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.