Islamic marriage advice and family advice

How can I cope with my oppressive Mother in Law?

As Salam Alaikum everyone. I'd like to share my story since recently getting married (about three months ago) and ask you for some advice on how to deal with my oppressive mother in law (MIL).

Let  me begin by saying that my husband and I are very much in love allhamdullilah and he is a wonderful, kind, generous man. Due to financial reasons, and partly cultural, since getting married we have been living in his family home with his brother's family and his mother.

The problems I have with his mother:

My husband and I can never go out together - If my husband wants to take me to his friend's wedding for e.g. she will tell him off for not asking her permission to take ME, as if i'm her property. Then she'll ask why I need to go. If we go out two consecutive days she will shout at me and ask what the need is to go out 'all the time'. My husband, to avoid her bad moods, will now go out to eat or go shopping with his friends, instead of with me.

When I do tell her I'm going out with hubby she will completely ignore me and then find a reason to pick a fight, bully or belittle me when I come home. Needless to say I can't even enjoy the day or evening with my hubby because her black cloud is always hanging over me. This has put a lot of strain on our marriage. As newlyweds we haven't had the chance to spend any time together or to grow as a couple. I actually feel like I'm married to her.

I can't go out - before marriage I had a lot of wonderful friends alhamdullilah. I would visit their homes, go shopping with them or invite them to my place, or we'd go out for coffee. This has become pretty much non-existent now and I don't see my friends anymore. They don't like coming over because they aren't keen on my MIL and if I go to visit them I'm under strict orders to be home within one hour. A friend came over once and I walked her to her car when she was going home because it was dark. My MIL flipped out and said that if other bengali people saw me out so late (9pm) they would think bad of me. Bearing in mind I was just walking my friend to her car nearby

She forces me to act, eat and behave in a certain way - after marriage I was told I HAD to wear bangles at home at all times, which I HATE. Anyone who knows me will know that I don't wear jewellery, even when I'm out. I feel like i should be allowed to be comfortable in my own home??!! I'm also not allowed to cross my legs or sit comfortably on the sofa with my feet up (???) and if I don't eat something she offers me, she will shout at me. Again, eating is for pleasure, not something you force onto a person!!

I feel like a glorified slave! She truly believes that she comes before my husband and that I must ask her permission before I do anything. I have tried to get on with her and love her but it's so hard when she oppresses me so much. I work weekdays but on weekends while my husband works I spend my days with my MIL and I find it so hard to relax, be happy or even step out of the house for whatever reason. She took it upon herself to call me a bad Muslim and that I shouldn't bother going to Quran classes as I'm not practicing enough anyway. This really upset me and I've quit going now as she complains that I get home too late (9.30pm).

Because she doesn't swear or hit me I feel it's hard for my husband to understand her abuse. It's mental abuse. If I do go out with him as courtesy I'll pop my head into her room and tell her where I'm going (I refuse to ASK her) and she will carry on staring at the tv screen and refuse to acknowledge me, which is a little sign to say 'I'm not happy about it'. Then I get evil looks and belittling remarks when I come home.

The last time I felt happy and free was when I was at my mums. I hate feeling trapped in my own home and I hate that she treats me like her property. This woman prays five times a day and dedicates a lot of her time to Allah SWT, yet she is oppressive, rude and if I'm being honest, she SCARES ME. I'm scared of her moods, of her bullying me and telling me off.

Due to financial reasons hubby and I can't move for least another year so I need to find a way to live in that house without feeling trapped, anxious, scared or depressed.

Please help me,

Jazak Allah Khair

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10 Responses »

  1. Assalam alaikum,

    I think you have the following choices:

    1. Your husband should be directly dealing with his mother in private - he should gently remind her that the both of you are married. He should reassure her that if there is something that she needs, he will be happy to fulfill it and that how that is accomplished is his job, not hers - whether he does it on his own or whether the both of you choose to do it together.

    You should not be talking to your MIL about any of these issues UNLESS, you have big shoulders and thick skin...takes a little time to develop that!

    2. If it is unbearable to continue living this way, you could always live in a one-bedroom or bachelor suite or the cheapest thing you can find.

    3. Tell your MIL that you don't like the rift between yourself and her. Be upfront and forthcoming and simply tell her that time spent between yourself and her son is in no way an act of disrespect and that you want to establish good relationships with everyone in the family. None of the Prophets' (peace be upon them) sons lived with them - and this a mere cultural practice that has become obligatory, rather than an option as a solution for some couples and their aging parents.

