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My husband loved and lived with my parents...

30 Jan 2017

Dear ePsyClinic,

As an avid reader of your articles and also your client... I want to share my story too with the larger audience.

Sometimes I feel the pain people have, and then they find hope. Marriage seems to be tough, and hence I want to share a story today; the story of my parents and their son in law.

Even before we got married, he would ask me who would take care of my parents after our marriage. I am a single girl child you see, and he was concerned that my parents would be needing and lacking my support if I shifted with him post marriage. I would always say we both would be taking care of them in case of emergencies.

‘Waise bhi, they are parents of a girl, they’re mentally prepared to live without me from the day I was born.’ I told him, ‘And we both will be there in case of emergencies.’

He never bought that. ‘So your attachment and relationship with your parents will be based on emergencies?’

I never really had an answer to that. I am an Indian girl, I was raised with the notion that one day I would get married and be away from them.

But I liked that he cared, I was grateful for his generosity; but yes, the question about my parents often pricked me inside, especially since now both my parents had several ailments and were not physically healthy and fit... 

A couple of months before our marriage when he announced that he would be shifting in with me and my parents post marriage, I was stupefied. Who has ever heard of such a thing? I was mortified about what might follow if he actually took this step, and tried to dissuade him. The typical Indian girl in me could not accept this revolutionary idea readily. I mean what would people think and say? I was aghast! He was his calm self as usual, never taking my apprehensions seriously. What people said never really mattered to him; egotistic as he was, for him his decision was final. My parents shared my fears too, especially mom, but they were not against it.

The months that followed after our marriage were just as I dreaded. People commented everywhere; even relatives from my side were relentless. I was proud of my husband, he did everything a son would have done for his parents, and he did way more than me. At times I felt he was really their son! However, the thing that hurt me the most was the comments about him. I often heard people telling how I stole him from his parents; that hurt, but I could live with it. but it bled my heart when I had to hear that he had moved in with my parents as I was the sole child and he wanted the property; or how mean he was to have left his parents ‘for a girl’! I would beg him to shift, to stay in a mid way between both our homes, but he won’t budge. He would say he neither took the decision based on peoples’ opinion, nor he would change it for that.

But it was taking a toll on me. I felt guilty all the time, and blamed my parents for not having another child. When he would ask me not to think like that, I would at times over him, and then feel all the more guilty. In the meantime, my mother’s health started failing suddenly and rapidly. The doctors gave some initial meds which did not work out, and further tests revealed diabetes type II in its most severe form.

 I went into a spiral of negative thoughts, that it was my fault that my mother was being like this; since I took my husband from his parents, God was punishing me by taking my mother away. I cried most of the nights, much to the dismay of my husband, who simply wanted me to be happy all the time.

It was a critical situation. Given her condition, the doctors asked my mother to stay away from stress, and with every passing day I would succumb another inch into the negative thoughts and push everyone away. I had many reasons to be depressed.

I was sure I would lose my mother, and then there was this constant guilt, and I felt one day I would lose my husband too. I was not in a position to realize how my depression was affecting my mother, or how I was hindering her prognosis.

He did. He stood by me as a rock when I was most vulnerable. He took care of my mother. From the regular tests to the daily prescribed doses of medicines, he knew it all by heart.

He would take her to the hospital for checkups; take her out to visit friends and relatives when she felt like meeting them. He never gave in to the idea that her critical diabetes meant anything.

But I could see my condition bothered him. Day by day I grew distant from him too, I felt he was doing so much for me, how I can repay it back. I felt that I was not good enough to take care of my parents and thus he had to stay with us leaving his parents. I believed it hurt him but he never said.

It was not that he was not in touch with them; he would visit them weekly, stay over once in a while and was with them in each and every need. In short, he was playing the role society expected of me, and he was doing a damn fine job.

Destiny bows down before determination, and in front of his resolve, illness had to take a step back; my mother was getting better.

The treatments worked, but as the doctor said, it was the care she was receiving that made the difference. In lieu of this happy thing, we had a get together at our place one Sunday afternoon.

The place overflew with relatives, and my mother seemed to be basking in joy. But I could not be happy; I sauntered round the corners and tried to avoid the banter and laughter. It was then that I overheard them.

Some of my relatives were discussing about my cunning plan, how I surgically took my husband away from his family, made a whole time household aid out of him, and how he followed through my plan as I was the sole heir. I started crying and tried to run away, when an iron grip caught my arm. My husband stood there.

Tears rolled down my eyes as he took me inside the living hall and faced the guests. When he spoke, it was cold, a tone of steel.

‘I would like to say something to all of you,’ he began.

‘Since the day we got married, all of you must be wondering what I was doing here, in her place with her parents. Some of you blamed her for ‘stealing’ me from my parents, while others decided I was after the property. Now I really can’t care less about what you all think, but I could see that it has been hurting my wife for months; and that is something I care dearly about.

I am answerable to none of you, but still, I chose to move in with my wife and her family as she was their only child, and I could not deny them her support when they need it the most. I took care of them as I take care of my own parents; I never thought of her parents as anything different than my own. When they gave me their most treasured possession, I felt this was the least I could do with them.

The curious thing is, none of you would have questioned had this been the other way round, if she was taking care of my parents. That would have been normal?

Ask yourselves, all of you, how many times you have been in pain as you were away from your parents when they needed you; how many times have you wished you could take care of them when they were ill?

I dare say, many, many times. But you still stuck to the societal norms. Who said I cannot take care of my in laws because I’m a guy?

Don’t the girls’ parents deserve love and support and care at their old age? Is it a crime to have a girl child that we have to leave them alone? Or better, send them to old age homes? Sorry, I disagree. My wife is the best thing that happened to me, and I only have gratitude for the people who brought her to this world and raised her. This, as I told earlier, is the least I could do; and I’m thankful to have this opportunity to do it.’

The room was silent, but I could hear something snapping inside me. It was the dark shackles that bound me in guilt all these months of agony, the pain it brought with it was receding, I looked up to my husband with nothing but pride and awe this time, and I hugged him and cried.

It was not the cry of pain, but of relief and pride and joy. I must have done something right in this life to have someone like him by me; and I felt a little proud to have given my parents a son along with a daughter.

Society is made by the familial system, but the family is not run by the society.

We need not live with the norms that hurt us, or our loved ones. Far or away, it is our responsibility to take care of our elders, and the gender of the child does not matter. I was and am proud of my husband; but how many of you are like him? How many of you are the prides of their wives? Food for thought.


Preeti Singh


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Tags: son in law husband wife single child parents old age marital life social norms sadness pain depression