Friday, March 13, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "My Foreign Daughter-in-law is not interested in Indian culture"

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Sharing a letter from a reader....

"Hi Alexandra, let me say first how much I love your blog. I think I am different from your other readers because I myself am an Indian mother in law. I have two sons who are both married - one to an Indian girl and the other to an American girl. I am having a lot of problems with my American daughter in law and need some advice on how to handle the situation.

We moved from India when my sons were very young and we settled in the U.S. My husband is a very intellectual man and he works at a prominent University in California. Because of my husband's job, we settled in America in a very diverse neighbourhood and have had many friends from all different backgrounds. Somewhere along the way, I fear we have lost our Indian culture. Now I am blaming myself because I think I did not keep our customs and traditions alive. That was my job and I failed. My son (who married the American girl) has no interest in our culture. He has been like that since he was a child. He is very Americanized, that is why I was not surprised when he chose an American mate. I accepted her but she did not accept me. She is fine with her family but with us, she is hostile. Indian culture is she belongs to our family now, she should be treating us the same and making an effort for us more.

From the get go, my daughter in law has hated me. Every time I come around her she is feeling threatened and gets offended. Even if I visit them at their home and I want to make tea, she gets offended that I am using her kitchen and accuses me of taking over. She is very territorial. During their wedding, she did not include me AT ALL. She gave more attention to her bridesmaids rather than me. I was very offended, but I let it go. I feel she wants nothing to do with me and I do feel she is taking away our son. It is like she can only tolerate us for Thanksgiving - and that is all!!! I have tried talking to my son about it but he always takes her side. I do not know what I can do to bring us closer, but I feel like she is the key. Maybe if I can get close with her then it will all get better. Because of her there is a rift in my family. But time needs to be there, and she does not give me time. She never answers the phone when I call. She does not want us to visit often and does not let us visit for more than one hour. I feel like I am just a visitor in their house and I am scared to touch anything there. She always wants so much space. I never feel comfortable. My other daughter in law has told me she is complaining about me all the time. She sees me as evil mother in law. She doesn't understand that I am trying to help her and give her tips.

When I look at your blog and see you going to India and celebrating our festivals I wish I had a daughter in law just like you. I wish you could talk to her. You are genuinely interested in our culture. My daughter in law is not like that. She is all-American and not want anything Indian. She even calls my son an American. Every time I try to explain to her how we do things in our family, she is dismissive of me. She just does not want to hear it. They have not even visited India at all. She does not try Indian food.

I am writing to you now because my son has told me they want to have kids soon. Because my daughter in law has no interest in our culture, I am scared that my grandchildren will not have any connection either. I want to be a part of their life and teach them. I want to be over there helping them. She should learn from me because I am a mother to two sons already and she would be a first time parent. I can help them so much. 

I feel abandoned by my son. I am also worried about his eating habits since she does not cook. I gave her some Indian recipes and again she got offended. I made my son lunch to take to work and again she got offended. I do not know what to do..."

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Dear readers, what advice would you give this Indian MIL?
Can you pinpoint anything she could have done to offend her DIL?
How can you rebuild a relationship with someone who you have previously offended?
How should the MIL approach the situation going forward?

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72 comments

  1. Hello aunty. I am an American woman married to an Indian man. Unlike your sons my husband grew up in India and did not move to the US until he was in his early 20s.

    Frankly you are unfortunate to have such a rude daughter-in-law and spineless son. My husband and I would never treat either of our parents with such disrespect. You have already tried talking to your son and he does not listen to your perspective. You could try sending your daughter-in-law a letter sharing how you feel since she will not answer the phone but that may not help.

    Remember that you cannot control others, only yourself. You will be more at peace if you accept the situation. It is very sad but you cannot influence the behavior of your son and daughter-in-law. Also, the role that you play in their future children's lives will be determined by them, not you. I know it is painful but acceptance is key.

    That said I think you will avoid some pain if you set some boundaries. Your DIL and son sound abusive and not allowing you to stay longer than an hour is horrible. I am happy when my mother-in-law visits from India for three months! If they do not change their behavior then do not subject yourself to such antics.

    You may also find peace in accepting that your son is American. You chose to raise him in America and must accept that means he may not choose to embrace his Indian heritage. Over time and generations traditions from ancestral countries are lost, this is the way of life. The only tradition remaining from Europe in my family was the Christian religion, after my parents die it is unlikely to continue because my siblings and I reject religion.

    Expecting that your son and DIL would visit India is unrealistic. My husband was raised in India and we return regularly to visit family, not because we actually like the country. There really are much more safer and pleasant places to travel to. If we did not have close family in India we also would not visit the country.

    Although I am not religious I do like the philosophy behind the "Serenity Prayer" (personally I would substitute God with maybe Universe or Self):
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    - Rebecca

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  2. Arrgghh I just wrote a really long comment and it got deleted when I tried to preview!

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  3. I cannot post comments

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  4. I think the above commenter has hit a key point: from your daughter-in-law's perspective, and probably from your son's, he IS American. Indian-American, obviously, but I think it's pretty telling that he married someone from the culture he grew up in rather than someone from India. Judging by his actions, he seems to have decided to act and live as an American, and you'll probably eventually have to come to terms with that.

    In American culture, individual couples are used to having a lot of space and privacy. It's pretty rare for children to live with their parents after they've gotten married, and adult Americans are basically expected to manage things for themselves, with little day-to-day input from their parents. Even if my own mother came to visit, I would feel a little intruded-upon if she went into my kitchen and started cooking and moving things around--and I adore my mother, and have a good relationship with her. I've never been married, but it seems to me that parents-in-law start out at about the level of distant relatives, only becoming closer after a lot of time and bonding. (Some people have a great relationship with their in-laws right away, but that seems to happen mostly when personalities "click".)

    Obviously, your son's mother culture has different expectations. If your daughter-in-law had married someone who identified strongly as Indian, she would have to expect a lot of close interaction with in-laws, and would probably take a lot of interest in Indian culture (and at least put some effort into cooking Indian food). From what you've said, though, your daughter-in-law didn't set out to marry an Indian man; she married who she saw as an American man of Indian ancestry, probably with the expectation that American cultural norms would mostly be followed. If that's the case, extensive input from a mother-in-law she doesn't know well--and pressure to conform to Indian standards in things like cooking, which can be a huge emotional hot-button for ANYONE regardless of background--would come across as threatening and intrusive. (If you google "pushy mother-in-law," you'll probably come across examples of things an American would see as crossing boundaries.)

    This is not to say that you're a bad person, or a bad mother-in-law. You sound really loving, and it's obvious that you care a lot about your son and want the best for him. It seems, though, as if things must have gotten off on the wrong foot--I'm guessing there must have been some tension for that one-hour visitation limit to be imposed. It's not fair to expect you to conform entirely to American mores, and I'm pretty sure that if your son and daughter-in-law had time to think about it, they would agree. From what you've said, though, I'm getting the strong feeling that your daughter-in-law is feeling pressured and encroached-upon, which I'm guessing is prompting her to act in a more defensive way than she otherwise would. You might want to back off a little bit for a while--keep in touch with your son, obviously, but maybe cut down on the visits, and treat your daughter-in-law as if (for example) she were a new neighbor you'd just met and were being polite to. Your son is a grown-up, and will not starve if no one cooks for him. Besides, if he identifies as American, he probably eats plenty of non-Indian food anyway, and is clearly doing fine. Holidays might be a nice time to introduce Indian food and traditions--your daughter-in-law might be more open to trying new things if she knew she wasn't being pressured to take them into her life permanently.

    Out of curiosity, have you had much communication with your daughter-in-law's parents? Watching the way they interact with your son might give you a better idea of what your daughter-in-law is expecting from a relationship with in-laws. This is not to say that you have to act that way yourself, but it should at least explain some of the misunderstandings.

    Best of luck!

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  5. Hello aunty-ji,

    I am sorry that you are in a difficult situation like this. It is a shame that your son and your daughter in law are so uncomfortable with your Indian culture. I was wondering if perhaps your daughter in law ever got the impression that she would never measure up to your family's expectations? Not that I am suggesting that you gave her that impression, but that she picked up on it from the limited understanding most Americans have of Indian families. It might explain her flat rejection of any element of Indian culture, perhaps because she is afraid of being reminded that she is not Indian, if that makes any sense. I know sometimes I get really frustrated at myself when I say the wrong word in Hindi, or my chai does not turn out well, and I end up taking people's offers of help as a criticism and misinterpreting it.

