March 20, 2023
I, (name), take you, (name), to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.
This is a beautiful vow taken by the couple at a Christian wedding. It is expected from the couple to follow this and fulfill the vow throughout their married life.
When I was pondering about this vow, I felt it would be nice if there was another line that could have been added which says “I will support you, stand by you and defend you, even when others around are mad at you”.
Well, you heard me right. I am sure you are questioning, why? The answer is simple, in society today the couple is expected to take care of each other when one is sick, they are expected to support each other financially, they are expected to share chores, they are expected to bring up children together, everything today is expected to be shared. Well, a big round of applause to the progressive mindset of our society. But, sadly in only one aspect, it is expected that the man must not support his woman or defend her when his family is mad or angry with her.
Recently when I met my friend for coffee, she shared with me the sad plight of her colleague. Her colleague was a beautiful, talented young girl who was in her late twenties. It had been four years since she was married. From the beginning, she had to face a lot of restrictions and conditions at her in-laws’ place. She was stopped from pursuing her passion, she was not allowed to work in shifts and she had to manage the chores without any external help. Despite all this, she had adjusted and managed to lead a decently happy life. Recently, due to an accident, she had mobility issues with her hand and in order to help her, her husband had appointed a house helper. This was not taken well by the parents-in-law. When her husband supported her, the matter blew out of proportion and it reached a stage where issues started cropping between the couple and they headed for a divorce. Listening to this made me extremely sad, and I began to wonder about the fragility of our relationships today.
I have heard many people say, “A daughter is a daughter forever but a son is a son only till he is married”. How wrong is this statement? Every time I hear this, I find it demeaning and disappointing. Both daughter and son love their parents equally but every parent expects their daughter to be welcomed and taken care of by her husband and in-laws. The same parents forget that their son who has married someone’s daughter also needs to shoulder the responsibility. In homes where there is a son and a daughter, parents expect the daughter to be respected at her in-laws’ home. If any untoward incident happens, they hold their son-in-law responsible. They ask him to stand by their daughter come what may but when the same situation arises in the family and their son stands by the daughter-in-law, it becomes a crime. Is this not hypocrisy?
In most television serials and movies today, the vamp is either the daughter-in-law or the mother-in-law. Though this may sound cliché, we see many family issues cropping up because of ego and gossip in the family. Often when the parents-in-law have a problem with the daughter-in-law, they share it with every other person on the planet except with the daughter-in-law. The story is the same when the daughter-in-law faces issues as well. I wonder why? If both parties make an effort, sit together and have a heart-to-heart discussion on what’s bothering each other, I am sure there would be a way out. Those who gossip fail to understand that gossiping about family members to outsiders creates a huge rift and brings sadness to the whole family. Those who listen to the gossip, waste no time in spreading it like wildfire causing embarrassment to the family.
Another toxic trait we see in families today is exaggerating small mistakes of daughter-in-law or parents-in-law. I have seen in families where a daughter and daughter-in-law co-exist, when a mistake is committed by the daughter it is covered up and sugar-coated but when the daughter-in-law commits the same mistake, it’s exaggerated beyond measure and a huge ruckus is created. Similarly, the daughter-in-law is able to forgive and forget when her parents commit a mistake. But when her in-laws do something, she is not able to forgive and nurtures a lot of bitterness against them. It’s important for the parents-in-law and the daughter-in-law to understand that all are humans and that humans make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. A person’s mistakes have to be communicated to them gently so that they are given a chance to correct them. One must not make a huge issue about it.
Divorce rates have increased in the present age. Though couples are the primary reason most of the time, the interference and constant nagging from the families also become a reason for separation. Most newly married brides find it difficult to adapt to the customs at their husband’s place. When these couples decide to move out to start a nuclear family, the young bride is often blamed to be a home-breaker. Which is a better option? Whether to stay afar and have relations filled with love or stay together to fight every day to eventually explode beyond repair? Also, the biggest question is, why is staying separate always considered as being initiated by the wife? The husband may also have come up with it. But why is it not even considered? I am not encouraging anyone to leave their parents and stay afar. But when the parents are young and are able to take care of themselves and the couple feels that staying a little far would improve their personal relationship, then why not? I sometimes wonder at the irony. Many a time when the son gets an onsite opportunity the parents are proud and throw a party and bid adieu to their son and daughter-in-law who would be traveling to far-off countries. But when the same son wants to stay two streets away it becomes a crime. I find no logic, do you?
Amidst all this, the person sandwiched is usually the son/ husband. Most men go through a lot of stress trying to juggle and maintain peace in the family. Very often, the husband choosing to stand by his wife and support her is not taken well by the parents. It does not stop here. Again, the daughter-in-law is blamed. Often daughter-in-law’s parents are brought into the picture saying that they have been brainwashing their son and changing him. This is the most absurd and baseless statement I have come across many times in my circle. I wonder if the man is so dumb that he does not know the difference between good and bad. If the parents have raised their son to be so then definitely such a man does not deserve to be married. Also, it’s very important for the man to stand by his wife. No, I do not say that the man should support his woman when she is wrong. But when she is right and fighting for her basic requirements, it’s definitely not a crime to support her. It does not mean when a man chooses to support and defend his wife, he is disrespecting his parents. The man has taken a vow during his marriage to support his wife. To fulfill his promise, he should stand by his wife in all situations. Most often in family fights and issues, the focus is primarily on the daughter-in-law but actually, the husband/son would be facing the brunt. It’s a pitiful sight to see him struggle to keep both of them happy and despite all the efforts no credit is given to him. Instead, they are emotionally tormented from all directions.