    Lastly, I really have trouble blaming your MIL because I feel this is mismanagement on your husband's part. Your MIL has security, terroritial and personality issues - IF he has trouble understanding her abuse, as you say, he certainly has no trouble going out with his friends in place of going out with you alone - so I beg to differ in that he doesn't understand. Frankly, if you have to sacrifice going out, he probably should too 🙂 .

    Some people will tell you to compromise and bend over backwards on every issue, and others will tell you to stop taking any abuse - I think you have to find a middle ground, you have to be careful, tactful, mindful, but not a doormat. On one hand, you have a year to move out, on the other hand, you have a place to stay. Only you can tell what good things you have and for what price you have them (for instance, a place to stay at the price of an oppressive MIL). More than likely, she can't be reasoned with, she probably wasn't allowed to do any of the things you are doing and will make sure you can't, because, she couldn't when she wanted to. Cycle of abuse. I know it can't be easy to listen to all that comes out of her mouth, BUT if you understand her psychology, it might make it easier.

    Bottom line, don't let this MIL make you into a bitter person, shake off whatever negatives she sends, talk to your husband about the options above, and beg Allah swt for a solution that would be the best for all. May Allah ease your difficulties, Ameen.

  2. Walaikum salam sister
    I feel veey sad to read your problems, i have the exact opressive and controlling mother in law as yours and eexact same problwms you are facing, i felt as if i am reading story of my life. I know how does it feel to get bullied by MIL and in laws. My MIL never let me go with my husband either, if we wanna go after many weeks, we have to come home within an hour, otherwise she forcefuly comes with us and ruin every bit of enjoyment. I don't even go out with my hubby anymore because i am done with it. She goes and keep criticizing, belittling us while sitting un the car on the way, i am just done. People think its abuse cycle but believe me, she never ever lived with her in laws or even her mother in law. No one ever bothered her, no one ever came over her house etc. She drive her own car and go wherever she wants but bever let me go with my husband alone. She gets extremely jealous of me and i alalways see in her eyes. We couldn't move out of her house because she also abuse my hubby and only my hubby, she never ever say anything to her other married sons because they never give her no importance obly my hubby isbcaring to her and me. Only we are her victims and if we speak up or try to move she threatend us that she will not give a single penny tto my hubby in inheritance etc and she will ttellall the people that we left her. I am so stuck and lost, i cry myself to sleep for bbeing so helpless. Speaciallynme i am soooo scared of her either, she is a living wwitchwho can't even let you leave. I hate that person who invented this livingnwith inalws tradition. She controls our life because it's her house and my father in law gave her his everything, property, money, car what and what not and she created qayamat when my hubby bought me a very normal dress. She insulted me and his son so bad. I pray to Allah to have mercy on me because it's unbearable and i am dead inside. I don't know why these women have no fear of facing Allah.

    • Compulsory living with in-laws is a Hindu custom or one could say Indian sub-continent tradition - not Islamic. It is horrible when forced on people, especially when mothers manipulate and emotionally blackmail their sons into taking their side in anything and everything--having said that, it can be enjoyable WHEN it is by choice and adults respect each other and their privacy.

      Your husband NEEDS to take a stance without be disrespectful or mean. Whatever his mother says can be and should be ignored. Hopefully, this practice, without choice, will be eradicated in the next generation, inn shaa Allah.

      May Allah bring justice in your relationships, Ameen.

  3. Salaam sister im sorry for the situation your going through and I understand your pain -
    I had a mother in law who tried to control my life but the only difference was that my husband let her! In your case, you seem to have a lot of patience with her, and your husband seems to behave well with you Ålhamdulillah. The advice you have already been given is good and worth trying. My advice is that If you are going to be moving out anyway and your happy with your husband then perhaps keep your peace. I know it might not be the right thing to do and very difficult but turn a blind eye to whatever she does - let her say what she wants to and don't let it affect you - in through one ear and out the other. It's early days and she seems a little jealous of your relationship with your husband. Although husbands should treat both their wives and mothers equally, sometimes this doesn't happen and the mother can actually have a lot of influence over her son and can play a part in ruining his relationship with his wife because of resentment and control. She also seems like someone who has a personality disorder, and that's something you can't change. Even if your husband was to speak to her politely she may not like it or deny it and work towards making your life even more miserable. If you ignore her bad behaviour, and continue to develop your relationship with your husband, she may eventually become bored and let you guys live peacefully. By doing this you would have also built up a stronger relationship with your husband which is very important in situations like this. Anyway, I pray Allah SWT softens your mother in laws heart and places love in it towards you, ameen.

    • Also just to be clear im not telling you to be a doormat, but just to be clever. Don't destroy the peace between you and your husband because of your mother in laws bad behaviour.

