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To Be in a Neutral Position (Caught in the Middle)

In a neutral position
Photo: Anthony Grimley
A most interesting situation is one in which a husband is caught in the middle between his mother and his wife.

Satoe from Japan

The Japanese don't have a special expression that means "caught in the middle." We just say "to be in a neutral position." A most interesting situation is one in which a husband is caught in the middle between his mother and his wife.

Many funny dramas have been based on these quarrels between a wife and a mother-in-law, and they describe behavior that embarrasses a husband.

It is not so exaggerated as TV drama, but I have heard some similar stories from my friends who are in these situations. Young couples living with parents after getting married was a natural custom until my parents' generation.

The first son and his wife always had to live with his parents, but this custom is decreasing now little by little. Times have changed.

Formerly, a wife who grew up in a generation when people thought patience was a virtue didn't complain, even though her mother-in-law and husband were at fault. But now, wives of today who are expressing intolerance, don't try to keep whatever they want to say in their minds. Therefore, they have trouble with their mothers-in-law who grew up when wives unquestioningly obeyed their husbands and mother-in-laws.

Another interesting point is that husbands seem to be losing domestic power nowadays. If he take his mother's side, his wife will be mad. If he takes his wife's side, his wife will be mad. Making them get along with each other without making them mad is a husband's value as a man.

The subjects of arguments are mostly ludicrous. For example mothers-in law complain:

  • "My daughter-in-law is flashily dressed, she brings shame on my family." (I think there is a generation gap for clothing.)

  • "She can't cook well." (I think it's normal that a mother can cook better than a daughter. It's a difference of their experience of cooking.)

  • "She sometimes visits her family. I couldn't do it in my generation." (I don't understand why this is wrong.)

As for wives, they complain:

  • "My mother-in-law makes country cooking all the time. My husband doesn't like it." (I don't think so because he grew up with her cooking.)

  • "She bought some clothes for my child, but I don't want him/her to wear them because they're so uncool." (I think she has to appreciate not clothes, but the mother-in-law's feeling that she wants to give something to her grandchild.)

  • "She gives my child anything. My child seems to thing that he/she can get anything if he/she asks grandmother." (Maybe she should talk to her about it and explain that it's bad for discipline.)

The mother-in-law and the wife became family-in-law, but they are outsiders after all. The wife got married to her husband because she loves him, not because of his mother. Therefore, quarrels between them probably can't be helped. However, it's funny to see that they have domestic trouble and the husband is caught in the middle. It's none of my business, but it's fun seeing other's troubles.

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