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I Ran Away from My Abusive Parents

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

May 16, 2018

Question

I was raised by a dismissive mother who made me feel unworthy of attention and experience deep, gut-wrenching self-doubt, all the while feeling intense longing for love and validation. Sticking it out with this kind of mother is difficult and has impacted on me since childhood.

My father was stern and always got angry and lashed out and she was too wrapped up in my brother who she claimed had a language disorder and everything and anything had to be about him. The older you get the more you see how to hurt you were by it and what you have become is the outcome of one person’s actions.

As a child, I looked for love from peers as I didn’t get the emotional love I needed. This led to me always trying to please people which led me to lose my self-esteem and feel I would always have to buy people. This backfired on me in high school when I became the victim of terrible bullying. At that time, I wanted to kill myself and cried to my parents who called the school nothing was ever done and I was violently pushed shoved had mental things thrown at me and I had no one help me not my parents the school anyone. I never felt so alone.

I then begged my uncle to let me live with him in the Middle East. I would escape the constant stress of my parents’ household and see favoritism and be unhappy.

Unfortunately, my uncle’s wife did not like me and done some terrible things whilst I lived with her. When I called my family for help, it was dismissed and my father even accused me of lying. I tried hard to find a man, someone who wouldn’t find me a burden and who would want to love and look after me. Desperate to feel emotionally loved, I married my current spouse and because I wanted to live correctly and not do haram things.

Again, I only knew and believed buying people by spoiling him doing everything to please him because that’s what I thought would get him to love me. I was 17 so young and still feared my dad and although I was married, my dad’s fear mongering was now causing me problems in my marriage.

My father bought a flat and let us live in it and then started sending my brother every year all summer. This had a terrible effect on my marriage, but my parents didn’t care as long as my brother got what he wanted everyone else was irrelevant. I tried many times to explain and was fobbed off and made to look like I was the bad person for even bringing these things up how dare I speak like that about my brother and I was ungrateful.

I had thrown in my face many times about him buying a flat and helping me I should basically never object to anything he asked. This continued for years and I nearly ended up in divorce. These problems drove my husband to feel like a crap and he ended up cheating on me talking to a woman as he had had enough. I still had this fear of speaking out about injustice and I still to this day is the same only any time I do want to speak I get attacked and accused of being jealous which is further from the truth.

1. Sending my brother for months and he was disrespectful and drunk and waiting on him coming in at 2/3 in morning and when I eventually told them I was accused of trouble making and a liar.

2. Throwing in my face for years that they had helped me and that I owe them by always obeying them. Which I always did even sometimes against my husband. Making me feel I owe them.

3. Even when my partner had money in the home, they denied it although the agreement was he had a share in the home which my dad refuses to accept and says it is the rent money he should have paid him which was never the agreement. Now the home has been signed to me and my father said you deal with your husband. I will give him his share as this is correct but was his actions correct?

4. I looked after his properties and had power of attorney but he refused to put the home I lived in in my name and put it in my brother’s name even though my partner had a share and this caused me terrible problems in my marriage.

5. Bought a property for my brother and when I asked for him to put my home in my name he refused initially saying he can’t until he buys my brother first and made me take 10000 from the bank without my husband’s agreement saying it was not his business and that I should help my family by helping them buy my brother a property in the Middle East. After he paid 5000 he made me pay the rest by claiming I am responsible for a loan he asked me to take when I was a girl.

5. Asked me before I was married to take a loan for my studies as he couldn’t afford it and that he would pay it back when he had money and then 20 years later made me pay it when I took a 10000 loan for him by saying that I must repay the loan I took before marriage that I must repay.

Please help.

Counselor

Answer


I Ran Away from My Abusive Parents

In this counseling answer:

Seek counseling to address your issues regarding growing up in an unloving, secure home.

It is your right to stand up for yourself and say “no”.

Stop making excuses for people and start to insist that they own up to their own mistakes and weaknesses.


As-Salaam Alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us and trusting us with your question and the issues you present.

As I understand, your mother was very dismissive and made you feel unworthy of attention and love. Your father was “fear-mongering” and treated you unjustly as well. To add to your hurt and pain of feeling unworthy as a child and as a young adult, you stated that your mom “wrapped” your brother in attendance. This is bad parenting which according to hadith is wrong.

Parents are to show all children, equal love. In Saheeh Muslim a hadeeth states that

“Have you, beside him, other sons? He said: Yes. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: Have you given gifts to all of them like this (as you have given to Nu’man)? He said: No. Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: I cannot bear witness to an injustice”.

To this day, your parents still treat you poorly, show preference to your brother and refuse to validate the wonderful young woman that you are.

Sadly, sister, there are many children/adults who have grown up in similar situations wherein parents have failed to show love and mercy toward them. It is very sad to hear all that you have been through. I can imagine it was very difficult for you to live in a situation such as this.

 Children Need a Loving Environment

 Children need a loving, validating and merciful environment to grow up in. It is their right. Parents’ are to be loving and fair to their children as their children do have rights to them.

“Anyone who does not show mercy to our children nor acknowledge the right of our old people is not one of us.” Thus we can see that our beloved Prophet (PBUH) loved children so much he stated that those who do not show mercy to children as not “one of us”.  (Bukhari: Al-Adab Al-Mufrad)

It appears, dear sister, that you were taught Islam, as your consciousness of Islam and your love for Allah is evident in your question, mash’Allah. May Allah bless you dear sister and grant you ease as you work your way through the healing journey from an emotionally abusive past. It can leave deep psychological and emotional scars as you have experienced.

