I had to make space for myself in the family; my in-laws cannot choose to ignore me


“I am married into a family where everyone is from a medical background--my mother-in-law and father-in-law are both doctors as is my husband and his younger brother. Whereas I had an arranged marriage, my brother in law got married to his colleague who again is a doctor. And from there my troubles in life started.

I am not a working person and was quite content with my married life. There were episodes in between where I did feel left out during family discussions when everyone was talking about something related to the medical field and I was not able to follow the conversation, or when my husband’s friends and their doctor wives came, then I would sometime feel a little bit left out..but I took it in my stride and didn’t really mind it all.

But after my brother-in-laws wedding, everyone’s attitude in the family changed. She was the favoured bahu who would actively participate in all their medical-related conversations at the dining table, while I was asked to cook and serve chapattis. She would leave home for her clinic in the morning, without pitching in with the housework, and I was expected to finish it all.

Slowly, I was degraded to the level of an attendant in the family--when everyone was sitting and talking, no one paid attention to me at all. It was as if I didn’t exist in the room. I was only called upon when someone needed tea or some chore.

It started to play on my mind. I felt hurt, complexed, and very disturbed. I did not feel like dressing, or getting ready--what was the point after all? No one paid attention to me in any case so whether I wore new clothes or not, it didn’t matter to me or them. I lost all confidence to speak up and even when asked for opinions, which was rare, I almost fumbled. I felt awkward talking to anyone in the family except my husband. When guests would come, it was worse...I preferred to hide in the kitchen, under the pretence of cooking, rather than try and match my smart sister-in-law. 

It seemed a life of drudgery for me and a trap I was unable to come out. The more confidence I lost, the more natural it was for people to ignore me. I felt incompetent, inferior to everyone, useless and foolish. I felt as if I was good for nothing. 

It was only when an old friend came visiting me and stayed at my house for a day, did she notice this dull, given-up kind of personality of mine. She then suggested some changes which made sense.

  1. I had my own strengths and they set me apart from others. I did not need to feel competitive with others and fight a battle in a field that wasn’t my domain.
  2. I needed to believe in myself more. I needed to stop feeling overwhelmed. I needed to look after myself well and indulge myself to feel good.
  3. I had a complete right to tell my family members gently to change the conversation if it was something in which I was not included. I could suggest that this conversation could be held some other time and this time, when I was around, we could discuss maybe politics or some area of my interest. Alternatively, I could discreetly turn the conversation around to another topic rather than feeling left out and then choosing to be left out.