Tuesday, December 3, 2013

That "happy place" with Mother-in-law

(Us, 2010 - MIL's first Summer with us)

The time has finally come. I feel like I have finally reached that place. That happy place with my MIL.

Nearly 8 years later, and so many ups and downs, cultural differences, fights and making up, one step forward and ten steps back...we have reached that place. It's sort of like the top of a mountain. You're hiking and climbing and busting your ass, thinking of giving up, getting lost, crying....and then you make it to the clearing, to the top....where you can just rest, relax, and enjoy the view. Not to mention looking back and see how far we've come. It took 8 years to get to this place.

It seems like such a distant memory, all the struggles we had, coming to accept each other. On my first trip to India, she used to look away when they tried to take a group picture of us together, as if she didn't know me. And even the second time we went (still as a girlfriend), she refused to spend any time with us because they had "other obligations". So I took husband-ji and we f**ked off to Goa, as revenge. After that, I was so insulted, but I knew I had to welcome her into my home a few months later to spend the summer with us. I wasn't looking forward to it at all. How was I supposed to welcome her into my home after she called us all the way to India, and was so rude to both me and my mother? I was upset for months when I got back - I was so hurt. I was the invalid, I was just the foreigner - is that all I would ever be to her?

And of course me - not knowing what to say or when to say it, not understanding that an Indian MIL is like "God" in the household, not knowing any of the picky Brahmin traditions, the formalities as an unmarried woman, or how to ask questions or where to even start...All I knew was how to love husband-ji - and I hoped that would be enough.

She came to stay with us for that Summer, after the India-trip insult. And I did one of the smartest things that I had ever done - I put it behind us. I wanted to start fresh. I wanted to give her a another chance. I didn't want to harbor resentment towards her - it was hurting me, and it was hurting husband-ji. She came to stay with us for 3 months and we slept in the same room. Every day, I took her all over town - to sight-see, and make the most of her trip. I took her to all my favorite places, farmer's markets, shops, to movies, and restaurants. I even took her for folk dancing! I raved about her cooking, we exercised together, I got her addicted to the Real Housewives and the Kardashians....and I started to really develop a special bond with her. And that was really the beginning of me & MIL's love story. I basically wined and dined her - so to speak! Yes, y'all...I had to date my MIL! Because when you marry an Indian man, and he is a momma's boy....you also marry your MIL!

(Us, 2012)

And then, we had another rough time after I had the baby. So many culture clashes in terms of baby care - cultural AND generational differences - a double whammy! MIL was more bossy than usual - and I was more bossy than usual - trying to assert the "I AM the mother" card at every chance I got, when I was really just trying desperately to feel confident as a new parent.

And then, I had to put that behind us too. I had to let it go. The past is the past. And our bond developed again, even deeper. 

Rinse and repeat...

We have surely had our ups and downs on this journey - but we never give up on each other - at least not at the same time, that is. Whenever we have a fight, we take a break, and then it's back to BFF's Forever-land. Allowing that bond to develop really made a firm foundation for our relationship - a friendship...and it has really blossomed - no matter what struggle we go through...we are friends underneath it all.

Eight years later, and after all we have been through....I really feel like we have reached our "happy place" together.

Hallelujah...!

(Us, now)

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What do you think, dear readers? Has the concept of 'letting it go' and letting the past be in the past - helped you overcome difficult situations? How do you get over fights and rebuild with the family you married into? Is there a relative that you feel you have reached a "happy place" with?


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21 comments

  1. Sometimes "letting it all go" is the smartest /best thing to do. It actually works.What's in the past is better left in the past.
    Lovely blog you've got here Alexandra.:)

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    1. So true....it is always best to let go.
      Thanks for reading!

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  2. Absolutely!! Let the past be past! learn from it - but move on:-) I have payed forward your lovely pat on my back, Alexandra! Keep blogging, and sending you warm thoughts:-) http://expatliv.blogspot.in/2013/12/the-versatile-blogger-award-to-expatliv.html

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    1. I totally agree, besides if we are stuck in the past then we can't move forward to new experiences.

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  3. I think is not only learning to letting go but choosing which battles are worth fighting.

    There were a couple of things that really bothered me in the beginning about the in laws behavior. I was appalled at some of the things they did. Hubby was also disturbed by some of the things they did but at the end of the day we were like " they are just staying for a month so let's just deal with it until then". Plus, we are both very honest so we just speak up when we don't like something.

