Our Discussions

Family Problems
1 ( a mother)

My problem is a little different. It is not with my husband, but with his family. I do not like his family. They live two hours away and when we visit (or in my case used to visit) they treat me and my children very differently. (I am American and my husband is Iranian). They all gather in the kitchen and do their thing and make no effort to include me. My children also hate going because they do not speak Farsi and also feel bored and left out. Their grandparents treat them differently than their "full blooded" Iranian cousins. The problem arises every time they asked my husband to come there to visit. I would rather stay home, but he thinks because I am his wife I should acompany him on all his family visits.I say that this is HIS family and he should deal with them alone. My family doesn't and never has treated him this way. Am I wrong by wanting to stay at home.

2 ( a madar)

I feel for you. If I wasn't comfortable I would try talking to my husband and his family. But if I see that they are not receptive and nothing has changed, I would cut back on my visits respectfully. Meaning that when you occasionaly see them be respectful, but don't put extra effort to visit or call them.


3 ( a madar)

I agree with Madar#3, they should include you and the kids. It's possible that they 're not realizing what they're doing and basically some of them might have language problem or not being so comfortable with communicating in English. I'm not trying to make excuses for them or try to defend some people who I don't know, I'm just trying to express some of the fact that exist among us. We all have some American friends and relatives, and in our gatherings these types of ignorance happen occasionally and very intentionally. Every time I have happened to be in such occasion, I always thought about this issue and felt sorry for that non-Iranian friend who looked so bored in the party. It's a very good idea if you let them know how you and the kids feel about this, but I think, even if they try to watch it, you are still going to see the same old scene "speaking Farsi in the kitchen" once in a while.

As a suggestion if you are willing to try another way to resolve this problem considering that they are your husband's family and being always part of him, why not meeting them half way which would be learning Persian language. I have some relatives with American or Chines wives who did it and now these gatherings are more pleasant to them because now they can follow the subjects if the conversation continues into Persian. And the most important thing is to reduce the argument between the husbands and the wives over "not willing to see his family".

I hope, I was able to say it clearly and just tried to help you.

Good luck

4 ( a mother)

Please remember that without actually seeing how your husband's family treat you, it is hard for us to provide true advice. But here are some thoughts on two possibilities.

One possibility is that you are misreading the situation. I am American, and many of our friends are American/Iranian couples, so I know how easy it is for an American wife who does not speak Farsi to feel excluded. It is very boring to sit with nothing to do while they converse, and it is especially irritating to never quite know what the plans are because they were made in Farsi! I got especially angry at my husband one time in Iran when we returned to the home we were staying at. Just as we got there, he informed me I would have to run to our room and dress for a dinner party that was at that very moment going on, when I had had no idea anything more than a quiet evening with our host was in the offing. However, I strongly feel part of being a good wife to a person of another language and culture is not to take from him his time with his family and friends, time that he can relax into his own culture and language. To force everyone to speak in English for my benefit would be unfair and rude of me. After all, I do not expect my family to speak Farsi for his benefit! And I can never get to know people with whom I cannot converse. Therefore, I have made a strong effort to learn Farsi well enough that I am able to converse a little and not feel so left out. I have also become more patient at amusing myself during the times I cannot keep up or am too tired to try. Your children most especially must learn Farsi. The grandparents may very well love them just as much as any of their other grandchildren, but be either unable to communicate in English or at least not as comfortable in English as they are in Farsi. In that case, of course they are automatically going to spend more time with the grandchildren with whom they can easily communicate. Your children are missing out on a vital part of their heritage if they cannot speak at least a little Farsi.

Of course, the other possibility is that his family does not accept you and is trying deliberately to exclude you. While my experience with Iranians leads me to think the possibility of this is small, as the people are generally very loving and I would think after two children would forgive even a "mixed" (yes, I know we're both of the same race, but prejudice exists in all cultures) marriage, it is possible. Then your only alternative is to try not to come between your husband and his family, to allow him to spend time with them without you, not to denigrate them to your children, but to politely avoid them whenever possible. I think your children and you should still make some effort to learn Farsi, so that when you are around other Iranians you will be more comfortable and the children will gain that added richness of their heritage.

Best of luck.

Another American wife
5 ( a madar)

I agree with Madar#3. A little effort on your part will go a long way. I have an American sister-in-law and we have no problem not only with her but also with her family. She understands Farsi a little and she can translate it to her parents. She is very good at letting us know if we are ignoring her presence and asks questions about the subject we talk about. We all can speak English very well and our kids hardly speak Farsi, but every time we get together all conversations and music is in Farsi. This has nothing to do with ignoring her. This is our culture. Imagine yourself living in some foreign country and then being around your country men, would you speak English or the foreign language? No matter how comfortable you feel with the language, you will miss speaking English. I think for the most part it is my sister-in-law who enjoys the culture and she likes her kids being multi cultural and partly is her husband and how much he tries to make her feel comfortable around his family. We value her opinion a lot and she does the same with us. I also think that you need to bring up your feelings with your husband family and try to work out a solution rather than eliminating yourself and your children completely from their lives. Not going to their house not only will damage your relationship with your husband but also wouldn't be good for your children. Their father is half of their life and their father's family should be a big part of their life. Children who interact with their family are less likely to get into crimes and drugs. I feel like you are very hurt by their behavior and I understand your feelings, but eliminating yourself will not solve the problem.

6 ( a madar)


I know where you are coming from. I have almost the same situation, except my husband family is American. After long married to him and trying to please him and his family, I came to decide that my life and happiness is as important as his. When he doesn't do much to make me feel comfortable with his family why should I. Fortunately, we have moved to another State. My children and my husband have contact with them but I've chosen not too. I made this decision based on having peace in our family. I believe you are the one who makes yourself happy and if you are not happy going to your in-laws, I don't see why you should go. Best of luck.

