Relations. Since many of us hail from extended families, relatives are bound to visit our homes. These relatives, at times cause tension in the marriage. Charlotte Ninsiima and Christine Katende explore ways couples can deal with this tension.
Patrick Busingye and his wife housed his mother for eight years, after doctors confirmed that she had a serious illness.
“The first days were great and we enjoyed each other’s company. But as years went by, the relationship became rocky. She made several visits to the kitchen telling me how the food should be prepared. She wanted to control the home like her own. We quarrelled time and again over the pettiest of matters. My husband decided to return home late, just to avoid unnecessary scuffles,” Norah Busingye admits.
Busingye, a stay-at-home mother, had to make sure her mother-in-law’s meals and juice were prepared on time. She, however, says, being a Born-Again Christian transformed her opinion about her mother-in-law. “I started looking at her as my own mother and gave her what she asked for. I loved my husband so I became patient and tolerant. This treatment sowly transformed her and we started going to church together.”
Her husband reminded his mother that she was ailing, a condition that required his family to take care of her. He also advised his wife to appreciate that his mother was an old woman who needed to be tolerated. “We have lived with many relatives. I try to treat people fairly but when one crosses the line, I come in.”
Both of them emphasise the need to understand that people have different character, behaviour and accommodating each other patiently, can be a game changer.
Allen Kobusingye also regrets why she brought her cousin in her marital home to stay with them.
“Orphaned at the age of 14, I considered bringing my cousin to my home to study. After Senior Six, I noticed that she had started getting close to my husband. When I asked my husband, he denied the allegations. A year later, she left our home. I later found out that he had rented a house for her and they were dating. I was broken and betrayed. After several sessions of counselling, I forgave my husband. I am trying to learn how to forgive my cousin,” Kobusingye narrates.
Bosco Tuhumimbise, however, does not have any problem staying with relatives. “In Africa, a child is raised by a village. I have grown up in other people’s homes and if any of my relatives needs help and I am in position to offer it, they are always welcome. All my sibling have lived with me and we have not met any challenges. In a typical Ugandan setting, a relative or an in-law may come and stay at a couple’s home for a week, months or even years. But ensure that they do not cross boundaries,” Tumuhimbise cautions.
Be mindful of boundaries
Patrick Muinda, a marriage counsellor at St Francis Chapel, advises people to be respectful and mindful of boundaries whenever they stay in someone’s home. Muinda adds that, “A couple should set ground rules to remain protective of each other.
Beatrice Langariti, a psychotherapist, counsellor and life coach at Thrive 360, explains that boundaries should be emphasised at a family meeting or wedding, as opposed to waiting for a crisis to happen.
“Open up about the matter and listen to people about your concerns, vision, values and to what extent do you want people to be involved. There are a lot of regrets that you minimise than driving on the assumption that people will understand. Knowledge is power,” she says.
Living in harmony
Jonathan Okiru, a counsellor linked to Family Life Network, says before a relative (from either side) comes to stay with the couple, the couple must agree on a few guidelines. “Scribble some ground rules. Remember this is your home and you are in charge. When boundaries are set, respect sets in. The presence of a relative should not put to hold plans and schedules of the family and home. Everyone needs to be respected, everyone needs their space so that no one steps on anybody’s toes,” he advises.
Family is priority
“If the relative is from her side, she should brief her relative on the expectations of the couple for harmonious leaving. If the relative thinks they can comply, then they can stay, if they feel they cannot comply, then they should politely exit them. The couple must remain firm. Relatives must be able to tell or see that the couple is on one side.
“Remember to prioritise your nuclear family. The rest are secondary. The man should step up in decision making in order to protect his family. Agree on how long the relative will to stay and purpose of the visit. Treat the relative the same way the other members of the house are treated. Be intentional because life and family is not accidental,” Okiru cautions.
“Remember to prioritise your nuclear family. The rest are secondary. A man must protect his family first. Agree on how long the relative will to stay and purpose of the visit. Remember, you can be good to relatives even when they do not stay with you. Relatives usually expect special treatment but this should be communicated early. Treat relative the same way the other members of the house are treated. Be intentional because life and family is not accidental. Do not let emotional attachments to the relative carry you away.”