The Colorful Mil vs Dil Relationship in Pakistani Society

Posted on November 10, 2009
Filed Under >Irum Sarfaraz, Humor, Society
Total Views: 65975


Irum Sarfaraz

What is a discussion on contemporary Pakistani society without a discussion on the relationship of mother in laws and daughters in laws. Though this unique relationship is a bitter fruit in all cultures across the globe; regardless of race, class and ethnicity; in few other places it is as prominent as it is in Pakistan.

May be few other countries, where the concept of joint family systems still exist, can also lay claim to this eternal tussle. The MIL-DIL (mother in law-daughter in law) configuration is not only the sore of our society but also the core of the juiciest scandals in any given household.

The most hilarious part of this ‘comedy of errors’ is to note is that rarely does any unmarried girl ever believe that these stories could ever be repeated by her. After all she is educated and has the mental stamina to ignore the jahalat her married friends and female family members tell her that MILs are capable of pulling off. Above all she has the wisdom and patience to ignore the usual abhorable tactics observed by MILs to make the lives of their DILs miserable.

In my guestimate eighty percent of these newbies sign the marriage contract with an; in their opinion; unyielding resolve and uncompromising determination to make their new home,

‘the envy of all the bickering, wrangling, backbiting and squabbling two-some known as MILs and DILs’

Sadly it takes just a few months for this part of the contract to fall through. Even if they are not living in a joint family system, they lose their patience and become part of the time old crowd of women who have fought since time immemorial over one thing alone; the guy they marry.

If you are wondering about the remaining 20%, they enter the contract with gung-ho.

They are in no mood to give the MILs any kind of leg room to start exerting pressure on them and plan to capture the enemy from day one. Whether part of the optimistic 80% or the growling 20%, the end result for all is the same. The 80% just get there a little later than these 20% who are there from day one. It needs to be mentioned here that there is a breed of DILs out there who croons praises of their MILs. Upon a deeper inquiry it is however revealed that either their MILs are far, far away in other countries to be visited by these crooning dils once every two or three years or they are dead. There is no third scenario!

In the highly educated Western society, where there is no concept of joint family, the DILs are equally flabbergasted over the antics of their MILs hence proving that the joint family system cannot be deemed the primary reason for the war between the two stalwart figures in any man’s life. The cold war between Diana and the Queen was hope to millions in Pakistan. Thousands of heartbroken DILs were comforted by their counterparts with,

yar tu dil kiyoon chota kartee hai….jab Diana kee us kee sas say naheen bun saki to teri kiya banay gee…!!!.

This war is time tested and there is no reason to believe that it is going anywhere in near future or even the far future. MIL and DIL have not learnt to co-exist in any culture; our society just has a larger chunk of this bickering as part of our social setup.

The jokes on the relationship are as endless as the war itself. For instance, a man’s rich MIL was kidnapped presumably for ransom. The kidnappers called two days later and told him,

‘pay us this amount of money or we’ll send her back’.

The guy responds,

‘I’ll pay you this this amount if you’ll agree to keep her’.

Here is another classic. A guy’s mother in law dies and at the funeral his friend comes to him for condolence and says, ‘

So sorry about your mil. So what happened to the poor lady’ The guys says, ‘Well I recently got a dog and he bit her and she died’. The friend looks around carefully and then says, ‘Um…could you lend me this dog of yours for a day?’. The man says, ‘sure…just get in line’. .

So why do they fight?

The common notion is that they fight over the man that one has married and ‘taken away’ from the other. Women are known to be highly possessive and territorial. Unfortunately, the ‘territory’ in this case is the bone of contention as well so there is no peace at all. This is not a sharing problem. After all the MIL has no issues when her son spends time with his male friends before or after the marriage. The problem is when he spends time with the wife. She is the thief who has stolen her ultimate treasure. It can be assumed that it is a classic case of one woman against another woman, a form of fight that has gone on for ever and has given rise to the popular view that a woman is a woman’s worst enemy. Some DILs see their hopes in him, he belongs to them. Sure they bring the ultimate hoor-pari (fairy princess) for him to marry but that hoor-pari is to stay in the background and should make no emotional claims on him. She is to be as obedient and as meek a servant to the MIL as the son is expected to be. The moment the hoor-pari starts displaying her ‘par’, ‘let the wars begin!’.

