Lessons on tough love that I learnt from my in-laws

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This blog is contributed by Srividhya Swaminathan

I come from a very loving & supportive family. Like all kids , we were completely pampered in every possible way. My family is very expressive in sharing love , concern & bonding.Interestingly, God always makes sure we are in a completely different setup after marriage.(I guess that’s how all of us grow up) .I was no exception. Ours was an arranged marriage. 

I was very warmly accepted by my in laws. They gave me sarees, jewellery – exactly like how they got it done for their daughter. Wedding card was printed with titles ‘Wedding of our children’ . They insisted my husband gets a particular jewellery set exactly like how it was done for my Mom in law and my sis in law.They did not want me to be deprived when the woman in the family wearing a ‘Classic piece’ , during family gatherings. My father in law insisted that I dont change my maiden name after marriage, simply because their daughter maintained hers after marriage.All this is very encouraging for new member who has just joined the family. 

Like all relationships, our sweet extended honey moon with my extended family got shattered when my Father in law passed away 5 months after the wedding. It was such a loss. I have never seen such a learned, soft spoken person. He would spend all his time reading literature. He was heart patient for 14 years and to relieve himself , he would watch comedy tracks. He was such refined personality, always dressed in white.Somehow he knew how to handle his problems with dignity & grace. If u talk to him, he would never speak anything related to house matters but only general topics. In short, he was like our Tamil Hero Ajith. He moved with a class that seems like a dream even now.

My in laws belong to a very small town called Srirangam. Its called the Bhuloka Vaikundam. True to the name, the people carry themselves with a certain vanity in the air, that Ranganathar belongs to them. My in laws were more broad minded than my own family, who lived in city at all times. 

Since my in laws family had come for treatment to CHENNAI, and my father in law passed away, we decided to do all formalities in my parents home. Whole episode was very depressive. Despite my immaturity &limited understanding about people  those days, even then I knew what a big loss it is for me. (My future kids won’t get to know this wonderful man)  . Surprisingly my mom in law never cried. The news was shared when my Father, mom in law and husband were driving.

I believe my father could not drive and hands started to shiver. My mom in law ‘s only reaction was ‘its him, is it not? He Passed away, right?’ .(my husband received the call while all were on their way to the hospital). Infact they told my father to stop the car and relax before he starts again to the hospital. Through out the ceremony, I witnessed crazy situations like mom in law wanting to go for walk, to discussing weird topics and to top it when we went to receive my Sis in law(she is Us Resident) , she behaved as though nothing happened. She even smiled when my parents offered their condolences. All this was very weird to me, knowing what a man he was. It all seemed like more of a ‘put on’. I thought, to each to their own, everybody has different way of expressing grief.

We went to Srirangam by car, my father in law’s mom and Mil was alive then and was waiting to receive us. We cremated him in CHENNAI. 1st thing my Sis in law did was, she sat down with her 95yr old grandmother , so that she could vent and share her grief. She thought it was important to address that. Somehow this scene never left my mind. That started my 1st love for tough love.I love people who raise above the situation and contribute despite having their own difficulties. I always joke’ my Sis in law is the best Chandramouli’. 

I later came to know that my sis in law over phone had instructed my mom in law not to cry in a house which was not theirs and I believe she said ‘ our grief is -our own’ . Thats why they wanted it to be a very quiet funeral. 

Once my child was severely bullied by gang of so called friends. I gave a written complaint to the Guidance counselor, it turned out to be a big drama, as the children were from the same community and their parents thought we were being too harsh as its seen as a big offence in Usa. We decided to let it go. But unfortunately one of parents called my husband and threatened him and was abusive. My husband listened to the whole conversation not mentioning 1 word. At last he said in a quiet voice ‘pls do everything u told me’.

The parent did not expect this, quickly changed tone and said ‘so what do u want me to do’. My husband said ‘exactly what u said’. My husband escalated the issue and amicably resolved it. That day, I noticed my husband means what he says. He is very reliable. I somehow like reliability more than fun & excitement.It impressed me. I knew this guy was very different. I place a lot of importance and respect for people who honour their word. 

