Assalamalaikum Auntie,
I’m worried about my sister who married my cousin two years ago. Before fixing this match, his family had promised that my sister would live with him in Kuwait, where he works. But now, neither my brother-in-law, nor his family, wants my sister to go to Kuwait. She has a one-and-a-half-year-old son and they both live with us.

Her husband is supportive in all other ways and sends her enough money every month. But when she tells him that she wants to live with him in Kuwait, he tells her that she could opt to live with his family in the village. My sister is extremely depressed about her unusual married life and vents her anger on my little nephew, abusing him both verbally and physically. This gets to all of us and further leads to daily fights in the house. Please suggest some way out of this. 
Concerned Sister

Dear Concerned Sister,
Has your family talked about this to your brother-in-law? Sometimes there is a valid reason for such situations, such as a visa or residency issue. Sometimes children’s education can be an issue, although your nephew is too young for that to be a problem. Usually, such reasons are temporary. And if your brother-in-law and his family had said that your sister would join him in Kuwait before the marriage, then that is probably not the problem.

‘I’m worried about my sister’s unusual married life’

There is a certain mindset in some families where the son works abroad, and his wife is left behind with the in-laws to serve them. It is quite prevalent and accepted in certain sections of society. The idea behind it is that raising a family in Kuwait would be expensive, so people leave their families behind in Pakistan and remit the amount they save.

It could be that your sister’s in-laws have this mindset, which your family was probably not aware of. In any case, they shouldn’t have said that your sister was going to move abroad when it wasn’t part of the plan. And if things didn’t go according to the plan, your brother-in-law and his family should have explained this to your family.

It doesn’t seem like your sister is in the right frame of mind to sort this out on her own and an older person from your family, perhaps one of your parents, should broach the subject with her husband and the in-laws. Your sister should be part of this process because, at the end of the day, it is her life that will be affected the most.

The mediator would need to find out the real reason behind the husband not taking his wife to Kuwait. Is it that he cannot take his family there because of a visa issue? Is it because he can save more with the family not being there? Or is it some other issue? He or she will also need to convey to her in-laws and her husband that living apart forever is not an option and is a deal-breaker for your sister and your family.

The mediator would need to help your sister and her husband come up with a workable solution, which would involve putting a deadline on when your sister and her son can leave for Kuwait.

While this conversation starts, you should help your sister find something to occupy her, apart from the son. Depending on what kind of support she has with her son and based on her qualifications, your sister could look for a job, a part-time position, or even remote work. She could study further and improve her qualifications or skills. She could even start an online business. This will be a healthier way to spend her days and take her attention away from her son and the seemingly endless wait for the husband.  

You and other family members should intervene every time to save your nephew from abuse at her hands. Do not turn a blind eye to the abuse and explain it away as your sister acting out of frustration. Nothing justifies abuse and, especially when it comes to a small child, the adults around him (all of you) are liable. Next time she abuses that child, step in and stop your sister and let her know that the abuse will not be tolerated.

Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is in crisis and/or feeling suicidal, please go to your nearest emergency room and seek medical help immediately.

Auntie will not reply privately to any query. Please send concise queries to: auntieagni@gmail.com

Published in Dawn, EOS, November 21st, 2021

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