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Feeling Like a Slave at My In-Laws’ Home

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Aug 17, 2018

Question

Salam, I am writing to you because I feel I have no other way out and would like to seek some advice. A month ago, my husband gave me divorce three times out of anger in front of my family. We just had a very big argument, I shouted at him for a lot of things: he treats me bad, makes me feel undervalued, and humiliates me a lot. There had also been a fight between him and my brother-in-law the previous night due to my sister sticking up for and out of anger, calling him an idiot and in return some words that he had used against her. I got married three years ago at the age of 21. I was very young and naive. I didn’t think of all the cultural expectations that marriage would bring, and I was desperate to get married as I thought I had met the guy of my dreams. The marriage was accepted by both sides and we got married.

After I moved in with his family, I started experiencing problems with the in-laws. I was always shy and quiet and had problems in socializing and being around large crowds. It seemed like I had landed myself in the greatest fear I had within me. His family were very loud, and a lot of extended family were always around. I was made to perform some cultural rituals where I had to cut fish in front of his whole family. I felt scared and humiliated as I did not know how to cook previously. I just felt like they were all watching me, It was weird. Days went by and I was getting worse. I would not come down and when I did, I would be quiet. My husband got annoyed and angry at me. I made effort here and there; I felt like his mum was getting aggressive with her words because she felt I wasn’t good enough for him. I wasn’t doing what she had wanted from a daughter in law. I tried really hard to overcome my fears. My sister in law helped me by talking to me and offering help when I needed it. It was still never enough for his mother. I felt like all she wanted was a stay in door slave.

She would always make indirect comments and use the most abusive language while talking to others about me. This created a lot of problems between me and my husband. Sometimes he would defend me, other times we would argue and physically fight. Three years has now gone past. In the middle of our marriage, there was a confrontation between me and my mother in law. She told me I went and slept around with other men and the moment she said that my anger fueled. I told her to go and die. After that I apologized, but his dad came in my room and hit me. I went through a lot, but I stayed for my husband. My husband has defended me a lot against his family, but he hasn’t done for me the most important thing: moving out to our own house.

This is not my home. I feel like I am a slave. Now, after saying divorce to me, I've been staying at my mum's home for over a month. He said he didn't know what to do and needed more time to decide, but I've a feeling he would come up with so many conditions and if I don't agree to them, he won't take me back. We have a two year old son. If he doesn't care for me, why does he not put our son first?! I'm stuck. I don't know what to do.

Counselor

Answer


Feeling Like a Slave at My In-Laws' Home

In this counseling answer:

Give your (ex)husband the time that he says he needs to think things through. You need to also reflect on what’s happened and work on your relationship with Allah (swt). At this point, don’t place any unnecessary pressure on him. Use this as an opportunity to improve your relationship with Allah (swt). This will also help to make you content with whatever happens in the future as you become happy and content with the Will of Allah (swt). When he is ready to talk, it is advisable to do so in the presence of your local imam.


As-Salamu ‘Alaikum sister,

It is understandable why you feel so confused right now when you have been treated so badly by your in-laws and your husband has declared a divorce seemingly out of frustration or anger. But you also have a child together and your concern is that even if he doesn’t care about you, he should at least care about your child.

To reassure you about what went on previously, try thinking about it this way: you say you felt humiliated because you were made to do things that you didn’t know how to do like cutting fish, but maybe they just wanted to help you to develop the skills to be able to cook for yourself. If they just sat back and did it all for you and didn’t ask you to do it, then how would you learn? You probably felt like you were being humiliated because you didn’t know how to do it, but it might be that you just felt very self-conscious as we all do when people observe us doing something that we don’t know how to do. It is then common to feel like people are mocking us when they are not simply because we are not confident in what we are doing as it’s something new.

As for his mother’s attitude, again try looking at it from a different perspective. Perhaps, she didn’t intentionally mean to be aggressive, and since you were not entirely familiar with her mannerisms, you just took it this way, perhaps compared to those of your own mother. On the hand, if she actually was being intentionally aggressive, try and look at the situation from her perspective: you were in her house and had married her son and, therefore, he was giving you the time that he once gave her. This can be difficult for parents to give up, especially when everyone is all still living under the same roof.

Being in the same house together all the time will often lead to difficulties due to not having time away from each other to appreciate the best things about the other. Also, try to empathize with the situation of your husband who probably felt torn between the respect he has for his parents as they raised him and as we are told to in Islam, but also he has his responsibilities towards you to protect you and respect your rights, too. This must have been an incredibly difficult situation for him to be in, so try and see it from his perspective as well. Try and imagine how you would feel if you were in his position. It might make it easier to understand why he behaved the way he did.

Whilst this doesn’t solve the situation you are in now, it can help to soften your heart about everything that happened in the lead up to the divorce and make it easier to move forward with a calm approach and place you in more of a position to make rational decisions about the future. Along with cooling your attitudes as to what has happened in the past, you must also ensure that this does not prevent you from praying to Allah (swt) to help you through this situation. You now have space away from the case, so it will make it easier to reflect on what has happened and find time to pray more, make sincere du’aa’ to Allah (swt), and find solace in reading the Qur’an. This will also bring you comfort in your situation and confidence that Allah (swt) will guide you to move forward in the way that is most pleasing to Him (swt).

For now, give your (ex)husband the time that he says he needs to think things through. You need to also reflect on what’s happened and work on your relationship with Allah (swt). At this point, don’t place any unnecessary pressure on him. Use this as an opportunity to improve your relationship with Allah (swt). This will also help to make you content with whatever happens in the future as you become happy and content with the Will of Allah (swt).

When he is ready to talk, it is advisable to do so in the presence of your local imam. If you decide to get back together and there are any conditions to be placed on the marriage that you are unhappy with, then you have a third party present to discuss compromises in such.

May Allah (swt) bring you peace and comfort in remembrance of Him (swt), and may He (swt) make the outcome of whatever happens in your relationship that which is best for you both and your child.

Salam,

***

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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About Hannah Morris

Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)

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