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Ask ANU: 'My mother-in-law taunts me for no reason'

November 16, 2022 13:30 IST

In this weekly self-help series, mental health and life coach Anu Krishna tells you how to take control of your life.

Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Is your relationship causing you stress?

Are you feeling lonely, helpless, indecisive?

You are not alone!

Mind/life coach, NLP trainer and mental health guru Anu Krishna wants you to talk about your problems.

Every week, Anu will answer your queries, address your concerns and offer expert advice on how you can take control of your life.

Dear readers, if you have a question for Anu, please e-mail it to (Subject: Ask ANU) for her advice.

Meanwhile, here's the unedited excerpt from Anu's latest offline session with readers:

SS: Hope you are doing well.
I am kinda mentally disturbed and badly need your suggestion.
I have been in love and married for 13 yrs. I have a son and a daughter. I'm a working woman.
I'm being constantly ill-treated by my mother-in-law. I know such issues exist in every household. But here, it has been a never-ending issue for 13 years now.
She is very insecure, when it comes to household chores, my kids and my husband and feels all these areas should be in her control.
She feels she is to be given utmost attention and only her thoughts and feelings to be respected and are always right.
She insults me, mocks me, and doesn't treat me like a part of the family, though I’m selfless and continue to care for my in-laws and other family members.
She keeps hurting me with her words, gestures and behaviour.

To her, I'm like a constant pester and she doesn't feel satisfied with any chores or work at home or family. I'm a big mess. She often states 'I’m her` target` and will continue to hurt me verbally and with gestures.
My husband doesn't raise questions on his mom's insane behaviour, as she threatens to harm herself.
This is a routine she carries out, whenever she wants to. I have zero support from my husband to change his mom and or understand my feelings. Neither should I voice out my views or feelings. I have to look out for her moods and actions and act accordingly, any time.
I have no self-respect, no dignity here. It doesn't feel like this is my house or my family, except for my kids.
My kids are growing up and I feel I will lose respect amongst them, when she constantly taunts me and insults me for no reason.
I have no parents or siblings to share my feelings. I open up with my close friends for a temporary vent out, otherwise, it really doesn't serve any purpose.
I feel like I have to live eternally with this mental abuse, as I'm unable to put up with her behaviour and harassment. Acting as if I'm fine every day is killing me.
This type of behaviour makes me feel very low and my self-esteem is affected. I feel worthless and my whole life feels like a sheer curse.
Please help me get out of this situation and make my mother-in-law mend her behaviour towards me.
Awaiting your response.

Dear SS,

A story in many patriarchal households!

What can you do to change her and your husband’s attitude on this? Nothing at all.

It’s like a stubborn gene that wants to hold on to age-old beliefs where the mother-in-law rules the home and calls the shots, the son blindly supports his mother’s tantrums.

What can you do when your children also are growing up in this environment?

Here’s where you can put your foot down.

Your children have to learn to respect their mother for who she is. So, stop playing the victim in your situation and take charge.

I am sure the children are at an age where their minds are impressionable and can be beautifully shaped to accept different people in the household.

Instead of spending time cursing your situation, spend the same time being with your children, bonding with them.

Talk and spend a lot of time going out, watching TV, cooking, reading, listening to music and more.

What will start to happen is that the children will learn to hold space for you when you are down and out. And do take care that while you are bonding with them, never talk ill about their father or their grandmother.

This activity isn’t to distance one from the other but to give you a new way of thinking in the existing circumstances.

Having said this, if your husband is someday ready to talk to you about this, by all means be assertive.

Till then, it’s not necessary to suffer. Either you can fight and get fingers pointed back at you or you can negotiate a situation wisely to maintain the peace at home. You always have that choice.

Whatever you choose, never sit in silence and do nothing. That’s what your children will learn; to suffer in silence. So, time to make some subtle and meaningful changes?

Best wishes!

AS: Hello mam,
I have been friends with a guy from my school for last 10 years. We know each other pretty well.
I even tied him a rakhi just to protect our friendship; I was too naïve.

Since last month we are seeing each other frequently and have had conversations about family issues, future goals etc and during all these talks he used to come up with the topic of marriage and dropped hints for me.
When I told him that I keep thinking about him throughout the day he replied that 'I gave you emotional support when you were stressed and that's why this is happening. You shouldn't pay attention to these thoughts.'
What should I do? I am confused whether I love him or it was just the way he thinks it is?
Please keep this anonymous.
Thank you.

Dear AS,

So brotherly feelings turned into love?

I guess when you tied the rakhi, you simply were trying to avoid facing up to the fact that there already might have been feelings for him, and it was convenient to seal the connection with a rakhi. Possible?

Now that both have discovered that it might be more than what you thought of initially, please sit down like mature individuals and talk about it.

No point trying to avoid the feelings for each other if they indeed exist. After which, both of you can decide the right course of action.

Also, dropping hints might be your reading of the situation based on what you wished or hoped for.

It could very well be one-sided from you, so it’s better to have that frank chat and put all these doubts and uncertainties to rest.

Makes sense? Wait no longer…

All the best!

