First things first.
You have to actually want to live with your in-laws. You need to have the conversation with your partner on if this is a short or long term arrangement, the earlier this convo the better. I would even go as far as to say this in one of the first questions when getting to know them as for some it could be a huge deal breaker.
For some, living with in-laws is a life time commitment, for others, it is a short-term arrangement till the couple gets on their feet. From conversations I’ve had with friends – sometimes it can feel like you are perhaps asking for “too much” by saying you don’t want to live with your in laws or it can feel very personal. Remember as a wife, Islamically you have the right to your own space if you wish, don’t feel pressured to accept otherwise. Too often we accept things as a hard rule even when our god given rights give us so much more! If you don’t communicate what you want, it will never happen.
Clarify yours and your partner’s duties
Newsflash brothers, your wife is not moving in to take over the role of your mum.
It is important to sit down and have a chat with your partner on what roles and responsibilities are expected of each other. If your partner was used to their Mum doing everything for them, the familiarity of living at home can make them feel like nothing is changing.
Do you share chores or alternate? If one cooks does the other clean and vice versa?
What’s the deal with finances, is your money your money and his money yours?
Do you have a joint account?
Where do the direct debits come out from?
Who pays what?
It is important to first establish how you two will work as a unit before exploring how things will work with your in-laws.
Treat them like a landlord
Of course, treat your in laws like you would your parents (hopefully that is amazingly), but do sit down and work out what is expected from you and your partner so there are no arguments in the long term. In some cases, it may be better for your partner to have the conversation depending on the nature of your relationship.
Are you going to contribute financially?
Do you pay certain bills?
What’s the deal with food, do you cook for the whole family?
Do you contribute to the grocery shop, do you do the grocery shop?
Some of this stuff, in particular, food, may evolve over time. It took me awhile to get comfortable with the idea of cooking at my in laws but I made up for it but trying to help out in the kitchen.
I think it is also important to keep in mind that there will be existing habits or behaviours in the household, some of these may grate on you, it will take time to either get accustomed to these or change them. One of my biggest pet peeves was that they never separated cutlery in the draw – what’s that about!? You realise that things that you took as a norm in your household just are not universal truths!
Do the room up
Moving in with your partner is a big deal, but it can feel a bit underwhelming. Yes, underwhelming, I remember when I first moved in I just felt like a girlfriend that had outstayed her welcome. What changed this was doing up the room, having my own shelf in the bathroom and putting my own little stamp in the place I was living in.
Alone time and Privacy
When you’re in a household with others, it can easily feel like you are spending time with bae when really you’re just sitting in the same room by default. It can feel like you never are REALLY alone without noticing. Be sure to carve out time. Something I really enjoyed doing with my Husband was going through this book The Life Plan – there are lots of practical exercises that you can do together and lots of points of discussion.
This sounds like the obvious one but it is so underrated. It is inevitable that there will be disagreements or things that bother you. Be sure to speak to your partner about them. Sometimes it may be your partner’s place to have a chat with your in laws.
If there are non-mahrams that live in the house, like perhaps your husband’s brother, this can be, quite frankly annoying, especially if you wear hijab. You’re telling me I’ve just come from a whole day out with my hijab on and I have to wear it at home too – in what is meant to be my safe space!? This can be difficult and feel quite suffocating, for this, it is important to carve out privacy weather that is in the bedroom or even in communal areas. You partner could also make them aware of it and ask them to be considerate of knocking before entering even communal spaces. My husband with my sister normally says
“Can I come in?”
Followed by a *Shuffles around*
What about kids?
If this is a long term arrangement and you plan to have kids or have some already, ground rules are incredibly important. You may have specific parenting techniques, you may have specific rules about certain things e.g. sweets, sugar, tv usage. It is important that this message is conveyed to your in laws and others in the household.
Living with in laws can be pleasant but I do recognise that it can sometimes be the total opposite. If you feel like things just don’t seem to be working out, have an honest and open chat.