Surviving the Wrath of La Cuñada
What could be worse than taking on your mother-in-law?
The dreaded sister-in-law.
It may have been obvious to some, but I was completely unaware that a sister-in-law could bring so much grief and make me feel like such an outsider. It started off well, but things turned bad quickly and I am still left with pieces that don’t quite fit into this puzzle.
Obviously naive and perhaps a little too trusting, I walked into this relationship thinking that I would gain a second family, what I got was a whole lot of mind games and a broken heart. My husband and I met as casual co-workers, became friends and soon after, ventured toward dating. Before taking the plunge and making him mine, I decided to go the old school route and introduce myself to his mother and sister. Things went fairly well, they were obviously impressed with my approaching them as co-partners in this relationship. Looking back now, I can see that it was another glorious attempt at control on their part.
Why did I choose to get their approval before dating my husband? Look, if I have to answer this than we’re all in trouble! Lol! You don’t stand between a Latino and his mom…you just don’t. My husband was very attached to his mother and sister. A very sensitive man and still very compassionate and understanding when it comes to women. Their opinions meant everything to him and I wasn’t about to let him down by not being the stand-up girl that he dreamed of. Regardless, the meeting went well. I took a grilling from his sister and was then subsequently welcomed into the family…it seemed…as one of their own. In those days I came over to visit quite often. I would help his mother to prepare meals (while both of her kids watched tv) and we chatted for hours about her family in Texas, Ricky’s childhood and spilled the chismes about the cochinas who showed up at la misa next to naked. We were two peas in a pod…”twins born in a different time,” my suegra once told me. I was mija to her and nothing less…for a while.
It wasn’t until the wedding plans begun that things started going wrong. Over time, more and more of what I said and did was no longer acceptable. It seemed I was an embarrassment to them. I was also selfish in their eyes. The wedding plans were chiflada, everything we wanted was “tacky”. Yeah, I want to get married in cowgirl boots and have a pig roast…so what of it??? My husband wanted to wear his traditional Mexican vest of brightly patterned colors and sing with a mariachi band…would that have been so bad? But sometimes appearances are everything and our celebration probably wouldn’t have garnered any “oohs” or “aaahs”. It was simple, but uniquely us. In the end, we let his family take control and our lighthearted potluck BBQ wedding disappeared, along with much of our ganas for celebrating. My in-laws didn’t want to “deal with” us in the wedding plans and so they did their part and we did ours separately. I picked my dress (without them) and kept myself busy designing the programas and cartas for the wedding.
We had a big fancy wedding with all the trimmings, nearly went broke and apparently the in-laws weren’t too happy about how much they spent either. It was an event of mixed emotions. On one hand I had these two women, which I had come to love dearly, attacking me and mi querido at every turn, and on the other hand, I had this man, who I was deeply in love with and it was worth the hell to have him by my side. If I could have asked for anything more though, I would have loved for him to stand up for me against them and also demand respect for himself.
Not long after the wedding, we returned home from our honeymoon to be met with anger and disbelief that we didn’t stay that night to clean up our own hall. We were selfish…we were an embarrassment and the attacks didn’t look to stop anytime soon. Finally, my amazing husband, who’d taken so much abuse through all the years had enough. He had ganas now, ganas to tell them what he really thought of them, and ganas to defend me. I couldn’t have been prouder of my husband that day. He wasn’t just mijo anymore (or feo, as his sister called him), he was a man, he was my husband.
Since that day though, our relationship with his family has been strained and now it’s been a little two years since we have talked to them. The first six months were very difficult. Even though my loving suegra was gone, I still missed her…the way she used to be, taking sobre mesa with me and chatting until the early hours of the morning. She was a good friend that I was sad to lose. I wish I could say the same about my cuñada, but unfortunately we were never close. She never trusted me, hated that I was helping her brother find his independence and cut me down at every turn. I think she was always in competition with me, a race I never asked to be a part of, and deep down I know that her feelings about me are what ended a beautiful relationship between me and my suegrita. Someday, I hope that we can rebuild a relationship with them, but for now, I am just content to be emotionally independent again. After all that’s happened, I’m not strong enough to put myself out there yet, but I have faith that the future will bring better days.
Helpful Spanish Terms
Cartas – Cards/Stationary
Chiflada – Obsurd/Ridiculous
Chisme - Gossip
Cochinas – Nasty girls/”skanky” as my MIL would say
Cuñada – Sister-in-law
Feo – Ugly
Ganas – To feel like doing something, to have the courage to do something
Mijo/Mija – My son/My daughter
Misa – Catholic Mass (service)
Programas – Programs
Querido – Beloved
Sobre mesa – Storytelling at the dinner table (common in many Latino families)
Suegra – Mother-in-law
This story was first seen on Bicultural Mom.
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