    I have a very good relationship with my MIL but only because I was very honest from pretty much the beginning and never felt the need of been politically correct about anything.

    Millie B

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    1. Soooooooo true. So many battles aren't worth fighting for, and some are. Many of them are petty things, but it's hard to see them like that in the heat of the moment.
      If your hubby was also bothered, then it seems to be a big thing. Honesty is always better - although many Indian elders are not used to it, There is so much that is not allowed to be said openly, which bothers me. The Indian way seems to be, "tolerate, don't say anything, and move on"

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  4. My MIL created a big fuss before the husband and I got married and I didn't take that well. I pretty much told her what I thought of her and then we didn't speak for about 2 years. It was only after my MIL apologized that I felt I could move on. My husband and I just celebrated 6 years of marriage and I think I've reached a pretty good place with my MIL. We were both cautious of each other after our reconciliation but now I like my MIL a lot more than my own mom(which is a whole another story)...Raina.

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    1. It is so hard to get over past resentments, especially if there are hurtful things said. The things that are said hurt us, and also the things we don't have the courage to say at the time - hurts us as well. It's a no-win! I'm so glad it worked out with your MIL. Sometimes things get better after having a fight.

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    2. Thanks for replying, Alexandra! In my case I think the fight with MIL helped bring issues to the forefront for both of us. We both had past issues to get over, so in a way that fight brought us closer...It is wonderful to read about the lovely relationship you share with your MIL.

      Raina.

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  5. @Alexandra

    Women are amazingly deceptive in their behavior. You never know what is going in their minds. One day the MIL and DIL are at each others' throat, the very next day, they are joking like old friends. You are thinking "Hang on, are they not supposed to be sworn enemies???". At least, that is what your understanding is. When men think they have finally understood women, they surprise him.

    The Indian DIL-MIL relationship has been perfected over centuries. There are various unsaid things, like all Indian relationships. Tips are passed on from generation to generation. There are certainly "rules of engagement", like a war. With a foreign DIL, these things are not very clear. The Dos & Don'ts list kind of gets mixed up. However, in support of the much maligned Indian MIL, I would say that just like there are monster MILs, there are plenty of monster DILs as well. Nobody is above board in this game.

    I find that these blogs are written by women who are DILs themselves. They are beautifully written with a lot of depth. The blog writer articulates her story which is understandable. However, in the DIL-MIL story, there is another character, who though very important, goes unrespresented. Where is the man's perspective. Is it assumed that a man has nothing to contribute/incapable of contributing. Men who face these situations everyday have lots to say. Men are put into slots, if they sit with their mothers, they are "momma's boy". If they support their wives they are called "joroo ka gulam" (wife's slave) in the traditional terminology and "flag bearers of women's empowerment" in the modern terminology. Men don't want slots or names, they just want to keep their sanity. Husband and wives fight and it is assumed that certain issues may remain unresolved or will resolve with time. Sometimes, one is wrong, sometimes both are wrong. With MIL-DIL relationships everything has to be in black and white and absolute. Everything has to be proved beyond "reasonable doubt" like they do in the court of law. Men are supposed to be brave and take decisions. Are they not humans and subjected to the same doubts, apprehensions and fears which haunts everyone?? The million dollar question is whether to intervene or let things settle down by themselves like water which finds its own level after a storm. I think men are grappling with these problems ever since Adam and Eve decided to have a family.

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    1. I don't think that women are deceptive, but rather typically more internal. For example when a woman says "I'm fine" she is not fine, and when a woman saying, "I'm good" she is definitely good. Totally confusing for the males.
      And especially for Western women, we get mad at the 10th thing, not the 1st.
      I agree that when a fight happens, both parties are at fault - both MIL and DIL. And both parties need to make an effort to reconcile and build the relationship. The problem with Indian MIL-foreign DIL is the generational, cultural and language differences.
      I soooooo agree that the husband should not be left out. If there is a fight then he needs to be like the referee to bring the ladies back together and counsel on both sides. It is almost harder for the husband because he is caught in the middle. If he does not help out then there will be no chance of reconciliation. He plays a pivotal, valuable role.

