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Dear Fiona: Living With My Husband’s Family Is Driving Me To Despair But He Refuses To Listen – Should I Leave?

The problem…

“Me and my husband went through an arranged marriage around 11 years ago, and I moved to England from India to be with him. We live in joint family with our three children, but I don’t want to live with his family anymore.

“My husband was an alcoholic, but he quit drinking completely around four months ago. He was very sick, but he’s getting better – he’s been drinking for 25 years, which I didn’t knew before marriage but accepted with the passage of time.

“My main issue is there are no boundaries – his family over-steps all the time and there’s nothing that’s personal between us, everything gets shared. His family don’t consider me part of the family and his mother, father and sisters say to my face that they don’t trust me.

“Every time I try to discuss our future, my husband ignores me and won’t acknowledge that I’m talking to him. We end up arguing, and then he says that’s why he wouldn’t want a house with me as I’ll be hounding him all the time. He’s been divorced twice before me, and we argue about how to bring up our children. I’ve saved enough money for the deposit on a house and because I have a good job, I can get a mortgage alone, but he won’t agree to move as he doesn’t want responsibility to pay bills.

“Am I the bad person to insist on moving out? I really feel out of place in his parent’s house, and I’ve no support system as my parents are from India. In any arguments, his mum and dad jump in and tell me off for being loud and disrespectful. My husband won’t agree to couple’s counselling and always says that there’s something wrong with me.

“I’m not a weak person, I’m emotionally very strong, but I can’t take this anymore. I’m not sure what my future holds – would it be a good decision to think about divorcing my husband, which isn’t going to be easy either?”

Fiona says…

“You don’t say whether his two previous marriages failed because of similar issues to those you’re experiencing, but I’m guessing they may well have played a part. It’s hard to live with an extended family and if you do, it’s important to respect one another’s boundaries and allow one another privacy. Your in-laws aren’t allowing you to grow together as a couple because of their constant interference, so unless they do, it will be hard for a bond to grow between you both.

“I suspect your husband has never really been allowed to grow up – and I also suspect he doesn’t really want to. He doesn’t need to be responsible if his parents are keeping a roof over his head, and standing up for him every time he has a disagreement with you.

“You say you have the resources to buy a home for yourself – but do be sure your finances are separate from his. It might also be wise to check his credit score, as this might impact your ability to get a mortgage. If you were to separate, perhaps your husband would realise that the situation with his family cannot continue – he might even be prepared to try to work at your marriage through counselling.

“I think it would be worth your while talking to a solicitor and getting advice about the steps you would need to take for either a separation, or to make an application for divorce proceedings. You say divorce would be difficult, but is it any more difficult than the life you are currently leading?

“I understand there may sometimes be stigma for divorced women, particularly in very traditional communities, so perhaps you would like to prepare yourself and your children for facing some judgment and harsh comments. It may be a traumatic experience for your children, so you might need to consider counselling support for them too.

“Many Indian women do get divorced though, and go on to have great lives and find welcoming communities. Whilst you don’t intimate that you are being physically abused by your husband, the behaviour by his family certainly sounds abusive. You might, therefore, find the Asian Women’s Resource Centre helpful, as it has been providing services for women in situations like yours for many years.

“They can help you to make informed choices about your future and provide professional advice, counselling, and support.

Whichever path you take, the road ahead won’t be easy, but it doesn’t sound like staying where you are now is a good option either, and support is out there.”

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice.

All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

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