Some DILs point out the fact that the other in law wars are quite equally dynamic and forceful but no one can argue that the real and classic in law war is the MIL vs DIL war. In many homes, the curiosity kills the peace of house, the mental health of the guy and the hair on his head. From curiosity arises interference and from interference the feeling of lack of privacy and from lack of privacy the feeling of being psychologically invaded. It works similarly for both parties. In the end they both lash out in defense. The result is a cat fight that has the neighbors glued to their walls. There have been instances where the neighbors plant their ‘moles’ in the ‘juicy’ households on the street in the form of highly paid cleaning women who spy for them and work as the daily CNN and BBCs. One DIL suggests that our society needs a special education program for the MILs and SILs (sister in laws) before their sons and brothers get married.

The party who suffers the most in this battle is the poor guy. Most of them spend their entire lives trying to keep both these very important parts of their existence assuaged and happy. But few ever really succeed. Where the wife rages on about ‘your mother’, the mother refuses the let the fight out of her hand with ‘your wife’. I am sure there are times when a lot of poor guys wished they had neither mothers nor wives! There is little they can do to help the situation for the simple reason that they are the reason for why they are fighting. I feel sorry for the husbands but again, they are the reasons for the loving MIL and DIL relationships in the first place.

Needless to say the colorful MIL and DIL relationship are one of the things that makes our society so unique. The fighting is incessant and persistent; the reasons why they fight ceaseless; the ways to make peace non-existent; the fun the onlookers get out of it immeasurable and the misery it inflicts on the son boundless. Who said Pakistani society has so little to be proud of? We Pakistanis are very proud of the cultural heritage of the mother in law….!

Amjad Islam Amjad has said:

farq hai kuch kirdaaroN meiN
baqi khel puraana hai

To conclude I must say that for humor and satire sake I may have generalized the whole MIL population into one category but in reality they are all individuals. I am very sure there are ‘shafiq’ and ‘mohtaram’ MILs out there too who treat their DILs with respect and earn their own respect in return. I want to believe there is more good than evil out there.

36 Comments on “The Colorful Mil vs Dil Relationship in Pakistani Society”

  1. RE says:
    January 9th, 2008 6:49 pm

    We have to learn not to butt in to son or daughter’s life once they are married, unless they ask for help. Even then one should be very careful.
    Other thing we have to let our daughter go just like we do with our son. Let them learn things on their own this way they will become smart and the mom’s who will leave kids alone when they are married.
    same in our culture in many areas of Pakistan girls are kept locked up. Then when they get married we worry about them, and we try to watch their life for them because we know they are not smart enough for the reason we kept them locked inside the home.
    Rather than opening mosques and always asking people to pray ask people to change for good and better life. Let you children’s learn the rules of jungle . Let them make mistakes and learn from them. Specially for women this is well needed.
    Let the Muslim women be free.

  2. M Bhatia says:
    January 10th, 2008 12:46 am

    Nothing new, happens in India too. Successsful long running TV serials are made on this issue.

  3. January 10th, 2008 1:42 am

    A very humourous but very true . Kudos. We in India also have this problem in every religion,caste or creed or urban,rural,rich and poor.

  4. Tina says:
    January 10th, 2008 8:28 am

    sorry to have to dissent because I do know what you are talking about, but I love my mom-in-law and most of my friends love theirs; if given a choice between husband and his mom some of us would have trouble deciding! I would fight with my husband but not with my mother in law. But then she has never treated me mean either. If had a controlling or cruel mother in law I am sure the case would be different…..

    It’s my belief that joint families work fine and are wonderful when everybody involved is fairly emotionally healthy. Alas, how often does that happen?

  5. hira says:
    January 10th, 2008 10:11 am

    mils think their son is , type of, snatched from them when married…they feel deprived, lonely and let down…so those women who were, months go, all enthusiastic in search of ‘chand si dulhan’ for their sons, despise their dils whole heartedly because they think , be it true or not, that their sons have turned away from them, who are in fact initaiting their marital life,

  6. Tina says:
    January 10th, 2008 10:38 am

    It’s really not very complicated, I think…women who have been disappointed/unfulfilled in their own married lives have packed up all their emotional baggage and invested it in a son, almost as a “substitute husband”–naturally women in this position are jealous when a “rival” appears on the scene!

