The Mother-in-Law

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Azerbaijan, a traditional Muslim society, culturally very tolerant, has a divorce rate of more than fifty percent. Most of the divorces happen within two to three years after the wedding.

Is there an explanation?

Whenever I see high rate of divorce or, for that matter, any other macro manifestation of disintegration, I see change. There must be some major change going on.

In Azerbaijan, it is a cultural shift manifested in the relationship between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law.

The mother-in-law belongs to the older generation, older then her daughter-in-law.

The older woman is from a generation where the women did not pursue a career or high-level education. Her role was to raise the children, keep the house tidy, serve her husband, and not talk much.

Culturally, the son was more important than the daughter in the family hierarchy, and the role of the mother was to raise “the prince” the best she could, which meant spoil the hell out of him.

What happens when the son gets married? The daughter-in-law most probably graduated from a university, holds a job, is not as quiet as culturally requested. The mother-in-law feels her “prince” married the wrong person. She starts harassing the daughter-in-law: Why is she not at home more? Why is she not treating her son as well as his mother treated him? The conflict is quite severe, and the groom is caught in the line of fire: Do I listen to my mother or to my wife?

Culturally, he is attached more to the mother than to the wife. Thus, usually it is the man who asks for the divorce. The women do not dare ask for it, although the tension with the mother-in-law is stressful. Being a divorcée is not culturally accepted. The woman is supposed to bear the pain of the marriage quietly. Losing a husband makes her not a good match. She is considered not a good wife. Add to it that some have a child by the time they are divorced, and the prospect of remarriage becomes even more remote.

The men have better choices to be remarried. They earn more, and culturally the blame for the divorce is attributed to the woman, as if it is not his fault but hers for not keeping him happy.

This country is getting ready for some women’s liberation, I think.

Just thinking,

Ichak Kalderon Adizes