Here’s a look into my earliest days of living with my in-laws after my semi-arranged marriage.
We met through “someone who knows someone” in the family. Once we talked to each other, something clicked – five months later, we were married! I told myself to have no expectations and to just keep an open mind. I reminded myself that people can be very different from what I’m used to.
It was definitely easier said than done because I had internalized these expectations without even realizing it!
Before I Moved In...
Before moving in, I asked other girls my age or older, if they had any marriage advice.
A theme that echoed loud and clear with at least 7-8 people: talk as less as possible and just observe – at least in the first year, then you can be yourself.
Obviously, I thought I was doing just that because even though I had drastically reduced sharing my opinions or thoughts, I soon realized I was still definitely talking way too much.
My expectation was to treat my in-laws the way I would treat my own parents. That’s when I learned that my relationship with my parents was very open and frank, almost friends-like by the time I was 28 (when I got married). On the flip side, my husband’s and all his siblings’ relationship with my in-laws was very formal with minimal talking sticking to the facts – and I should have kept it that way too.
Once I Got Married...
I soon realized that my in-law’s thinking patterns/expectations were quite old-fashioned. Even that would have be tolerable, until I began observing my husband’s patterns.
My husband tended to mimick his parent’s old-fashioned thinking while reaping the benefits of Desi expectations at home (no chores), and expecting me to conform to the image of the marriage his parents have (woman being the “yes” pet). At the same time, he did not comply with Desi expectations of paying for EVERYTHING.
Instead, he wanted the best of the Desi world and the best of the Western world, where I would work and contribute but he wouldn’t dare make me a cup of tea.
Naturally, animosity and resentment grew because I wouldn’t let him “rein” me in or “mold” me as typical Desis love to do. On the other hand, his sisters (2-3 years younger and older than me), were very liberal . My in-laws and husband supported them and were proud of them, but god forbid, if I had the same beliefs and practices.
I expected my husband to support me in the era we lived in, instead he subconsciously supported (and then pushed on me) the ideals and visions of the society his father grew up and lived in because that’s all he would ever hear of from my in-laws. I know this was only due to the close and constant proximity of this ideology – had we lived separate from the in-laws, my husband’s ideology would have definitely evolved to the life that we needed to live.
Spoiler alert: This issue was resolved and we did move out!
Expectations versus Reality...
I had a subconscious expectation about habits because I did this with my family: having family meals most weeknights and weekend breakfasts/brunches – together, followed by clean up after, again together at least most nights, just to wrap up the kitchen quickly.
In reality, people simply ate when they were hungry and the men were extremely babied.
Clean-up (wiping down table/counters, putting food into smaller, clean, and covered containers and then into the fridge), didn’t occur until the next morning or leftovers were simply thrown out! Imagine my shock, the horror, the disgust – until I just started doing it myself because because I couldn’t bear the audacity of the wastage anymore.
Another expectation I had was that my husband would have had one personality at HOME. I understand people can be different with their friends or at work places, but with family (myself or his parents) be the same. I felt that he was always opting for the most convenient aspects in any situation that was most advantageous to him. I know he would not see it that way which I felt is fair from his perspective. After all, he hasn’t had any other experience of living with roommates or living away from home.
He was a pampered solo son with several sisters who never even had to share a room, let alone chores, car, personal belongings or space. He couldn’t respect anyone’s time except an employer’s.
The Icing on the Cake...
I knew the extent of what I was getting myself into but the icing on the cake was one week after the wedding.
When I came downstairs his mom commented how immensely proud she was that her 30 year-old son took out the garbage “all by himself” and she didn’t “even have to ask!”
I was very surprised. I strongly believe that he would have improved as a person, and as a roommate, ESPECIALLY in the early months/years if he didn’t have to “conform” to the existing image his parents/family had of him.
And my Social Life...
I expected to have a more independent social life, but it was very much intertwined with my in-laws. Visitors for them (whether it’s their family friends or extended family or even their own married kids) meant they were visitors for me. I felt obligated to entertain with them, clean up after them, and sit with them, even if I didn’t want to. I felt like I had to do all of this, just to keep a peaceful environment. This was self-imposed, and no one asked me to do this.
The worst of it was after my sister-in-laws had kids, my husband had the audacity to cancel our casual movie plans to hang out with them when they visited my in-laws.
Needless to say, I did not let this happen more than once.
It made me distance myself from my sister-in-laws and have a very formal relationship instead of a friendship because I felt I was seeing way too much of his family (parents, siblings and their kids).
I knew the only resolution was to move out because we were beyond the stage of having a frank conversation around boundaries.
I also did not like telling my in-laws of my whereabouts all the time even though I wouldn’t have thought twice about it with my own parents – I felt they should ask their own son if they wanted to know!
This is an obvious one: fights and arguments were not always private.
There were a few positives of living with in-laws:
1. Saving money on rent/food and all the other bills that come along with having your own space. We contributed to the household expenses but living with the inlaws gave us a head start on shutting down debt and saving for a downpayment after both of us got stable jobs. But then again, we were 28 & 30, we should have already done that while living with our own respective families.
2. Meals – It’s also good for people who don’t like to cook often, and only if you have inlaws that don’t mind to cook (this didn’t affect me in my case).
3. Childcare – It’s excellent for people who have kids quickly by choice or not, because even though in laws may not be always available to babysit (and there are inlaws who do not want to babysit), at least there are some moments where you can be kid free and take care of your stuff.
Overall, my experience was negative. Even with the benefits, I would never-ever live with my in-laws.
To be fair, I have had friends who live with their in-laws, and have shared that they enjoy the following benefits:
- Meals – A number of my friends don’t like to cook often or daily after work. They liked living with in-laws because a hot meal was ready and cleaning was 50-70% done for.
- Childcare – As I mentioned earlier, childcare is a real benefit. My ffriends who had kids quickly, had in-laws to help watch after their children.