Living with in-laws comes with tension. However, the tension can be eased and turned into comfortable living for the entire house, writes Gloria Nakajubi
Your mother-in-law is on the verge of not being able to live alone anymore. Her health is deteriorating. Not to the extent of needing someone to help her do everything, but enough to worry your hubby about her living alone, especially because she lives so far.
Your husband has made a lot of comments about her moving in and you are worried to bits.
A lot of women dread their in-laws. And the fact that they may come to live with you at one point or another makes some people freak out.
“I love my mother-in-law. The problem is that she is just bossy at times. When we are at her house, she feeds the kids till they are too full and then she insists they eat more. Then eventually they suffer food poisoning,” laments one mother.
But it is not just the mother-in-law that can be a headache. Even that little brat — your sister-in-law — who might still be in secondary school can be too stressing. And sometimes, it might be your brother’s wife, who is so intolerant.
Suzan Ajore, an accountant at Uganda House in Kampala stays at her elder brother’s home. She says with her experience she has learnt not to intervene in a couple’s affairs in order not to be misinterpreted by her sister-in-law.
“It is only when those two ask for my opinion that I can say anything, otherwise you become the bad one and yet maybe you did not have any ill-intentions.” Ajore says.
She says for the five years she has spent with her sister-in-law it has been like the usual family relationship; whereby one minute you are pissed and the next you are back together.
“I respect my sister-in-law and she respects me as her husband’s sister. Though we are not so much of friends, we at least get along,” Ajore says.
One wife in Zana on Entebbe Road, who preferred anonymity revealed that she has had some nasty experiences bringing up children from her husband’s relatives.
“These children do not appreciate and if it was possible I would have just sent them away from my home. They keep calling my in-laws and “painting” my name,” she says.
She adds that after that experience, she does not intend to offer help to anyone, because she has had enough. She cannot wait for the day they grow up to be on their own.
Rhoda Kalema, a women rights activist and former culture minister, says when you find yourself in a situation where you have to live with your in-laws, it is not healthy to interfere in the issues concerning the home that is hosting you.
“When you give your opinion, it affects the growth of the marriage or relationship. These people need space alone and by solving their issues themselves, it helps them build the confidence to handle other problems in future,” Kalema says.
“A man or woman marries only one person from a family and not the whole clan. Keep your biases aside,” Kalema says, stressing that a relationship is for two people who actually become one after the formal marriage ceremony.
Apostle Alex Mitala, the leader of the National Fellowship of Born-again Churches, says, in the Christian faith there is no room for a third party.
“The Bible stipulates it clearly that a man shall leave his father’s home and join a woman and together they will become one,” Mitala says.
He adds that people get married when they are adults, which means they can stand on their own.
It is okay to seek help, say temporary accommodation if you want to seek medical attention at a clinic nearby, or on a short vacation, but in-laws should try by all means to keep away from a couple’s home.
Trouble usually starts when a spouse runs to an in-law for advice on their relationship issues as Denis Obeur, an official at Uganda Prisons knows all too well.
“I have always told my wife that if there is anything she is not happy with, she should talk to me and we solve it as a couple but not running to her parents even if we are sharing a house with them. In most cases, parents always make biased judgments in favour of their child.”
Obeur feels that in-laws should come in to give guidance. But when they start making decisions, it is unbearable. In fact, he does not allow them.
“I cannot let it happen. My wife knows it. What happens in our bedroom stays in the bedroom!”
Claire Nyangoma, who works with MTN, is preparing for her introduction ceremony this April.
She says though she has not yet had any issues, her worry has always been sisters-in-law who expect too much from her.
“It keeps me on tension,’ Nyangoma says.
Attachment to parents
Many young people feel that their parents have every right to get involved in their relationship and even stay with them. They argue that because parents have seen them through thick and thin all their lives, they should still be part of their marriage life.
Kisakye has ‘dumped’ some girls because they could not measure up to his mother’s expectations.
“I can always find another girl, but I cannot find other blood relations,” he argues.
Catherine Byenkya, the gender and health minister in Bunyoro –Kitara Kingdom, says in the past, the in-laws were a great component in a marriage, and young marrieds did not mind staying with them. But nowadays, couples see them as an inconvenience.
“But when they choose to come and stay with the couple, the in-laws should know that the young couple is the head of the house and should be respected. Do not go to their home to make decisions; suggest with respect,” Byenkya says.
Byekya also advises that couples need to be open-minded and not brush off elders’ ideas.