Another biggest setback for any girl is the identity crisis. After marriage, some parents wash their hands off their daughter and tell her that she no longer belongs to her maternal house. She is made to believe that her husband’s house is her world. On the other hand, when the same woman chooses to continue to live with her in-laws she is never seen as a family member. Her likes and dislikes are severely restricted. She cannot touch the cupboards, she cannot change the interiors as per her taste, she cannot rearrange the furniture, and she cannot do anything because it’s not her house. Where does she actually belong? If a son’s wife is brought home as a daughter-in-law, then she is the daughter of the house. She should be treated equally and she must be given the privilege to turn that house into a beautiful home. Why isn’t she even allowed to offer any advice? Why is she treated like an outsider throughout her life? The daughter-in-law cannot ask her husband to help her with the chores. It becomes an issue and she is labeled to be dominating. She is not allowed to sleep in when she is sick. She is called lazy, her cooking is always assumed to be bad, her way of managing the housework is questioned and her talents are never appreciated. Why? If the word “daughter” in daughter-in-law is not considered, why is she even called so?
The biggest reason for the escalation of fights is the interference of the rest of the family members and neighbors. When there is a disagreement in the family and outsiders are involved in it, the situation worsens. In many families, I have seen that when there is an issue with the daughter-in-law, the parents-in-law discuss it with extended family members. Without knowing the actual cause of the disagreement, they not only pass judgment but give unrealistic suggestions. In many families, the daughter-in-law is treated as an outcast and she is needlessly taunted. On the other hand, even the daughter-in-law, shares details of her fights with her side of the family and friends who again without knowing the ground reality advise her, which may prove devastating to the family involved. It’s high time, these families realize that it is beneficial to talk to each other, rather than talk about each other. Also under such circumstances, there is no harm in approaching a family counsellor or a religious man, who is always neutral and will be competent to intervene and offer unbiased advice.
Please do not mistake me or assume that I am irrational to support the daughter-in-law more or that this article is biased toward them. Since I am a daughter-in-law myself and my friend’s circle is filled with all married women of my age, I see a lot of things happening due to this, it is easier for me to write from their perspective. The fight between in-laws and daughter-in-law is often taken as a joke, the media treats it as a scoop for comedy, and everyone brushes it away, saying it happens in everyone’s house. Yes, without denying that, what I want to highlight is the mental trauma it causes. Both parties go through tremendous stress which sometimes no one realizes. Nevertheless, sympathy and empathy are reserved for the parents, and the daughter-in-law would end up being blamed as a home-breaker.
I have seen that when the son chooses to stand by his wife and does not judge her when his parents have disagreements with her, and in turn, he questions the parents or politely advises them, it is considered to be a crime. He is said to have changed and turned into his wife’s pet. Outsiders and family members warn about parents’ curse. Nowadays there is a new trend, especially in my community where teachings by priests are forwarded has a hint. God’s word is not respected but it is forwarded to that person or put in groups to instigate and insult them. What are these curses? Do we know the meaning? Do they even understand what they are saying? When the parents often shed tears, people around warn the son and daughter-in-law that God is watching them. What about the countless tears the daughter-in-law and son shed? Won’t God see them? Is God selective to see only the parent’s tears and not the children?
Dragging God and cursing is not right. God sees and loves everyone equally. Above all, God commands us to do what is right; each is judged based on our actions and not on our earthly position or title. People must stop threatening in the name of God or using His word to defame someone. Instead, they can use the same powerful words to bring about a positive change.
This article is not the judge or point fingers, but it’s a conscious effort to inform society to re-look at the ground realities. A lot of advertisements and movies sensitize the public about sending parents to old age homes and not taking care of them. The same movies talk about dowry harassment. But many movies or social media content fail to highlight the consequences of daily squabbles in the house. Yes, they are small. But many women today are not sensitized or empowered enough to handle them. And in such situations, even small issues snowball into a big problems. Especially, when their husband turns against them, they find it hard and we have heard about so many suicides and divorces because of this simple reason. It’s time that society and the close-knit circle, must support both parties without discrimination and give them an opportunity to resolve it amicably. It’s time we encourage the husband to stand by his wife, no matter what the situation is. It’s okay for him to point out her mistakes and correct her, but it’s not right for a husband to abandon his wife for anyone – be it parents, sister or brother, or relatives. Every man must remember, his wife is a part of him and they are one and as much as his duty is to love and take care of his parents, so is his responsibility to stay committed to his wife and support her till their last breath.
Family is the most beautiful institution on earth. It’s a replica of heaven. Let not our ego, anger, bad traits of gossip, lying, and possessiveness ruin this and cause misery to everyone. Let’s learn to accept that each of us is different, let’s learn to appreciate it and live life happily.
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