I thought I would get to live with my girlfriend forever, that too in my parent's house. We would work hard, party harder, chill with friends and life would be easy. So the last thing I had imagined was us fighting because of my parents.

I Took a Stand for My Wife & Our Marriage Changed

The first year of a marriage is perhaps the hardest. There's a sense of displacement for both - the man and the woman. And most of all - the lack of space in a patriarchal set-up can lead to a lot of misunderstandings between the couple. Shailja and I learnt it the hard way. For me, marriage was fun and games. I thought I would get to live with my girlfriend forever, that too in my parents house. We would work hard, party harder, chill with friends and life would be easy. Both our parents were happy with the alliance and we had a big fat Punjabi wedding. 

So the last thing I had imagined was us fighting because of my parents. I mean they were always so chill with me and my sister. They never stopped us from going out or doing things that we wanted to do. They didn’t even question my choice when I wanted to marry Shailja so what was her problem with them? Yes, they asked her more questions than they ever asked me - but that was only out of concern. Shailja was new in the house, she was their responsibility - so obviously they would restrict her movement. Is what I used to think. 

‘I feel suffocated, Ayush’, she said to me once. ‘They question me about everything. Even my choice of retaining my surname. I am related to them by virtue of you and I did not sign up for this shit.’ That day I got really mad at her. How could she say that about my parents who did so much for our wedding, gave her so many things. They love her like their own daughter - except that they didn’t. I realized this the day I skipped work and was having tea with my parents at about 7 PM. My sister returned home from college and my mother welcomed her with a “Hi mera bachcha - Shikha (her college friend) ki birthday party pe thak gayi? Driver ne pick kar liya tha time se? Nimboo paani banwau? 

Exactly 10 mins later, Shailja returned from office, tired after a 45 minutes long metro ride, and before I could even greet her, my dad said - kaafi der ho gayi aate aate. Ayush kaafi der se wait kar raha tha. Jao cook se bol do Anvi aur tumhare liye nimboo paani bana de. That day for the first time I saw what Shailja meant. My mom and dad were parents to Anvi and me, but in-laws to her! Overall they were not bad people, but they definitely discriminated between their children and their daughter-in-law. They treated her as if her purpose in life was to take care of me, and when I questioned my mother about this - she started crying and saying ‘main toh bas apne bachcho ka bhala chahti hu’, my father got angry and yelled, ‘tu uske liye humein question karega toh wo kabhi nahi seekhegi achchi biwi kaise bante hai’.

I was totally taken aback by their behavior. Everything Shailja was sharing with me for the past one year, that I would dismiss as ‘cribbing’, was true. Who were these people? I felt so bad for my wife. I can’t believe I let her go through all this alone, in my own house. All she ever did from Day 1 was adjust - to this household, to our schedules, to my parents’ expectations. And I just selfishly kept telling her that she had a problem. Why? Because I had known my parents since I was born? Or because they were blood and she was not? For an entire year, I was a bad husband to Shailja. You see as sons we only know our mom and dad as parents, but as husbands it’s important for us to understand how they behave as in-laws with our partners. By taking their niceness for granted, we are being unfair to our partners. This need not always mean putting up a fight, or breaking relations with your parents. In fact, if you call them out on their actions as and when you see them going wrong - you can help them become better in-laws. I started doing that and eventually suggested that Shailja and I move out of their house and build our own home. This step helped us understand each other better and also improved our relationship with parents. Distance does make the heart grow fonder, after all. We now have dinner with my parents and hers every second week, our arguments have reduced significantly and we really value each other as partners now. We trust and depend on each other more, and pay more attention to each other’s feelings.

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Teesta Rajan
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