-laws, it might happen that your husband comes back home and heads straight to his parents’ room and comes out of there only after an hour or two? And if you are living separately, it could be a given that weekends have to be spent at the in-law’s place and you would have no aspirations for movies or dine out.
Perhaps, whatever free time he does get between work and other responsibilities, he spends it hanging out with his friends. You are not entirely wrong, if you’re convinced, “My husband puts his friends and family before me.” Tell your husband that you have no issues visiting your in-laws but if it could be made an alternative week affair then as a couple you could have some me-time.
Likewise, you can come to an agreement about what would be an acceptable frequency for his guys’ night outs. If he heads for his parent’s room after office, you tell him that’s just fine but he has to ensure after that when he is with you the door of your room is closed and you have your own space. There are no constant knocks on the door by his family to get their thoughts across.
7. You prioritize your family too
If your husband is choosing his family over you, you also choose your family over him. If a part of his income goes to his family, ensure a part of your income goes to your family too. Include your own parents in your family holidays and when he is buying sarees for his mom, buy the same ones for your mom too.
Spend as much time with your own parents or visit cousins as much as he does. But don’t do it with a sense of vengeance or to get back at him. Instead, consider it a way of filling up the time when your husband is unavailable to you by surrounding yourself with people you love. Who knows in the process he’d probably realize a few things and will be able to create the boundaries.
Related reading: Darling, I too have a family!
8. Take your own decisions
Sometimes the decision such as which college your son should study in or when your daughter should come back home become topics of family round table conferences. And your husband ends up giving more importance to that because that is what he has been used to seeing in his family.
What to do when your husband is too attached to his family and they get a say in all decisions big and small regarding your lives and that of your children? We suggest that you learn to pick your battles. If they think an American college is a waste of money but you have always aspired for one for your son, put your foot down. You have the right to make your own decisions. You know best.
Related Reading: 5 reasons why the Indian family is killing the Indian marriage
9. Understand husband chooses his family because he doesn’t know how not to
In Indian extended homes, husbands might want to help their wives in the kitchen but since their fathers never helped their mothers, they are unable to do it because they fear a backlash on the wife from the family. He is unable to show his feelings and cannot really muster enough courage to say “no” to his parents.
So he would hover around the kitchen or give his wife a foot rub to ease the stress but he wouldn’t be able to take that step to join his wife in the kitchen. But not choose her publicly. In that case, you have to understand his true feelings or maybe encourage him to break the patriarchal norms of the family.
10. Communicate your feelings
When you’re struggling to come to terms with the signs your husband puts his family first, know that healthy and honest communication is the key to solving any relationship issue. Yes, that includes your spouse’s attachment to his family. Your husband might not even know that you feel that he is choosing his family over you.
What he is doing comes naturally to him. He has always been prioritizing them in small ways and does not realize how much he is hurting you by giving you a second-citizen treatment. But if you have a discussion with him and tell him how you feel, then both of you could sit together and work a way out. That way there is no misunderstanding and festering. You can sort out your feelings by talking.
Related Reading: 5 ways to deal with your husband’s parents
11. Take circumstances into account
There could be a circumstance when your husband really needs to give his family his undivided attention and financial help. That could be an illness, the need to bail out from a debt or such similar situations. In that case, you will have to support him to stand by his family.
If you don’t, then you could be alienating him from you. Realize he is their child first and he lived with them much longer than he lived with you. Plus, we are sure, you wouldn’t really appreciate a man who is not there with his parents when they genuinely and really need him.
12. Avoid resentment
Your husband could be a mama’s boy or he could be having a strong bond with his mother but that does not mean you will resent it and keep on cribbing that your husband chooses his family over you. “My husband always supports his mother” – the more you let this thought fester in your mind, the harder it will be to accept their bond.
There can be situations, sometimes unavoidable circumstances, that make a man choose his family, but he will surely expect your support. Do not build resentment over this. Resentment would create negativity in your relationship. Try to take positive steps through communication and creating boundaries and not keep resenting the fact that he is choosing his family over you.
Should Your Spouse Be Your First Priority?
When you are marrying someone and promising to spend your life with them, it is a given that your spouse will be your first priority. And then post marriage, you wonder why your husband chooses his family, again and again, hurting you in the process.
Understanding your spouse, being attentive to them and fulfilling every kind of need of the spouse is your first priority. That is the reason you got married. But definitely, it is also a given that you would support each other in looking after your respective families. But you cannot always choose your family over your spouse. That is not done.
So, what to do when your husband is too attached to his family? What can you do to break this deadlock? One simple piece of advice that can go a long way in resolving the deadlock is to become a part of his family, in true earnest. When you stop looking at the relationship dynamics from an ‘us versus them’ prism, half your woes will dissipate.