Resolving Interpersonal Conflict
Interpersonal conflict is an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving their goals. (Wilmot and Hocker, 2001) One such situation is recently experienced between my aunt, Annie, and her in-laws.
This started last year in June, when Annie’s mother-in-law fell down due to old age weakened knees and had to be admitted to the hospital. For the past centuries, Annie’s mother-in-law had been residing at her second son, Ben’s, house. Hence, being the eldest daughter-in-law, Annie decided to take some responsibility by initiating to take care of her mother-in-law for the first two weeks after the elderly had discharged from the hospital to help her in recuperating to her original state and ability to be independent again.
Indeed, after two weeks, Annie’s mother-in-law recovered and went back to Ben’s house to live. She was even fit enough to return to her workplace. However, not long later, she fell again at home in November. This time round the tension within the family heightened. The family members knew that this time the situation worsened and the elderly would need someone to pay more attention and care to her. Instead of coming up with a win-win solution amongst the children to take care of their old aged mother, Ben and his wife began shirking responsibility by saying that they had been staying and putting up with the elderly for so many years, and now it should be the time when the other children play a part too. In addition, they had in mind to take this opportunity to kick the elderly out of their house, which they initially got it at priority and discounted rate under the government policy to reside with parents.
Annie soon became very stressed and lost at what to do because even the two sister-in-laws were shirking off their responsibility in putting in a fair share of effort as they began to feign illnesses and discomforts to excuse themselves from bringing their mother for her regular check-ups. To make matters worse, Annie’s mother-in-law took sides with her daughters and shielded them by preaching the traditional idea that daughters married are spilled water, and it should be daughter-in-laws’ duty to take care of her.
From Annie’s stand:
She had to take care of her own mother too, who recently went for an eye operation, as her side of the family adopts the modern way thinking that the responsibility of taking care of the elderly should be equally distributed among her own children. Hence, Annie tried to propose a solution whereby her mother-in-law will continue to live with Ben, while the duty of taking the elderly out for leisure purposes and medical check-ups will be distributed amongst her and her two other sister-in-laws. She did not mind helping her overly worked husband to take care of his mother so long as the distribution of effort is made fair. Furthermore, she had her own grandson due soon to take care of.
From two sister-in-laws’ stand:
They felt they should not shoulder any responsibility, following the traditional way of thinking. They felt that the eldest daughter-in-law should be the one who is dutiful for the situation.
From Ben and his wife’s stand:
They felt that they had been living with her and taking care of her the past years and they should be given the opportunity to regain freedom, hence, they were bent on residing the elderly somewhere else, either Annie’s place, a rented room or the old age home.
However, Annie could not take her mother-in-law in to stay with her as her house was way too small to accommodate another person. She felt that if Ben really have to move the elderly out of his house, the elderly should go to stay with her second daughter, since she owns a landed house with extra room available. Matters escalated when Ben put words into Annie’s mouth by telling his mother that Annie suggested putting her into the old age home when the idea was actually initiated by Ben.
After staying one month in the hospital, no concrete solution was taken and Annie’s mother-in-law continued to reside at Ben’s place. This issue had caused much tension in the family due to unwillingness from each party to compromise based on circumstances. During this Chinese New Year visiting, as we were house hopping, I could sense the awkwardness among the four siblings and the interactions made were no longer as harmonious and happy-sounding as the past years.
Thus, I would like to ask you readers how should Annie resolve the matter should it be triggered again.
Thank you for reading!