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Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Living with the In-Laws

In-laws or out-laws? 
Here are my tips on trying to maintain a good relationship with your in-laws whilst keeping your sanity.

I feel like I need to make a lot of disclaimers before I go into this post because people's situations are different and I don't want anyone to take what I say the wrong way.

So, I understand that not all mother in-laws are the same and neither are daughter in-laws. If your in-laws are verbally, emotionally or physically abusive toward you then you need to get out, other people are not worth losing yourself for.
And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No one who severs the ties of kinship will enter Paradise.” Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh. 
Some people just can't live with their husbands parents and that's ok, it's not for everyone. Islamically, your husband should be able to provide a house for you and you do not have to live with his family, but you must still aim to keep the ties of kinship and keep good relations with them.

It is very common to live with in laws even for a short time in many cultures but, know your rights as a Muslim wife and make your wishes known BEFORE accepting the marriage proposal. This also goes for men, when you're getting to know someone for marriage and you know that you or your family would want your future wife to live with the family please make it very clear and known at the start, so that she can decide if she wants to go ahead with that or not. Generally, scholars advise men to keep separate houses for their parents and for their wife because of the problems living with in-laws can cause. Sometimes the in-laws are the ones that break a marriage down and sometimes a wife can be the reason for a broken parent child relationship with their husband. In these cases it's better to live separate to your in-laws.

However, there may be reasons for why a woman will need to or want to live with her in-laws, for example, the in-laws are elderly and your husband will need to care for them, you are not financially in a situation where you can have your own place right away, you want to live with a big family as you're not used to living alone.

I lived with my in-laws at the beginning of my marriage for a year and half before moving into our own apartment for a year and then moving back in with my in-laws at the beginning of last year when I was pregnant. It wasn't/isn't always easy but Alhamdulillah I'm blessed.

Over the last 3 and half years of marriage I have matured a lot in myself and have learnt a lot about myself and the people I live with to be comfortable with living with my in-laws.

This post is for people with 'normal' in-laws not the crazy, abusive ones who you cannot compromise with.

“Would you then, if you were given the authority, do mischief in the land, and sever your ties of kinship?

Such are they whom Allaah has cursed, so that He has made them deaf and blinded their sight”
[Muhammad 47:22]
Pro's of living with in-laws:
  • There is always someone to talk to 
  • If you don't know your husband that well before marriage it sometimes helps having other people around to help you settle into the marriage and it's not so daughnting being alone with someone for the first time.
  • Your in laws can be a huge help when you're not well, when you have children etc. Alhamdulillah I'm so grateful for my in laws and how much they've helped with my daughter, I think it would have been much harder to adjust with a newborn if it hadn't been for my in laws.
  • You can share the workload. On weekdays my mother in law used to cook and have dinner ready for when I used to get back from work. On weekends and holidays I would help her with cooking or cook something of my own for the family. 
Con's of living with in-laws: 
  • You might feel like you don't have the privacy you want, for yourself and with your husband especially if you don't have a big enough house
  • More likely to have disagreements or arguments, just because there are more people in the picture that you have to compromise and share with
  • You may feel as though you can't come and go as you please because you have to take the other people you live with into consideration
  • Your in-laws may not be the easiest people to live with
  • You may not feel properly 'married' or 'grown up' because you still live with parents who do the 'adult' things for you
Don't marry a mummy's boy

I say this in the nicest way possible but everyone that has married a 'mummy's boy' has really suffered with their in-laws. Your husband should take care of his parents but it is not correct for him to go to his mum for everything when he is a grown man and ready to marry. He should know the difference between his mum and his wife. He should be able to keep neutral in situations of disagreements and not take sides. If you are wrong he should be able to tell you, if his mum is wrong he should be able to speak to her as well. He should be the one to diffuse the situation and try to keep everyone happy and not just say his mum is right and you need to apologise.

Your husband is responsible for you and although you need to respect your in-laws you only need to answer to him. So if you want to go to your parents house or go out with friends, you should ask him/tell him, if he says it's ok, then it's ok, you shouldn't need to ask permission from your in-laws, they don't own you. Out of respect you should tell them your plans as you live together, out of love and respect you should take them into consideration when you make plans.

Know yourself

Before marriage you have to be really honest with yourself and know what it is you want from life. Are you the type of person that finds it difficult to share a room or house with others? If you have arguments with your own parents or family will you realistically be able to live with someone else's family? It's very important to know yourself and your spouse before accepting the conditions, once you're in the marriage it will be difficult for you to change yourself or change others, so you need to know if you can accept your husband and his family, as they are, before marriage.