    I would suggest letting her be for a few months when it comes to introducing her to Indian culture. Try and see if she will come to you on her own and ask about something, like how to make something or the explanation of a certain ritual. That way you will know she's ready to learn about it, otherwise she might reject it out of frustration.

    So keep doing your thing, and have faith. Indian culture is pretty fascinating and irresistible, I am sure she will see that in the end!

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  6. HI there- this is my third time trying to write this comment (it keeps getting deleted when I publish), so excuse any bluntness. I think your problem is an interesting one. I think first of all you say that you have accepted your DIL – however your letter sounds anything but. I can see that you regret you not giving your son an upbringing with more Indian culture and now he shows no interest. However the rest of your letter is about your American DIL not appreciating Indian culture. There lies the issue, if your son has no interest, is it really fair to expect that of her and for her to know all of the ‘rules’? She has her own culture, her own preferences and yes , probably feels more at ease around her own family and friends as she has known them longer (I’m not saying she’s necessarily a nice person). I know you like Madh Mama’s blog (I do too!) and how she has adopted many aspects of indian culture but this won’t be for everyone.
    I think you need to try to instil this appreciation of Indian culture though your son not your DIL. However , you may have to accept that the next generation may be different from yours with different values and I’m afraid to say the fact that he is ‘Americanised’ may be the reason they are together.
    As you say this issue is causing a rift, try taking a long, hard look at any part your playing in this, if only to stop the issue escalating and causing you more grief. For example, complaining about her to your son is probably not going to help- she’s his wife and puts him in a difficult position. I would find someone else to confide in and work on keeping a good relationship with your son and the ‘doors open’ for your DIL.
    A better relationship with your DIL is not going to be built overnight (Madh Mama’s blog is testament to this) . In addition your son has chosen a white American girl as his life partner, so there is going to have to be some mutual understanding of how Western culture- even if you don’t like it. Indian/Asian families have a reputation for being a bit ‘in your face’ and this can feel a bit overwhelming for us Westerners. Also she may just be a ‘private’ person and perhaps very independent. What may be seen as normal and welcoming may be interpreted as interfering. So my main advice would be to back off- don’t try ringing your DIL- call your son. Ask permission before you go round their house (yes it’s their house until they indicate otherwise), don’t help yourselves to cups of tea- ask if you could help make one, for example. Keep visits short. These all sound like things your DIL doesn’t appreciate so just don’t do them. By keeping expectations in check this should hopefully reduce your stress levels as well . I would also hold off offering advice (for the moment). You also say your DIL ‘should learn from me’. Unfortunately freely telling people what to do and how to do it can come across as critical and may make them defensive. If you really want to help- try asking it as a question. As for worrying about what your son eats-this is not your DILs responsibility. Chiding her for not assuming a ‘housewife’ role just does not come across well in this day and age. He is a grown man, so it’s his responsibility what he puts in his mouth. Why not try teaching him how to cook?
    Ultimately you cannot force anyone to do something they don’t want. But give your DIL lots of space, lots of time, keep being polite and welcoming and patient. Good luck!

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    1. Hi, Sorry to digress from main topic. But if you are someone who loves to comment on their favorite blogs, here's a tip from an old school user.
      If you know that the comment is going to be long, open up MS Word ( or Notepad, or Textpad , or etc), save the file, and then start typing out the
      This tip from a user who started out using dial up internet in India in the mid 1990s, where modem connections were ''íffy' , power situation was even worse than it is now, UPS Backup was something only commercial institutions could afford, and the general nature of websites was not very reliable ! LOL

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  7. Hi Auntie,

    I'm an American woman married to a first generation Indian man. (My husband was born and raised in the US). I sympathize with you as it sounds like your relationship with your DIL has gone off the rails, however I definitely see some things that you've said that would potentially offend your DIL and are probably driving her and your son further away from you:

    "Indian culture is she belongs to our family now, she should be treating us the same and making an effort for us more." My own MIL has tried to assert that I am a part of HER family now. Your DIL is American. In America, if anything, sons tend to marry into their wives families, not the reverse. This idea that your DIL is marrying into your family is YOUR tradition - NOT hers. You need to drop this immediately. Your DIL is American, you, your son, and your DIL live in America, and this is simply not part of the culture here.



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    1. This. I think it would have been different if the daughter-in-law had moved to India, but she was obviously never interested in being part of Indian culture. That's not her fault, and it doesn't make her a bad person.

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  8. My comment is too long so here is the 2nd part:
    "I have tried talking to my son about it but he always takes her side." Your son is prioritizing his wife over his mother. In American culture this is considered normal and a healthy marriage. Be glad that they have a strong marriage, and don't try to get in the middle of it or put your son in the position of choosing sides. In fact, you really should be focusing on reaching out to your DIL directly and not involving your son at all.

    "I do not know what I can do to bring us closer, but I feel like she is the key. Maybe if I can get close with her then it will all get better." Your DIL AND you are the keys. Relationships are a two-way street. It sounds like you are trying to force your relationship with your DIL by taking over/controlling/telling her what to do. Instead, try to ask her questions about herself and her interests. I think if you do that she will feel less threatened by you taking over and having everything be about your culture, your beliefs, etc, and then she'll naturally display more interests in things you are interested in. Just remember that it's a two way street, and she comes from a different culture and has her own traditions. You need to display interest in her traditions if you want her to have interest in yours.

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  9. And the third part:
    "I think I did not keep our customs and traditions alive...She is all-American and not want anything Indian." Your DIL is taking her cues from your son. My husband is very much like your son. He is American. The family didn't really have any Indian traditions growing up, so he's not tied to them. Your DIL *IS* American. She's probably not going to have a ton of interest in learning about Indian traditions if her husband doesn't have that much interest in it. I'm not saying she should be disrespectful of your traditions, but frankly I don't see any reason why she would necessarily have a huge amount of interest. As the poster above said, traditions DO get diluted as people are in a new country and culture for several generations. Instead of trying to educate the two of them about Indian culture, focus on doing your own thing (ie, host a Divali party or something), and invite them. If you make it fun and involve others then they may become more interested. But right now there's no reason to expect that your DIL wants an education on Indian traditions when she's married to someone who has zero interest.

    "I am scared that my grandchildren will not have any connection either. I want to be a part of their life and teach them. I want to be over there helping them. She should learn from me because I am a mother to two sons already and she would be a first time parent. I can help them so much. " The LAST thing your DIL wants is her MIL at her house "teaching" her how to be a parent. As an American, this entire statement comes across as quite controlling and intrusive. If you want your grandkids to know about Indian culture, tell your DIL that you would love to give her a morning off kid duty each week. You can take the kids and do Indian things with them while your DIL can go do something for herself. You need to figure out a way to make this work to both your benefit.

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  10. Sorry one last thing...and, sorry for piling it on, it's just that I can so identify with the DIL here! Anyway, in the US people do expect privacy. You wrote: "I feel like I am just a visitor in their house." You ARE a visitor in their house. I think that you need to respect the DIL's boundaries and the culture in which you are operating (ie, American culture), as a starting point in hoping to get your son and DIL more interested in Indian culture. If you don't respect their boundaries from the start then they'll just refuse to engage with you, and that sounds like what is happening here.