    Young women should keep an eye out and if the potential future MIL is happy in her own marriage or has an active life outside of it, i.e. a job or some other activities, then fine….but if not…then beware.

  7. Adnan says:
    January 10th, 2008 10:42 am

    actually typical Saas-Bahu battle strikes severely the so called feminist agenda that is ,”Men are our Enemy hence getrid of them!”

  8. Tina says:
    January 10th, 2008 11:21 am

    Oh Adnan–haven’t you ever seen a MIL and a DIL join hands, if only temporarily, to make a force against the hapless hubby–I certainly have! And I know one woman who remained very dear to her MIL after she divorced her son :) We ladies got to stick together, she would say.

    The “feminist agenda” lives on….

  9. Omer says:
    January 10th, 2008 11:35 am

    Very nice article.

    I would like to suggest a new prespective to this discussion. In my opinion the major reason for this conflict are men who do not express their love for their spouse and mother.

    In our society men are emotionally repressive, although by saying that I may sound a bit gay ;) but I am of the opinion that a healthy expression of emotional affinity is very reassuring. It is the insecurity that makes MILs and DILs possessive.

    Men are affraid of expressing their love for their spouse in front of the extended family lest they are considered a whimp. DILs complain: “Woh to meri parwa hi naheen kertay” and name them a “mama’s boy”.

    Similarly, men do not express their love for their mothers who have gotten used to taking care of them, and consider it the sole purpose of their existence. MILs complain: “Meray beta aisa to naheen tha” and believe that he is being whipped around.

    Hence the conflict ;)

    Solution: Men should be reassuring with love and in control with principles.

  10. Tina says:
    January 10th, 2008 11:52 am

    Omer, I’m with you on some of what you say, but I think if the women felt they had some control over their lives and some more choices, they would not be all wrapped up in finding “the sole purpose of their existence” in some poor guy, and everything would be more peaceful.

    You hit the nail on the head, but maybe not in the way you intended. The answer is not for the man to be more evenhanded with his affections, but for the women not to be in a position of being so heart breakingly needy in the first place.

  11. AH says:
    January 10th, 2008 12:23 pm

    Here’s what works regardless of culture: Ignore them both and get an i-Pod.

  12. January 10th, 2008 12:44 pm


    An excellent post, you have done well in putting me off marriage for life.



  13. Irum Sarfaraz says:
    January 10th, 2008 12:58 pm

    My observation, and I am sure a lot of others will agree, is that even the mils and dils with esteemed and highly educated purposes for their sole existence are at constant war with each other. In fact these are the ones who have the least patience with each other too. The others with less purpose in their lives are also the ones who stick it out till the end. Notice how the divorce rate in Pakistan is escalating.

  14. Adnan says:
    January 10th, 2008 1:55 pm

    Oh Adnan

  15. Adnan says:
    January 10th, 2008 1:58 pm

    there was an old Pakistani movie of Babra Sharif named “Ek din Baho ka” ,the title song was :

    Saas K Sau din poray houn tu Ek din Bahu ka aata hay

    which tells everything how much both love each other in reality. ;)

  16. Omer says:
    January 10th, 2008 2:06 pm

    Tina, thank you for reflecting with your perspective on my opinion. It is really helpful for me to read your comments because no matter how hard I try, it is difficult for me to fully empathize a feminine point of view ;)

    You are of the opinion that women can avoid being “so heart breakingly needy in the first place” by trying to find a reason for their existence besides their families and spouse. I agree to your argument to the extent that offering a creative outlet to DILs and MILs can definitely alleviate the intensity of the conflict.

    However, I am a bit apprehensive for DILs; that too much reliance on other things like career, friends etc., might be synonymous to shying away from pains that come with the pleasure of a relationship.

    I would say that MILs are a tiny bit less liable to be blamed because their family is their career and that is what they have been doing since the day their son was conceived. By saying that I do not mean MILs cannot be unreasonable; they can be and most of time they are. It is no different than dealing with difficult parents.

    For DILs, the scenario is a bit different as they have a full life ahead of them and they have to be a MIL one day themselves.

