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How to Deal with a Toxic Family Member

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Nov 06, 2017

Question

Assalamu alaikum. I am facing a lot of problems in my family. My mom and brother’s behavior are so toxic. Mom always gives him preference over me because he is a boy. She just loves him. She does everything to make him happy. It Is happening since our childhood. My brother beats me, insults me and tried to sexually abuse me. I feel insecure in my own home. Now I have lost the healthy image of a family in my mind. It Is so hard to live with them. I’m suffering from depersonalization disorder. It has been for two years. Sometimes it gets worse when I get insulted and cursed by them. But I tried to make myself normal. I requested my family to consult a psychologist but they haven’t let me. So then I got admission in BSc psychology. Hamdulillah, I am currently studying and trying to cure my fears and anxiety. My mom curses me a lot. She does not understand my mental health issues. She abuses me, calls me names and curses me. it really hurts me. Please tell me, do I deserve this? I told her that my brother tried to abuse me, but she did not do anything for me. My brother has made my life so difficult. They don’t find a match for me at all and call me burden for them. Suggest me how to cope with difficulties in facing. Pray for me once please. Waiting for your response. Jazakallahu khairan.

Counselor

Answer


How to Deal with a Toxic Family Member

In this counseling answer:

“Take some time away from the family home for a short time at first. Allow yourself to have a break and contemplate your next move as well. Allow them to reflect on their behavior. Spend a lot of time in prayer seeking solace with Allah praying for them and reflecting the verses that especially relate to overcoming hardship. Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself and do things that make you feel happy and good about yourself.”


Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh dear sister,

It sounds like you have been facing a very difficult situation. Facing abuse from anyone is difficult to bear, but when it comes from within your own home and from your own family, this makes the burden even greater. We tend to turn to family in such times of difficulty, but when they are the ones that cause the difficulties, this no longer becomes an option. The one being abused is then left feeling even more isolated as they feel they have no one to turn to.

There will often be difficulties in families to some extent or another. We can find ways to manage these, but in your case what you are going through is clear abuse if you are being taunted both emotionally, physically and sexually. This is having numerous effects on your psychological health. This is not an acceptable behavior on their part. You can, however, take some steps to try and make things easier for yourself during this difficult time.

Get some space

The first thing I would suggest is finding a way to take some time away from such toxic relationships. Do you have friends or extended family who you can stay with for some time to give yourself a break from their abuse? This would be helpful for you in finding space to clear your head and free yourself from the difficulties, even if just for a short time. This will also provide with some space to think more clearly about what to do next and possibly make plans to leave the household, if possible.

This might also give your mother and brother a chance to reflect on their actions which they might not otherwise be able to do when you are around. When you are not there to direct their anger to, they will suddenly be forced into a position to either think about what they are doing or to direct their anger elsewhere.

In some cases, this absence can make abusers realize that what they are doing is not acceptable and find alternative ways to vent their frustrations that are not directed at you. It might also help them to even realize what they were doing. Sometimes, behavior like this after such a prolonged time can just become a habit. So, your absence will give them a chance to break out of it.

Perhaps you might stay away for a shorter amount of time at first and see how their response is. See how they utilized their time without you around. In sha Allah, things will improve. If not, you have had the space to come up with a backup plan of how to move on from them safely for your own benefit.

At this point, you shouldn’t intend to cut ties forever. Give them a chance first and even if you do move on, you can still maintain contact. However, it will be easier once you are not in the house anymore if they are unable to stop the abuse towards you.

Use this time to think about where you can go from here if things don’t work out at home. Do you have anyone you can stay with? Or is there anyone trustworthy you can turn to help in seeking a spouse?  Are you in a position to afford to find housing yourself? Think about these potential options if your family at home is unable to overcome their abusive behavior towards you.

Remember Allah

Find solace with Allah. Pray for Allah to soften their hearts and contemplate the many verses in the Qur’an and hadith that remind us about how to deal with a trial.

“O you who have believed, seek help through patience and prayer. Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” (Qur’an, 2:153)

This test will not go on forever. Allah will bring ease when the time is right.

“For indeed, with hardship [will be] ease.” (Qur’an, 94:5)

Likewise, He will not test you beyond what He knows you are capable of bearing.

Allah does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned. “Our Lord, do not impose blame upon us if we have forgotten or erred. Our Lord, and lay not upon us a burden like that which You laid upon those before us. Our Lord, and burden us not with that which we have no ability to bear. And pardon us; and forgive us; and have mercy upon us. You are our protector, so give us victory over the disbelieving people.” (Qur’an, 2:286)

Remember that Allah tests those He loves the most. Think of the prophets before us who faced difficulty with their families and we know Allah loved them the most.

“Indeed greater reward comes with greater trial. And indeed, when Allah loves a people He subjects them to trials, so whoever is content, then for him is pleasure, and whoever is discontent, then for him is wrath.” (Jami` at-Tirmidhi)

Enduring trials can have its benefits

“If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

and even be a form of expiation of sins.

“No fatigue, nor disease, nor sorrow, nor sadness, nor hurt, nor distress befalls a Muslim, even if it were the prick he receives from a thorn, but that Allah expiates some of his sins for that.” (Sahih al-Bukhari)

Do something you enjoy

When facing difficulties and abuse from others, it’s easy to forget about ourselves. This can only add to the psychological burden. Do something that makes you feel happy and good about yourself. Focus on your studies, take up a hobby, do something with others. Take time to do things for yourself that make you feel positive about yourself and life in general amidst all the negativity that you face with your family.

Summary

What you are going through has placed a great burden on your psychological health. However, there are some things you can do to ease the burden in your difficult situation. Take some time away from the family home for a short time at first. Allow yourself to have a break and contemplate your next move as well. Allow them to reflect on their behavior. Spend a lot of time in prayer seeking solace with Allah praying for them and reflecting the verses that especially relate to overcoming hardship. Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself and do things that make you feel happy and good about yourself.

May Allah grant you ease during this difficult time and guide you to make the best decision about what to do next.

Salam,

***

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.

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About Hannah Morris

Hannah Morris is a mum of 4 and she currently works as Counsellor and Instructor of BSc. Psychology at the Islamic Online University (IOU). She obtained her MA degree in Psychology and has over 10 years of experience working in health and social care settings in the UK, USA, and Ireland. Check out her personal Facebook page, ActiveMindCare, that promotes psychological well-being in the Ummah. (www.facebook.com/activemindcare)

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