The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a homemaker in my late 40s. My in-laws, who live with us, don’t treat my husband as an adult. This situation makes me feel small, too.
My in-laws are in their 80s. They are healthy and can go shopping and do housework on their own. On the other hand, my husband has ill health and mobility limitations. He earns ¥2 million a year at most. I can only work part-time as I need to help him go to hospital.
My in-laws support us financially, but they also talk to my husband as if he were a child. My husband passively accepts this.
If this continues, I don’t think I can willingly care for them when they need it in the near future. As our children are away from us and live on their own, I would rather live in poverty in a rental apartment alone with my husband. However, he is very grateful to his parents and reluctant to live away from them.
I even started thinking about divorcing him and leaving the house by myself. What should I do to get my in-laws to treat him more respectfully?
K, Miyagi Prefecture
Dear Ms. K:
You’ve lived with reserve as the wife of a man who is in such poor health that he can’t be independent of his parents. It seems your patience is almost running out. While you are irritated, you try to treat him with respect and protect him. You are an admirably good wife.
His elderly parents have command over you and your husband, backed by their financial power and good health. Perhaps this could happen anywhere.
You could temporarily live separately from him, although this may be a little too extreme. Tell him you are doing so because you want him to become a little more independent.
Doing this is quite financially tough for you, so I suggest you gather your courage and ask your in-laws to treat him as an adult. Some people can’t behave independently if they aren’t treated as a self-supporting adult. Your in-laws probably won’t take it so badly if you ask them to treat their son more respectfully.
It’s too early to be worried about caring for your in-laws in the future. It’s not unusual for old people to use elderly care facilities today. As your in-laws luckily have economic power, there are many options for you to care for them peacefully while keeping a proper distance.
Keiko Higuchi, critic