    “Kyoon keh saas bhee khabhi bahoo thi” ;)

    So it may be just “karma” which has been repeating it self for centuries.

    From a strictly male perspective, a man would hardly stay in a relationship where he is not needed or feels inadequate, therefore, any effort to find an alternate purpose by DILs, needs a patient and considerate thinking.

    Solution: Girls, be good wives and everything will turn out to be fine in the end.

    PS: Just don

  17. Tina says:
    January 10th, 2008 2:07 pm

    Hi Irum,

    I’m not sure what you mean by “esteemed and highly educated purposes”…for those women who seek highly educated daughter-in-laws as a status symbol I’m sure you are right +10, since not many things are worse than to be highly educated to a profession you will never pursue. However it has not been my observation that those with work outside the family home are worse off–rather the opposite, because they are busy with something other than meddling with their loved ones. Yes, traditional types “stick it out” but is this really to mean they are better off? I guess I have been lucky in not having experienced the worst of this familial dynamic.

    Also I would state again that if the mother has over the years built a decent relationship with her own husband and the father of her children, the perceived “abandonment” by her son will be easier to bear. I think too many women in Pakistan concentrate all their energy on their children because no bond of love ever develops between husband and wife–but this is a touchy topic.

    My husband’s cousin was the closest I ever came to seeing the worst and it was a tragic case. The “MIL” became extremely jealous and never let the girl sleep–she violently woke her up every two hours with some complaint about housework and then made her do dirty tasks at all hours of the night. The son did nothing. After some weeks of this treatment the 17 year old bride was exhausted and crying constantly and she said she would burn herself alive. She said “Look! Watch! I’ll set myself on fire and I’ll do it like this…” She put the end of her dupatta in the fire to demonstrate and it caught, and the next thing everyone knew she was all in flames. After a couple of days she died.

    Now I am sure she will go down in the statistics of Western sociologists as a self-immolation case but really it was a horrible accident–but how awful that it got that far and she was just a kid. So I know that it CAN happen in extremes but I just really have a hard time believing that well-educated families are worse off in this respect than less-educated ones.

    And I don’t think a rising divorce rate means much besides that wives now have an option besides remaining chained to the side of a husband and family who abuses them. I don’t think there’s any special nobility in spending a lifetime being beaten and misused by some man–or his mother.

    Unfortunately, until matches are based on something besides the girl’s looks, education, and social connections–with no attention being paid to the compatibility of the couple–the whole society will be filled with empty big-show weddings followed by farcical hollow shells of marriages, with the woman clinging unnaturally to her sons, followed in its time by the hunt for a “perfect” bride, fair skinned, having a degree, etc. etc., then followed by the “turn-about”, namely this jealousy and “MIL-DIL” issue–which really shouldn’t be any issue at all. Nature designed young men to fall in love with potential mates–not their own mothers. That this isn’t allowed to happen unhindered is a sign of something being very broken with a family at a very basic level. And may indicate some larger cultural/societal weak points as well.

    Just my thoughts.

  18. Irum Sarfaraz says:
    January 10th, 2008 2:08 pm

    Wasim and Others,
    Itnee buzdali achee naheen… You are giving up even before you play the game……! Haven’t you heard about marriage? Jis nay kee woh bhee roya, jis nay naheen kee, woh bhee roya….!

  19. SKM says:
    January 10th, 2008 4:58 pm

    Nice discussion, I see only a few are bold enough to discuss such a sensitive topic. Tina and Omar I think you raise some very valuable points. Marriage criteria, and men’s challenge in expressing their love to either relationship.

    As for is couple search criteria is concerned, I think that is a topic on it’s own to discuss and criticize as it is amazing how clueless young couples and their parents are when arranging or setting up individuals. I think “maturity” and balance in both parties plays a significant role when dealing with challenges between MIL and DIL. This I’ve learnt only with experience the lack of both makes the man responsible in making both MIL and DIL suffer. That is not to say man is totally able to provide a peaceful resolve to this dynamic.

    Lack of expressing your feelings in some shape or form both your wife and mom is imperative when you feel either party feels vulnerable for whatever reason.

    Sitting back and doing nothing is absolutly “moronic” and immature and as Tina indicated and others you can end up paying a price for that.

