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How to set boundaries with overbearing in laws

(101 Posts)
Fuzzywuzzywasabear Sat 07-May-16 16:07:37

This is probably pregnancy related anxiety but it's really bothering me...

In laws are indian and very traditional and sometimes (not sure if it's intentional) hurtfully dismissive of my British culture.

I'm NC with my DM, DGM and DB due to me being the family scapegoat and as a result have no ability to set healthy boundaries within any of my relationships.

I'm currently 6 months pregnant with our first baby and feel very anxious about the in laws taking over and not listening to me as our babies mother.

Last week we had dh's whole family around for dinner SIL insisted on speaking indian the entire time despite being asked to speak English repeatedly as 2nd SIL and myself are British and are excluded from the conversation when they all speak indian. -to clarify don't insist they all speak English all the time just when addressing everyone PIL often speak directly to dh in indian but English to me.

For dessert I served a pudding with a jug of custard on the table for everyone to help themselves to as much as they wanted MIL then insisted on serving everyone while explaining to SIL2 in their culture it's rude not to serve people.

This has really upset me as they were guests in my house at my table and I'm not from their culture, I don't feel they should impose their rules in my house, I'm very respectful of their culture but I feel they don't respect mine.

I know it's such a small thing but I feel like they will start to impose their views on our child and how I bring them up I'm already dreading the first few weeks of the baby being home as I'll have to deal with the family visiting and I only have dh in my corner as the rest of my family don't speak. :-(

AttilaTheMeerkat Sat 07-May-16 16:26:22

Some people can be nasty to others regardless of what country or background they have. This is not really to do with culture; its a reflection of how they themselves were raised. Their own family of origin did this lot of damage to them.

What does your DH think of his parents behaviour; after all he is key in all this. Is he able and willing to back you fully when it comes to his parents and side with you when necessary or is he really the sort to say, "well you know what they are like". If it is the second then the problem likes with your DH as much as his parents. His inertia when it comes to his parents hurts him as much as it is hurting you.

If your DH cannot or will not impose boundaries then you are going to have to do this and be firm and consistent in applying boundaries. This is going to be difficult for you anyway because in your family of origin you were given the scapegoat role. You've likely been told and taught to put your own needs and wants last.

Never forget its your child so you have the final say as her parent; your DH needs to be fully on your side here and not let his parents dominate your lives particularly after your child is born. Bad behaviour from relatives should never be at all tolerated; if they cannot or will not behave decently then you do not see them. You would not have tolerated any of this from a friend, family are really no different.

I would suggest you read "Toxic Inlaws" written by Susan Forward so you can further understand the power and control dynamics that are being played out here.

brassbrass Sat 07-May-16 16:46:19

But do you have your DH in your corner? It 's his job to make them understand that respect works both ways and that YOU have cultural expectations as well. Whilst in your house you will expect people to include you by speaking English and help themselves at the table during a meal. Whilst in their house you will observe their culture.

Luckily you have SIL2 in the same boat as you. Have a meeting with BIL and SIL2 and explain what it is you want to achieve for future family harmony. Then perhaps you could both sit the PILs down with your DHs and explain why it is rude from your point of view. You do need to get your DHs on side if this is going to work though. They both need to tackle their parents, they married British girls not Indian ones. That you fully expect to celebrate BOTH cultures within your family and hurtfully dismissing your's won't be tolerated. You have your own identity and plan of keeping it.

If they refuse to compromise then I suggest you cut back on them visiting. How old is the Indian SIL? If she is young and speaks English fluently then I suggest you tackle her directly and tell her she is being rude to her face. She really should know better. I can appreciate the PILs might be older and not have the same language skills and therefore revert to where they feel comfortable. If PILs address them in their own language your DHs need to get in the habit of translating for you and answering in English.

Also work on creating a supportive relationship with SIL2. You will encounter the same issues so having an ally will be a boost for both of you. Don't turn it into an us and them situation though because that won't help the overall dynamic but you'll gain friendship and encouragement. You can support each other.

Sorry to hear your own family are useless, in reality you don't need a bus load of people to give you a sense of belonging. You'll have your own family soon enough when the baby arrives and presumably your SIL2 will have kids too if she doesn't have them already.

Before you do any of the above though MAKE SURE your DH is on the same page.

Gide Sun 08-May-16 00:01:35

In your house, surely the common language should be one that everyone speaks? Have you thought about if you want your child to be bilingual? In which case, maybe you want to learn the DH's language?

