"Dear Manjot, I’m getting married next year and will likely be living with my in-laws. They’re super sweet and treat me with respect and love but is there any advice you can give me on how I can feel comfortable and at-home in a new place?"
Dear reader, thank you for submitting your question! Adjusting to newlywed life can be really difficult and your question reminded me of my own experience.
As a certified homebody, feeling at home in a new environment is an anxiety I can relate to. When I first got married, I remember feeling stressed about everything in my new home, from cleanliness (what if I’m a slob compared to everyone else?), to routines (what would the expectations be around cooking?) and everything in between.
Settling into a new home is one thing but actually feeling at home is no easy task.
As a therapist, a lot of my clients are South Asian women who are navigating those first few months of marriage. The honeymoon phase is great but when you leave your home and your family you begin to realise that home isn’t just a place but the people in it, too.
I think this is the hardest part of being married, and we don't talk about it much. Before the wedding, our community constantly reminds us that we're about to leave our home for a new one. But we aren't given much time to grieve the end of our childhood and discuss how challenging the transition from our parents' house to our new house can be.
Instead, you are thrust into being a married woman and told you can and must move into this overwhelmingly different stage of your life with ease. For me it felt a lot like cutting a metaphorical cord to your old life. The process was far from easy and simple and I found myself wondering where the old me ended and this new version of me began.
I remember when I first got married, I came home from visiting my parents in my sweat pants and Jay Z concert t-shirt carrying a various array of cake mixes, pans and icing sugar. My parents' kitchen was slightly bigger than my new one, I knew my way around, also it was still my house and so of course it felt natural to come home and bake.
I will never forget the look of horror on my granny’s face when she saw me stroll into my house, make-up free just days after getting married. Now, I love my granny but she watches a lot of Indian dramas and they definitely have skewed her perception of reality. She asked why I was home, why I wasn’t at my new home and why I was dressed the way I was. I calmly explained that I wanted to do some baking, what’s the big deal?
Before getting married, I figured the first few months would look like me going back and forth between the two homes until I became more comfortable in my new home. Granny had other thoughts. She assumed that I, as a good Punjabi bride, wouldn’t show up at my parents’ house more than necessary and that when I did it would be in an Indian suit, decked in gold and with sindoor in my hair. Poor, sweet granny.
Dear reader, always remember you already have a home. The house you move into whether it’s with your partner or your partner and his parents, it’s never going to replace that. Give yourself some time and space to adjust to your new environment.
When I first got married, I felt the most comfortable in my new room that I shared with my husband because that’s where it was easiest for me to carve out a space reflective of my personality. When you move in with your in-laws, they’ve already established their space and their personality, so it might take some time getting used to everything. If you have a space, maybe a rec room or a basement that can be your area, I would start by making those spaces reflective of you.
I mentioned earlier that home isn’t just a place, it's the people too. Your family is already your home, they’ve seen you in the best and worst moments of your life. Your in-laws and your partner might not have experienced many ups and downs with you just yet. Be kind to yourself, people don’t feel like home right away. When you move in and start living together, you’re all adjusting to each other and it’s going to take time.
I’ll go back to my granny for a second here now. I’ve been married for 9 years and my granny is no longer appalled when I come home once a week or sleep over. Though she is still confused by my clothing and lack of make up. I mentioned she watches a lot of Indian dramas, right? I digress.
The point is, my parents’ house is still my home. You can have more than one home. Different versions of you can exist, one at your parents house and the one at your in-laws house. I am happy in both my homes but at my parents house you will for sure find me laying on the couch, under a blanket waiting for someone to make me cha.
Your in-laws house will eventually feel like home, with time and patience and as you learn and grow together but don’t forget, you can always go back home too and if you have a granny who tells you otherwise, you just let me know because my granny could use a friend.
You will adjust to your new home eventually, give yourself time and space and don’t forget to ask for what you need. Your new family is adjusting to you as well and they won’t know how to make you comfortable unless you tell them.
All the best,
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