My South Asian In-Laws


By Nadia Shah @desiinlaws & online at:

nadia shah, desi inlaws, masalamommas

Columnist, In-Law Corner

Before I got married, my mom always told me “When you marry someone, you marry his family.” Unless your spouse is totally disconnected from his family, then this is true for you. No matter how much you would like to believe that only you and your spouse need to get along to have a successful marriage, this is just not correct, especially in the South Asian culture. Unless you are part of a perfect, non-dysfunctional family (yeah right!), your in-laws and you argue or at the very least have some misunderstandings.

I have been happily married for four years to a loving, caring, and amazing man. Very early on in our marriage, my husband’s family moved in with us out of necessity. Although my Pakistani culture dictates that the oldest son care for the family, I wasn’t prepared for it to happen so soon. Usually we care for our parents or in-laws when they are older and can’t live independently any longer. Or traditionally, the wife moves in with her husband’s family. This was a role reversal. We had to skip the newlywed stage and move on to being responsible for our family.

My MIL and BIL are both very sweet, kind-hearted people. I truly respect and care for them. But what it comes down to is that combining lives is difficult. I already have the challenge of combining lives with my husband but having the added stress of trying to adjust to living with other people is hard. Naturally there are challenges that arise. Simply put, we have different ways of doing things.

Communication is probably our main challenge. Although I am Pakistani, I was born and raised in California, thus I have adopted much of the directness of the American culture. My MIL is from the traditional, Pakistani culture. Like much of the world (approximately 70%) she believes in indirect communication and vertical hierarchy. Not surprisingly, the different forms of communication can cause misunderstandings.

My MIL, BIL, and I have worked on our conflicts by trying to communicate clearly with each other. Awhile back, after an argument, we ultimately agreed to talk to each other directly (at least try to) if we have problems. Granted, as humans we do not change so easily as we would like and fall right back into our usual patterns, but with little reminders, change is possible. And with hope and perseverance, many of our relationships can improve.


Many of you may be shocked and uncomfortable that a South Asian female is actually acknowledging that there are in-law challenges but if we can’t be open with each other, then how will we realize other people are having similar challenges and how will we find strength and guidance through each other?

My goal is for us to be positive and hopeful throughout this forum and that we can ultimately improve all of our in-law relationships. Be strong.


This post was written an inaugural post for the inspiration behind SouthAsianinlaws in 2011.

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