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Signs of In-Law Abuse

April 9, 2012 · 10 Comments

in law abuseThe relationship with in-laws has been stereotypically a tenuous one. Many people struggle with maintaining a positive, healthy and meaningful relationship with their in-laws. For many South Asians, it is about managing different generational, cultural and traditional values between the parents-in-law and children in law. Respecting culture and tradition are important for maintaining a healthy and positive relationship with in-laws. However, culture and traditions should not be explanations for what is otherwise apparently abusive behavior.

Abusive behavior toward their children’s spouses is something that is very common amongst South Asian families. This abuse is not only reserved for daughters-in-law but also for sons-in-law as well. Recognizing the signs of emotional abuse is necessary to maintain healthy relationships within the family as well as to maintain positive mental health for the son or daughter in law as well.

* Name-calling or belittling
* Derogatory comments at your expense
* Unreasonable expectations
* Dominating behavior in a way to control your actions
* Emotional blackmail
* Invalidation or minimizing your feelings
* Unpredictable responses
* Repeated criticism
* Screaming at you
* Threatening you
* Humiliation in public or private

These are all examples of emotional abuse, however, abuse an be presented in numerous different ways. If your gut is telling you that there is something wrong with how you are being treated, it is a good indication your in laws are emotionally abusing you.

While daughters and sons-in-law want to respect their spouses parents, a clear boundary must be placed to prevent abuse from occurring in any of the relationships. Without recognizing the signs of abuse, the marriage as well as the relationship between the in-laws will suffer. If children are present in the family, they will learn inappropriate and unhealthy communication patterns from the in-laws. They will also suffer from the consequences of witnessing abusive behavior.

Most importantly, the son or daughter-in-law’s self-esteem will suffer and this can have long-lasting consequences for all relationships, personal and professional. Finally, resentment can build in the relationship to the point of permanently damaging it.

If you find that your in-laws are being abusive towards you, speak to your partner about your concerns. Be specific in your examples when you’re expressing your concern. Make sure that this conversation occurs when you both are ready to have it and when your partner is open to hearing your thoughts. This is a sensitive subject for both partners, so care must be taken when expressing these concerns. Make sure to speak them gently and to be very clear to your partner that you do not wish for him/her to be in the middle.

It is important that you and your partner come to a joint conclusion on how to stop this abusive behavior from occurring. For some couples, this means seeing or speaking to the in-laws less frequently and for other couples it involves having a sit-down conversation with one or both of you to express your concerns directly. Whatever works for you and your partner, it is essential that abuse is never accepted in any relationship.

Learn more about the signs and symptoms of emotional abuse. Please leave your comments below.

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10 responses so far ↓

  • prapti // April 23, 2012 at 11:05 am | Reply

    Very helpful tips.

  • prapti // April 23, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply

    Helpful tips.

  • Tricia // February 16, 2013 at 9:38 am | Reply

    What do you do when you sit down, express your feelings and how they have been hurtful, and the in laws respond by denying things that have happened, changing the story, and telling you that you should not have the feelings you do?

    • MySahana // September 12, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Reply

      Everyone has a right to their feelings no matter what they are but, sadly, not everyone behaves in a way that shows respect for people’s feelings. If you’ve talked to your spouse and he or she is supportive, a joint conversation about how all parties define respectful behavior (even if they don’t understand your feelings) can be helpful. Focus on the present and not the past. If you’ve tried some version of this but to no avail, you might have to accept that they are going to act a certain way toward you. You may wish to limit contact in this case to avoid being in further abusive situations. Alternatively, other than limiting contact, see if your partner can jump in to change the topic or shift their attention. If you feel okay with it, you can also respectfully stand up for yourself and excuse yourself from a difficult interaction. Remember, though, their behavior doesn’t mean you’re worth any less.

