For a very long time, Joyce*, a light skinned baby faced mother of three always sang songs of joy in her marriage. This couple has been together for four years and is always used as an example during marriage meetings in her church. Much as her days were sprouted with happiness and sunshine, she was saddened when her calm sea of marriage turned into a heavy storm when her mother in-law visited.
“My husband was the most loving man I knew. We were so happy that I can’t believe that he is the one acting like this,” she says. “My mother-in-law used to come to our house and stay for a night, but this one time, when there was a wedding and introduction, she stayed longer. Even after both occasions, she stayed.”
Being a kind hearted and jolly woman, Joyce made it her duty to make her mother in law feel at home but as it turns out, it was all for nothing. The woman simply didn’t appreciate her hospitality.
“All of a sudden, my husband started complaining about the food I cook for his mother, how much oil and salt I use and so on. So I decided to make a different meal for her. Soon he started complaining about the food I cook for him and one time, he even broke the plate I served him on in front of his mother,” she says with teary eyes.
As her husband did all this, his mother kept supporting him. It wasn’t until she overheard her mother-in-law saying he should get another wife who cooked better that she realised what she was up against. Joyce’s heart was broken but she stayed in the marriage and fought for her children until her husband disagreed with his mother on getting another wife.
Much as some relatives mean well, it becomes a slippery slope when they take up permanent residence in someone’s marital home.
Dr Felix Nsengiyumvwa, a medical specialist, has been married to his wife for 13 years now. He always welcomes his wife’s relatives and hosts them with utmost respect. He always believed that the smiles on their faces were genuine until he heard the stories they tell after leaving his home.
“I am a doctor and my job is demanding sometimes, but when I come back late (after informing my wife) they say I have been out drinking with other women. They say my wife covers up for me because she doesn’t want people to think our marriage is failing,” he says angrily.
Nsengiyumva’s attitude has changed where his wife’s relatives are concerned and now, he makes sure that they understand each other.
“I don’t know if relatives just come to destroy homes but they are quick to point out the bad in someone and make the good look bad,” he warns.
Elitah, a director of Finance at one of the transport companies in Rwanda says in-laws are a huge problem.
“Sometimes relatives can be a pain but most times, the in-laws are the biggest problem. When I was growing up, I would visit my sister and stay with her family while I was at university. Her husband seemed to criticise everything I did, he would always talk bad about his wife’s relatives but worst of all, he restrained her from taking their children to stay at any relative’s home for a night,” she says.
Elitah always kept calm and tried so much to please him since she didn’t want to be kicked out. She thought her sister’s marriage was perfect until it came to issues concerning her relatives. The husband would always try to make them look horrible.
Whereas many don’t like in-laws stepping in their homes for reasons known to them, Gloria Munezero, a mother to four who has been married for eight years says in-laws have been a blessing in her life.
“I lost my parents when I was 15 and grew up with my uncle’s family until I got married. During the days before and after I gave birth to my four children, my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law gave me priceless attention. They were always there for me and pampered me,” she says cheerfully.
Munezero praises her relatives saying they are always there for her and even when her husband is away, her sisters-in-law come and help her with work and she describes the relationship she has with them as truly loving.
Fred Kwizera, a Pastor and marriage councilor at Jesus’ Army Church, says half of marriage disputes that Christians face arise due to in-law intervention in a marriage.
“It’s the nature of human beings to be jealous when things are going on well for a family. And when in-laws notice this, they are quick to cause conflict between the couple and usually try to show that they are on the right side. Sometimes it pushes them to do things they wouldn’t have done,” he says.
Kwizera adds that more often than not, the groom’s relatives are the ones that cause problems and persuade him to turn against his wife.
As much as we all love our relatives, when two people get married, nosey intrusions is not quite what they signed up for. Some choose to take this interference positively and sort the issue tactfully, while others are not so gracious and will put a sign outside their house banning the nosey individual from their home if need be.
Pastor Kwizera also says that couples should always talk about this and focus on their own families rather than listen to gossip outside the family, more so from people who know nothing about marriage.
In-laws aren’t always what people expect them to be. Not all of them are bad or up to no good. Some are really nice and helpful and can come in handy. when you really need them.
A home crashes when in-laws step in. I wouldn’t let them stay for even a week. They take wrong stories to their homes and give wrong advice. They usually don’t like seeing peace in homes.
Patricia Tona Habimana
In-laws had their home before their relatives got married, how do they become homeless all of a sudden? I wouldn’t allow an extended family when I signed up for a nuclear one.
If you let in-laws stay, they get too comfortable and stay for months and some can be shameless enough to stay for years. If they have come for something, it’s wise to let them know that they have to go back.
Vox pop by Patrick Buchana