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  11. HI there- this is my third time trying to write this comment (it keeps getting deleted when I publish), so excuse any bluntness. I think your problem is an interesting one. I think first of all you say that you have accepted your DIL – however your letter sounds anything but. I can see that you regret you not giving your son an upbringing with more Indian culture and now he shows no interest. However the rest of your letter is about your American DIL not appreciating Indian culture. There lies the issue, if your son has no interest, is it really fair to expect that of her and for her to know all of the ‘rules’? She has her own culture, her own preferences and yes , probably feels more at ease around her own family and friends as she has known them longer (I’m not saying she’s necessarily a nice person). I know you like Madh Mama’s blog (I do too!) and how she has adopted many aspects of indian culture but this won’t be for everyone.
    I think you need to try to instil this appreciation of Indian culture though your son not your DIL. However , you may have to accept that the next generation may be different from yours with different values and I’m afraid to say the fact that he is ‘Americanised’ may be the reason they are together.
    As you say this issue is causing a rift, try taking a long, hard look at any part your playing in this, if only to stop the issue escalating and causing you more grief. For example, complaining about her to your son is probably not going to help- she’s his wife and puts him in a difficult position. I would find someone else to confide in and work on keeping a good relationship with your son and the ‘doors open’ for your DIL.
    A better relationship with your DIL is not going to be built overnight (Madh Mama’s blog is testament to this) . In addition your son has chosen a white American girl as his life partner, so there is going to have to be some mutual understanding of how Western culture is- even if you don’t like it. Indian/Asian families have a reputation for being a bit ‘in your face’ and this can feel a bit overwhelming for us Westerners. Also she may just be a ‘private’ person and perhaps very independent. What may be seen as normal and welcoming may be interpreted as interfering. So my main advice would be to back off- don’t try ringing your DIL- call your son. Ask permission before you go round their house (yes it’s their house until they indicate otherwise), don’t help yourselves to cups of tea- ask if you could help make one, for example. Keep visits short. These all sound like things your DIL doesn’t appreciate so just don’t do them. By keeping expectations in check this should hopefully reduce your stress levels as well . I would also hold off offering advice (for the moment). I know you say your DIL ‘should learn from me’, unfortunately freely telling people what to do and how to do it can come across as critical and may make them defensive. If you really want to help- try asking it as a question. As for worrying about what your son eats-this is not your DILs responsibility. Chiding her for not assuming a ‘housewife’ role just does not come across well in this day and age. He is a grown man, so it’s his responsibility what he puts in his mouth. Why not try teaching him how to cook?
    Ultimately you cannot force anyone to do something they don’t want. But give your DIL lots of space, lots of time, keep being polite and welcoming and patient. Good luck!

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    1. "First I would like to say how sorry I am that you have to deal with such a sniveling, spoiled, selfish American woman as a daughter-in-law. It is women like her that give other American women (the sane ones) such a bad reputation to non-Western people."

      I think that's a little much, don't you?

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    2. Agreed. We have only heard one side of the story here and it's unfair to immediately judge the DIL so harshly.

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    3. I apologize if my comments offended anyone - that definitely was not my intention. My initial response was quite reactionary, as I have seen my own American mother deal with such treatment by her American daughter-in-law. I actually showed my mom this post and asked her thoughts on the subject. As a mother-in-law, she believes this is more about a daughter-in-law's insecure need to assert her domain over her home and husband, not necessarily cultural. All I know is that there is no need to be so rude and disrespectful to one's MIL, regardless of differences. Whatever happened to just treating each other with kindness, even if we disagree on how things are being handled?

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  13. Hi there,

    I'm sorry you're going through this situation. I truly think this is not a cultural thing but rather something to do with personality..probably you just were unlucky to come across with a rude girl who happened to marry your son. On the other hand. ..have you analized your own actions? Even though your intentions might be good and pure, they might come across as very overprotective in the eyes of your daughter inlaw

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  14. Hello Aunty,

    I've been reading the comments and I think they all touch on some very good points. It's my opinion that if your daughter-in-law is so close with her family she should want the same for her husband. And if she felt like his family was more like hers she might be more open to that idea; I think she's probably just overwhelmed. I know I was.

    My husband's parents moved her from India in the 80s and he was born here. He is very Americanized and so he felt very disconnected from his family. As he grew closer and closer to mine I was happy, but when I finally started being invited to be around his family (after almost 10 years of dating) I noticed they wished that we were close with them the way we were with my family. And I started to notice that he wished it to in a way. He wished he grew up with a family life like I had. And I immediately recognized that he still deserved a shot at that. Underneath the overbearing feeling from his parents and the almost disappointment he had with his childhood was this very clear need for family connection. So while I was still extremely intimidated by his family I knew we had to work on our relationship.

    It comes from that humility. I really think that's what you need to show her. Not jealousy and discontent but rather admiration at how close her family is. They have a proud bond and it would be nice if you all could share that as well. You deserve it.

    But you will have to practice certain boundaries. My husband and I now live with his parents and we're very happy that our (someday) children will learn Gujarati, but it's also important to me that they know my heritage. And it's also important to me that my husband not lean on his mother for everything. He and are now partners in life. So...no making your son lunches and cooking when you're at their house. That's their space where they practice their partnership.

    One last thing, and I'm not sure how to do this, but if she knew that there's a network of all of us other white girls here who married amazing Indian men, maybe she would know she wasn't alone in whatever struggle she's having right now. I would love to let her know that I empathize with her as much as I empathize with you.

    I truly wish you all the best, Aunty. And I really hope she comes around to Indian food because, seriously, what's not to love??

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  15. Dear LW - Let me start by saying that I love my Indian MIL (I am Puerto Rican). We get along great but only because honesty, boundaries and expectations were set from the very beginning. I feel bad that you are in this situation and hope that things will get better. With than been said, I agree with what everyone said particularly with Elizabeth and Rebecca. I am going to add my comments to the following statements from you:

    1) "During their wedding, she did not include me AT ALL. She gave more attention to her bridesmaids rather than me. I was very offended, but I let it go" - neither did I at our wedding not because I did not like my mother in law but in all honesty I barely knew her. In reality she wanted to plan the wedding Indian style even though we were having a non denominational wedding (our choice). She kept insisting and we finally have to tell her that everything was been taken care of and all she needed to do was show up and have fun. She may not have liked it but that was it.

    2- "My son (who married the American girl) has no interest in our culture"- what makes you think that she needs to be involved with Indian traditions when he is not even interested.

    3- " I have tried talking to my son about it but he always takes her side" - stop trying to make trouble for your son and his wife; you will only push them farther away. I will say this though, is there is one to blame is him not her. No one could ever make me forget about my family so she is happily following his lead, unfortunately.

    4- "She doesn't understand that I am trying to help her and give her tips" - she doesn't want your help or advise!!!!

    5- "She is all-American and not want anything Indian" - she is AMERICAN.

    6- "Every time I try to explain to her how we do things in our family, she is dismissive of me"- Aunty please stop seriously or you will push them further away. As much as it may pain you have to understand that you are not in India, your son seems to embrace been American above all and your family is your family and their family is their family. Yes, they are a family now.

    7- "I am scared that my grandchildren will not have any connection either" - this is not your business. Do not try to interfere in how they decide to raise their children or if they will make sure if they learn Hindi or anything Indian; this is not up to you. Be concerned that they give them love, security and a good education.

    8- "I feel abandoned by my son. I am also worried about his eating habits since she does not cook. I gave her some Indian recipes and again she got offended. I made my son lunch to take to work and again she got offended. I do not know what to do..."" - seriously Auntie??? He did not abandon you; he just grew up and stared his own life with the woman he choose to be with and marry. Maybe if you stop treating him like a baby things will get better.

    Wish everything will work out for everyone at the end. Good Luck!!!

    Millie B

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    1. I completely agree with thid ! Your son and DIL, and your future grandchildren are American and you have to accept that!

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    2. While the response may seem a bit harsh, I think Millie B is on the right track. You can't expect an American woman to just roll over and become Indian. Your expectations are off. Also, I would like to add - have you tried to learn about her culture? There are many factions to American culture just like Indian culture. Just as you would not expect a Punjabi to act/live just like a Maharajah, you can't expect every American to all be the same.

      Like Madh Mama, I too take an interest in my husband's culture BUT, my MIL takes an interest in mine. That makes a huge difference. From the beginning she was just as interested in learning about me and how to make me a part of her family as I was about her. From what you write it seems like you only want your DIL to take her place in the traditional Indian hierarchy and start acting like you want her to act. That's not going to happen and as soon as you come to terms with that, the sooner you can begin to develop a real relationship with her. :)

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  16. Aunty,
    I would avoid the temptation to characterize your DIL as spoiled, selfish, etc. as some of these comments indicate. The only thing that seems a bit aggressive is limiting your visits to one hour. Other than that your complaints are mainly about how she's not changing her cultural norms to fit yours. Demonizing her will not help you get close to her. The poster two above is correct that you cannot control how people interpret your intentions, but you can control your actions. If your actions are driving your DIL away, change them. Instead of having an expectation that DIL will be interested in your culture, set an example and open up a two-way street of communication by showing interest in her culture and family history. (She does have culture - American does . Ask her questions. Expose her to your culture in a "take or leave it way" ie, with my Divali party example a few comments above. I really believe you will have much better results this way.

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  17. Aunty,

    I am sorry you are having a difficult time. I think, however, you are expecting your DIL to make up for some of the things your son lacks...and that is too much to expect from her.