      — MySahana

  • mikey // September 2, 2014 at 8:30 am | Reply

    i want tricia question to be answered….my question is the same too

  • jenny // May 6, 2015 at 7:39 am | Reply

    This seems to run in my family. Married 32 years and my husband’s mother has said disrespectful things to me in front of my kids and husband. He never defended me though he is an abuser as well. I have limited contact for many years now. I have her over at holiday dinners only. My mother had no relationship with her only sons family. He has 7 kids and they couldn’t mix with the family of his 6 sister siblings due to legalism rules. Now I have an older son who’s wife of 3 years together 5 total has always disrespected me mostly and my younger son and daughter. Again my husband says nothing so I am always the villain about standing for my family. The DIL turns down everything I have tried to give her things though she will take money. She comes for all the holidays and Insults people. Recently calling me fat as we took Christmas pics. No one ever stands up to her but I addressed this with my son before he married her and he says I’m wrong. I have taught him to be respectful of his wife and appreciate as I tell my kids. She degraded my family recently at a party at her home to friends about a picture she had seen of my son which I had taken when he was little. He was a nude baby and one of my parents scribbled parts out later down the line. She told her friends about the picture and said how horrible the person who took the picture and which ever of my parents that scribbled out areas were horrible and so wrong. My mom and dad were elderly recently passed away. My mom didn’t like her and my father never met her. He passed 10 years ago. Anyway my younger son got offended and came home a d told me what she did. It may seem pretty but she crossed the line when she mentioned my parents. She is due with child any day and has not included me in her pregnancy. It doesn’t look good for me and my first grandbaby. I called her and asked her why she keeps trying to degrade my family. She called me silly a nd g a v e the p hone to my son while I was talking to her. No I did d not curse or call her names. She said she was joking.This was the first time I really asked her why. My son denied my and his brothers feelings as usual. I feel sick for 3 days of over this. Every time she does something it lasts days for me. I am at the end of my rope.

  • Susan // May 23, 2015 at 9:54 am | Reply

    What if father is scared to and takes her side I said did not want to see her no more I do not have children no one belive me I’m so stressed got got over cancer

  • Father // July 7, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Reply

    My Daughter is married to ISP TROOPER. He calls her very bad disrespectful names . My wife and I are worried about her . So far he has not put a hand on her YET. We don’t know how to help her .we have talked to her but she is just worn out .

  • Cara // October 4, 2015 at 11:53 am | Reply

    What do you do if for all of your marriage over 25 years, the mother in law and in laws have always degraded,caused drama,mother in law always pins family members against one another,lies, seeks unjustified pity,never had a good relationship with her own husband and forces members to either side with her and disrespect the father in law and shall you not, then you become the victim of the mother in laws wrath. She’s manipulated her sons to feel guilt shall they respect thier father,she’s caused major family arguments over the years and she never ever had anything positive to say about anyone,and if she did, it was only to spite the person she may be speaking to at the moment, I call it “stirring the pot” her game of control,manipulative behavior. Any advice is greatly appreciated,as this has caused a major toll on my own health and marriage.

  • Cara // October 4, 2015 at 12:02 pm | Reply

    I have done nothing but comply to all her many demands over the years just to get along and the more I complied, the more she controlled, I at the point that I don’t want any participation with my husbands mother and my children whom are grown don’t either and now that the mother in law is 82 and I’ll its as if all the more she spreads the guilt as to “why we have to basiclly kiss her butt,allow her to control and fuel the spark of drama in the family. I could go on an on of the many hurtful things she has done over the years,as it’s been going on since the very first moment I met her. I was warned many years ago by her own side of the family that she is quite the trouble maker and contr freak,again I tried all these years to take the high road and comply,try to like me,accept me,see that I am a good decent woman,wife,mother and yet she still treats me with disrespect and verbal,mental abuse and lies…. I have bent over backwards for her and have given her so much more of my time,efforts,attention and respect than my own mother and my own mother was always respectful of me,my husband and children. Any advice is greatly appreciated as I get older myself all I want is peace of mind and peace in the family and have come to learn the only way is to cut the mother in law off from all contact,but she causes guilt,lies and fuels the fire even if I stay away, it allows her to talk negatively even more about me claiming im not a good daughter in law because “now I don’t go visit her anymore”. I have a heavy heart due to all of this.

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