(Names changed to protect identities)
I grew up watching my aunt long for a complete life. My aunt Lata, a well educated and independent woman, was trapped by her parents’ interference, which made her lose her self confidence.
Her parents wanted to control her life even after they had given her away in marriage. Sounds strange, but it is true. We generally hear about parents-in-law’s interference ruining domestic peace, but here it was the constant nagging from her parents that was destroying her happy marriage. They wanted full control over her life and her bank balance, as they had brought her up and paid for her education.
Her husband and in-laws were gradually dragged into the bickering by her parents, creating friction in her marriage.
Related reading: How lethal is the Indian mother-in-law?
In the early months of her marriage, her parents would call her on flimsy pretexts and make all efforts to stop her from going back to her husband’s home. There were times when she was called to help her brother with his studies or her mother with some party arrangements, making her stay away from her husband for long periods of time. It slowly dawned on Aunt Lata that these were just lame excuses to cause a rift between her and her husband.
The comment from her father one day broke her down completely, “Why do you need to share your salary with your husband?”
“I am married to him, we are not two individuals but a family. We are both sharing our salaries with each other,” she whispered through her choked throat. She was shocked at her father’s statement.
“We didn’t get you married for him to take away your earnings,” her father continued.
Aunt Lata couldn’t comprehend the comment. Her father seemed a complete stranger to her that day.
“He is my husband and he is not taking away my earnings. I spend when I need to. It is our home and we need to run it,” she was frustrated at her father’s outrage.
Her mother was a silent spectator to this argument, enhancing Aunt Lata’s disgust.
When her father couldn’t influence her, he wrote a letter to her father-in-law, accusing him of making Lata work at home, ‘in spite of her being a highly educated working woman’.
This letter came as a shock to the family. Lata found it difficult to explain to her husband and in-laws that she had never complained to her parents and that she had no issues doing the household chores.
She requested her father-in-law to ignore the letter, as responding to the accusation would only encourage her father. When her father did not receive any response to his letter, he sent some more letters with baseless accusations, to provoke her father-in-law.
He then called Aunt Lata home. Little did Aunt Lata know what was in store for her at her father’s home that day.
“I think you should get a divorce,” her father’s words pierced through her heart.
“But why? I am very happy with him,” Aunt Lata replied curtly.
Her father found her response rude and began to shout at her, but Aunt Lata had taken a decision. It wasn’t easy, but she knew it was required to put an end to the mental turmoil she was going through.
Her parents’ interference had grown to such an extent that she had to completely cut off her relationship with them. This meant being estranged from her brothers. This added to her misery, as she longed for the love and support of her parents and siblings. Her brothers were being manipulated by her father, who kept them influenced and brainwashed, cutting every link that she had with her family.
Related reading: Living with criticism from the in-laws
Aunt Lata was fortunate to have uncles, both maternal and paternal, who supported her through her difficult times and gradually assumed the role of her parents. Her cousins stepped forward to fill the void that had been created by the lack of love from her siblings. But a corner of her heart carried a vacuum, until she came to terms with the reality of her life.
Parents offer so much love, care, support and comfort to their children, but in Aunt Lata’s case it was impossible for her parents to provide any solace to their daughter. Their possessiveness had taken an evil form which made them drift away from her.
There is a time when parents need to let go and accept that their children have a life of their own. They owe them their independence and space, which is important for their growth and happiness.