In this counseling answer:
• Your husband should be the spokesperson for your relationship and your decision-making.
• You could also work to improve the overall situation by being assertive.
Salamu ‘Alaikum Sister,
Thank you for sending us your question. I am sorry to hear about your situation at home with your mother-in-law. I ask Allah (swt) to help both of you overcome whatever differences and fears you hold towards each other and grant you both a more healthy and positive relationship.
Sister, it appears that you feel your mother-in-law has been passive and aggressive with you and that in many cases she has made you feel that you had to compromise many things. I am sorry to hear that. I hope that things eventually get better soon. However, in order for any change to happen, one must be open, honest and willing to assert him/her to what they believe is the right way to go, which may require some uncomfortable situations.
The first question that comes to my mind is whether your husband knows about your feelings towards your mother-in-law. Does he know that you feel resentment that you had to compromise many of your dreams due to your mother-in-law? Does he know that you feel your mother-in-law treats your sister-in-law more favorably than you? If he does know, then what has he done about it?
Usually, we tell the husband or wife to be the spokesperson for their respected families if there is an issue that arises with the in-laws, especially during the start of the marriage. What I mean is that as a married couple, the both of you should make your own decisions and that privacy should be honored by both spouses. If the extended family (from your husband’s side) want to get involved in your decision-making, then your husband (not you) would respectfully communicate your decisions as a couple. The same response would be put on you if your family wanted to interfere with the decision-making.
For example, you mention that you do not want to visit your parents that much because you feel that your mother-in-law doesn’t like you doing so. Even though you should be respectful and considerate to your mother-in-law, she should not dictate your life in such a manner.
Again, keep the decision-making issues between you and your husband. If you want to visit your parents, study a certain subject, work in a certain workplace, then let those conversations be between you and your husband only. Do not involve anyone else. If anyone else from your in-laws has an issue, then let your husband be the one who speaks with them, not you. This way, both of you will establish your own culture and your own independence as a married couple, which is absolutely vital for the health of a relationship.
Please do not get me wrong, however. By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t respect and revere your in-laws? That is not at all what I intended. However, what I mean is that all married couples should have their own privacy and their own separate experiences and decisions apart from their extended families.
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Of course, this first step is going to be difficult and somewhat uncomfortable for both yourself and your husband. That is because it requires a change to happen. Please do not let this discomfort get to either one of you. As long as you show respect and kindness to your respected families, then you are not doing anything Islamically or morally wrong. With time, the extended family will learn to respect your boundaries as a couple, and hopefully, the general atmosphere at home will be a more positive one. But remember, the key word here is “respect.”
In addition to your husband being the spokesperson for your relationship and your decision-making, you could also work to improve the overall situation by being assertive. I can tell that you hold resentment towards your mother-in-law because you changed your actions due to her desires. You do not have to do that next time.
Be open and honest with her. Do what you and your husband agreed on and then explain to her respectfully and kindly that you both came up with this decision because you both believe it is the best for you. Continue to tell her that you wish she would understand and that you do not mean to upset her. Of course, she will be upset in the start, but life must go on and with time, she will understand that the both of you are good people, and you both do not mean any harm towards anyone. Again, this is going to be a difficult first step that might take some time to achieve, but it is worth it in the end.
I ask Allah (swt) to help you and your husband create a peaceful, positive, and successful family.
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.