Life

Ask Fiona: I can't take any more of living with my husband's parents

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine answers another set of reader dilemmas...

Your husband's family seem to be interfering in your marriage
By Fiona Caine, PA

ME AND my husband went through an arranged marriage around 11 years ago, and I moved to England from India to be with him. We live in joint family with our three children, but I don't want to live with his family anymore.

My husband was an alcoholic, but he quit drinking completely around four months ago. He was very sick, but he's getting better – he's been drinking for 25 years, which I didn't knew before marriage but accepted with the passage of time.

My main issue is there are no boundaries – his family over-steps all the time and there's nothing that's personal between us, everything gets shared. His family don't consider me part of the family and his mother, father and sisters say to my face that they don't trust me.

Every time I try to discuss our future, my husband ignores me and won't acknowledge that I'm talking to him. We end up arguing, and then he says that's why he wouldn't want a house with me as I'll be hounding him all the time.

He's been divorced twice before me, and we argue about how to bring up our children. I've saved enough money for the deposit on a house and because I have a good job, I can get a mortgage alone, but he won't agree to move as he doesn't want responsibility to pay bills.

Am I the bad person to insist on moving out? I really feel out of place in his parent's house, and I've no support system as my parents are from India. In any arguments, his mum and dad jump in and tell me off for being loud and disrespectful. My husband won't agree to couple's counselling and always says that there's something wrong with me.

I'm not a weak person, I'm emotionally very strong, but I can't take this anymore. I'm not sure what my future holds – would it be a good decision to think about divorcing my husband, which isn't going to be easy either?

GK

FIONA SAYS: You don't say whether his two previous marriages failed because of similar issues to those you're experiencing, but I'm guessing they may well have played a part.

It's hard to live with an extended family and if you do, it's important to respect one another's boundaries and allow one another privacy. Your in-laws aren't allowing you to grow together as a couple because of their constant interference, so unless they do, it will be hard for a bond to grow between you both.

I suspect your husband has never really been allowed to grow up – and I also suspect he doesn't really want to.

He doesn't need to be responsible if his parents are keeping a roof over his head, and standing up for him every time he has a disagreement with you.

You say you have the resources to buy a home for yourself – but do be sure your finances are separate from his. It might also be wise to check his credit score, as this might impact your ability to get a mortgage. If you were to separate, perhaps your husband would realise that the situation with his family cannot continue – he might even be prepared to try to work at your marriage through counselling.

I think it would be worth your while talking to a solicitor and getting advice about the steps you would need to take for either a separation, or to make an application for divorce proceedings. You say divorce would be difficult, but is it any more difficult than the life you are currently leading?

I understand there may sometimes be stigma for divorced women, particularly in very traditional communities, so perhaps you would like to prepare yourself and your children for facing some judgment and harsh comments. It may be a traumatic experience for your children, so you might need to consider counselling support for them too.

Many Indian women do get divorced though, and go on to have great lives and find welcoming communities. While you don't intimate that you are being physically abused by your husband, the behaviour by his family certainly sounds abusive. You might, therefore, find the Asian Women's Resource Centre (asianwomencentre.org.uk) helpful, as it has been providing services for women in situations like yours for many years. The Centre can help you to make informed choices about your future and provide professional advice, counselling, and support.

Whichever path you take, the road ahead won't be easy, but it doesn't sound like staying where you are now is a good option either.

MY SINGLE-MUM DAUGHTER NEEDS TO GET HER ACT TOGETHER

BECAUSE my divorced 24-year-old daughter has to work, I get to look after my two grandsons quite a lot. I'm happy to do this, but I wish she would get her act together and take better care of them.

They often wear dirty clothes when they come to see me and they're also always hungry, which makes me think that she's not feeding them properly either. That said, they seem happy enough and are doing well at primary school.

She never seems to have any money, even though she works, and now she's seeing another layabout who is out of work. Why can't she see that these men are no good for her? She needs to find a man with a good job and a house, so that her children can grow up normally. Her flat is always untidy and grubby too.

She's always been a bit lazy, so I suppose that might explain her inability to sort out her life. What should I do to make her see sense? I've tried to talk to her but she she's always got other things on her mind.

