I live in England and my husband is from India. He is my cousin, and we have been married for 17 years and have two children alhamdulillah. The problem I have is that my husband is too attached to his mother. My husband rings his family in India every single day and has to speak to his mother. She is now living with us for four months, but I cannot cope with the situation. My husband spends all his time with her and gives her everything she wants.
I was always annoyed when my husband rang her in India, and now as she is with us, he is always asking her to do things for him, especially cooking all the dishes I do not. He praises her endlessly and yet she has not done anything. My husband is always asking me to be good to her. I don't have any feelings for her; all I see is a woman who has ruined my marriage for over 5 years. If my husband is not with his mother in this country, then he finds time every year to go to India and visit her and the rest of his family. I am expected to look after her, but my husband will not even let me visit my sister who is an hour and a half's drive away. All my husband sees is his mother. I know that mothers have to be respected, and as a Muslim, I find it difficult for me to take 'a back seat'. If she says something or complains, then I am in trouble as he never listens to me. I find my husband and his mother unbearable.
This situation brings out the very worst of me, and most days we argue and I feel so sad that they can both make me unhappy. I do not argue with his mother and my husband is so happy for his mother to be living with us that he wants her to live with us permanently. I could never bear this. So, my husband has told me to live somewhere else. He knows that I can't as my parents would never let me back into their house.
I used to love my husband a great deal, but I don't feel so much as I once did. I cry so much. I complain to Allah and ask for guidance. My husband cannot let go of his family in India and needs to know what is going on all the time. He is a very stubborn man and will not change. He said once he was sick of my complaints of this situation, yet he does not want to change the circumstances. InshaAllah you will be able to give me some good advice. Jazak Allah Khair.
In this counseling answer:
• He must keep a balance between serving his wife and mother, otherwise, he might oppress one or the other.
• Just do your part and don’t argue with her over small things, and try to show your husband that he is the one who needs to stand up for you and defend you.
May Allah make your situation easy. I hear about this situation quite frequently. It is the “worship of the parents’ syndrome”. This is when a person believes their parents cannot do wrong and will always support them no matter what, even if it goes against clear Islamic values. For some, it goes to an extent that their parents become sort of idols, and they worship them above what Allah commands.
In your case, it seems your husband’s love and devotion to his mother has gone to the extent that you feel neglected by him. The good side of this is that from your question you didn’t claim your mother in law treats you badly. Thus, I will answer your question in two parts: one is an advice for your husband and the other to you.
Advice to your husband: It is very noble to be devoted to one’s mother, and it is encouraged in Islam. However, in Islam, the wife has rights and responsibilities that take precedence over the mother once somebody chooses to get married. Unless the mother is in need of having special caretaking due to health conditions, parents should not live with their children who are married.
This is a common custom with Indian and Pakistani culture, and it usually brings more harm than good. Even if a son is taking care of his mother, he must keep a balance between serving his wife and mother, otherwise, he might oppress one or the other. Your husband has no right to ask you to leave your own home if you haven’t committed a major sin. He needs to realize that respect and kindness to his mother does not mean leaving you in the “back seat”. You still have rights and must be taken care of and your needs must be acknowledged.
“Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard.” (Quran 4:34)
Your husband must understand that culture can’t overtake Islam. In some cultures, the in-laws literally make the laws, and the woman is often treated no more than a slave. Those cultures allow the mother-in-law to decide everything for her son’s family to the point that the daughter in law has to ask permission to the parents in law to even breath! It is not righteous and it is not what Allah expects from us to treat our spouses.
The older son must establish balanced boundaries and treat both wife and mother with kindness. You shouldn’t be in trouble if she complains; it is not your obligation to serve her, and if you do it, it is out of kindness and you will be rewarded by Allah , in sha’ Allah.
Advice to you: If you feel that you are being oppressed by your husband and he neglects you. This is not something to be silent about. You should voice your needs and concerns to your husband and, it needs to be, express your concern with respect to your mother in law directly. It will not change overnight, but with time and repetition, things will change in sha’ Allah!
Usually, patterns get established because we go with it and allow them to happen. You can kindly tell them all the things that make you uncomfortable, even if it leads to disagreement. Just stay calm and be patient. You might need to go back to the same conversation over and over again until you are able to set the boulders between you and your mother in law and guarantee that you are being respected.
You may have a lot of resentment; however, the fact that he’s calling his family daily shouldn’t annoy you as it reflects he is kind to his family. If he spends five hours a day on the phone, again, he needs to be balanced. I understand that right now your mother in law is living with you, and you feel neglected, but once she goes back, you really shouldn’t complain about his calls to his family.
Although your husband can’t send you to live with your parents, if you wish, you do have the option to live somewhere else as long he provides for you. It will be his decision to keep your mother in law living with your family, and if it is something you really can’t cope with, it will be his responsibility to get a second home for you.
As far as your wife duties, try to please your husband, sister, even if it means cooking some specific meals that he desires. There is nothing wrong with that. Remember sister, it is a very dedicated situation. We all know many horror stories between mother and daughter in law; just do your part and don’t argue with her over small things, and try to show your husband that he is the one who needs to stand up for you and defend you. Keep in mind that he will always be very close to his mother, and if you can get your needs met through wise and effective communication, then in sha’ Allah you can find harmony with the current situation.
May Allah (swt) help you,
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