W e don’t know who wrote the law somewhere that many young couples shall not develop their own family culture right after their wedding, but must spend holidays with the in-laws for the first couple of years. And the visit is almost always not to the wife’s parents and extended family, but the husband’s. One of the biggest issues around holidays is generally about the daughter-in-law that has to spend the Christmas holidays with a mother-in-law she’s not yet seeing eye-to-eye with. In many instances this extends to the sisters-in-law. The salt to the wound is the husband who won’t stick up for her against the onslaught she often endures from his family relatives.
One lady tells us how painful it is when she has to think of yet another ill treatment she’s about to get this Christmas. She has to work like a horse, cleaning the house, doing laundry and cooking while her husband is out playing catch-up with old buddies. For the duration of the Christmas period, she has to take care of everything in the house and even clean after his grown sisters. She says she never enjoys the holiday, she endures it. Her pain would be better bearable if she knew her husband was openly in her corner. But no, he seems to water it all down to her not doing enough to understand his mother and sisters.
We get it. Sometimes wives do lack the tact in how they engage with the process. And that’s understandable, even justifiable. Sometimes, because of high emotions and feelings of loneliness in the process, she deals with the situation forgetting that blood is thicker than water.
When a wife lashes out at her husband’s family members and disrespects them, the husband usually retracts and foolishly leaves her on her own. He may even see her as creating problems that further exacerbate the situation. He will probably adopt a laissez faire attitude and find activities that’ll divert his attention to the situation since he’s caught in between anyway.
It’s an ill-advised and cowardly posture on his part indeed, but men generally hate drama. They don’t want to be put in a tug of war between mom and wife. Yes, he should always choose his wife over mom. But he still doesn’t want to hurt his mom. He would rather not be forced into a position where he has to hurt the feelings of the two women he loves more than anything in the world.
However, when you’re stuck in a conflict with your in-laws, it’s only natural to expect your husband to take your side and stand up for you, or at least stand up for how he really feels instead of just going along with whatever his family says. If you can’t get anywhere by asking for his support, you may have to set your own boundaries while maintaining respect for them.
Your relationship with your in-laws can run into trouble for any number of reasons, but most of them boil down to control, criticism and conflicting perspectives.
Y ou may also be frustrated because your husband just isn’t standing up for himself, or for you. From your husband’s perspective, though, you have to understand that he’s caught in an uncomfortable position he would probably do almost anything to get out of. If your husband is especially emotionally close to or dependent on his mother, it may feel almost impossible for him to confront her directly even when she is wrong. He may blame you for putting him in a tough position by insisting he do so. Try to avoid blaming him or his parents when you ask for his help with the situation. Instead, talk about your own needs and what he could do to make things work for you. You’d be well within your rights to tell your husband you expect him to speak up if an in-law does something you deem unacceptable. Let him know that the behaviour of your in-laws is coming between the two of you and that you need to be united as a couple. Some people just don’t have it in them to confront their parents directly, but your husband may be willing to set boundaries in other ways, such as by limiting the duration of the visits to reduce the stress on you.
Know when to hold your tongue, it’s a sign of maturity. Decide what you feel strongly about and what you can be flexible on. For the sake of family peace and for the duration of your stay over Christmas, you may have to let the little stuff go while you hold the line on what you deem important. You may also have to develop your own culture over the Christmas period, and visit both sides of the in-laws during the year.
Healthy couples unite and set clear boundaries with their in-laws. As a couple you should be able to have an open communication with each other about your feelings and how you believe things ought to be done without being manipulated about culture or religion. Respecting his mother as your own is one thing. Feeling safe when visiting his family is another.
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