Space

When I first lived with my in-laws I had a really hard time adjusting and wasn't very comfortable because we lived in a small flat. I was always used to being part of a being family, growing up with all my extended family but it was still extremely difficult to share a small space and utilities. This is one of the reasons we moved out.

Now my in-laws have a much bigger house, we practically have our own floor, own bathroom etc and this makes life a lot easier. I don't have to always wear my hijab to just go to the bathroom for example, we have a big enough kitchen and everyone has their own space so we're not living top of each other.

So space is another thing you need to think about, what will you have to share with everyone else and are you comfortable with that?

Start as you mean to go on

At the start you're just getting to know your husband properly and his family, this is the same even if you knew your husband before marrying him. You don't really know a person until you live with them. As the new person into the family you just want everyone to like you, you want to do everything you can to fit into the family. But you need to start as you mean to go on.

Be true to yourself and be honest with the people you live with. If you don't feel comfortable doing something speak up and tell your husband or in-laws why. For example, you are not the maid in the family, if your husband has siblings they need to also help out with chores, don't put it all on yourself because you will regret this later. If you start doing everything for everyone in the house you will not be able to change this 6 months or a year down the line. Set your ground rules from the start. You will not do other people's laundry and everyone who is old enough should clean up after themselves.

Don't start waking up extra early to make everyone's breakfast if that's not something you want to do, they survived before you came into the family perfectly fine. If you start doing crazy things like that at the beginning they will expect you to carry one with it, if it's something you want to do every now and then, then great but if you do it all the time at the start it will be expected from you.

If you work outside the home don't come home and start cooking and cleaning for everyone, figure out a schedule that everyone can stick to, one that is fair on you and everyone else, and stick to your guns on the things you wont compromise and do all this from the start.

Communicate

You are both women whom your husband loves dearly so for his sake and for yourselves it's always best to talk to each other directly rather than through him.

Alhamdulillah my mother in law is quite young and we get along well. From the start she has said she will tell me whenever I do something wrong just like she tells her other children. I respected this from her because I'd rather have her be open and honest with me than always wonder what it is I've done wrong. Tell your mother in law that you want her to be honest with you and you do the same. Obviously be tactful in the way you say things and always speak with love and respect.

Your in laws cannot read your mind and you cannot read theirs so always strive to open the doors of communication.

After becoming a mum myself I tend to be more open with her and we have little chats throughout the day, whether it's during breakfast or with a cuppa in the evening. Try to break down barriers and be more friendly with your mother in law, she is not your enemy.

Take her out for a meal on your own or plan days out together, so that you can get closer and get a better understanding of each other.

Think of his family like your own

Although it's hard sometimes, you need to think of your in-laws like your own family. If your mother in law says something to you, don't take it to heart, just imagine it's your mum who said it and let it go. If your mum says something to you that you get hurt by, you don't hate your mum, you just let it go, if it's something that really hurt you then speak to her about it and be honest, but if it's not really that big of a deal then just let it go through one ear and come out the other.

Same with sister in laws, we all argue and have disagreements with our own sisters, sometimes that will happen with your sisters in law, keep calm, communicate and let things go if they aren't a big deal but speak to them on a level if it does bother you.

Don't hold grudges about everything, keep a positive and free mind. Try to take everything in a positive way, if someone says something to you that can be interpreted negatively encourage yourself to see the positive in it.

Compromise

There can never be 2 heads of the household or so they say.

I think there can be 2 women of the house but in order for it to work there needs to be compromise. You need to understand that your husbands family were brought up differently to you so they will do things differently to you or your parents.

Going into a family you have to carve your own space, but always remember that this family has always done things in a certain way, you may not be able to change everything. Often mother in laws get upset because they feel their daughter in law has come in and started to change everything, again communication and honesty is key in this instance. Try to come to a balanced solution for everyone.

Remember that everyone has off days, if your mother in law, father in law, brother in law or sister in law is being off with you one day when they are usually ok with you, don't take it to heart, think positively and just remember that everyone has off days.

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Like I said at the start, sometimes it's just not reasonable or suitable to live with in laws and it definitely not easy. The situation isn't for everyone and often to maintain a good relationship you need to have your own place. But living with in-laws for a short time or even long term is not always so bad. It's often difficult but it is doable.

As our family grows we will need our own place, but inshaAllah we can always maintain a good relationship with all our family.

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