    Many of us fell in love with Indian culture...and then married Indian men. Some of us fell in love with Indian men who loved their culture, and we learned to love it as well. However, some of us married men who happened to be Indian and our relationship with them has NOTHING to do with their culture. That sounds like your DIL's situation. She didn't count on having to deal with the "Indianness" of her husband's family....because he doesn't much identify with that part of his identity. As far as she is concerned, he is American and he and his family should accept and understand her American culture.

    Yes, American's have a more distant relationship with in-laws. Yes, we do treat them as guests in the home and yes we do expect to have privacy and space. She is still part of her own family and will likely always have a closer relationship with them than with her husband's family.

    I honestly think that this is a situation where you need to start learning more about American culture and try to understand where she is coming from. One area to start with is to appreciate that your son will not starve if she doesn't cook Indian food. And if she doesn't cook at all...then he can do it.

    If your son felt that his Indian culture was important to him, he would have married someone who understood that and would have made more of an effort. However, it was not a priority for him and you will have to accept that it is not a priority for her either.

    Be kind. Be thoughtful. Appreciate her boundaries. Give her space. Don't criticize. Don't have any expectations. If you do all of this, over time you will develop a friendship, hopefully, and a mutual respect.

    Good luck!

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  18. I am an American with an Indian husband and MIL. I started off very interested and open to the culture. I had an Indian wedding and tried very hard to be accepting of my husband's culture. However, I feel I must speak up for your DIL. She is NOT Indian, and should not be expected to change who she is in order to placate you. She should be accepted and loved as she is. Early on in my relationship with my MIL I was very put off by the fact that I had to EARN her love by accepting parts of her culture. Why couldn't she love me as I was? For the person I was, instead of for what I allowed her to make me? I began to experience a distaste for the Indian culture, simply because I felt like I was acting and becoming a fake version of someone in order to earn respect and love from his side of the family. This sort of "I love you if…" conditional love is fake and left me feeling bitter. I would be showered with love and praise if I posted pictures of my attempts at Indian cooking on Facebook, yet if I posted pictures of my art or my gardening or my athletic activities they would be silent. Why was I only important to my husband's family if I was doing something related to their culture? Also, it is hurtful and insulting to be told how to live your life and what you should eat etc, when you are an adult. DON'T send her Indian recipes. If she asks for them, certainly offer your help. My MIL would try to take over in my kitchen during visits, telling me even how to load my own dishwasher. An American wife will take offense to this even if your intentions are good. This could be the cause of tension in your relationship with your DIL. Why don't you try to get to know her without forcing your culture upon her? If she felt you were interested in her beyond trying to get her to cook Indian food for your son, I can guarantee your relationship would improve. Ask her about her hobbies and what kind of fashion she likes and DON'T lecture her! I can remember my MIL making an attempt to be a part of Christmas tree decoration at my house and she simply couldn't put aside her bossy Mom-knows-best attitude. She kept lecturing me on how I should decorate the tree even though she had never done it in her life! Try to be involved in your DIL's life without asserting your will on her. Your DIL is so much MORE than a conduit to instill culture in your grandkids. She is a person, a human being and you need to get to know her on her terms. I don't condone rude behavior from your DIL, however you must realize that you may have accidentally been rude to her simply based off of cultural differences. I can't tell you the amount of times I have been outraged by my MIL's behavior while she had no idea she was doing anything wrong. Conversely, I have insulted my MIL accidentally simply by acting within the normal American standards of conduct. Remember, your son is an American that married an American girl. How they choose to incorporate Indian culture in their household will be THEIR choice, not yours. How they raise their kids will be up to them, not you. It doesn't mean that you are not a part of their life! It means it is time for you to let go of the reins and watch them grow their own family and love them for who they are. Life is short, embrace your son and his wife for exactly who they are and not who YOU would like them to be!

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  19. Aunty,

    Let me be the first to tell you that Americans can have strong relationships with their in laws, it mostly depends on the relationship of the child to their parents on whether you build that bond. If the child has a healthy relationship with their parents, then their significant other will make an effort. A good example is my sister; she calls her future Mother-In-Law by the title Mom already. She let's her Fiancée’s mother decorate her apartment for holidays and has gotten recipes of some of his favorite foods from her. She has asked for tips and help from both our parents and her future in laws for the planning of her wedding in September. Her Fiancée has an extremely strong relationship with his parents and has brought her around his family's house to establish this healthy relationship. She knows that he loves them dearly and knows that they are a large part of his life and so she has accepted them. A big plus is that their personalities do not conflict and toes have not been stepped on. I know quite a few friends of mine that have these relationships with their in-laws other than just my sister.

    Truthfully, it sounds like the rift you feel between your DIL and you is tied more to the rift between your son and you. You are merely using your relationship with your DIL as the reason for this rift when it has probably been a problem for longer than that. If you want to build a healthy relationship with your son, you are going to have to accept him for who he is and that he has assimilated into American society. Learn what you can about American taboos, because you have done a bunch of them. I think that will be your first step to getting you at least on a better footing with your DIL and will show your son that you are making an effort. Keep in mind that it may take a while before you build up a relationship with her and re-establish a solid relationship with your son. As for an idea to introduce her to Indian food, Memorial Day is coming up and a big American cookout holiday. You could have a cookout in the backyard and invite friends/family over and invite them. Have some American foods and Indian foods there for it. If they come, it's a plus. If not, see it as an effort to try to bring them in. Also, bring an Indian dish with you to Thanksgiving or show off your knowledge of Western cuisine by making something that you know she likes to eat.

    I know that I'm coming at this strictly from an American view as I'm still adjusting to being in a new relationship with an Indian male, but I can tell you that the fact that I know he cares so much about his mother and parts of Bengali culture have made me want to take the effort to learn more about his culture.

    I'm truly sorry to hear that you are in this situation and I wish you the best of luck.

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    1. Abso spot on abt the prob being distance between auntry and her son. sadly so common to blame the dil.

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  20. Hello Aunty,
    I am a Swiss girl married to an Indian and living in Mumbai. I think that in your relationship with your DIl there might be a lot of misinterpretations. This commonly happens when you don't fully realise how deep cultural traits are rooted in any culture and took certain things for granted.

    Generally in many western cultures, space and individuality is highly valued, and in a very different way than in Indian culture. For example, taking over the kitchen, as loving as it is a gesture in Inian culture, is seen as an attack to one's aptitude and skills in the west. Not that Western parents do not help in the kitchen when visiting their kids, but there is generally verbal cues that aren't present in Indian culture. And your DIL might have perceived your making tea as a sign of hostility where there was none.

    Next time, you could try verbally and formally offering your help. Or even saying "Just sit down a minute and relax, I'll help with tea". This is an acknowledgement that her skills aren't being challenged and that you only really want to help. The idea is the same in both cultures, being loving, but she is used to having the message verbally expressed rather than just seeing actions.

    The same misinterpretation occurred during the wedding planning. In many Western culture, asking your parents to do the planning is seen as rude. Bridesmaid are the one pitching in in the US. Parents are just supposed to enjoy the celebration and not be burdened with centrepieces, flowers and financial details. You perceived it as hostile because in India this is the other way round, but she was probably just doing it because it is the respectful unspoken way to do it in her culture. Children are raised to take charge from a very early age in the West.

    I think the fist step you can take in getting your DIL to accept you is to meet her in the middle. Just ask how she is doing, offer help kindly without pushing, respect that there is a different cultural approach to space. Do not expect changes in a day. Leave the food issue alone all together for now, I found out that the greatest cultural clashes and fight happen over food and if other aspects of your relationship aren't steady, tackling this one first would prove to be a disaster. I am sure that if she stop feeling like Indian is pushed on her she will come around.

    Remember the apprehensions you have about American culture, they are as valid as her apprehension of Indian culture.