    Each relationship in this world has an entitlement to it’s privacy and understanding and providing all 3 parties understand this concept to some degree you will have peace and happiness at home.

    The sooner both DIL, MIL and the son/husband understand this and extend this right to one another the better the home will be.

    The fault lies in most couples being too immature, full of emotions, and energy to sit back and empathize of where the other party is coming from and how they would feel if they were in other’s position.

    Naturally, this is the root cause of the problem, most couples don’t marry when they are all well balanced in their emotional, professional lives and possibly even spirtual life rather we marry young when we are still learning and more focused on our selfish wants not realizing our behavior has a cost associated to someone elses life .

  20. Esra Tasneem A says:
    January 12th, 2008 1:14 am

    I think SKM is right about , “Naturally , this is the root cause ……….. has a cost associated to someone elses life ” .

    If only the Youth had Wisdom & the Wise had Youth !!

    Irum’s article & the responses it has attracted makes healthy reading due to some unique perspectives .

  21. Irum Sarfaraz says:
    January 12th, 2008 10:41 am

    The severity of the problem could also be lessened ‘If only the husbands had wisdom & and the MiLs had Youth’!!!!! :)

  22. SH Kavi says:
    January 13th, 2008 1:00 am

    Tina said,

    ” It

  23. Irum Sarfaraz says:
    January 13th, 2008 8:12 pm

    If you don’t mind me asking….are you married and living in a joint fam. yourself?

  24. Tina says:
    January 14th, 2008 8:50 am

    If you are asking me, yes, I grew up with one and have lived in one after marriage. Must say it has been a mixed experience; when it’s been bad, it’s been because of insecure individuals who are playing power games with the rest of us.

    I can definitely see why some young people want to leave their families; some are terrible (dysfunctional, as they say) and no person can experience happiness/success with them. In this case, regrettably, one must strike out on one’s own.

  25. Irum Sarfaraz says:
    January 14th, 2008 10:08 am

    Thanks Tina and I absolutely love the sentence ‘it

  26. Owais Mughal says:
    January 14th, 2008 10:29 am

    There is another dynamic to MIL-DIL relationship. That happens when MIL discriminates between more than one DILs she got. She sometimes plays favouritism and that causes friction. e.g. Her one DIL may be from her own family and hence more ‘dear’ than another DIL coming from ‘gher’ family etc etc.

  27. Irum Sarfaraz says:
    January 14th, 2008 1:51 pm

    Very nice angle to the plot Owais and, at least in my opinion, the only way a MAN could possibly be aware of this very sensitive issue is if his own ‘piyari-gharwali’ is the target of this! So tell us, is your mom playing the favorites-game with your wife?!! Please sharma yay ga naheen, yahan par sab apkay hamdard hain…!!!

  28. Owais Mughal says:
    January 14th, 2008 2:09 pm

    I’ve seen such scenario being played out in my extended family. I am however not sure if it is totally unavoidable. If a MIL has (say) 4 DILs then it will take a momentous effort from her to treat all of them equally. Some DILs be more favourite to a MIL than others. Some DILs may also exploit the situation to their own advantage (in Urdu we say ‘kaan bharna’) to keep MIL on their side compared to other DILs.

  29. Murtaza says:
    January 20th, 2008 4:14 pm

    I would like to present a solution for men.
    To spare yourself from getting strangled between your mom and your wife, ask your mum to find a ‘biwi’ for you.

    IF things get worse after marriage(trust me,they will), blame the responsibility to your mom.

    Alas, Marriage is an unavoidable risk.

  30. Irum Sarfaraz says:
    January 20th, 2008 8:10 pm

    I have seen many men trying to take avoid disaster by doing this but it doesn’t work because after marriage, majority of the moms have a lapse of memory and forget that the girl was their choice! The guy ends up being fried as if his marriage was not an arranged but love marriage….!

  31. Murtaza says:
    January 22nd, 2008 11:29 pm

    This means all Men are destined to be doomed. There is a great Urdu phrase about marriage.

    ” Shaadi aik aisa mewa hai, Jis ne khaya wo bhi pichtaya or jis ne na khaya wo bhi pichtiya”

    Which basically means you cannot avoid marriage and hence its accompanying Risks.

