Q: I’ve been married for 11 years with 2 lovely children aged 9 and 5. It’s been close to 1.5 years since we relocated to India after staying in the US for a decade. My husband is a typical mama’s boy and my MIL is a control freak wanting to control everything. They stay in the same apartment complex, one floor above us. After coming to India my husband and I have been having bitter fights to the extent of him hitting me, and he stops talking and communicating for long periods. (The longest period has been 1 month.) Most of the time, my in-laws badmouth me and he doesn’t say anything to them.
So I have started answering them back and stopped taking any nonsense from them. This has further added fuel to our arguments. Earlier, we never ever had any fights. He does not communicate with me and I do not feel like discussing or sharing anything with him. Please guide me on how to handle this situation and maintain sanity in our relationship.
A: My heart goes out to you. No argument should ever be so big as to warrant hitting in any relationship. If he hits you, then no matter whose mistake it is, HE IS WRONG. As for the issues with your in-laws, unfortunately, this is more common an issue than anyone would like. I would tell you to take a stand for yourself and set boundaries, etc. but I know how difficult it is to implement it, especially with your two kids to think of. For them to be exposed to this toxic atmosphere just adds insult to injury. The only advice I’d like to give you right now is to take off and go somewhere where you can THINK in isolation for a few days – without any influence, even from your own parents. Think about what is the end-state you want. Think about possible alternatives if your efforts aren’t fruitful. Centre yourself. Facing all this for over a year must have brought you to the verge of burnout. You need to replenish your psychological resources.
After that go back home and sit everyone down. In clear, certain and precise terms lay out what you will and what you won’t tolerate. Physical violence is an absolute no-no and the law is with you on this. Every time there’s an issue that leads to arguments, stop yourself from getting goaded into escalation. Just keep repeating your point in one monotone, firmly. Breathe throughout. It’s easy for others to respond to an aggravated person with more aggravation; but it is not easy to continue to behave aggressively towards someone who’s still like a rock. Try this for a while. It may take time, but it will work. All the best!