Parents Involvement in the Life of Married Couple

By: Khalid Iqbal, Founder of Rahmaa Institute

In a recent case of dispute between the young wife and her mother-in-law, I was asked the question, “who should back off?”. There is not a straight answer to this question. Both sides felt that they were in the right. The young wife felt that her mother-in-law is meddling in their marriage. She is criticizing her for everything and anything that she does including; how she spends her time, what she wears and when she goes out with her husband. The mother-in-law is also constantly complaining that she does not help with the household chores. The wife’s biggest complaint is that her mother-in-law constantly talks negatively about her on the phone or in a gathering to her children, family and friends or even strangers. She compares her with her other daughters and daughters-in-law. She also feels frustrated that her husband, who always supports his mother, tells her to be patient and respectful to his parents no matter what they say or do to her. Her dream of having her own home with her husband is being shattered as his parents want them to stay in the joint family system.

The mother-in-law on the other hand complains that this daughter-in-law is arrogant and disrespectful to them. She never listens to whatever they say to her or asks her to do and that she is trying to take their son away from them.

Traditionally, parents have always played a role in the selection and marriage of their children. The role often continues with practical assistance in many aspects like childcare to marital conflict resolution. Some parents overstep that advisory boundary into giving them advice in all matters of their life, whether they are in need of it or not. Most parents want the best for their daughter or son, however this level of involvement sometimes has a negative outcome. While researching for her book on “Islamic Divorce”, Dr. Julie Macfarlane interviewed over 200 divorced American Muslims. Whereas some participants described their family’s involvement as helpful and supportive, others wished they could have worked directly with each other without parental or family interference (Macfarlane 2012).

With the changing times, society is looking at a new paradigm. Marriage relationships are being redefined. Newly married couples want independence. Many couples use social media to communicate with each other before the wedding. In USA, Europe, and other places both husband and wife work; meaning both are economically independent. Their definition of the in-law and extended family relationship is different than previous traditions. I also find that many parents are still living in the past and have difficulty adapting to the new reality.

In a recent 2011 survey conducted by George Mason University on the request of ADAMS center Mosque in VA, the number one marriage issue identified by those surveyed was the involvement of in-laws in the couples’ married life. In our own experience of counseling couples going through marriage problems, the in-law issue remains prominent. Often the husband, trying to mediate thinking he has the solution, is sandwiched between his wife and parents. Interestingly during the pre-marital counseling sessions, when I ask the young people “If there is a dispute between your spouse and your family who are you going to support?”, the majority of the participants from both genders answer “We will support whoever is in the right”. This seems like a logical answer. However, because both sides strongly feel that they are right and parents usually want their child to support them, it often ends up a poor approach.

Here are some solutions that I would like to suggest:

Suggestions for the young couple:

1. The respect of elders especially parents are paramount and must be maintained.
2. You should never neglect their wishes. If you do not agree with them please talk to them in a respectful and gentle way. Many disputes are escalated when young people respond to the elders in a way that the elders perceive as disrespectful. Remember perception creates a lot of misunderstandings.
3. Each partner deals with their own side of the family. When you say “mom, dad we are now married, we respect your opinion and advice but why don’t you allow us to learn through our mistakes, instead of you getting involved in every small thing”.
4. Remember it is difficult for elderly to change their lifelong habits. It may be OK to accept some of their wishes, if not all, if they are not interfering in your life.
5. Often it is not the issue that is important; it is the way you responded and communicated to them creates an unhealthy home environment. Responding with attitude or show of anger is not a sign of respect.
6. Remember someday you will be a parent or parent-in-law also Insha’Allah.

Suggestions for the Parents:

1. The times have changed. Please learn to change with times.
2. Never impose your own choice for spousal selection on your son or daughter, rather join them in consultation. Let it be their choice. After all, it is them who need to spend the life together.
3. Allah loves those who are patient. Allow them to learn their own way. Let them make some mistakes.
4. Young couples dream of their own castle, even if it is a small apartment. Let them move to a place of their own.
5. Your daughter-in-law is now your own daughter. Treat her as a family member. Criticizing her in private and especially in public will create ill will and tension.
6. Give them the freedom they deserve as a newly married couple instead of imposing conditions and your will.
7. Remember when you got married and wished that there was no interference from your in-laws.
8. Neglect their mistakes. Rasool Allah Mohammad SWS asked his companions, “Do you want Allah to forgive you on the Day of Judgment? Then forgive others”.

Preparing couples to deal with real life issues:

Research and experience suggest that premarital or post marital counseling helps to prepare young couples on these and other real life issues effectively creating a happy and tranquil home environment.

Realizing the gravity of the issue, we have developed a workshop that deal with this specific issue. If you are interested in taking part in this workshop please write to us at

We would love to hear from you, your comments, suggestions and even criticism will help us serve you better.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment