Husband Puts Parents Before Me

24 October, 2017
Q salaam. My mom is a white convert. I am currently married and live in a family where there is loads of culture. I have been married for 2 years now. I had been married before when I was 18 for a year. My ex-husband was physical, verbally abusive. I told my husband of my past before we married. When I had my 1st child, I got very bad post-natal depression. On top of that, I got pregnant very quickly again. I was working full time, looking after a young child, and my in-laws and I did not see eye to eye. We live in a very small house: I, my 2 kids, and husband are all in the attic with my in-laws. As the youngest one, it is my husband who needs to look after them. My husband does not see how much I am struggling at home. He doesn’t care, his parents always come 1st. I had hardly any support from my husband. My in-laws just think it was my job to clean and cook as well as everything else. I want to move out, but husband will not leave without his parents. I wear English clothes, but I am always covered. I am trying to teach myself and my children about Islam, not culture and they don’t like that. I constantly think I need to leave in order to be happy and give my kids a better life. I’m always unhappy and always crying because I feel trapped. I have had loads of things that have happened to me as a child and because of that my space is very important. I was told before marriage they would want me to stay here, but I didn’t know what they were like. They seemed very nice and laid back before and now I just feel it’s too much for me. Please, I need advice. My dad wouldn’t accept another failed marriage.


In this counseling answer:

“When people say “failed marriage”, it comes with a dose of shame. A failed marriage doesn’t mean that you failed at all which is what a woman who has gone through a divorce or is considering divorce often feels.”

As-Salamu ‘ Aleikom,

Thank you for your question and reaching out for some support. I could feel your overwhelm coming through in your writing. I pray that Allah (swt) guides you to the support and healing you need.

Saying “failed marriage” creates shame.

I would like to start with your last sentence first which stated that you need advice because your father wouldn’t accept another failed marriage.

It’s natural to not like the idea of divorce because a parent wants their children to be happily married. However, a loving father would hate even more the idea of his daughter suffering, being treated with disrespect, being taken advantage of, and not feel loved by her husband or the family he entrusted her to.

And what about your mother? How would your mother feel knowing that you feel so unhappy with circumstances that could change but you are being prevented from doing so?

When people say “failed marriage”, it comes with a dose of shame. A failed marriage doesn’t mean that you failed at all which is what a woman who has gone through a divorce or is considering divorce often feels. In your first marriage, you were abused. I’m so relieved to hear that you were able to leave and start over again.

Now you’re in your second marriage, and you are constantly crying. What’s failing here isn’t you. The people who are supposed to love you and take care of you are failing to do so. You are hurt and, based on your submission, your hurt isn’t taken seriously.

Emotional Manipulation Regarding Parents

I have never met a single God-fearing woman who would refuse to take care of her elderly in-laws or severely ill in-laws who can no longer care for themselves. Even when hard, any good woman would offer to lend a hand and do whatever she can to honor the parents who raised the man she loves.

Unfortunately, it’s not elder parents who demand being looked after in many cultures. The demand to be cooked for and cleaned up after starts when the couple could very well continue to do so on their own with a huge burden falling onto the new daughter-in-law.

The son has likely been raised his whole life being told that his role is to take care of and serve his parents. Something that sounds like a good idea is then manipulated. It goes from a son doing whatever he can to caring for his parents to his wife doing everything demanded of her in his place with little regard to her own spiritual needs, physical needs, emotional needs, and psychological needs.

Growing up he may have traded in his own instincts to develop male leadership for approval from a mother who would shame him and emotionally blackmail him to get what she wanted. It’s not uncommon to hear of mothers crying excessively to other family members, claiming to have developed severe health problems, or they are threatening a son (or daughter) because they didn’t give her exactly what she wanted the way she wanted it.

If it didn’t happen when he was young, it wouldn’t be uncommon to have it happen when he is an adult. I’ve witnessed this working with many of my own coaching clients.

Examples of Statements about Parents from Islam

Islamic texts have been abused creating children who turn into adults who are terrified to do anything less than fully obeying their parents.

Anas narrated from the Apostle (saw) about the major sins. He (the Holy Prophet) observed: “Associating anyone with Allah, disobedience to parents, killing a person and false utterance.” (Muslim)

It is reported on the authority of ‘Abdullah that the Messenger of Allah observed: “The best of ‘the deeds or deed is the (observation of) prayer at its proper time and kindness to the parents.” (Muslim)

Islam is a Religion of Mercy and Good Manners

Our Deen has been defined by mercy and good character.

Abu Hurayra reported that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “I was sent to perfect good character.” (Adab al-Mufrad)

Abu Ad-Dardh narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Nothing is placed on the Scale that is heavier than good character.” (Tirmidhi)

Any conversation about how you should be treated should start with this foundation, and that is with kindness, mercy, and generosity.

It is common for a daughter-in-law to have some kind of clash with her mother-in-law from time to time. They disagree over how to teach the child something, what should go on the menu for a formal family party, how something should be made, or find something you say or do upsetting.

But a mother-in-law who has taqwa (God-consciousness) would work hard to forgive and focus on all of your good qualities and want what’s best for you, and the same vice versa from the daughter in law to her.

Deserving to Find Boundaries

You deserve to live in a home where you feel honored, taken care of, considered, and appreciated. Even if your in-laws didn’t prefer you, your husband should be creating an environment where you feel this way with him.

There is no culture that should go against this norm whether Muslim or not.

If you aren’t able to take care of yourself living with your in-laws, then your husband needs to learn how to care for them and you by creating the environment that will support you. That is your right. You deserve to create necessary boundaries. Before you put your foot down with a final ultimatum, there are two things I suggest you do.

Options to Work On Right Now

1) Give him the chance to take care of you. Let him know how much you are hurt and what would make it better. Let him know that you want to support him to be good to his parents but you have an obligation to take care of your own emotional and spiritual well-being. Tell him you can’t continue anymore the way things have been.

2) Teach others how to treat you. Create your own boundaries. Do what you can and stop when you can’t. Criticism may come, but when you continue to carry on, chin up, with kindness expressing that you are doing your best, it’s possible that they will adjust.

If you see no positive results at all, or your situation gets worse, then it’s time to tell your husband that couples counseling is a necessity before divorcing.

Take care of yourself.


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 Megan Wyatt
Megan Wyatt is the founder of Wives of Jannah where she offers training programs, live workshops, and relationship coaching for wives and couples. She is a certified Strategic Intervention coach with specialized certifications for working with women and marital relationships and has been coaching and mentoring Muslims globally since 2008. She shares her passion for Islamic personal development in her Passionate Imperfectionist community. She is a wife and homeschooling mother with four children residing in Southern California.