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In-Laws Choking Our Marriage with Their Culture

20 September, 2022
Q Assalamu alaikum, my mother in law and father in law have been constantly involved in our life and making it very difficult for my husband and I. They follow a different culture from mine even though are houses are close by. They don't like it when my husband visits my parents saying it’s not their culture to stay at wife's house (even when we were going through so much pain!) and forbade it even when my father was critically ill and spent months in the icu.

They have been constantly lecturing us for 1-2hrs a day even though we have been living according to their likes. Both of us have reached our breaking point since we have been hearing the same thing for years now. I don’t know what to do. We have tried to please them in all means but they always complain and are never patient. They didn’t allow my husband to stay with me when I had a miscarriage.

As far as I know I understand that Allah has asked us to take care of our parents and not just the husbands’ parents or sons’ parents, Allah has asked us to keep good relationships with all family members and they want us to keep relationships only with their side. Please help me regarding what I should do😣😣


Salam alaikom dear sister,

Thank you for writing to us.

You say that your in-laws are constantly involved in your marriage. They do not want your husband to spend time with your parents, and they “constantly lecture you”. According to your letter, they justify their point with cultural norms, saying that this is the way things should be according to them.

As you say, Islam places a high value on our parents and their treatment and support. This is something essential and not restricted to the parents of one of the spouses.

 “And We have commanded people to ˹honour˺ their parents. Their mothers bore them through hardship upon hardship, and their weaning takes two years. So be grateful to Me and your parents.” Quran 31:14

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You did not mention which culture they are from. But as Muslims, we place Islam and obedience to Allah first before any cultural custom. 

I am not sure whether your in-laws are Muslims or not. If they aren’t, that makes the situation a little bit more complicated as they are not feeling accountable for not following the laws of Allah.

But, the important thing is that you and your husband are Muslims. So, what matters is that you follow the Islamic guidance and try to please Allah with your deeds. 

What Can You Do?

I think this is, first and foremost, something your husband needs to work on with your support. 

You, as a married couple, have your own rights and life, and parents should respect them by keeping certain boundaries. 

Yes, in Islam, your husband’s mother and father deserve respect, but you, the wife, and your family also.

Setting Boundaries

So, the most important thing is to set clear boundaries and learn to say no, even if you live together in a joint family.

This sounds easy, but one has to be mentally, emotionally, and psychologically prepared and strong enough to face the reactions that might follow your attempt to speak out and live your own life and make your own decisions. 

You can expect manipulative behavior in return to make you feel that you are doing something wrong by claiming your rights.

Unfortunately, some parents try to maintain control over their (adult) children by abusing them verbally and emotionally.  This is not OK, and not permitted in Islam.

Long-term emotional abuse causes harm to the person’s psychological well-being and makes them more vulnerable and unable to respond effectively.

Some tips for setting boundaries:

  • Know your values and stick to them. What are the things that are really important to you in life? If maintaining good contact between your husband and your parents is a value to you, stand up for it.
  • Know your boundaries before entering into the situation. Plan and prepare yourself for the conversation.
  • Learn to communicate assertively. This means conveying your message by expressing your points and needs clearly while respecting the other person. Here is a handout with more practical info.
  • Saying “NO” is your right. And saying no is not disrespectful if you say it with firm kindness and respect.
  • Speak clearly and avoid ambiguous responses like “I don’t know,” “I am not sure,” “probably,” etc. Some people take advantage of perceived insecurities. 
  • Try to recognize a dispute before it starts. It usually has physical symptoms like a fast heartbeat, tension, etc.  
  • Take your time to calm down before continuing the discussion, and avoid yelling, name-calling, and fighting. If you notice that they do the same thing, suggest that you continue it later.

In order to be able to set these boundaries, I recommend counseling as one has to strengthen their sense of self-esteem and self-worth. 

Also, try to gain a correct understanding of what is right and wrong and what your rights are in Islam, to be able to defend your values and interests.

Learn About Manipulation 

If you understand the mechanism of manipulation and recognize when someone is trying to manipulate you, you will have an easier time responding. 

For example, generalization (“you never respect us“), gaslighting (trying to distort your perception of what happened), instilling guilt, victimizing themselves, lying and negating, playing on your insecurities are some ways, among others, to manipulate.

If you know when someone is trying to gain power over you, you can prepare yourself and answer in the proper way, protecting your autonomy. 

You can do it, for example, by acknowledging it: “I know that you want me to stay away from my wife’s parents, but I want to see them and have a good relationship with them.”

Read more about manipulation here.

Make Your Plans

I also recommend you make your own plans as a couple. Practice assertive and effective communication in order to express your needs and plans.

If you know what you want you can maintain your decision despite the negative reactions from your in-laws

Although you are part of a bigger family, as a married couple, you have your own right to privacy and life within the bigger family system. Having your own decisions does not mean that you are not respecting them. 

Talk to Your In-Laws and Stand Up for Your Decisions

I advise you to set up rules regarding your family visits (and other issues you think they interfere with too much) and share it with them with kindness and firmness. Express your decisions to them without feeling guilty if this contradicts their wishes. 

Your husband needs to tell them that it is your right and duty to visit your parents and take care of them, and that there is nothing in Islam that says that he cannot go with you and stay with his in-laws.

If you need a more detailed scholarly opinion about this, please, write to our section Ask the Scholar.

They have to learn to respect you as a couple and understand how their behavior makes you feel. If they understand your perspective and feelings, they might be more willing to accept them.

Increase Physical Distance 

If you are still facing constant disrespect and dismissiveness of your wishes, consider the possibility of moving away from your in-laws. 

If it is difficult for financial or other reasons, think about how you can set up physical boundaries in order to have your life a bit separated from theirs.

Sister, I recommend you support your husband to stand up for himself. See if counseling for both of you is a good idea too. You can try our life coaching services as well. 

Healing from dysfunctional patterns takes time, so be patient and work together by helping each other. 

May Allah help you with it!

Read more from Orsolya Ilham O.:


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.

About Orsolya Ilham O.
Orsolya Ilham has a BA in Communication and Manager in Public Relations, MA, BSC in Psychology. She studied Islamic sciences and obtained certificates in Islamic Counseling and Islamic Marriage Counseling. Previously she worked in a client-centered atmosphere; currently, as a translator, counselor, and content creator related to Islam, counseling, and psychology.