 Growing up, you experienced a deep gut-wrenching sense of self-doubt. All the while, you longed to feel for love and validation. You stated that this has impacted you since childhood. Your father was also stern and got angry and lashed out so he was of no solace or refuge.

I can imagine, sister, how much that must have hurt you as you’re 36 years old right now.

Looking back on your life, it was once described as filled with pain loneliness, desperation to be loved. To further add to feelings of rejection and low self-esteem, you were bullied in school.

Being the victim of bullying is also a traumatic experience.  Statistics for bullying are very high. Many children experience bullying from one degree to another. Depending on the severity, there can be long-term psychological consequences of bullying.

Lastly, your experiences at your uncle’s home with his wife who treated you poorly only added to the emotionally abusive pattern in your life. May Allah grant you ease.

Healing Emotional Scars

Sister, our family is usually the first expression of love that we learn from. It is the foundation for how we view future relationships as well as how we interact, trust and treat ourselves. In the theory of attachment, children (girls especially) who grew up in unloving families may be insecurely attached, meaning that they develop coping mechanisms to deal with the lack of attachment.

Attachment theory further breaks down into three different types which are anxious-preoccupied, dismissive-avoidant, and fearful-avoidant. Outcomes of growing up without a secure attachment can be “feeling that love is a transaction, love is conditional, emotions and feelings should be hidden, and that love needs to be sought and searched for”. Sister, do these themes sound familiar?

Throughout your question you referred to “trying to please people which led me to lose my self-esteem and feel I would always have to buy people; I tried hard to find a man someone who wouldn’t find me a burden and who would want to love and look after me, I only knew and believed buying people by spoiling him doing everything to please him cause that’s what I thought would get him to love me.”

As you can see, your views on love, self-worth, and relationships have been influenced by the way you were raised.

Sister, insha’Allah I do advise that you seek counseling to address your issues regarding growing up in an unloving, secure home.  While I cannot diagnose you, I do feel that there may be a possibility that you suffer from an Attachment Disorder and would benefit from counseling.

You may also insha’Allah want to also begin to focus on “gaining confidence, utilizing positive memories, setting boundaries and readjusting sensitivity, taking inventory as well as giving up wishful thinking”. These suggestions come from a great article written by Psychology Today about a 45-year-old woman who had a similar upbringing. The article is very helpful, and I do suggest you read it insha’Allah. It may provide useful insights insha’Allah as to what you are feeling and going through now.

Healing our emotional scars is not always easy, sister. It is a commitment, one that you owe yourself, out of love for yourself.  There may be emotional pain involved as you sort through your memories trying to make sense of who you are today. The joy, however, comes in the realization of the wonderful person you are as you begin to see all your strengths, good points, abilities, and worthiness.

Healing is a process. It is a journey of “undoing” all the damage that has been done to our minds, bodies, and spirits. Insha’Allah, when we utilize our foundations in Islam, our relationship with Allah and a good mental health practitioner, our healing journey can be one of relief, discovery and eventually joy.

Dealing with Life Today

Sister, I want you to know that you are a wonderful young lady.  You are beautiful, pious and intelligent Muslima who deserves so much better then what you received as a child and the young adult.

No doubt, your parents do love you very much. For whatever reason, they just were not able to express that love in a healthy way. As you know, life is filled with tests and trials. Insha Allah, you will come out of this stronger and be able to live your life with self-determination and a sense of peace.

As far as the situation with your dad, your brother, and the money, please do consider insha’Allah try to put things in perspective. This is how your family has been and it is possible they may never change.  However, you can insha’allah change.

It is your right to stand up for yourself and say “no”. No to your brother coming to your home, no to listening to your dad criticize you and no to letting others ruin your marriage. This will take courage and strength. Once you realize insha’Allah, that Allah wants good things for you and wants you to be happy, you can take the steps needed to protect your rights as a woman and a Muslim.

Sister, it is sad that problems in your marriage arose and your husband cheated. As trying as the situation may be with your family, that is no excuse for cheating on you. That is not an excuse for doing haram.  You said your husband is “feeling like crap” and that is why he cheated. Sister, I kindly ask that you stop making excuses for people and start to insist that they own up to their own mistakes and weaknesses. These are not your sins and weaknesses. This is part of healing, sister, not taking on others bad ways or making excuses.

Insha’Allah you can repair your marriage, but please start the journey of healing for yourself.

We wish you the best.

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

How to Take Care of My Abusive Elderly Mom?

I Cannot Forgive My Dad for His Abuse

Abusive Parents: Enough is Enough!




About Aisha Mohammad-Swan

Aisha Mohammad-Swan received her PhD in psychology in 2000. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York with a focus on PTSD, OCD, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, and Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach. She is currently studying for her certification in Islamic Chaplaincy, and takes Islamic courses at SHC. Aisha works at a Women's Daytime Drop in Center, and has her own part-time practice in which she integrates counseling and holistic health. Aisha also received an MA in Public Health/Community Development in 2009 and plans to open a community counseling/resource center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah.

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