G: Hello Ma'am,
My sister’s name is ***. She lives in Jones County, Macon, Georgia USA and has a 14-year-old boy.
My sister left her house (through social service department) three months ago because of constant harassment, torture and abuse every day in different ways (for last 2 years) by her husband
Now she is unable to contact her son.
She has called, sent several texts and emails but there hasn’t been any reply from her son.
Her husband also never tried to contact her or organized to talk with her son.
She doubts that her husband may have blocked all lines between mother and son or changed the phone number after she left.
My sister misses her son every day. She can't live without her son and she can't do anything because of her husband’s one-sided behavior.
Krupa also wants her son to be counselled by any government organization so the truth comes out.
I need help or advice. What to do?
Her husband is doing multi franchise motel business and has a rental property business
They have been married for 18 years. My sister doesn't have a bank account.
She doesn't have cash with herself.
She doesn't have a credit card.
Every day her husband would ask her to 'get out of my house and my life’, abuse her in a very bad language and mentally torture her.
He’s made the child go against his mom and taken everything from her.
She is helpless.
So, temporary her uncle took her out of the house through social service of Macon. She moved to her uncle's house in Toronto, Canada who sent her back to India with us.
Now how do we fight this person?
How do we pay attorney fees? Because we have nothing with us right now.
Plz suggest.
Thank you

Dear G,

This is really sad to know. But I am sure, your sister will want to reunite with her child and knows what she can do.

She is just clouded with emotions to be able to think straight.

What I can suggest is:

1. Contact an attorney in India (approach an NGO that can connect you to people whose fees are affordable) who is aware of the laws of Child Protection in Canada.

S/he can advise on the next course of action keeping in mind that the child’s welfare comes first. He/She can also refer your case to an attorney they know in Canada to proceed on the case

2. Keep your sister in a good frame of mind by asking her to hold on to hope and that she needs to look after herself well to fight back

3. As a family, kindly avoid talking about the situation in a sombre manner that crushes your sister’s hopes. Keep your hopes high at all times; your sister needs that

4. Support her financially as a family without making her feel that she is a burden.

Family support at this time is of utmost importance to her physically, emotionally and financially

Best wishes to your sister and the family. Keep the faith!

SV: Hi Anu
First request is to keep my identity a top secret.
I am a 40 years old guy with a good stable job. I am in the process of legal separation (divorce) which is scheduled to happen in the next two months.
I have been living a bachelor’s life since past 5 years and unfortunately, the legal separation is happening only now.

Three years ago I met a girl and we fell in love and I feel that she is best fit for me for second innings.
She is madly in love with me and wants to spent all her life with me.
Now comes the issue –we have been living-in for some months now.
Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with her – I have started feeling a lack of attraction – I have started feeling that I want her also but I also don't like her being around all the time.

It is difficult to explain and may sound weird and 'selfish'. I feel that it is not about this particular girl – it’s just that start feeling deprived of my freedom when someone is around all the time and I may feel so even if it’s some other person.
My point is that the problem is not with the girl but it’s with me. I also want a partner and at the same time I do not want a person around me all the time.
(I have noticed that many men feel like this.....)
What is your suggestion to this?

Dear SV,

I guess two people in love wanting two different things within the relationship?

Easy way is to talk about it.

Yes, she may feel hurt and may feel that you led her the wrong way etc, but it’s better to discuss this rather than let it grow any further.

I would not know if many men feel the way that you do (it’s your view of the situation) but let’s focus on what you feel.

You do not want to have that commitment where you play the householders’ identity all over again after going through it in a not so pleasant way the first time. Fair enough!

But, don’t you feel the lady who loves you now needs to know that.

Keep her trust in you alive and validate her feelings when you communicate this to her.

There may be emotional outbursts and you must be in the kindest space of mind. After all, she has known her dreams in a different way with you and now things are changing.

An alternate thought to this: What would happen if you actually allow yourself a second chance at being a married man?

A lot of men do go through a second marriage and things have worked out fine for them.

Is it that you are used to living independently as you believe or are you fearful of a repeat from your first marriage?

If it is a fear, then time to break it and move past as you are keeping yourself from a beautiful journey and marriage.

It might be worthwhile to assess your thoughts and then if you still feel that it’s not fear and that you want the independence, time to break it to the lady very kindly and gently and do not forget to apologise to her. It might be a huge shock.

So, please check with your mind first before taking any decision.

Best wishes!

IS: Hi Anu,
I don't want to disclose my name. I am married and have two children.
I have a beautiful wife but I always tend to think about having a relationship with other women.
I haven't had any relationship but I also want to be loyal to my wife. Our sex life is average.

Everyday I try to avoid thinking this is useless but I can’t. Please advice.

Dear IS,

What we try and avoid, we obsess over that more.

What is the real reason for wanting a relationship outside of marriage?

It is very easy and tempting to run away from facing issues that might be plaguing your marriage and hold on to something outside. Justifications maybe many.

Have you and your wife worked out issues at an emotional level.

Sex is one element of marriage and not the only one.

Maybe she feels emotionally disconnected from you as you might feel physically disconnected from her.

Whatever it is, bringing another person into a marriage isn’t going to sort out anything.

But if you have decided that a few complications aren’t going to hurt, well that is what is leading you to obsess over wanting another woman.

Instead, can you actually think of rebuilding the marriage? Of course, the want needs to be there else it’s a pointless exercise.

It takes a lot of work and patience and calm understanding between spouses to make a marriage work. Slippages can cost a parson his/ her marriage.

So, maybe it’s time to actually list down the best qualities you see in your wife and oh, yes WHY the two of you married in the first place, This WHY can re-energize you to look at things differently and more usefully.

The fact that you want to be loyal to your wife does suggest that there is a lot of love and care still in the marriage.

Who knows, the obsessive thoughts may fade…give your marriage another chance. I am sure you know that it deserves that chance!

All the best!

Anu Krishna is a mind coach, author and co-founder, Unfear Changemakers LLP. She's an NLP Trainer (National Federation of Neuro Linguistic Programming, NFNLP, USA), Energy Work Specialist (Institute for Inner Studies, Manila), Executive Member of Indian Association of Adolescent Health (M.I.A.A.H) and Member of Quality Circle Forum of India (QCFI). She has authored the self-coaching book: The Secret of Life – Decoding Happiness.

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