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I Can’t Love My Family

16 December, 2023
Q Salaam, I have a problem. I can't love my family. I don't mind if I can't love a stranger, but it makes me worried that I don’t love my own family members. I just don't have any feelings for them. But, I still do things for them; it is an obligation for me to be nice to my parents and my sisters. My family doesn't express any love or warmth to each other. No “I love you, sister", no hugging, no shaking of hands, no kisses except for Eid". When people are sick, you tend to show sympathy to them. I can't. I just smile and wish he/she gets better. Another thing about me is that I am very quiet. I don't like to talk about so many things. I prefer listening. Therefore, people may tend to ignore me because I talk very little. Sometimes, I wish Allah would take away my ability to talk. I wonder if that is haraam to wish for Allah to take away His gift. Despite all these problems, I still wish I have a friend who thinks like me. But every time I meet people, they are those who talk about movies, boys, and so on. I don't like this. I would speak to them normally but, of course, they don’t want me to be close friend with them. I wish I can just focus on my studies. I wish I can walk away from this family, because they don't seem like a family. A stranger can initiate to hug me, but not them. A stranger can advise me to be a good daughter and student, but not them. I'm tired of trying to be a good child and sister when all I get is coldness. I want somebody whom I can love and own, and who can respect and motivate me. I know these thoughts are crazy. In addition, I have binge eating disorder. Nobody finds that it is a problem. Yet, it is a problem, because I like to eat those things to numb away the pain, loneliness, and hurt. It affects my studies, because I become less energetic and not motivated at all to study. So, my grades have dropped. I still binge but in a smaller scale. I hope you have a good advice for me and I can stop these feelings of loneliness and the feelings of running away from my family.



Dear Sister,

Thank you for your question and your courage in reaching out for a solution rather than suffering in silence. As a counselor, one of the common issues I find when sitting down with parents and their children is when parents exhibit negative behaviors and often pass on these characteristics by modeling poor habits. Individuals who have not received love and grew up in an unloving environment in some cases have trouble expressing love in all of their interpersonal relationships. A person’s inability to give love can often be rooted in several factors including fear of rejection. Growing up in an unloving environment leads the person to neither expect love nor know how to express love in an emotionally balanced and healthy way. There is a misconception that showing love is a sign of weakness rather than strength; and there are various psychosocial, cultural, and environmental factors that contribute to the problem.

If I understand your situation clearly, it seems that you have no love for your family because you haven’t been receiving any love, affection, or any form of emotional support from your family. The experience of not giving or receiving love and having family that is not able to model healthy and positive social interaction has contributed to your overall feelings of loneliness.

The description of your personality also shows that you are introverted as you stated that you prefer to listen rather than talk. There is nothing crazy or wrong with having an introverted personality. Accept and embrace your personality when you are ready, and you will find that there are many positive aspects of having your personality.

You have a right to want to feel loved and supported by your family. As you stated you feel as if you are a stranger to your family. Seek out opportunities and create situations where you can interact with each family member more one-on-one, which will improve your relationship with your family overall. Even though you have not been raised in a loving and affectionate environment, list positive characteristics of your parents and other family members, and create experiences that will improve your relationship with them based upon these positive characteristics.

There is always hope associated with recognizing the mistakes of your family. Recognizing a particular behavior that is unhealthy is the first step in the process of learning from mistakes and changing your life for the better. You have the opportunity as a young woman to change the legacy of your family from unloving to loving with the choices you make in your own interpersonal relationships. Reflect on this fact, and I hope that this serves as an inspiration for you in your process of healing.

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About Sakeena Abdulraheem
Sakeena Abdulraheemholds an MA in Social studies with a concentration in Islamic studies from the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences. She is currently completing her counseling psychology with a concentration in trauma counseling. She has extensive experience working as a teacher, mentor, and consultant.