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  21. hi Aunty !!!!
    i read ur story and i feel some how u are not happy from within of u ...
    Aunty i am so little to advice u anything but i still i will tell u some points :
    aunty first u remove this thinking from ur mind dat u have not done proper upbringing to ur children ..u have two sons ..if u think dat ur one son is married to american and ur upbringing is wrong then what about other son ??? he married to indian .. then it is not possible dat u have given different atmosphere to ur sons ... both were in same environment but its up to ur son's only ... ... so REMOVE THIS THOUGHT FROM YOUR MIND ..U HAVE DONE GREAT JOB ..BE CONFIDENT ....
    and second thing u know in INDIA every family has such issues ... she is american and she is bad ..its not like dat ..lot of indian girls are not well behave to their in laws ...and its complain of most of the in laws who live in india only ........ so dont think that she is american and she is not take care of ur culuture and all ....
    now i m telling u what should u do ..... u know she is not good /not do good behavior ... LEAVE IT THAT GIRL ...i mean not break realationship ..even u cant ..he is ur son's wife ..but dont expect anything from her .... whenever she and ur son want help from ur side as a parent u can support them but u dont except anything from her dat u have given help to them and she is not doing even little bit for me ... dont complaint like dis ... and u can talk to son ..please do not tell bad about his wife ... u just tell .. i understand that she will not accept my culurte or respect us ... we also dont want from both of u ... u both live happy ..dis is our wishes as u both should live happy life with other ... if u have any problem /need help /.. tell us ..we are always with u n ur kids .... dis is our resposibility ....
    aunty if she is not try to change /adopt ur culrute or not behaving properly ..u cant do anything .. u cant scold her and teach everything .. u leave her ... important thing is u should live happy life ...why u spoil ur life for them ..i know they are ur son and bahu .. actually we indian has one big problem ...we except too much from our kids ..and if they are not do up to the mark ..then we spoil our life ... u do busy with ur work which u like ... and one thing more ...please dont compare with alexendra or any indian daughter in law ... u will be sad only ... be postive aunty ... and one more requset ... if she is little bit good ..u think about these things ...i think ur son has seen some good thing about her after that he has taken decision od marrieng with her .. if u believe ur son .... dat he is not so dumb dat he can marry with so rude girl .... u search something from her ... if anything is not good for u .. u leave negative /bad thing ... u cant change ... and when we cant change anything ... we have to leave those things as it is ....
    hope u will understand something ...
    my englidh is so poor ...
    thanks alexendra ...i m now ur regular reader .. can u teach me ..how to write good english ...

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  22. I hope the letter writer will not take offense to what I have to say. I have a brother and he married his classmate. My mother didn't utter a word to me when I married my now American husband, but when it was her turn to become a mother in law to a daughter in law it seemed like every stereotype about the typical Indian mother in law emerged.

    My sister in law works a demanding job which requires a lot of travel. The job is a prestigious one and a boost to my sister in law's career, but all my mother could see was that her dear son was not "being fed the correct food". I have asked my mother many times why her son has to be fed when he is a perfectly capable, grown up man who can cook for himself.

    It may be that this letter writer is unknowingly coming across as dominating. In India, I know that there tends to be a tradition of treating family members with intimate familiarity. I am Indian, born and brought up there, but I can tell you that I don't like it if someone, even my mom, goes in to the kitchen and starts doing whatever she wants to without asking first. I like to be asked. My parents always go on about how American I have "become" when, in fact, I have always been this way. Perhaps the son is like this and his parents have not realized that he is not as Indian as they want him to be?

    It is okay if your children do not get much information about Indian culture. This is my personal view and I may get slammed for it, but it is the parents who must decide when, how, and what the children will learn, not the in-laws on either side. I am of Indian background but I have not really exposed my child to any Indian culture, unless you count Bollywood movies and songs as culture.

    To this mother in law I would say- back off completely. Keep in touch with your son and daughter in law on their terms. Do NOT offer to send recipes to your DIL- if your son wants to eat Indian food he can cook it for himself. Offer the recipes to him.

    Also, how much have the MIL and FIL assimilated in to American culture? This is not a one way street. How much of an effort are you making to learn about and celebrate your DIL's culture?

    In the United States, the bride does not become "of her husband's family", her natal family also remains her family and plays as important a role in her life as you play in your son's life. To some extent, I see some very patriarchal Indian attitudes coming across in the letter (I apologize if this is not what you meant to come across, but I just want to express what I see coming across, because perhaps this is what is rubbing your DIL the wrong way).

    Raina.

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    1. Very well said Raina! Especially about sending the Indian recipes to the son. If he wants it he can cook it! Indian mothers must STOP treating their sons as though they were helpless!

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    2. Anonymous, it does make you wonder, doesn't it? (Why do some (dare I say most?) Indian mothers treat their sons like helpless babies? I remember being rudely shaken awake once because after coming home from school I had not given a snack to my brother (who was then at least 10 years old) and fed him. Oh, and the time when my parents were visiting after I just got marrried. My husband was sweeping the floors and my mother came and told me "poor thing, he is sweeping". If I were the one sweeping I wouldn't even have been acknowledged!

      Raina.

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  23. Hi Aunty,

    I too am an American woman married to an Indian-born man. I want to keep it short and say that your daughter-in-law holds many normal American beliefs. Which would be expected because she is American.

    It is not usual for an American Mother-in-law to come into your house and make tea.

    In the west, giving advice is a very sensitive area, especially for mothers-in-law.

    Your son has an Indian background, but since he was raised from a young age in America, and you said is very "Americanized," he has chosen an American wife and seems to back up the American cultural standards, so it seems pretty clear he has chosen an American lifestyle.

    I know it is hard, but I think because of this you should try and adapt to your son and daughter-in-law's beliefs and lifestyle, and not expect them to adapt to your Indian beliefs and lifestyle. You do live in America, after all -- and for a very long time now. So try to think of things from the American point of view.

    The good news is that you still can forge a positive relationship with your daughter-in-law -- but you have to start small, as friends and equals -- not as someone who is superior because you are her son's mother. When you see her, ask her questions about herself and try to understand what is going on in her life and what she is struggling with, you will start to see what is important to her and what her beliefs are. Do not give advice unless explicitly asked. Do not help yourself to her kitchen or anything in her house unless she says it's okay, something like "go ahead and help yourself to the tea!" I know it is painful for Indian people because the way they show closeness is to do away with such politeness, but most people just don't do that in America UNLESS they have forged a super strong friendship first. Which I'm not sure you have with your daughter-in-law. If you are unsure, err on the side of politeness and carefulness and acting like she is a stranger. If you don't come on as so pushy, over time you may win her over and become friends and be able to have a more truly positive relationship.

    My husband is a lot closer to Indian culture than your son is, his parents have never lived outside of India, so I understand a lot more about Indian culture than your daughter-in-law (and maybe even son?) do. Even then I choose to be American, I have never lived anyplace else and although my husband is Indian I never signed up to be Indian. I respect his family and their culture and beliefs, but I do not choose to live that way myself. Your daughter-in-law may have that same belief also. With respect and kindness and friendship many personal differences can be overcome. Good luck


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  24. Unfortunately in the West, having a bad relationship with one's MIL is very common. In fact it is rare to have a friendship with one's MIL, it requires a lot of work on both sides.

    If your son is not interested in Indian traditions then it's too late to get him interested, but don't feel guilty, because some young people living in India are the same. Maybe he will get interested when he grows older, maybe not. As for your DIL, if she is not interested in anything Indian you can't really change that either. But she should be polite to you.

    You didn't do anything wrong, you just landed in an unexpected situation, and you have to be creative to make the relationship work out.

    I wonder what your husband thinks about this. And why is your other DIL repeating unpleasant things, that doesn't seem very useful ?

    Good luck.

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    1. Anonymous, I am not sure that a bad relationship is common in the West. I think the relationship between in-laws can be bad anywhere, just that the expression of the state of the relationship varies. For e.g., I don't know of a single one of my aunts who can claim to have a good relationship with her in-laws. The relationship my aunts have with their in-laws is one based on hierarchy and obligation (this is something they have told me and I have observed). There is no love as such between my aunts and their in-laws and the daughters-in-law aren't really "allowed" to fully express their true feelings toward their in-laws (again, this is something I have observed within my family). Their relationship isn't good by any standard but they are not allowed to express this or act on it.

      On the other hand, I married an American man and my relationship with his mother was off to a rocky start because I objected to the way she treated me early on in the relationship. We didn't speak for two years but today I can say that I am closer to my MIL than I am to my own mother. Whenever I have an emotional crisis, I call my MIL. I can tell her that I don't like what she says or does and that has actually led to us having a good relationship and I know of many daughters-in-law like me (American and other ethnicities) who have good relationships with their in-laws.

      I see way less saans-bahu drama where I live in the United States than I do in India. Thank you for letting me share and comment.

      Raina.

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    2. Oh yes, bad DIL/MIL relationships are very common in the West, and you find loads of such stories in magazines, novels, movies and real life.

