Cruel Mother-In-Law Has Me Contemplating Divorce From Arranged Marriage

Reader’s Question

I’ve been in an “arranged” marriage for 1 year 8 months. My husband’s older brother got married 2 months after we did, and his mother is definitely the family “boss.” We have all been living in the same home.

Soon after getting married, I realized that my husband had lied to me about several things. I also got to know my mother-in-law’s habit of gossiping and passing along insulting remarks directly or indirectly. I have tried to be nice to her, but she gets worse everyday. She has humiliated my parents and relatives, hints that I am of a lower caste, talks about all the proposals my husband got before I came along and makes mountains out of molehill events. She also regularly complains to him about me.

My husband says the whole situation is “normal” for his family and I just have to learn to live with it. He says that because I’m an only child, I didn’t have to face any real troubles in life. Most of our arguments involve my mother-in-law, and he doesn’t really give any real support.

One day this woman said that I snatched her son away from her, even though she accompanied us to various functions or shopping early on, and the marriage was in fact arranged. She’s never been as involved with her older son and his wife. She has lied to her son about me and also to his father, brother, and some friends and relatives.

A while back I began to have trouble falling asleep and became afraid even to go near her. Just before our first wedding anniversary, I couldn’t take emotional pain any longer and took an overdose of sleeping pills. My husband has since refused to let me do things on my own but has also refused to let me see a counselor. I had hoped that things would improve once we move into our own house (only 6 meters away), but things have gotten worse in the meantime. I finally realized that she’ll cause trouble for me even after we move out, so I left my husband 2 weeks ago.

My husband has promised many things, but I don’t trust him at all. He has told me not to call him and that he won’t take my calls. The only things that matter to him are his own family, his social image among his friends, family and associates, and his personal ambitions.

I’m seriously considering divorce. If my husband’s mother wanted her son for herself, why did she encourage and arrange his marriage to me? Why spoil my life? When I look at the situation with my sister-in-law, it seems that because she is an aggressive and disrespectful woman my mother-in-law doesn’t bother her. So she has a chance to live happily with my husband’s family. That makes me think that in my husband’s family, I couldn’t possibly be respected unless I become a nagging shrew of a wife.

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Thanking you for your time and advice.

Psychologist’s Reply

There is a difference between being a “nagging shrew” and asserting yourself. There are some people whose personality is such that they will walk all over those who don’t stand up for themselves. But taking a stand, setting limits, and insisting that other people respect boundaries that you set does not make you “aggressive and disrespectful.” Being aggressive instead of assertive means trampling on the rights of others, crossing their boundaries, and observing no limits. By walking out, you should have already demonstrated to yourself that no one has the power to make you do anything, let alone prevent you from seeking counseling. Visiting with a professional might help you learn to distinguish aggression from assertion and also help you gain more insight into those aspects of your personality that make you particularly vulnerable to forceful personality types. Taking pills and running away is not the ultimate solution. Learning how to empower yourself will not only help you decide whether you really want to remain in this marriage but also help you avoid future anxiety and despondency in all your relationships.

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