Bade Hain, Adjust Kar Lo: Why Do Parents Defend Abusive In-laws?

Why can’t parents accept the fact that a woman is married into a new house to begin a new life, not a new struggle?

Rudrani Gupta
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Ruby’s in-laws are constantly rude to her. They expect her to be on her toes the entire day and serve them. Her husband, who knows that his parents are wrong, never openly opposes them or supports Ruby. One might think that in times of distress a daughter will turn to her parents, but Ruby cannot seek support from her parents because all they tell her is, “Bade hain, adjust kar lo." The last thing any married woman needs is her parents telling her to put up with mental harassment and keep her abusive in-laws happy, in the name of being obedient.

After her wedding, a woman is sent off to a new house to build a new life. But no one tells her that she has to build this life at the cost of her own well-being. This new life is ‘new’ not only because she has to live with a different family and home but also because she has to face new challenges that no one trained her for. apart from all the adjustments, women are expected to integrate into the new household seamlessly, and the primary expectation from them is to keep their husbands and in-laws happy.

The tricky bit here is that married women are told to be obedient and meet even the most unreasonable expectations of their in-laws, simply because they are older. Like fulfilling a child's whim, women must meet demands of their in-laws, without raising their voice, asking questions, or protesting when the ordeal becomes unbearable.

Recently, I overheard my mother advising a newly married woman about maintaining a good relationship with her in-laws. She said, “Woh log budhe hai. They won’t understand our mindset and modern ways. So we have to adjust because it is just for a few days. They are anyway not going to be there in your life always. Just ignore their behaviour for the sake of their age.” Does this even make sense? Why should the burden of conforming to oldies' orthodox behaviour fall on women only? Why do in-laws think it is their right to demand sacrifices from their daughter-in-law, be it in the measure of time, career or any other lifestyle choices? When I heard these narrow-minded statements coming from my mother, it terrified me. What if later in life, she passes on the same statements to me?

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There is a huge difference when a random person in society defends abusive in-laws and when parents do the same. A random person has not raised you or been there for you in the worst times. But parents have spent half of their lives with you. But when parents turn their back on their daughters who are being abused by in-laws, it hurts the most.

A woman has two support systems in her life, beyond herself. The first is the parental family and the second is the marital family. Often the second one falls behind the expectations but the first one needs to be intact throughout her life. But in our society, women are forced to survive without any of the two support systems. When a marital family abuses a woman, the parental family asks her to adjust just because the marital family has accepted their daughter in marriage. They fear that if they support their daughter in her opposition to her in-laws' behaviour, their daughter will be outcasted from her sasural and thus both the daughter and them as her parents will have to lead the rest of their lives in shame.

But why do they consider their daughter’s &t=1120s">marriage a charity performed by her in-laws? Why can’t parents accept the fact that a woman is married into a new house to begin a new life, not a new struggle? Why can’t parents understand that it is not right for their daughters to silently bear an abusive marital family? Would they turn their back similarly when their son is abused by his in-laws? No. Because when it comes to sons, his in-laws are required to treat him with respect, but the same standards are not applied to the daughters.

It is high time we get over this bias. Parents need to understand the importance of their daughters’ individuality and self-respect. They have to stand by her through every difficulty rather than conform to the social norms. When a woman has an abusive marriage, she gains a lot of strength to fight through it if her parents support her. Otherwise, she lives in the fear of being left alone in the uncouth society that subjects women to constant criticism.

So dear parents, stop defending abusive in-laws. Support your daughter in her fight, give her the strength to stand her ground and demand her rights. Everyone has the right to live with dignity in an ideal world. But sadly, in our society, women have to often fight to live by this right. In this bitter fight, the last thing they need is to have to fight their parents, alongside the oppressors.

The views expressed are the author's own. 


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