7 ( a mother)

'When the heart speaks, language is not a barrier.

I also have American friends who have a difficult time with their Iranian in-laws and yet others who get along grandly. I've seen American spouses that absolutely want nothing to do with their Iranian in-laws and go out of their way to make it known (not a good thing in my mind). I agree that one of the best ways to help "bridge" the relationship is to learn a bit of farsi. I don't think it's possible to learn enough to be completely fluent in a conversation (unless you have plenty of time, desire and energy on your hands to learn farsi fluently). However, just a bit will show respect to your in-laws and help set an example for the kids too. Depending on your childrens' ages, it might be too late to teach them fluent farsi (again, time, desire & energy) - however basic greetings might be nice if they don't already know it.

Here's an idea - is it possible to arrange for a special "outing" with your kids and their grandparents - maybe a one-on-one with each kid doing something special with grandma or grandpa. Older kids figure out a way to communicate and sometimes it ends up being fun (if granny/granpa are equally wanting a way to bond). Your issue sounds like for of a bonding problem which may or may not be caused by the language gap.

I get along great with my in-laws (when they visit from Iran) and speak very limited (VERY limited) farsi with them on the phone. Our son can barely get out a "salam" - it kills me because he knows at least how to say hello and how are you, etc. When I was getting to know my husband's parents during their first visit, I bonded with his mom by doing things with her, taking her places - just the 2 of us. We figured out how to communicate somehow. Now we have lots of fond memories together. The last time they visited, our son was in kindergarten and enjoyed being around his grandma - her love was enough to communicate with him. They'd sit together for long periods of time, he watching her sew or she watching him draw/color. Just being together was enough for them. Grandpa did not have this same level of interest and lacked the patience - therefore they did not bond as tightly.

Good luck. I know this is not an easy one to work through. (By the way, I would have no problem coming between my husband and his family if I thought that he was not supporting me first and primarily - time to leave mommy behind when there are any mommy vs. wife issues. I've noticed that for many men, they'll side with mom over the wife. Our marriage and our family comes first, then our parents and siblings).

8 ( a madar)

It is good to hear from you Mother#7

I think this in law business is international :)

It is not so much, not being from the same country

but I think it needs effort from both sides

I have an American aunt who has divorced from my uncle She speaks farsi and everyone loves her she is still very much part of our family.

Peace & Harmony

9 ( a madar)

I don't have many words of wisdom to add to all the good advise that has already been given, but one thing that got my attention, is your statement: "I do not like his family.". Unless they are very dense, which I doubt they are, they can probably feel this sentiment very well. Part of their lack of effort may also be because they can sense your resentment towards them. You know who else definately notices it? The children. They know their mommy doesn't like those people and probably feel hesitant to be overly friendly themselves. Basically they'll follow your lead especially since they don't want to gang up with them against you. Is that what you want? If so, you are doing fine. But if you were really fine with this you wouldn't have sent this email.

I always try to include any non-persian speaking guest in a gathering. But you know, it's really hard to do that. I still do my best to at least take a little time to make them feel comfortable. However, if I feel that person doesn't like me, Iranians or the culture, I don't bother. Maybe that's the wrong thing to do, but I feel why should I go thru that effort if that person doesn't show the same courtesy to me. I am not saying that you dislike Iranians, obviously you don't or you wouldn't have married one, but even if you just dislike that family in particular, it is understandable why they don't go to the trouble of including you.

There is no question that mixed marriages are tough for both partners, but now that it is done your other ulternative is to put strain on your relationship with your husband and make him resent your keeping him from his family or continue making everyone especially yourself and your children miserable every time you go there. How about you take the advise of one of our friends who sent an email earlier and try to tell them how much it would mean to you to be included and then truelly make the effort to change your attitude. Believe me, they'll notice the attitude change and I bet they'll try in return. It seems better than the ulternative, doesn't it? However if there's too much history and bad blood between you guys, then I think you have every right to not want to subject yourself to abuse.

Best of luck,

10 ( a madar)

I more or less agree with the comments I read so far. I just like to add one little thing. Depending on how much you're up to it, maybe you can arrange for your in-laws to come over to your place sometimes. I don't know if that is possible, but this way it will be hard for them to ignore you!

Of course, as a hostess, you'll have to make more effort to interact with them. I also agree with Azadeh that your children do follow your lead. You probably don't think so, but it's amazing how sensitive kids are towards their parents' reaction. They pick up things form us you wouldn't even think of!!!

I also like to share a story with you. My parents came over here to visit 6 years ago for the first time after we (my sisters and I) had our kids and all. My daughter was a new born then, but my niece and nephews (total of 5) were in age range of 12 to 9. They all have Iranian parents, but they ended up speaking only English despite of their parents encouragement to speak Farsi. Anyway, that was a disappointment to my parents in the beginning, not that they said anything, but they would make some comments (to me not to my sisters of course) regarding the way kids are raised in here versus in Iran. They missed their other grandchildren in Iran. They would say something like how warm and affectionate kids are in Iran, etc. As time passed, the kids and my parents bonded. The kids tried hard to learn Farsi from them, and my parents found that they really enjoy their grandkids' company. The kids were their translators most of the time when we would go shopping or having American friends over to visit or watching TV. My parents stayed here for 8 months and when the time came for them to leave, they were very sad to leave their "American" (that's what they called them) grandchildren!! My niece and nephews are now older and they all speak Farsi fluently so they can talk to their grandparents over the phone. The point is that (as somebody else said it too) when there are love and effort, the communication would just happens!!! Good luck!

Please send your replies and/or opinions regarding this subject to madar-pedar@surya.eecs.berkeley.edu.

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