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Mother-in-Law’s Rule: OK!

Questioner

N (33_female_Indonesia)

Reply Date

Mar 17, 2019

Question

I have a problem with my mother-in-law. I have tried my best to please her in every way. She is very controlling & tells me what to wear, where I can go, who I can meet or speak to, how to behave with my husband, how to bring up my daughter, where I can take her and what I can feed her etc. Over the few years I have been married, I have noticed that she suffers from OCD and is very insecure. She feels insecure if you even talk to her husband (my father-in-law), or her daughter, or anyone else without her being present or being told of the conversation.

She doesn't like me having friends and doesn't even like me having a good relationship with my own family. She can say very hurtful things like Allah will probably take away one of my babies because He knew I would struggle looking after them as I can't even look after my daughter I have (One of my twins was born stillborn). She has called me a bad mother, a bad person etc.Because of her nature, I try to ignore what she says and not really take any interest without being rude to her.

I always listen to her and never argue back, until now. I was talking to my sister-in-law on the phone (her daughter), and she was listening in to my conversation from the other handset. She totally misunderstood what I was talking about and started to abuse me. I was furious that she was listening in and tried to explain that she was wrong, but she wouldn't listen. I had to be rude and shout over her to make her listen to me. She hasn't spoken to me since and even though in my heart I know it wasn't wrong, I feel very bad for shouting at her. My husband and I don't live at home due to her nature.

She is a very difficult woman to live with. But although we live away, she expects me to visit her every day and play the good daughter by doing her housework and being there for her. I try my best, but I have my own home to look after too.Was I wrong for shouting at my mother-in-law? How much should she be influencing my everyday life? How can I handle her interfering, controlling nature without upsetting her? My husband is her only son, so I do not wish to stop talking to her completely as I do understand that she is our responsibility.

Counselor

Answer


Mother-in-law

 In this counseling answer:

Moving out and living alone and separate from her is a good way of setting your boundaries such that when you go back to her house you are more readily available to her needs.

•Try to do things in your own home and on your own time that give you joy.  Doing so will make you stronger so that she does not erode you.

• If she starts to yell at you and say foul things simply tell her that you ask Allah to forgive her as she has misunderstood you. The louder her voice gets, the softer yours should get.


As-salamu `Alaikum dear sister,

I am sorry to hear that you are having so many problems with your mother-in-law.  You seem to have a struggle in balancing out how to interact with her.

You don’t want to be mean; however, you have realized that when she is upset she tends to back off.  Because you are not interested in breaking communications with her completely as you are married to her only son and she is your responsibility.

You are confused about how to behave with her so that she will not interfere with your life.  You ask if it was wrong to yell at her and I suspect that you know that it is wrong to yell at our elders.  The difficulty with your situation is that you have to take care of yourself and be mindful of your own limits at all times because she will not do it for you.

She acts like she is entitled to your time, energy, and life matters.  Moving out and living alone and separate from her is a good way of setting your boundaries such that when you go back to her house you are more readily available to her needs.

There is a balanced way of interacting with her and not simply dealing with her.  She is a person who no matter how irritating she may be, is worthy of being genuine with and respect.  If you approach her with a negative attitude and a darkened heart towards her, then you will not grow from this experience of having her in your life and find a way of rising above it.

Instead, you will look for others to tell you that it was okay to shout at her because she doesn’t understand any other way.  According to our Islamic teachings, she is entitled to an apology with no excuses, except an admittance that shouting at her was wrong.

In the meantime try to do things in your own home and on your own time that give you joy.  Doing so will make you stronger so that she does not erode you.  If she starts to yell at you and say foul things simply tell her that you ask Allah to forgive her as she has misunderstood you. The louder her voice gets, the softer yours should get.

Our dear prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) could not have shared the message of Islam if it had not been for his soft and gentle ways.  The shaytan and misguided friends will always tell you that you have it so hard and that they don’t know how you do it and that you are being too nice to her; however, know that if you succumb to this kind of talk, you will only get weaker as you will feel sorry for yourself.  The balanced way is always the best one.

My sister, do not base your integrity on her behaviors.

I pray that Allah helps you in your time of need and guides you towards righteousness.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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