In this counseling answer:
“Use the space you both have to talk without interference and external influence. Reassure your husband that you want to have a good relationship with them, but you cannot pretend to be someone you are not. After all, he loves you for who you are. Will he be happy if you stop being yourself?”
Thank you for your question and sharing details with me to help me have a better picture of your relationship with your husband as well as your family of origin and your in-laws.
It sounds like your husband loves you a lot. He has shown this not just by his treatment of you when in the United States, but also standing up for you in front of his mother. He let her know that you both make joint decisions on important matters. This sounds like a pretty big step for him to have taken for you and for himself. It’s not likely his mother appreciated being corrected but he did it anyway.
This’s a positive sign that there are common sense and flexibility in your husband. You should have a lot of hope that he is going to help you both figure out a win-win situation for your marriage as well as dealing with his parents.
While it doesn’t seem like a positive for you right now, it is important to see that he also seeks to show respect to his parents. He understands that his father does things a certain way and isn’t trying to change him. He is struggling to keep his parents happy and his wife, but he hasn’t given up on either side. He knows his father and may have accepted that he can’t change him, but this doesn’t mean that you have to remain silent all the time.
I would encourage you to support your husband in listening to his father and mother in matters that aren’t going to have a direct or negative impact on you. Let him show them that he respects them and appreciates their experience in life whenever possible.
At the same time, while it may be a challenge, it’s going to be important for you to remain open and honest with your husband about how you feel, starting from now.
While sharing your fears, it’s also a chance to ask important questions.
Are there any limits to what your in-laws can interfere with?
How will he make sure your feelings and needs and rights are ignored entirely?
Has he ever stood his ground with his father before?
Use the space you both have to talk without interference and external influence. Reassure your husband that you want to have a good relationship with them, but you cannot pretend to be someone you are not. After all, he loves you for who you are. Will he be happy if you stop being yourself?
You may find it possible to ask him if he feels like he has to pretend to be someone he’s not around his parents too. It might not just be you who has fears of returning. I’m going out on a limb, of course, in suggesting this, but it wouldn’t be uncommon to find out that your husband has had to sacrifice a lot in order to please his father.
Sometimes, people can’t imagine living their life any different than the way it’s presented to them because they fear they’ll cause too much pain or be seen as an ungrateful or a disappointment to their parents.
The pressure to obey is heavy in families like his. Considering this helps to keep compassion in your heart. Try seeing him through the lens of a son trying to be good to his parents without upsetting his wife. If you can keep compassion alive, your conversations will be easier, insha’Allah.
The People in Your Life Aren’t an Accident
I found it very insightful to read about how you used to maintain few friendships growing up because you wanted to avoid being around people who could judge you. I can also appreciate how much comfort and love you found from your family and now your husband.
Everyone deserves a safe family to feel loved and free to be at ease with themselves. You have been blessed with this, masha’Allah. But now, there are people in your life who you cannot escape, who have very strong opinions about how things should be done. They are in your life for a reason. They aren’t an accident. What if they are here to help you grow? To help you discover that your worth can’t be measured by someone else or taken away because of judgment.
“And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me.” (51:56)
One of the most empowering things I can ever teach anyone, starting with my own self, is that we were created to worship Allah. This means to know Him, spend our lives seeking His pleasure and to be a believer whom He loves.
Allah made you and you belong to Him. No matter how much anyone else judges you, it is your Lord who you’ll return to. It’s Him you should have hope in and Him you should also fear.
So, perhaps these people are here so you can learn to find your voice and, when necessary, use it. All of us have to find the balance between speaking up, speaking out, or staying quiet. It’s not always wise to pick a fight, and it’s not always wise to let one go.
Relationships are one of our greatest challenges and tests, and so Allah has placed them in your life as part of your test. And being tested doesn’t mean just “accepting things” and being patient. We are patient with what we cannot change, but when there is work to be done, we have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and work.
It sounds like you and your husband will be challenged, but it’s a decision from each of you as to whether his parents will overwhelm the beautiful relationship you’ve both created or not.
Look for the Good
While his parents may not treat you like yours, it’s important to look for their good intentions and good actions. They aren’t perfect and may challenge you in many ways. But still, keep looking for what’s good. I obviously don’t know your husband’s parents at all, but you do and you’ll know if this exercise of looking for good is deserving for them.
There are some people I’ve worked with who have abusive in-laws. In this case, I advise the wife to do what’s within her power to set a firm boundary between herself and her in-laws so that she isn’t harmed any further. In your case, it doesn’t sound like this is the case – just really strong cultural ideas about the role of women in the family.
Make du’aa’ to Allah to guide you to what is best. Keep an open dialogue with your husband and pray for his parents too. Ask Allah to soften their hearts in a manner that allows them to support you both to have the kind of marriage you both thrive in.
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.