Dear Therapist: 'I just can’t get along with my in-laws'
I’m newly married and having a hard time adjusting with my in-laws. The relationship with my husband seems to be fine but I can’t stand living in a joint family set-up. I didn’t realise this before getting married, so I never discussed it with my husband before our marriage. But I feel like I’ve lost all my freedom and it’s suffocating. — Name Withheld
Dear Writer, I sense that you are feeling quite overwhelmed and frustrated with the living situation. Living in a joint family brings its own dynamics and roles and someone who has never lived in one is bound to take time or even struggle transitioning. I am glad that you have a good relationship with your husband who can be banked on for support whenever the need arises.
I believe that defining the problem often reduces the distress that people experience; in this case, when you say you lost your freedom, what does that entail for you? Is it loss of privacy or obligations that you need to adhere to, different lifestyles or rituals or permeable boundaries? Building an outline of what’s important to you, what annoys you, what you are willing to let go of and what you need to hold on to would help you understand your needs better. At some point in time, you will have to open a dialogue on this so that changes can be made at both ends. Strategies can range from delegating or dividing tasks, building space (psychological and physical) away from in-laws while co-existing, communicating your needs or negotiating. When you analyse the problem at hand, it helps you step back and be specific, which would later translate to clear, objective feedback rather than coming from a vulnerable state of mind. With time, both your in-laws and you will learn more about each other and hopefully not step on each others’ toes.