      You didn't speak to your MIL for two years, how thoughtful and compassionate of you.

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    3. Anonymous are you suggesting that Raina was at fault for not remaining in contact with a MIL who was treating her badly? Why is she to be blamed for distancing herself from a toxic relationship? A relationship, by the way, which has healed and blossomed into a beautiful friendship in which they can openly communicate. You seem to want to proclaim Western MIL/DIL relationships as bad, yet you seemed to entirely miss her point.

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    4. Anonymous, I was neither thoughtful nor compassionate to my MIL when we had our falling out- I failed to see her side of the issue as she failed to see mine. The issue here isn't who was or was not compassionate. Negative in-law relationships exist all over the world. This negativity is expressed at times and not expressed some other other times.

      Raina.

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    5. @Raina. If you are Raina of Rick and Raina, then your MIL is American, so you know exactly what I mean.

      I am always impressed by the efforts Alexandra puts to make her family function smoothly, she is really sweet to her MIL. I would personnally not be able to go as far. But however it seems to me when there is an ongoing fight between MIL and DIL then the husband is somehow being blackmailed and disrespected. Then why not show basic respect and compassion to the person who took care of your husband for 20 years, a person of the previous generation ? I don't understand why so many young women are so impatient. Wait a few years and you'll be in a MILs shoes. I've been there, and it was really weird having my child's partner challenging me about imaginary battles.

      In any case congratulations on turning a negative relationship into a very good one, it can't have been easy. Take care.

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    6. Hello Anonymous, I think each situation is different. There are times when the younger generation is impatient but there are also times when the older generation wants to hold on to power and influence over one's child (and this goes for the in-laws on both sides), and sometimes both the older and younger generation are impatient.

      I am just glad that our relationship worked out and we both made the effort. However, I don't think Rick ever felt that he was stuck in between us or that he was being blackmailed or disrespected, by either side. We had many long talks about this when this issue was going on and if anything he acted as our go between and stayed neutral- which was awesome.

      Raina.

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    7. I am curious as to why you state that it is very common to have a bad relationship with your MIL in the West? I don't know if you are from and live in India, but isn't the "saas-bahu" relationship commonly considered to be filled with tension there? My ex MIL treated me like a slave, spoke ill of me to everyone and within a week she told me I didn't belong in her family. This despite having lived all her adult life in different countries outside India. On the other hand, my Canadian MIL isn't exposed to any other culture but she accepted me and my kids with open arms, introduces me to people as her daughter and cries when I have to leave after a visit. Please don't make blanket judgements such as these upon a whole culture and race of people.

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    8. I agree with SowGren and Raina. It's so wrong to make blanket statements like that. But while we are making blanket statements, as an Indian living in India, I can tell that a LOT of marital problems in India come out of the medieval expectations that Mothers-in-law have from their DILs. It's very common for MILs to think their DILs should be grateful to them for raising their husbands. But these same women dont even flinch while disrespecting the parents that brought up their DILs,

      I have an exceeding wonderful MIL, but that's because she is a very sensislbe and educated woman who brought up an independent son. When she brought him up to have his own thoughts, she knew that she couldn't rule his life.And that's exactly how she treats us, as adults. And both of us. She has never babied her son.

      But I have seen horrible examples in my own family. My grandmother mistreated my mother and aunts at her will. She believed she was special because she gave birth to three sons. She thought it excused her of any kind of behavior. In fact, she didnt think she was doing anything wrong ever. She got everything she demanded, except for genuine love from her DILs, and even sons. But that didnt bother her as long as her wishes were being fulfilled.

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  25. Hello again aunty. Reading the other comments spurred a second analysis of your post.

    While it is possible that you just have a rude DIL, there also could be a lot of misinterpretation occurring in your interactions. My desis in-laws and I have often misinterpreted each other's behavior due to cultural differences. I do not like even my own mother telling me how to parent or in general run my life so I can see how your DIL may be offended and you could have started your relationship in a negative way.

    Also, it is unfair to expect that your American son and DIL will conform to Indian cultural expectations. As the other commentators have pointed out, it may be more helpful to try to meet them somewhere in the middle and take an interest in their passions and hobbies rather just trying to force your culture on them.

    My Indian husband and I married young and I remember early on in our marriage my relationship with my MIL was not always as strong as it is now. When I refused to do something "Indian" she said to me "You married an Indian so now you have to be Indian". I quickly replied that I do not have to be Indian. Then she said that "You want only my son, not the Indian culture." Her observation was correct because I had no interest in Indian culture and did not even know an Indian until I met my husband. I married him because I love him for who he is as a human being, not because he is Indian.

    Intercultural marriages can be very challenging but a unique strength is that the partners have an outsider's perspective on each other's culture, which can actually provide clarity with the removal of defensiveness and bias. My husband and I actively try to adopt the good from both our cultures and reject the bad.

    We frequently eat food the "Indian way" and teach our children to be independent the "American way" yet no matter what we do we often are never Indian enough for his parents and American enough for my parents. At this point I have stopped caring what others think. We will raise our children how we choose.

    When I married my husband I think I tried too hard to be Indian to please my in-laws. Now I am confident and comfortable in being who I am, an American woman who does not need to change. And I think finally my in-laws have accepted me as I am. Your DIL may be more receptive to you if you truly accept her as she is and do not expect her to conform to your expectations.

    - Rebecca

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  26. Honestly, if this lady was my MIL, I'd stay away too. And I'm Indian. She sounds very pushy and entitled. No adult needs to be "guided" and "taught" unless they ask you for guidance. And it's not her DIL's duty to imbibe her traditions. Her son can do it if he's interested.

    Then there are the sexist stereotypes. Giving Indian recipes to her DIL who didn't ask for them. Give them to your son. His hands aren't broken, he can make them if he's interested. Don't imply that it is her job to cook for your son. It's not her job to follow your culture and traditions. She has her own. It's not her fault that your son is not interested ion them. He has a mind of his own.

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  27. I just noticed one more thing that bothered me. I don't know if it was the letter writer, or the blogger, who came up with the title for this post, but calling the daughter-in-law "foreign" is a little offensive considering that SHE'S the native of the country where they're living.

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    1. Well, firangi does mean foreign. So i really don't see much different between "firangi bahu" and foreign DIL, it all depends on the perspective. And to a non american family an american is foreign. Even in America . I fail to see that as offensive

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    2. I am an American living in Korean, and I am well aware that I am the foreigner. If I referred to the Koreans here as "foreign," I would be an asshole, because this is their country and it is the last place in the world anyone should call them that. I stand by what I said: it's offensive.

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    3. I see where it is offensive. I am married to a man of Indian descent and would definitely be offended if my MIL called me "foreign" in the country of my birth. I would correct her if she did that. The fact that the DIL is being called "foreign" in her home country is in itself indicative of a problematic attitude wherein the Indian MIL is assuming that everyone ELSE must conform to her standards and culture. It's a very self-centered way of thinking and assuming that no matter where she is, Indian culture is dominant and everyone else needs to conform. This is the central mindset where I think a lot of this letter writer's issues stem from.

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    4. The firangi term in this case most likely means a person of different culture and not necessarily to define ' legal citizen' - born and bred - in the specific country.

      I don't think neither the desi MIL nor the blogger meant it as to be offensive. In India, anyone who was from a different place used to be called (in the old days) pardesi...could even mean from the neighboring state or village.

      so lets all chill and accept the differences - they make life interesting.

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  28. Aunty a few more things to add:
    1) You fear your son has lost his Indian culture and you blame yourself. Did you raise your son to be a good man? Did you teach him to be kind and compassionate? Did you teach him to take care of his loved ones as well as those who are less fortunate? Did you teach him to be a responsible adult and be a good example to his future children? If you have, then what does it matter what culture he accepts? Good and bad men come from all kinds of cultures. What matters is what kind of man he is at his core. Pride yourself on this, as it is really the only thing that matters.

    2) "Indian culture is she belongs to our family now". No. That is not true. She belongs to herself and only herself. If you treat her with this kind of attitude you will guarantee hurt feelings and hostile behavior. Even many modern Indian families have let go of this patriarchal and misogynistic theory that the bride "belongs" to the grooms family after marriage. She will resent you greatly if you continue to think this way.