  4. Dear Sister Lisa,

    Be aware, your MIL may need time to get use to you as part of the family. You are only there for 3 months, she want to show you that she is the boss of the house! Of course, the best option is to find the cheapest housing to move out. If you are unable to do so, within this year you may need to establish your living routine - surviving tactics - and kindly let her know that you are in charge of your part and you are not stepping on her zone. Do it professionally, use less word, less interaction so as to avoid confrontation.

    For example, during the weekday after work, help her to fix dinner say from 6-8pm. Then you will start cleaning from 8-9, etc. After that, you go back to your room with your husband and leave her alone. Try to schedule early if possible whenever there is an outing with your husband or with your friends. Give her an early notice. Ignore whatever she said to you. She will be mean and critical, expect that but ignore it with a firm smile and be respectful. NO EXCHANGE OF WORDS. Every weekend when your hubby is not around, try to help organize the house and do all the necessary cleaning. Every other weekend, spend sometime with your family. Remember, the point is to make a routine, let her get use to it.

    If she expects certain events happen in a repetitive way, she will transit and tone in more smoothly. Oh, one more thing, you and your husband should not show any affection in front of your MIL . Do not even sit close together in the sofa or hold hands, your MIL is a very jealous type of woman, avoid this. Hope this practical information can help you before you move out.

  5. Dear Lisa,

    Just want to elaborate a few things here. The routine is about respect, firm, kind and create space for both of you. You also need time to adjust your MIL's living pattern. Always remember to acknowledge her presence.

    When you go out, let her know and ask if she needs anything. Or bring her a little stuff (food or things) when you are out with your friends. this is to show that you know her presence and respect her. When you cook, ask her what food she would prefer. When you clean, ask her if she has anything or anywhere that she want to clean. When she impose to you on trying some food, you should try it out of courtesy. Politely tell her that you don't need further if you don't like it. When she force you to wear bangles at home, tell her that the bangles are pretty and you prefer to keep it rather than wear it as obstructs your work . Be smooth, no need confrontation. Be prepare her negative attitude AND don't get upset about it. Inshallah, by respecting her and helping her daily in the household, she will see your inside beauty and will appreciate you as her DIL very soon. Amen. (Bonus is one year go fast ; ) )

  6. Dear editor,

    I post 2 post here and only one is published. Please check. Thanks.

  7. assalamualaikum sister

    this was same situation i faced please dont be dis hearted , even i had gone through lot of pain diring my first three months but let me tell u be on right path and allah will always guide , but my issue was i have 5 brother inlws who are ummarried i am eldest daughter in law and sharia does not allow me to stay with them under one roof so i asked my hubby to keep me in sperate house , but trust me i took this decission not just for this reason but also that



  8. Your 'story' sounds like mine. My mother in law was and is an evil oppressive ruthless woman who is hell bent on getting her way. My husband was a mamas boy and sisters little pet and controlled by so many taweez my salah and Quran and dua were not enough to help. Sadly been 10 year and yes he bought a bbq and all the meal for his sisters and mum and forgot all about the anniversary. Sis .. Run... I wish I had. Inlaws and hubby will end up making u look and feel mad so they remain smelling of roses. Believe me sis. Get out while u can
    They hav done so many taweez on me my kids the whole thing is a mess. I am learned in religion so alhamdulillah would never make it up but if I cud go back to my younger self I would drag her out of this awful excuse of a marriage and this disgusting family and make her run for her life and go into hiding until she was strong enough to kick their ass. I stayed bcs I didn't want to upset my parents but to be honest they have broken me soo much its upset them anyways. I wish Allah protects everyone from people like this and yeah yeah so many ppl try to put blame on me... But this time I know I have been trapped humiliated and hurt so much counsellors I have spoken to say the truth is in my voice and eyes alone and I dnt care what Asian ppl say they cN call me a LIAR whatever they want... If I get out of this situation smoothly that itself will my reward and ppl can take to their grave what they have to say. I have kids now have contemplatid suicide once the kids are old enough to fend for themselves but dnt want that stigma on my kids and give my inlaws more fuel .. I pray Allah keeps me strong for my parents and my kids... I no longer hav a lot of love for my husband who once gave me some cheap flowers 2 in ten years!! and then beat me up after to remind me of his graciousness. Yes beat me up. My mil got her wish in the end and he said he didn't know what he was doing .. Yup that's right... He was so possessed he didn't even know what he was doing .. Totally controlled by a weekly dose of taweez... Yup I even know its weekly but nothing I can do. The family itself are extremely controlling everyone their kids grandkids marry they control with taweez. It's awful and then they gloat their 'success' in other people's faces I sometimes wonder why do innocent peopleike my humble kind parents hav to suffer sadness because of selfish arrogant people like these . Allah have mercy

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