Confusion and Unlearning: My Experience as a Daughter-in-Law in Indian Society

I am an outsider in a house where everyone else has known each other for...


Marriages in India – Why are they so confusing for women?

This is not a rant about marriage or Indian society, but what I am looking for is some answers to know if I am the only one who thinks like this.


So it all started during my childhood; I was always aloof and hated how women were treated around me and how they were continuously compensating for the men’s weaknesses. I  wished to stand up for it but always failed, and that left me feeling powerless. On the other hand, I also realised that women were always conditioned to put themselves last and be a devotee to their husbands and their family. They were taught from childhood and were, therefore, pretty convinced by the idea of spending their lives after marriage with their in-laws away from their own families and home.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I was brought up in a household where I was given the freedom to do whatever I wanted to do. There was no difference in how my older brother and I were brought up. We both got equal career opportunities and shared equal responsibilities in household work. As a result, I was conditioned to feel equal, to be treated as an equal member of the family for almost all my life. 

For you to understand my story, it’s important to point out that because of my opinionated and upfront pointing out of patriarchy during my childhood, I wasn’t the most ideal kid. I fought and argued my way out of my twenties and eventually found more acceptance outside my house through my peer group than with my family. I struggled a lot in my twenties to understand how households work and what role men and women played in them. It was after spending money on attending three self-development workshops, 20 therapy sessions and 1 CA degree that I could acknowledge my childhood trauma and work towards creating a deeper relationship with my parents. I was able to see my shortcomings as well and learnt to embrace my relationship with my parents. 

At 26, I was doing well, working with one of the big four organisations, had a good relationship with my family and some adorable close friends and was mentally in a good place too. All I needed now was a partner, and BAM, my luck, I found him as soon as I turned 28. Just as I always wanted it to be, and more, we told our parents six months into our dating phase, and we got married six months thereafter. We were madly in love and could not wait to start our lives together.

Confusion and Unlearning My Experience as a Daughter-in-Law in Indian Society

Now, this is where the confusion starts; there are a couple of things no one told/asked me- 

  • I have to move into his house and become a part of his family 
  • His parents are now my parents, and my parents are LESS of my parents
  • My house is NOT my house anymore 

But as I mentioned to you earlier, I was conditioned to feel equal, and I had just fixed my relationship with my parents. I was not done enjoying that yet. 

Now what?? Here comes anxiety, panic, confusion, and big things I have learnt so far, and now I have to unlearn. I have to learn to accept and agree to these norms created by society. 

Don’t get me wrong, and it’s not like I don’t like my in-laws. They are actually very nice people and are incredibly open-minded too. My mother-in-law is working, and she is very independent in a way that is truly inspiring. She was able to rise beyond the shackles of society and has done an excellent job of creating an environment of equality in her house. 

Now that’s where the tricky part comes in. I am an outsider in a house where everyone else has known each other for 25+ years, and they have lived in the house all their lives. And then I enter, and of course, everyone is trying their best to make me feel at home, except it’s not my home, and I don’t feel at home here. My home is where I lived for 27 years. Suddenly nothing makes sense to my brain; it feels confused and is very quick to catch one thing – I am a woman, and that’s the fate of women in India.

It is so deeply ingrained in our society that even talking about it is frowned upon. And it is considered wrong if I openly insist upon having my own house, my own kitchen, starting afresh, a place where I don’t feel out of place because everyone else is settled. I will be considered a bad daughter-in-law and even a bad daughter. In my eyes, I feel too like I am failing and disappointing everyone because I cannot adjust to something EVERY other woman has in her phase of marriage. At this moment, I wish there was a magic fix, and I could condition myself like my mother was, accept this unequal society and not live in so much confusion. It’s just my body that reacts because it feels so confused and out of place. 

Now this is what I leave you with. I am here advocating a society where we eliminate this step of girls moving into the guys’ houses. What if we stay near both our parents and see them from time to time, celebrate festivals together?

In Indian culture, there is a saying that good in-laws are the ones that treat their daughters-in-law as daughters. What they don’t realise is that they also burden the daughter-in-law with the responsibility of being a daughter, and honestly, that’s not very fair to their own daughter as well. Why can’t we accept this distinction and not expect a stranger to just fit in with us, not even expect ourselves as parents to adjust to a stranger? Why can we not accept this difference between a daughter and a daughter-in-law?

You don’t expect your son-in-law to be your son, right? That’s precisely what you need to do here as well.


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