    3) "She doesn't understand I am trying to help her and give her tips" "She is dismissive every time I try to explain how we do things in our family" "She should learn from me because I am a parent" Here is your problem! This is exactly why she has feelings of hostility towards you. Stop trying to "help" by telling her how to do everything! Her ways will not be your ways and it is not your place to try to change them. Accept that your grandkids will not be raised the way you raised your son. It doesn't make it wrong, and it is NOT your duty to "correct" her. Telling a grown American woman how to do things in her own household is highly insulting so I would suggest not offering "tips" unless she specifically asks your opinion.

    4) Your son is an adult. He can make his own lunch and no longer needs his mother to send him off to school with a packed lunch. Your DIL was probably blown away by the fact that you still feel a need to treat him like a child. I promise you he will survive on whatever your DIL or he himself decides to pack for himself.

    5) Have hope. If you can learn to approach your relationship with your DIL in a different way you CAN heal the rift between you two. I went through something similar with my MIL at a visit about a year ago. Her behavior was intolerable to the point where I didn't even want to be in the same room as her. She knew something was wrong but didn't understand why I was so angry. My husband spoke to her in private and only said one sentence : "She isn't an Indian daughter-in-law, and you need to stop treating her like one." My MIL apologized and things have gotten better. Not perfect but better. I'm sure as time goes on it will continue to improve. Good luck to you and remember that love is the same in every culture!

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  29. @Alexandra

    The picture that you posted above belongs to the Indian show "Sasural Genda Phool". This serial tells the story of a joint family which lives happily in old delhi and each member of the family cares for the other. So much so that when the youngest member of the family gets married to a spoilt rich girl she too is welcomed in the family and slowly she becomes fond of the family.

    I have seen it earlier when you posted some pic from the serial for the first of the aunty detective series posts. It is ironical because the serial actually talks about a happy family where the people love/respect each other rather the issues of dissent which these posts talk about. I knew you are not aware of it but I thought I should share this piece of information with you. I hope I have not offended you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sasural_Genda_Phool

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  30. I would only tell you to leave your kids alone! They are intelligent adults who can make their own decisions. Handing out recipes can be seen as a very rude gesture by some women.
    Talk to your son over the phone and visit their family as a guest. You will always be welcome thereafter. More importantly, don't complain to your son about his wife! If they are happy in their relationship, you should find happiness in their happiness.

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  31. Here is how I feel -

    - Stop blaming yourself for not preserving "Indian culture"
    - You clearly are resentful that your son is not "Indian" enough or that he married a westerner. The resentment seeps through even if you don't articulate it. I do not think, you would be taking kindly to your MIL if she were to look down upon your family and culture because you are not traditional enough.
    - The issue is not your DIL. It is with your son. Your DIL gets the imprint of an Indian culture from your son.
    - Did you ever force your son to be more 'indian' or fit in? You guys clearly have issues you need to talk about.
    - Be cool and give your son and DIL some space. They will come to you as time passes.
    - Do not try to teach them how to raise kids. Just because, you have more experience does not negate the fact that your DIL is incapable of running a family.
    - Enjoy your life and move about in your social circles. Be cool and as time passes your children may come and ask for advice.

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  32. One thing that rattles me is how all the expectation of being 'Indian" are all on the American DIL but not on her own son! The DIL has to fit into her 'Indian' norms. She has to learn to cook Indian food for her husband. No wonder, things are turning hostile in there.

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  33. I worry that my future MIL will feel this way about me. I am of mixed decent (non-Desi) but American through and through. My SO moved to the US when he was 6 months old. Neither of us want the traditional Bengali wedding, neither of us follow the religion that he was raised in and when we have children, we do not intend on raising them within that religion either. I think that I will be the one to bear the brunt of this decision in my future MIL's eyes though even though it is a mutual decision between my SO and myself. Btw, I have not met her yet.

    That said, even though he does not agree with his mom on all of her views, I have the utmost respect for his family and culture. I fully intend to learn and pass on the rich culture. It's something that I don't have as an American. Many don't know exactly where their ancestry lies as an American. My SO knows his lineage and I think that's so great. I definitely would teach that to our children.

    Everyone else is right though. American culture does not involve the parents as much. Couples are left alone to live their own lives. If my MIL started showing up unannounced often I would raise an eyebrow, but I would not kick her out after a specific time. I think it's unfair for her to discount you completely . Your son is the one who should argue on your behalf to her though. Maybe you can mention it to him again. He may outwardly be taking her side since he is her husband, but hopefully he is passing along your sentiments to your DIL.

    Good luck OP. Give it time.

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  34. I am always amazed to see how people can pass judgement on a person who had the courage to open her heart genuinely, but in not many words. Clearly everyone is seing the situation through their own experience rather than trying to understand what is going on. And I am always horrified to see how a simple post can degenerate into cyber-bullying. Ladies, something must be very wrong in your life if you need to pour so much acidity on strangers.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous we must be reading different comments here because I see no "cyber-bullying" here. I see a group of people who genuinely want to help close the rift between this MIL and her DIL and they are using their own experiences precisely to understand what is going on. There are obviously hurt feelings on both sides here, and the only way to rectify this is to understand how these two cultures are at odds with each other. I don't believe this MIL is a bad person, quite the opposite. (otherwise she wouldn't have asked for help) But we MUST be honest with each other if we are to heal this rift. She must know why her DIL may have been hurt by her actions so she can prevent it in the future. This is not "pouring acidity" on her, it is hopefully opening her eyes to a way of loving her family in a way that places no expectations on them to maintain her culture. I think some of the anger you see here is directed at general misogynistic aspects that still remain in the culture and are upheld by the MIL's behavior. (such as the bride belonging to the grooms family etc) It is not a personal attack on her, but an explanation as to why her DIL chooses to distance herself from the MIL. My own MIL has acting in such ways towards me making me furious and severing any hope that I could ever be close with her. But the truth is she had no idea she was doing anything wrong and I know in my heart she is a kind and loving person. Is the answer to simply let it go and let her hurt me over and over? Of course not, we talked it out and I explained exactly why I was hurt by her actions. Honesty and communication is key here. I truly believe everyone here wants this relationship to work and wishes the best for them.

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    2. I don't think anybody is been cruel or cyber-bullying anyone. We are just giving our views and personal experiences on the subject at hand. Sometimes I even wonder if the people sending these cries for help emails are even real or if they submit these asking for help emails to bloggers just to stir the pot. So many heartfelt replies here and no input from the LW. Makes me think if we should really care and engage.

      Millie B

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    3. I agree Millie B.

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    4. @Millie - I have heard from her via email. She is just taking it all in, and she is totally shocked that anything she did could have offended her DIL. She appreciates all the DIL's perspectives and great advice

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  35. @anonymous
    I don’t see the acidity or cyber bullying in the responses to the LW. Perhaps this is another misunderstanding? I see a lot of individuals who can relate to receiving this type of feedback from their MIL and are giving real advice based on their own experiences, which may be on the direct side, but represent the US sentiment toward the LW’s dilemma. Given the LW is in the US, this is likely new and valuable feedback although it could surprising or even hurtful to understand that you’re actions are being perceived a certain way…

    In any case, aunty, this is a tough situation that a lot of us readers can relate to from both sides. If you’re concern is mainly around adoption of Indian culture, I think its best to focus your communication and concerns with your son. Talk about how important it is to you that your traditions are continued, of course within the boundaries of your son and DIL’s comfort zone. A heartfelt conversation could go a long way about what you’re both comfortable with without placing any blame on either side. Try to be solution oriented and focus on how you feel.

    If you’d like to build the relationship with your DIL, perhaps you can find activities you both enjoy like hiking, going to a farmers market, getting a manicure/pedicure or going to the movies. If you can find similar hobbies or activities to connect, then you can begin to build a relationship based on equality. If your DIL feels like you accept her as she is, and doesn’t feel like you are trying to change her, then I think that set you both up for a great new start. Perhaps if your DIL feels accepted as she is, she’ll also be more open to your culture because she doesn’t feel pressured to adopt it.

    I know this may feel like you are making all of the effort, but unfortunately you can only control your actions. If you are dedicated to making an effort and rebuilding your relationship, hopefully she will see this and reciprocate and everyone will win. It would also probably help if your son and DIL had more intercultural friends in relationships (although that my be tough to help facilitate). Most of my friends (and siblings for that matter) are in intercultural relationships, and I think this promotes more open-mindedness in my family.

    I hope the comments here don’t get you down, but give you a new perspective on how your actions may be misinterpreted and some ideas to make things better. Sending love and positive energy your way.

