How to Deal with a Narcissistic Sister?

18 March, 2020
Q Salaam Alaikum. First of all, thank you for the opportunity to ask my question online. JazaakumuAllahu khairan. I have a sister who is narcissistic. For the past 13 years, I have had very bad experiences with her. At first, I thought it was me, but 5 years ago, I found out that her behavior fits narcissism.

She married 5 years ago, but divorced soon after. She then moved back to the family home. I did not want her to move in because she had caused me trauma and depression. Since she moved back, I have been seeing a counselor.

My mother insisted me to go. I understand that my mother wants to treat us equally, but I feel nobody takes me serious and protects me. My parents didn't dare to talk to her although they criticized her behavior. My mother also thinks that my sister’s behavior is not normal, but she doesn’t do anything about it.

My sister doesn't want to hear how her behavior affects me.

When I do something that displeases her, she gets very angry at me. We have been living together again for 4 years now, but she doesn’t look for a house.

I feel like she is OK living with us and not taking the responsibility for her own life. Why can't my mom speak with my sister about her behavior? Now, I try to not get too much involved in my sister’s life. I don't feel at ease when she's around. I don't feel free in my own house. This feels very injustice. I also try to not talk with her too much.

Sometimes she is nice, but I she just wants something from me. Usually, she is very cold with me. How to deal with this situation? I get angry when I think about it. I don't want to spend my days like this, but I can't leave my mother.

What advice would you give me from an Islamic perspective to stay patient and to protect myself from my sister’s behavior? JazaakAllahu khairan.

Answer

In this counseling answer:

• I suggest, in sha’ Allah, that you seek advice and recommendations from your therapist about how to cope with the situation.

• There may be support groups in your area for siblings living with narcissistic family members.

• I encourage you to learn about the disorder which will give you greater insight on how to cope with the behaviors and dynamics at home.

• Please do draw closer to Allah (SWT), asking Him to grant ease and guide you through these hard times.

As-Salamu ‘Alaykum sister,

Thank you for writing to us. I am sorry to hear about your difficulties with your sister. It must be difficult living with someone who is diagnosed “narcissistic” or has these personality features. In sha’ Allah, Allah will give you great barakah for enduring the situation.

It may be the case wherein your mother knows your sister is sick and, therefore, tries to compensate by not encouraging her to be independent, and tries not to upset her by calling her out on her behaviors.

This, however, is called enabling. Psychology Today discusses enabling as a co-dependent relationship stating that “It means lending a hand to help people accomplish things they could not do by themselves.

More recently, however, it has developed the specialized meaning of offering help that perpetuates rather than solves a problem.

A parent who allows a child to stay home from school because he hasn’t studied for a test is enabling irresponsibility.

Those who habitually enable dysfunctional behavior are often referred to as co-dependent. It’s a telling word, because an enabler’s self-esteem is often dependent on his or her ability and willingness to “help” in inappropriate ways.

This ‘help’ allows the enabler to feel in control of an unmanageable situation. The reality, though, is that enabling not only doesn’t help, but it actively causes harm and makes the situation worse.”

How to Deal with a Narcissistic Sister? - About Islam

Given the fact that your mom may have some feelings of responsibility or even guilt surrounding your sister’s condition, she is unable to see your need for help and validation.

It is not because she does not love you. She is just not able to break away from enabling behaviors which are perpetuating her disorder and reliving her from taking responsibility of her actions.

I am glad to hear you are in therapy, sister. This is an empowering move on your part. I suggest, in sha’ Allah, that you seek advice and recommendations from your therapist about how to cope with the situation.

There may be support groups in your area for siblings living with narcissistic family members. Support groups will give you the opportunity to vent, express your feelings and receive validation, in sha’ Allah.

Check out this counseling video:

Also, I encourage you to learn about the disorder which will give you greater insight on how to cope with the behaviors and dynamics at home.

Lastly, please do draw closer to Allah (SWT), asking Him to grant ease and guide you through these hard times. Make dhikr which will bring you peace; recite Qur’an and make du’aa’. These are the tools of Muslims seeking relief, protection, and blessings.

In sha’ Allah, your situation will change soon, but if not, I am confident that you will have the fortitude and desire to rise above the dysfunction your sister causes.

Stay connected with your Muslim sisters, try to make time for enjoyable outings with friends, and keep yourself busy with positive and uplifting things. These will also decrease the impact you have been experiencing at home.

You are in our prayers sister. Please let us know how you are doing.

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:

Psychology of Narcissism

I’m Narcissistic; How Can I Love Allah?

Narcissism: A Religious Perspective on Healing and Hope

About Aisha Mohammad
Aisha received her PhD in psychology in 2000 and an MS in public health in 2009. Aisha worked as a Counselor/Psychologist for 12 years for Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Care Center in New York. Aisha specializes in trauma, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, marriage/relationships issues, as well as community-cultural dynamics. She is certified in Restorative Justice/ Healing Circles, Conflict Resolution, Mediation, and is also a certified Life Coach.
Aisha works at a Family Resource Center, and has a part-time practice in which she integrates healing and spirituality using a holistic approach. Aisha plans to open a holistic care counseling center for Muslims and others in the New York area in the future, in sha' Allah. Aisha is also a part of several organizations that advocate for social & food justice. In her spare time she enjoys her family, martial arts classes, Islamic studies as well as working on her book and spoken word projects.