Dear Nadine Khan,
I am a 25-year-old doctor. I fell in love with Y who was with me in med school. We both belong to educated and well-off families, and there wasn’t any opposition to our marriage. Y’s parents lived in another city, because of his father’s work, and they went back after the wedding, and we lived in the house of my parents-in-law alone. I thought I was the luckiest girl in the world for the first few months of my married life. My husband was all that a girl could pray for: loving, caring, considerate and friendly! Then my father-in-law retired and my parents-in-law came back, and problems started. After that, I haven’t had a single day of peace or happiness.
Y started behaving differently. In the beginning, I just thought he was awkward with me because of his parents, but it’s been five months since then and things have not improved. He hardly talks with me when his parents are in the living room. He used to love my cooking, but now eats as if someone has forced him to do it. My mother-in-law also interferes in everything. If I think of making one dish, she says she wants something else. Previously, I used to cook in the evening, as I go to work at 7:30 a.m. Now I have to cook before going to work, and after coming home because my in-laws want fresh meals. My work is hard and timings uncertain. If there are more patients than usual, I come home around 8 p.m. They still expect me to make fresh stuff for dinner! And then my mother-in-law criticises everything I cook. Y is no help at all; it is as if he is two persons in one body. When his parents are not there, he is his old self. In our room and when he drives me to work, we talk the way we used to, but in his parents’ presence he is cold and unsympathetic. When his mood is good, meaning when his parents are not around, I just talk about light stuff because I am so afraid that he would become angry with me. I am going bonkers! How can I deal with this situation? I am stressed and miserable all the time. Your advice in this regard will be really appreciated.
Dear Stressed Doctor,
You are an educated and sensible professional, so instead of stressing out, deal with the problem. You lived with only your husband initially, and there was nothing amiss with him. With you only, he can be himself but in the presence of his parents he acts differently because he knows they would disapprove of any show of affection towards you. It’s rather strange because you said his parents are educated, but education and enlightenment are two different things. Y is not strong enough to show his parents how much he loves you, so he acts that way. It’s, of course, unacceptable, but be a little patient and diplomatic till Y becomes comfortable with his parents watching him and you together.
The thing is that you and your mother-in-law have are not used to living with each other. After your wedding, you lived alone and was able to do things your way. Your mother-in-law also went to the other city and did not have time to adjust with your presence in her life. So you both need to accept each other and to adjust to living under the same roof. It is not easy when there are feelings of resentment against the other person, but with time, if you are both good persons, you will manage to co-exist.
Problems like cooking and other work need to be sorted out. Talk to your husband when away from his parents. Tell him you are having a difficult time, and you realise he cannot say anything to his mother, but things need to be sorted out. He probably wouldn’t be angry; he is just avoiding the issue as long as he can get away with it. He probably expects the problem to go away, without having an unpleasant discussion with you, but knows deep down his mother is wrong. Ask him to explain to his mother that you are a doctor and your work is tough, so you can cook once a day. Ask him to find out if engaging help for cooking is acceptable to his mother, or if she wants to cook the way she likes. Be calm and reasonable and I am sure you will come up with a solution. Best of luck!
I am a married woman, 30 years of age. I have three kids. After doing MA in English Literature, I got married to a very highly educated person. It was a totally arranged marriage, so I had no idea about the type of person my husband is. It was a shock for me to find out that he is against women working in any field, but I had always wanted to work. He told me flatly it was out of the question. He said he was earning well and did not need me to work at all. He also told me that my job is to look after the house and bring up our children. After a few days, I again asked him to re-consider and this did not go well. He became very angry and told me to forget it or go back to my parents’ house. He said he doesn’t want me to be away from home and neglect family life. This was before I had children. In these six years, I have tried many times to make him change his mind, but he has not relented. Now, after six years of my marriage, I find myself so depressed that I am having sleepless nights.
Nadine, why do men have such power over women’s decisions? I am educated, and want to use my education to become financially independent. I have no one to support me, as my parents also are of the view that I don’t need to work and so I should listen to my husband. My mother said I am an ungrateful person because God has given me everything but I am not satisfied. My mother thinks I have a big house and a rich husband and I should thank God and forget about my desire to work. She said my only job is to look after my children. I love my husband; he is very loving towards me and children. There is nothing that he denies except for this wish. I know I can manage everything if I work, as we have three very good servants. I don’t even have to cook. I don’t want to be difficult, but I still want to do something. Am I unreasonable and ungrateful? What should I do?
Confused and Depressed
Dear Confused and Depressed,
You are neither unreasonable nor ungrateful; you simply are married to a person who is set in his views and has not even seen fit to let you work on trial basis. Previously, women were only ‘allowed’ to work if their income was needed. However, things have changed and women work if they want to, and not only if they need to. You have three young children and your husband doesn’t want them neglected. But very soon all three of your children will go to school, and you will have more time at hand.
My dear, I understand your desire to work, and feel women should have the right to decide whether they want to work or stay at home – they should have a choice. It’s unfortunate all women do not get to decide what they want to. There are women who take a break from their careers till their children become school going of their own free will, but there is a majority of women who are compelled to work to augment family income.
Have you thought of doing something from home? Talk to your husband and see if he would have a problem if you, for instance, start giving tuitions to students at home, or maybe even open a tuition centre at home since you have a big house? There are a lot of things that can be done from home. You can think about your options and discuss with your husband how you can manage to do something from home. No harm in giving it a shot! Good luck!
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