TL

FIONA SAYS: I find it very sad that your feelings towards your daughter are so negative. Are you expecting me to condemn her as well? What I read here is that a single mum is working hard to bring up two young boys, who are growing up happy, healthy, and doing well. Good for her – it's really hard to hold down a job and raise a happy family at the same time, especially without the support of a partner.

Of course the boys are always hungry – having had two sons myself, I can vouch for the fact that their appetites sometimes seem bottomless and most mothers will endorse this too. Does it really matter that their clothes aren't spotlessly clean when they come to visit you?

Two young boys could have their clothes grubby within five minutes of getting dressed – is she really expected to change their clothes again?

Surely, it's more important that they're comfortable in what they're wearing, and as long as they're not actually smelling, their clothes surely don't matter that much.

If it really bothers you, why not ask for a few changes of clothes to be kept at your house, that you can change them into and wash yourself?

As for your daughter's choice of partner, are you judging him to be a layabout just because he's out of work? So many people are these days; we've lived (are living through) a pandemic and many people have lost their jobs and are struggling to find new ones. This new partner might be thoughtful, caring, brilliant with your grandsons, loving and supportive with your daughter – he might not be of course, but please don't condemn him just for being jobless.

Your daughter needs your love and support, not your criticism and rejection of the way she is living. It might not be the way you were brought up – or the way you brought her up – but I'm certainly not going to criticise a single woman who is trying to work and at the same time raise two children.

I cannot help but wonder if you really understand the pressures faced by single parents – it's tough and in recent times, even harder with homeschooling and everything else we've had to deal with. Could you not just accept your daughter as an adult, who is able to make her own decisions about her lifestyle?

There may be things wrong in her life, but at the moment, you are so worried about these that you are failing to see all the good things that exist too. I hope you still feel able to offer her the support she clearly needs.

WORRIED ABOUT HAVING AN INTERNAL EXAMINATION

I AM due to have an internal examination at my GP's surgery soon, but I am very worried. My friend has told me that she won't go and see him anymore because he does not sterilise the instrument he uses for internals between patients.

She says he just rinses them under the tap, but surely he risks transferring infections and things if he does this. Should I insist on having the examination done elsewhere?

KB

FIONA SAYS: I'm afraid I simply do not believe that your GP would not sterilise the instruments he uses properly between patients. As you say, the risk of transferring infection in this way would be far to high and rinsing them under a tap wouldn't sterilise the instruments at all.

Could your friend have misunderstood what is going on? Many doctors will warm a speculum – the instrument used to hold you open during an examination – in warm water before they start, as often they are made of cold metal which feels very cold. Using a cold instrument could give you a shock, making an internal examination difficult and possibly even painful.

If you're worried, why not telephone the surgery and ask what sterilisation procedures they employ? It is perfectly ok to do this. In the unlikely event he is falling short on standards, you should report him to the NHS. Also, please remember you can always ask for a female nurse or chaperone to be present during examinations, if you are uncomfortable or anxious.

AM I WASTING TIME WITH MY BOYFRIEND?

DO you think I'm wasting my life with my boyfriend?

We never go out anywhere except to his ‘club' where he stands at the bar all evening and swaps stories with his mates, while I'm expected to sit around with their girlfriends.

From what I've overheard, they seem to be boasting to each other about their sexual marathons and conquests.

The reality is very different, as actually my boyfriend isn't a very good lover and seems to prefer getting back to the TV to watch cricket! He never shares what he's thinking and rarely shows me any affection, except at his club where he does so to put on a show in front of his mates.

We have never been introduced to each other's families and he refuses to meet my friends. We've been going out for nearly two years now, but I'm still no closer to knowing what he thinks of me than when we first met.

MM

FIONA SAYS: You're with a man who prefers watching cricket to making love to you; who only shows you affection when his friends are watching; who won't meet your friends or introduce you to his family. What is keeping you with him?

He is clearly quite content to parade you in front of his cronies and seems to regard that as all it takes to have a meaningful relationship. The very fact that you're asking me shows you are no longer willing to accept him on these terms, so I suggest you break up this sham of a relationship as soon as possible. If you want a warm, fulfilling and happy relationship, it's time you went in search of one – because this man is clearly not the one for you.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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