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  36. Dear Aunty,

    Without hearing from both of you, it is hard to say who is at fault and who needs to change. My advice would be to forget the past and start fresh. Don't hold it against her if she is not interested in knowing about Indian culture when your son isn't himself. As the elder, you could make the effort to get to know your DIL as a person. It doesn't hurt to apologize to her for the past - in fact, you will be the bigger person for it. Try and get to know her likes, dislikes and do nice things for her. Once she realizes that you care for her as a person and feels welcome in the family, she will automatically become friendlier and willing to learn different things from you.

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  37. It actually made me cry. As a Canadian girl living in rural India with my Indian husband and his entire family (22 of us in total) I have done everything I can to embrace this beautiful culture while still exposing my children to Canada and all of its glory. It's sad when we come together as an inter cultural couple but one does not value the other. I know the Indian MIL can be overbearing but usually their hearts are in the right place it is just so different from how we are raised in the West. I wish I had advice but you've been given lots here, don't give up but don't be pushy, understand from your words it seems it stems from her need for independence. Just keep loving and making yourself available if she would like to engage with you and learn about her husbands heritage. And if she never does you have you find peace in that. Love your future grandchildren, spoil them with all things Indian :) Good luck auntiji

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  38. Hi Aunty,
    I know your intentions are good but I think you're coming on too strong and your DIL seems like more of an independent type, which requires a different approach. I think you need to come from a more gentle place with her, because whatever you're doing just hasn't been working - time for a new approach.
    I am naturally interested in Indian culture, but a lot of girls are not like that. Since your son is more Americanized, she probably doesn't feel the need to learn about Indian culture - maybe she sees it as more of your thing and less of a thing for the man she married. I wouldn't push it on her and just let it happen organically if she is interested in it.
    I think she also missed the memo that when you marry an Indian, you kinda marry the entire family. But since she feels that she has married an American, then she probably won't understand and/or doesn't really apply.
    From a Western perspective, some things that may have gotten you off to a bad foot:
    - using her kitchen - instead of taking over, offer her from a gentler place as one of the commenters said "rest your feet, let me make you some tea"
    - your son defending her - by Western standards, this is a really good thing and a sign of a good marriage
    - "she belongs to our family" - this may freak her out. For a Westerner, your spouse comes first and foremost, there is no belonging to this family over that family. It also may make her feel like she is a piece of property.
    - usually in Western weddings, it is all about the bride and bridesmaids. The parents are just supposed to show up and enjoy. Indian weddings are more about the parents.
    Going forward, especially when they have kids, I would be conscious of not trying to "take over" as many Indian MILs do. Being a newlywed and a new parent is a sensitive time, and you can offer your support and help in a very gentle way. Sometimes Westerners can be very independent, and they may feel like they want to do everything themselves, they may feel guilty about asking or accepting help. We are just raised this way. When my MIL offered to help me after I had my daughter, I felt that it made me into an incapable parent, even though I did need her help...I really had to do it myself.
    I think you should not be hopeless, but rather try a different approach. It is fixable. Also try to get close to her by asking her about her interests and childhood stories and things like that.
    Best of luck! Lots of hugs :)))))))

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  39. 1. I find it odd that you make no reference to the years your son must have dated the woman whom he married, thats a time to get to know a person and bond with them. If you didn't do that, you can't expect the situation to suddenly be all cosy because they are married.
    2. I don't think you will ever resolve what you see as a problem if you demonise your daughterinlaw. Your son is clearly making choices, about the life he wants. Each generation changes a little. Your son standing by his wife is how a marriage should be, it means it is a marriage in which there is love, trust and mutual respect. You should be happy about that.
    3. I am Indian (living in India) and if anyone - mum or muminlaw - visit, I wld expect them to say they'd like a cup of tea or whatever and not to wander into the kitchen. Its about acknowledging that its my home and not their own. Over time, this may change, but you have to respect the fact that when two adults set up home its their home and not yours.
    4. I would also be very cautious about your desi daughterinlaw who reports what she says your american daughterinlaw says; gossips always have their reasons and you have no way of verifying whether its true; since what she says confirms your own prejudices you believe her. Thats the sort of thing that always causes trouble in a family.
    5. Your talk of "indian culture", there is no one Indian culture and it is also not an unchanging thing (thank heavens!). You should be asking your son why he does not share your view of your family's culture and be open minded about his reasons for the choices he has made. Its really baout your son, whether you like it or not, not about your daughterinlaw.

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  40. Though late here, I hope my words can bring change in someone who reads this. The way I treat my kids have been profoundly changed when I read Khalil Gibran short poem on Children. I am an Indian guy with an Indian wife.

    On Children by Kahlil Gibran

    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
    which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
    and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
    For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
    so He loves also the bow that is stable.

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  41. Any DIL can be like your DIL. Saying American DIL doing wrong things is wrong.
    Forget Indian traditions .Do you not wear American dress. you have changed so this girl is from new generation. Forget advice Just praise her ways all the time .you should just want love and little respect .Do not expect anything.Try to find love .praise her Some people don't like being helped.

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  42. Instead of blaming your son, whom you raised in USA ,perhaps you introspect whether you did something bad to him in childhood or condemned him or ill-treated him. Secondly, accept the reality that when children grow up, they move on. You don't need to bring in racial or national sentiments into it or Indians vs American attitude into this. Perhaps given the fact many Indian mother in laws ill-treat daughter in laws over dowry or burning them alive in Delhi every month, most foreign daughter in laws would naturally feel aversion to it. Rather, you should accept he has a woman in his life, and she will look after him long after you have died and gone. You did your part, now renounce unnecessary ties and desires, and do sanyasa as proscribed in your religion of Hinduism. shaming your son in public forums like this, questions your motherhood.

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  43. Dear Aunty-ji,
    Your post really struck a chord with me. I'm of asian descent (non-desi) but American through and through married to a Punjabi husband.

    As most of the commentors have stated, and I do agree with most of them, being a non-Indian bahu, it can ve extremely distressing for us.

    My own MIL hijacks my kitchen each time she visits, demands long term visits and basically just doesn't understand the concept of boundaries as we do in the West.

    I'd like to pose a question to you: has it ever occured to you that your DIL could very well be stressing on how to build a relationship with you?

    I ask because I know I am. My hubby unfortunately for me takes his mom's side and that's causing me to rethink our marriage and its priorities AND to some degree I can't help but think that if this whole MIL/DIL conflict didn't exist, I wouldn't be in this position. I know I'm not perfect but I've tried being interested in Indian culture...but honestly, I've started developing a strong distaste for it because my MIL only compliments me if I cook Indian food or do Indian things for example.

    So, could it be that your DIL is stressing about it just like I am about the issue. I know I am -- how to tell my own MIL nicely to back off from constantly trying to be alpha in my own home for example. Or telling me I can't eat meat on Tuesdays in my own home for religious reasons....or forcing me to pray to some random baba when we were in India...

    Have you tried putting on the other side's shoes?

    -- FLM

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  44. Dear Auntiji,

    Anything when forced on anyone, instant reaction is to rebel and do opposite, as if to verify the result, is a human nature.
    We fight when are near, but miss even smallest things when are far away.

    If you want a healthy relationship with DL, distance your self to the extent that it's they who seek/crave attention. Going any closer will make it worse.
    Take it as a plan for six months or a year, zero communication/interfering at your end, and it will be they who will have start having thought's of jumping the fence over.

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  45. Why do these people even move to the US, when they know that they will have to face this problem? They should have thought about it before they made the decision.

    Growing up with Indian culture in India is different than growing up with it in USA (or any other western country). In India you have people around you, who follow the same customs and tradition as those of you. In USA it sticks out like a sore thumb. Why would you even force your son and especially daughter-in-law to follow Indian culture now that you are in America, as if it is the only superior culture around? It unnecessarily creates identity crisis in children and may affect them emotionally.

    It feels like you are bossing your DIL in sugar-coated words.

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  46. Well, you probably have to pay off for all those mother in laws who forced their sons to leave into an arranged marriage forcing lo leave their western girlfriends. Sad but often innocent people suffer whereas heartless beasts enjoy their life. Just leave your daughter in law alone and focus on your own life and life of your son married to an Indian. And yeah, I can understand so well the resentment of your daughter in law when you say you want to teach her future kids. Even if we as young girls have no experience, we want to make this experience ourselves and raise kids as WE want. Help is ok, but on our terms. Good luck.

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