Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil
Question: Assalam aleykum,
I live with my mother, wife, and child. My wife doesn’t get along with my mother. If my mother tries to give her advice, she takes it the wrong way. My mother is old and I don’t want to leave her and move out. What do I do?
Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for reaching out to us.
Dear questioner, I pray that Allah makes this difficult situation easier for you.
In terms of the Shari’ah, your wife has the right to her private living quarters. There is great wisdom in giving your wife the space she needs to raise your child.
However, you are a thoughtful son for wanting to keep your mother company in her old age. Your situation calls for a lot of compassion, balance and wisdom. I pray that Allah makes this easier for everyone in your household.
Please read this dua every day, preferably in the last third of the night (before the entry of Fajr):
“O Allah, nothing is easy except what You make easy.
And You make the difficult, if You wish, easy.”
Please perform the Prayer of Need, also preferably during the last third of the night.
Does your wife have much help with your child? If your wife is run down, sleep-deprived, and has very little support, then she is far more likely to go on the defensive when her mother-in-law gives her feedback.
A well-rested, happy and content wife is much more able to make excuses for her mother-in-law.
Please share this excellent resource with your wife: Contented In-Laws.
Your mother sounds concerned for the welfare of her grandchild, and it sounds like she either:
1) struggles to express herself diplomatically
2) is being misunderstood by your wife, who goes on the defensive
Please speak to your mother. Until your mother develops more rapport with your wife, please encourage her to speak to you, and not your wife, about your child. Child-rearing is an incredibly sensitive topic.
Please make it a point to express your gratitude to your wife for continuing to live with your mother, in spite of the hardship upon her. When she is ready to hear it, then encourage your wife to make excuses for your mother. Tactfully suggest that she build positive memories with your mother, to give her the ability to overlook your mother’s shortcomings.
Your wife’s obligation is to treat her with respect. She is going well beyond the call of duty by living with her mother-in-law, interacting with her every day, and not having as much privacy as she is entitled to. However, if she does so with an unhappy heart, then she is making this already difficult situation even harder on herself. With patience, good character, and readiness to forgive, your wife can earn tremendous reward by being of service to your mother.
Please sit down with your wife and have an honest and calm discussion about what to do about your mother. Some suggestions.
1) Nurture your relationship with your wife.
2) Help her out more often, or arrange for help.
3) Encourage your wife to nurture her relationship with your mother.
Both of you must learn to not immediately go on the defensive when you bring up the topic of your mother. This will be difficult to do at first, but over time and practice, you will find it easier.
I strongly encourage that you and your wife read this article Managing Conflict: Solvable vs. Perpetual Problems.
Please do not feel hesitant about seeking out the help of a culturally-sensitive marriage counsellor. Sometimes, when topics are too painful and sensitive, then the support of an objective, trained third-party can make alll the difference.
What does your current home look like, in terms of private spaces? It would be best if your home allowed you and your wife your own private living room, bathroom and kitchen.
Is your mother still healthy and able to function independently? If so, then please consider moving out a last resort, and not your first. Moving out will inevitably break your mother’s heart, but if that is what it takes to save your marriage, then you must put serious thought into it.
Your wife wants to feel that her desire for privacy and peace of mind matter to you. This could be a temporary measure, until you and your wife are able to be on the same page about living with your mother in her old age.
Please perform the Prayer of Guidance before deciding to move out. I pray that Allah grants you a tremendous opening.
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[Ustadha] Raidah Shah Idil
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil has spent almost two years in Amman, Jordan, where she learned Shafi’i’ fiqh, Arabic, Seerah, Aqeedah, Tasawwuf, Tafsir and Tajweed. She continues to study with her Teachers in Malaysia and online through SeekersHub Global. She graduated with a Psychology and English degree from University of New South Wales, was a volunteer hospital chaplain for 5 years and has completed a Diploma of Counselling from the Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with her husband, daughter, and mother-in-law.