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    2. @Alexandra

      It is this referee bit that men don't like. It is rather forced upon them. Life is definitely not a boxing match. The fact of the matter is that, while there are lot of expectations put on women in the new household, the same is expected of men. Women undergo training from childhood. Boys are left to themselves. Kind of hard on boys I guess. Men are prisoners of the same social conditioning where they are told that that they have choices unlike women. In reality they have little choice. He is baffled by the behavior of his family and wife. Slowly, he realizes that he is in the midst of a war. His only reaction is to somehow survive. I don't know whether most men can even spell "patriarchy" or "misogyny". These thoughts are far away from his mind. It take him a whole lifetime just to understand what hit him. He probably thought that marriage brings happiness. Instead, he has to suffer for the historical wrongs committed by his ancestors. His loneliness in his own home is complete and absolute. Since he is "man", he cannot show it. He puts on a carefree act, jokes around, while everything snaps inside him. It is better to be considered an idiot than to intervene. He lies to everyone, and then feels guilty fooling his own near and dear ones.

      The DIL, MIL and the husband/son need to talk, they need all the help and support that they can provide to each other. Often the MIL-DIL animosity reaches such a stage that it makes any kind of reconciliation impossible. Men are expected to perform a task for which they are simply not prepared/not equipped from the very beginning. It is most unfortunate. I wish they was a school where everyone was taught how to handle marriage. Things could be soooo much more easy for everyone. Kind of wishful thinking I guess.

      If women feel weak and powerless, so do men. There is no harm in admitting the truth. While there is need to find solutions, there is also the need to understand everyone's position.

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  6. It's great that you have reached this stage with your MIL. Even many Indian women don't reach that.

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    1. It is good - it makes life sweeter! I cherish our relationship a lot.

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  7. Great writing that u have and how your able to touch our hearts with your writing. I need a little help i just met the indian of my life and i guess for him it´s the same but i guess his Family is very conservative in √≠ndia and would probably never accept me by what i was Reading, he is a Bengali and he says that he want to be with me for the rest of his life but that his parentes would Always plan for him to marry na indian girl. How does that work? would i ever get in to his families heart if i tryed?

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    1. @anonymous - It can work, and I know many women in the firangi wife community that have been previously been married, and even have children etc. What matters is the bond between you and your boyfriend - if he is your soulmate, then there is no struggle that you can't endure. Every Indian parent dreams of an Indian DIL, even my inlaws did, and they were shocked initially, but pleasantly surprised later when they got to know me. Don't worry about the inlaws - they will come around. They have to...
      Thanks for reading!

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    2. @Alexandra

      I always have great curiosity on this subject. When an Indian parent cannot accept a foreign DIL or someone from other caste or community, I wonder what a western parent would think if their children married someone from communities against whom the westerns have established traditional/historical biases. Western people do have racial and religious prejudices against certain communities.

      I remember a film "Guess who is coming to dinner" where a white girl introduces her black fiancee to his parents. The parents were caught in a moral dilemma. This was ofcourse 1960s America. Our list of biases are little longer so we come across as more stringent.

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    3. @anonymous - yes, that film is a classic - one of my favorites! In the Firangi Bahu community, I have heard mostly they are not many problems. In the US, people are so mixed already, so many mixed marriages and children and it is viewed at as beautiful.
      Although when I was in college in the SouthEastern US, I had two white roommates who were quite racist. I stopped talking to them, it was sad. That was before I met my husband. Racism is passed down by the generations, it is taught by parents to their children...that was the case with those roommates. It was a fear of mixing, I believe, or a feeling that they were superior.

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    4. @Alexandra

      I think the west has mostly uniform culture of the white settlers. The other communities merely assimilated into that culture. People who settled there had to accept that culture. This brought more cohesion into the society which enabled societies to pull themselves into one direction leading to development.

      India is not racially uniform. People look so different from each other. India was always invaded with waves of people coming down and settling here. The underlying culture is the same, but customs, traditions etc. are so different that it makes different communities like small islands. Actually, India with its diversity should have been more tolerant with racial diversity but I guess our diversity comes with historical and cultural baggage making us uncomfortable with it.

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    5. @anonymous
      It's the caste system....and the sticking to their own communities. Still it is a rarity to marry another from a different state...

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  8. Great post and so smart about putting hurt behind you. I haven't experienced this with my mil but generally I have and it's something I'm getting better at. It has felt easier to drop someone and move on but it actually hurts more because nothing is resolved. Love the part about dating your mil! :D

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