But over time, we had our own ups & downs. We discovered our Great and not so great qualities as a family . But all said and done, these guys (my husbands side) were very different from us. Their ability to move on in life was splendid. They would prefer to donate cash awards in colleges & schools than to do the death ceremony. All this was very new to me(pre -spirituality days). Of course, now with my insistence, we do both.

I remember when I crashed my brand new CRV , (all air bags came out )and did total damage to my car and 2 other cars, my husband never scolded me. I was slapped with a huge fine (over $500) and had to address the case in court. 1 of them complained of chest pain. (It took me about 6 months to handle & let go of the entire episode. I  dislike the idea of anybody suffering because of me). Out of guilt, I asked him after 2 days ‘why r u so nice to me?’ .

He replied saying ‘Its because of my mom. all scolding is only before exams, not after. She made sure we played and had fun. No more scoldings’.On the day of judgement, after everything was resolved, outside the court, my husband personally apologised to the lady , with a very very very humble body language. It touched me beyond words. He knows where he has to say sorry. He told me ‘its important for us that she lets go of the entire episode’. 

I dislike people who are arrogant fully knowing its all their mistake. Of course all this was  just traffic violation and not seen as a  big deal. But it did leave permanent scars in my mind and also changed my perspective about my husband. I started seeing him in a very different light, as someone who took the hit, which was meant for me. 

Of course, on many instances these same guys proved to be ‘not so great’, if my husband gets angry, all of us will disappear from the scene, literally, but I learned to let go. Somehow I was very impressed with the way this family behaves on crisis. I soon learned to notice that person’s real character comes out during tough times and this family had never let me or others down. This quality was very impressive. 

I  would do the same since childhood. I would never leave anybody if they go through tough situations , even if I dont like them, I would still want to be with them. Every time I had a fight, every time my husband was being unreasonable otherwise, I could never really be angry with him, because he won my respect and trust, which to me, is more important than anything else. 
Life offered many many toxic situations to me, but these guys strangely helped me more than my own family.

I remember when I cried over phone to my mom in law over a very upsetting situation, she spoke to me like a professional. she said ‘go wash ur face and then call me’. I can never forget the firmness in the tone, yet soothing the next moment when I called her again. My husband is like that too. I soon discovered that I can never resolve an issue by crying on his presence.  The entire family has an allergy for that. They tend to get angry when we come across as a weak person.They want us to be strong at all times, above all take charge of ourselves in every situation. 

This is not to promote my in laws and my husband. They have many many flaws(like I always joke ‘ my boys won’t allow me to live in my own home, unless I take care of their multiple needs) , but the point is I grew to become fond of them despite their limitations, because of what and who they are when things do not go right. All the not so great experiences in my life taught me to love life with a passion that you cannot imagine. 

Some of my learnings from these experiences were:
1.While it is very easy to judge someone when things go wrong, dont give up. Give them another chance. sometimes people are like coconuts (tough exterior and very soft&tender from inside)

2. Developing gratitude helps in sustaining relationships. After the car incident, I  n-e-v-e-r mention anything bad about my husband to anybody in the world, not even to my own mother. While my friends like to be among friends, I prefer to be in the company of  my husband at all times. My husband knows this and he in turn started to build trust in me. I feel he is my best bet. I Feel secured with him. 

3.Before I turned spiritual, there were many incidents which were toxic in my life. When something bad happens in my life, I would take the ‘Sankalpam’ to make it the rocking experience of my life. For me, raising despite the difficulties is most important. 

4.We may have the best of friends, but no one can replace your family. There used to be a time when I thought my friends were everything. I changed after witnessing many episodes. If you feel your family members are limited, work on them. Build the trust and once the trust is built, rest is a breeze.

Fun & Laughter always
Srividhya Swaminathan

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