In-Laws Not Giving Me Any Space

14 August, 2020
Q Salams. I want to ask for advice.

I am in a desperate situation. I have been married to my husband for 6 years and live with my MIL who is a widow and SIL who is 21 years old. Alhamdulillah we are blessed with 2 boys.

I am struggling living with my in-laws. I find it so hard. I did know before marriage I would have to live here but we have no privacy as a family.

We live in a small house with 3 small bedrooms and 1 room and a kitchen. Mil and SIL refuse to give us a room for our children as sil uses it for her storage (mil and sil sleep in one room together) so there is me, my husband and 2 kids in one room with all of our stuff.

My husband works from half past 8 till 6 pm so he is away nearly the whole day. I find it unfair that I have to stay here with mil and sil on my own. Sil doesn't speak to me yet she is obsessed with my kids.

My husband is unwilling to do anything about the situation and he is not allowing me to speak to my MIL about how I am feeling as he doesn't want to upset her. I have brought up in the past how difficult I find it not having privacy as a family or as a couple but MIL will just cry and make me feel like I am the bad one.

I am so tempted to walk out of this house but my husband has made it clear I cannot take the kids. Please advise me on what I can do.

Answer


In this counseling answer:

You are entitled to your own space and it is your husband’s responsibility to provide you with this.

Whilst you cannot get your space inside the home for now, for the sake of your own mental health you should at least try and get some space outside of the home.

Discuss with your husband the possibility for you to not leave the house for good but to go and spend a short while with family or friends who live close enough to you there.

Use this time to consider what your options are, and what the consequences of these options would be for you, your boys, your relationship and wider family.

Try and improve relations with your MIL.


Wa alaikum salaam sister, 

It must be very frustrating to live in this kind of environment where it is not possible to have your own space and privacy whilst knowing at the same time that you cannot do anything about it. Since your husband doesn’t want to do anything about it, or allow you to talk to his mother who you live with about it either.

And if you should choose to walk away then he will make it difficult for you regarding taking your kids which is also not ideal. This probably leaves you feeling quite powerless. 

Your right to space

Even though you were aware before you married that you would be living with your in-laws, you probably didn’t anticipate that it would be for this long. Most likely it was not a bother at the beginning of your marriage, but has become more of an issue as time has passed and your family has grown and space has become a more practical issue as much as an emotional issue. 

You have a right to your own space and you are not being bad or irrational to expect your own space. 

Lodge them [in a section] of where you dwell out of your means and do not harm them in order to oppress them (Quran, 65: 6)

The difficulty is that the house you live in is not your own so to expect your mother and sister in law to move things around to accommodate you may seem unreasonable to them. However, you are entitled to your own space and it is your husband’s responsibility to provide you with this.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to be making things easy for you in achieving this. Perhaps he doesn’t realise that this is your right so you might think about directing him to a scholar or imam who could make it clear to him so that he might start taking this matter seriously. 

Get space outside of the home

Whilst you cannot get your space inside the home for now, for the sake of your own mental health you should at least try and get some space outside of the home. This might be in the form of taking your boys out for a walk, to the park, or to a playgroup or play area where you could also mix with other mums like yourself. 

In-Laws Not Giving Me Any Space - About Islam

On some occasions, if you feel comfortable perhaps you could even ask your sister in law if she would take care of your boys for a bit so you can get out by yourself sometimes too.

Use this time to do things that you enjoy doing, spend time with friends, take up a new hobby, go somewhere new, do something that will make you smile and bring you joy and boost your mood. 

Whilst these options don’t take away the fact that you will return to a house where you don’t have much space to yourself, having some way to get some space to yourself, even if it is outside of the house will be good for you to get a bit of a break from the situation that is causing you so much bother right now as well as the chance to mix with others too which is another factor that will be beneficial to your mental health also. 


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Take a break

If you find these short breaks outside the house aren’t making things any better for you, or you feel you need more, then perhaps you might discuss with your husband the possibility for you to not leave the house for good but to go and spend a short while with family or friends who live close enough to you there.

Since it would just be for a short visit and would be with family or friends hopefully he would be more agreeable to you going with your children too. 

Much like the daily space, this will give the opportunity to have a more extended period of time to yourself without worrying about having your privacy overlooked as much as it is as well as being a chance for you to spend time with loved ones that will be a boost to your wellbeing too. Additionally, they will also be able to help take care of your boys at times too so you can have some alone time. 

This extended period will give you the opportunity to deeply consider your situation too and where you wish to take things from here.

Being away from home like this is the ideal time to have these deep moments of contemplation as you are not distracted by the things that usually frustrate you and can take a step back and consider things from a rational perspective. 

Use this time to consider what your options are, and what the consequences of these options would be for you, your boys, your relationship and wider family. Take the matter to Allah and ask for His guidance. Let this be something that you revisit mentally several times to be sure that you are happy with your choices.

Perhaps you will realize that it’s not as bad as you thought when you get your time to yourself outside, as well as regular weekends away with your boys and your family, or perhaps you will feel like you can’t possibly go back to that way of life again and will think about how to move forward with that.

Maybe you’ll think of some kind of alternative middle ground where you will tell your husband that you either need to talk together with his mum about the space issue, or he gets serious about finding somewhere new for you. Consider the possible consequences of these options and which is the most desirable. 

Work on your relationship with your in-laws

In the meantime, since your husband doesn’t want you to talk to his mum about it you still can try and improve relations with her so that whatever the next move is there will be no hard feelings between you and you can live together in peace, or alternatively.

At least being close to those you live with will make it easier to bear not having as much space as you require and also, perhaps she will come to understand your feelings and help to facilitate you having more space without you having to ask for it directly. 

Summary 

Living in a single room with your husband and 2 boys in your mother in laws house is really taking its toll on you after 6 years and rightly so. You are entitled to your own space and it is your husbands’ responsibility to provide the same but unfortunately he doesn’t seem bothered. You might first try to find a way to educate him on this matter in case he is not aware of this responsibility.

In the meantime, you can look to alternative ways to get the space you need even if it means that the only way to do so is outside of the house either with your boys, or alone if your in-laws will take them for a bit. You could also request that you spend a weekend with your family to get a longer break which will give you the chance to contemplate more deeply about where to go from here.

May Allah bring you relief from your current distress and guide you to what is best for all.

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 are 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)