In our lives, there are some relationships that we are born into and then there are some that we choose over time. We spend almost the first half of our lives with the relationships we are born into. Our sensibilities, thinking, lifestyle, manners are shaped by and amongst them. Once we grow up, we step out of our cocoon, explore the world and choose a partner to spend the rest of our lives with. Along with a life partner, we also get a family that comes as a package with them. While we get accustomed to the former relationships, the latter one needs time and patience to bloom.
Among them, the trickiest of all is a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law’s equation.
A relationship that has been predominantly governed by a set of rules of patriarchy for ages and generations. After all, if it hadn’t been the most complicated one, TV Empress, Ekta Kapoor’s company would have shut down long back.
But does it always need to be a tough nut to crack? What should ideally be a relationship of mutual understanding and respect, instead becomes an unnecessary and out-of-control mess. So, where does the mysterious common meeting ground lie?
I have stories of some friends who share surprisingly amazing chemistry with their mothers-in-law, some claiming it to be even better than their own mothers. While it is difficult for me to gulp it down, it’s equally pleasant to get to know about the stereotypes being broken. But, I also have stories where the women are living their nightmares, where the equation between ladies of the house have practically ruined the relationship with their spouses.
Let’s first talk about the dilemmas of daughter-in-law.
In Indian culture, getting married, leaving your family, and moving into a new home with a new family isn’t always dreamy. It can be overwhelming, testing, and chaotic. I won’t be lying but the way young girls are brought up in our society, living under humongous pressure of impressing their in-laws to be, with chefs like culinary skills and butler-like home management qualities, if you ask me, all Indian girls should be awarded some gallantry award on their first anniversary but after a while, even a compliment feels like a distant dream.
Keeping unrealistic expectations from daughter-in-law, expecting perfection from just one person in the family, carrying all the chores of household single-handed is unfair.
Likewise, I have seen many young girls getting uneasy over the changes which come in life after marriage. They live in the false bubble of personal freedom and think their lives will be unaffected post the status shifting from single to married. Once the bubble bursts, they end up avoiding the circumstance of being together or being there for the new family when needed. A peaceful co-existence under one a common roof, between the two parties at loggerheads becomes impossible.
What are the attributes of a dream-like relationship between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law and how it can be turned into reality?
1. Communication is the key.
I am a firm believer in the fact that all the wars of the world have ended over a round table. Conversations can do wonders. Putting objectively your point forward will save you from all the overthinking and misunderstandings. Be a respectful speaker and a generous listener. It’s always better to take a stand on what you believe, put it forward and be open towards reactions rather than sulking about it and breaking the bridge of communication.
2. They both are a part of one team.
I recently saw and shared a tweet as it resonated with me big time. It goes like –
The world can be divided into two kinds of people-
1. I had to go through it, so you should too
2. I had to go through it, so I’ll work to make sure you don’t.
In a non-toxic equation, the mother-in-law will try to make sure that her daughter-in-law doesn’t have to suffer the problematic practices of family and society which she had to bear in her time. It isn’t the case of harassed becomes harasser. They protect each other from outside threats.
3. Defeat the power struggle.
This relation serves as the classic case of a power struggle. A silly banter has the capacity to become a battle of the wills in wrong minds. It’s not just limited to the most coveted man of their lives i.e the son and the husband but it extends to everything, the right to exercise the simple choices, lifestyle, regular household, or maybe even professional decisions. A healthy relationship defeats the power struggle by taking a back seat. It knows that not everything can be won over by locking horns.
4. Empower one another.
An ideal relationship believes in the power of community. They believe that there is a larger purpose in their lives and help each other to achieve them. Life can be shockingly simple and better when women come together and encourage, empower each other instead of taking jibes and pulling each other down.
I was amazed by the spirit and determination of my friend who trained her widowed mother-in-law to operate computers, work on emails, social media, gave simple lessons on how to use a pen drive, and then empowered her to become a partner in full-fledged business. She changed the course of her mother-in-law’s life by taking simple steps, one at a time.
5. Draw the boundaries.
A few years ago, I was attending a Delhi wedding and while sipping chai together with my mom and her friends, an aunt of the bride announced her philosophy stating that if there is one truth in this world, it is that a daughter-in-law can never be a daughter to a mother-in-law and she should never strive to be, rather she should stick to her role and do justice to it. As an emotional young girl, few years distant from the prospect of marriage, I felt disheartened. But now after being married for nearly a decade, I can say that it must have come from a life of pleasant and unpleasant experiences.
A DIL and MIL are restricted by their positions in their relationships. Interference and lack of privacy may ruin the bond. Knowing your place, your duties, your responsibilities and boundaries makes it a little happy to co-exist.
6. Ditch the melodrama.
They make efforts to save themselves from jealousy and competition. It doesn’t come easy, at once and early, it takes time and understanding. The son of MIL and the husband of DIL becomes the prime object of competition and jealousy but it takes a certain level of maturity to understand that both mother and wife have their own special places in his life. I will take it a step further and say that smart ones know that they shouldn’t ruin their relationship even over the most important man of their lives. They are not here to replace each other and their vision is not restricted to just this.
7. Choose their battle.
Real women avoid drama. They save their precious time and energy on petty issues. They pick the battles which matter to them, talk about them or sort it out and leave the rest to die on their own.
Afterall, MIL and DIL are related for life through a bond, it’s better they keep their differences aside, open their hearts, leave their biases and try to co-exist minus drama.
If nurtured with little understanding, love and empathy, the relationship between DIL and MIL could be one of the most fruitful relationships of a woman’s life. They come to each other in a package deal, it’s difficult to exist without each other in a family set-up. So it’s better they leave the age-old practices away and make efforts to be the new-age, cool, partners in crime DIL and MIL.