I think your SIL was very rude and she should be tackled. The Indian culture is very much linear, so multiple generations live together and the older one is often looked after by the younger. Set some boundaries know, or you risk being overwhelmed by their habits when the baby is born.

lavenderhoney Sun 08-May-16 07:08:43

Your dh needs to translate for you, unless it's deeply boring and about new wall paper or something. It can be extremely tiring having a long sit down meal with everyone speaking a different language. Are you expected to just sit there and smile whilst they chat?

I think probably now is the time to talk to your dh about visitors at the hospital ( welcome only if things go well and you are ok, and even then only for a short while) and also when you come home. Ie, you might find everyone plans to visit all day everyday - and you might want time alone and with your dh to bond with the baby, go for nice walks with the pram when you like, baby groups, bf in peace etc.

Make sure your dh knows what you expect and then he can be the one to stick up for you and his marriage . my ex dh was completely overwhelmed by his family and I had to cope with it all - his DM elbowing me forcefully out of the way to change a newborn ds as I was a bit shaky and clueless wasn't helpful, to say the least.

ravenmum Sun 08-May-16 07:59:47

Welcome to the world of multiple cultures.
You are, at least, in your own country, so things are not as bad as they could be.
My first child is 18 and I've only recently started to realise how I probably should have dealt with things, but maybe you are braver and smarter than I was smile.

After I split up with my husband I was a lot less worried about offending his family and a lot less able to put up with nonsense. As a result I just said what I thought, and they stopped some of the nonsense. You don't have to be confrontative, just honest. Next time they insist on pouring custard, ask if that means they think Brits are rude not to. Explain why it's considered friendly to let people act as if they are at home in your house.

The language thing is harder. They have been able to speak their own language together for so long, and probably feel weird speaking another language to one another. They may be great at English, but they can't do the usual jokes, tell the usual stories in the same way. You are going to have to have their language in your life now, especially if you give your child the wonderful gift of bilingualism.

If you get a chance, maybe get one of the alpha females, e.g. granny, to one side and discuss it properly. Say you feel left out or tired after a while and explain that if you get up and go in another room you are not trying to be rude. Ask if she will help make sure you can join in and don't get left out entirely.

And find out what language it is they are speaking. They are not speaking Indian any more than we are speaking European. This is your child's culture and you need to show an interest.

DoreenLethal Sun 08-May-16 08:05:09

For dessert I served a pudding with a jug of custard on the table for everyone to help themselves to as much as they wanted MIL then insisted on serving everyone while explaining to SIL2 in their culture it's rude not to serve people

'Interesting. You are currently eating my food in my house, and in my culture it is traditional to allow people to choose how much custard they want and also to be nice to people and not to get so hung up on minor issues'.

PotteringAlong Sun 08-May-16 08:10:22

In all honesty, as soon as you said "they are speaking Indian" you lost me. Indian is not a language. If you've shown no interest to even know what language they speak why should they meet you half way?

Narp Sun 08-May-16 09:05:48

It's not a small thing. IMO it is a big thing

You can't tackle it alone. Your DH needs to be the driving force in managing it. Is he on your side?

Narp Sun 08-May-16 09:06:48

yy to "Indian". Am confused why you'd use the term Indian

WillIEverBeASizeTen Sun 08-May-16 09:33:42

IMO..and having had a relationship within another culture, it is just plain bloody rude! It's exclusion and exclusivity. My children (whose father is from the culture) were even excluded as he refused to speak his language to them!

I have spoken to many 'educated' people from other cultures who also agree this is plain rude, and wouldn't dream of doing this. I understand there are 'elders' who don't speak English, and that's totally acceptable, but if everyone speaks perfect English, then it's just ignorance.

As I say, I speak from experience!

Stand your ground OP, your culture is just as important as everyone else's.

And just to say, before the knives come out, I also bent over backwards to 'respect' the culture..lets just say, it wasn't reciprocated.

springydaffs Sun 08-May-16 10:16:28

Groan. I also married into a different culture and his family were outrageous.

I didn't realise I even had a culture until my culture was insulted on a regular basis. And we were in my country, not theirs!

I got tough op. I'm also the family scapegoat, also NC with family. I've had a lot of therapy to address all that, where I learnt a lot about boundaries. You need to do some boundary work/courses/read some books.