    But there is another dimension to the MIL n DIL relationship and that is the Role played by the husbands MIL i.e Wife’s Mother. I think if the relations between both the MIL’S are good then the MIL n DIL relationship would eventually be a healthy one.

  32. February 7th, 2008 1:34 am

    Actually in our society the negative thinking people are in majority mainly in females. Our girl has this type of thinking that I have to dominate after marriage on my sister in laws and mother in laws.

    On the other hand mother in laws also has same mind being a female of this society so they have their mind to dominate on daughter in laws.

    So this is the basic thing which compel both parties to create complications in house.

  33. Judd says:
    February 25th, 2008 2:17 am

    My wife and I read through this article together and we’re thoroughly entertained by the content and comments by other readers. We have talked about many of these issues several times and have drawn similar conclusions as “Tina” has: The importance of the MIL having some purpose in life…the lack of intimacy in many Pakistani marriages (hence creating an unnatural dependency by mother to son)…the high drama created from banal daily events. I think the one issue I would add is the Islamic dimension as “respecting” ones mother is a key theme in Islam and I think can often play a role in this age old relationship. The one phrase I remember hearing over and over again is the “the doors to heaven are at the feet of the mother”….tough to argue your way out of this one. To me, it is really important that I fulfill my responsibilities as a son and a good Muslim but it gets a bit tricky when this is co-mingled with the dysfunctional relationship of MIL/DIL.

  34. A Battered Husband says:
    December 25th, 2008 11:41 pm

    The comment is late but I would very much like some response from the ladies.

    Well in the comments section it has been mostly portrayed in the comments sections as if it is always MIL’s who are to blame. Let me tell you my own story (which I can because of the anonymity over the internet).

    My wife is “very” highly educated. We have a very good relationship generaly. I have had her full support in everything especially in my career and in my dealing with tough situations. I would say she is perfect in every regard.

    But when it comes to my family she just loses her mind completely. She can not stand even the mention of their names literally. My family does not even live in the same country. I can call my friends in Pakistan happily for hours and she will be happy about it because she thinks I do need break and connection with old friends. But every time I ring back to my family she creats a huge drama. And I mean realy huge, on the pertext that I am wasting time and not giving enough time to my career and to her. She doesnt even talk to them, nor do they visit, but still she breaks into tears and hysteria everytime there is even a minimal interaction of them with “me”. Can somebody explain what is this?

  35. Tahira Masood says:
    January 5th, 2009 10:22 am


    I was sympathetic to you regarding the situation you are in.
    Well you said your wife is highly educated, caring and helpful only when it comes to her own immediately family but is bewildered when it is about your side of family.
    There are so many aspects of this issue. That arise so many question in mind;
    Was this her attitude from the day one?
    If so what was done to bring her closer?
    What was the attitude of your family towards her from the day one?
    Did their behavior made her adopt this tone?
    Is your family too highly educated compatibly to her? ( although this is not necessary though but some time becomes an issue)
    Does she give every due respect to her own parents and mostly listen to them or mostly trust her own decisions?
    Is she religious and hold respect for family value?
    I mean is she an obedient daughter?
    Is she religious?
    If it is from the beginning without any obvious reason it might be that she is scared of the myth of this relation by default. You know people , specially women folks create a fear and hatered in the minds of young girls unknowingly from thier child hoof creatig and image of aglaa gher or susraal a jail and the MILs as the supreme jailer.
    Or she may be just very possessive about you.

    As learned as she is she is in a position to better understand such situations as his seeking worldly knowledge can also enlighten a person. It gives a person an inner vision to resolve the things.
    I think you and only you could have played a very strong part to bring her closer to your family. Initially. Had she known from the day one the value of your parents and family you hold, she;for your sake would have given them some space in her heart. But if you had taken their connection in your life for granted how would she show any connection?
    It is your duty as a son to make her intimate and make her love your parents,in spacial and brothers,sisters in general.
    I hope it is not too late. But it should only be done with love and patience.
    Remember while dealing with an educated person that education when used wrongly by an individual is the worst kind of disaster.
    May God Help you.Amen

  36. Pramod Vaid says:
    February 18th, 2010 4:38 am

    I have also posted my views on 31/03/2009 on ‘MIL & DIL’ which are very precise. Pl go through it & comment.

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