There's a very good christian book about boundaries, called er Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud. I'd highly recommend it, even though it's christian. It's the best book on boundaries out there imo.

It was when my ILs threatened to take brand new baby DD off to get her ears pierced that I rose up. Dd didn't leave my side for 18 months - and I got mouthy with ILs. Ie direct.

IMO there's a level of bullying that goes on in certain cultures towards DsIL. You need to research that and get some support.

orangeisthenewblue Sun 08-May-16 10:50:30

Don't you think it would be better to find a compromise? It wouldn't have hurt you to have served the custard. So you are at war with your family as you feel victimised and now you feel victimised with DH's family; in the nicest possible way do you think there might be a reason why you are a common denominator here?

brassbrass Sun 08-May-16 11:01:24

she is not the common denominator hmm

springydaffs Sun 08-May-16 11:11:50

orange, love. You don't know what you're talking about. You have no idea of that with which you speak. you're talking out of your *

That'll get me deleted but hope you get to see it before it is. You really have no idea what you're talking about. Hush the mouth, do the research, then present an informed opinion.

BuunyChops Sun 08-May-16 11:16:03

So if they were speaking Urdu rather Hindi or Gujarati would it actually have made a difference??


They were being rude to the OP in her house.

It took me totally blowing my top for my 'IL's' ;DP and I aren't married but have been together nearly 20 years and banning them from the house until I got an apology to get the message. (They and he are Indian too; and he speaks all the above dialects as well as some Punjabi; German; Italian and Spanish.)

The thing is DP was totally on side and had already spoken to them several times off his own back about how rude they were being. Me, trying to keep the peace had let them away with it; in hindsight the worse thing I could have done.

So in short your DH has to have your back.

You need to make it very clear to him and them NOW that you will not be disrespected in your own home.

harajukugirl Sun 08-May-16 11:41:42

OP, I am of Asian origin and go through the same thing with my own DM.

She insists on serving my DH even in my own home. It really is no big deal and not even about whether she is of a different culture or not. I think you are being unreasonable. The key to life's happiness is to let some things go. This is probably one of them. Specially if you want a long term relationship with your in laws.

Next is the language thing: have you even tried learning a few phrases of their language? To me you sound snobby. Have you ever watched my big fat Greek wedding? Don't they revert back and forth in their language even in a movie?

You sound as if you have already made up your mind you don't like your in laws.

All they seem to be trying to do is show you want they are really like. Embrace you into their fold. Show you their culture.

brassbrass Sun 08-May-16 11:51:43

another unhelpful post.

The point is they aren't reverting back and forth they are just excluding her. And the trying a few phrases works both ways. It shouldn't just be her doing the trying. They need to try as well. Relationships have two way traffic.

There is nothing snobby about her post.

brassbrass Sun 08-May-16 11:52:50

Equally you can't embrace someone whilst simultaneously excluding them.

brassbrass Sun 08-May-16 11:54:07

What does OP do with her culture while they are showing her theirs? Bury it?? Deny it exists??

harajukugirl Sun 08-May-16 11:58:21

If the OP cannot even be bothered to learn what language they are speaking and describes it as 'indian' which is not a language, I can just imagine how hard she is trying.

If you put the race difference side, would this be a problem?

If she were to marry say into a family and they didn't give a fig who served who, would she complain?

It really is a Small thing. Why marry into mother culture if you don't like or want to embrace even the basics?

harajukugirl Sun 08-May-16 12:00:04

oP should have known that marrying into any non European family means you meet the whole family and not just the husband.

Would OP hAve a Problem if they spoke only Italian or French?

wizzywig Sun 08-May-16 12:00:39

My inlaws are indian (im from another asian country). I am expected to somehow know all of their cultural do's and donts and am often told i am rude.

BertrandRussell Sun 08-May-16 12:00:45

"SIL insisted on speaking indian"


RainIsAGoodThing Sun 08-May-16 12:00:58

I experience almost all of what you've described too, except it's not Indian but another nationality. I also regularly have to hear about how English people are dirty, rude, disrespectful, lazy, stupid etc. They don't even try and backtrack by saying 'oh, of course we don't mean YOU Rain...'!!!

I have no advice. I find it really hard. When they start speaking their language, DP will try to help me by only responding in English, but it's like using a tampon against the tide.

I feel your pain! No kids yet but hopefully soon, and I too am concerned how this is going to work.

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