How to Deal with a Toxic Aunt & a Distant Sister?

10 May, 2017
Q As salaam alaikum. My aunt is 48 years old and is a toxic person. She has the tendency to speak towards others in a rude manner. She yells, shouts, screams, and whatnot. Whether it is a small or big issue, she acts like this and does not always let the other person hear what they have to say. When she does something wrong, she does not show remorse, but when someone does something wrong, she picks on them. My aunt is a toxic person, but she also takes others problems and creates it as her own problem. She also has trust issues as well due to bad experiences with friends and family members. When she decided to listen to my advice, it seemed that she took it a different way. In her understanding, she thinks that if she removes herself by not taking others’ problems into her own, she has to be a new individual. When she takes other problems, she causes herself to damage her mental and physical health. She already has problems with her body and goes to see her doctor at times. Ever since she listened to my advice of not taking in of others problems into her own, she has been repeatedly saying "Oh sorry, I shouldn't have said that" to whatever she was telling the other individual such as "You should do this" and other phrases as well. I now regret opening my mouth, because she misunderstood on what I told her. I basically told her that she needs to stop taking people problems as her own, when she does this, she is damaging her health as it is and gave her examples on what I meant. In addition, I tell her that she needs to speak with a counselor, but she never does it, says that she doesn't need to see a counselor. Please tell me on how should I distance and when should I communicate with her? Bear in mind that I live with her in the same house. Also, I have a bitter sister. She tends to hide her true emotions inside her heart. She has always been this way ever since she was little. Whenever someone says something to her that affects her, she will not talk or explain fully on what affected her from their sayings. She says that she's an emotional person, but the way she behaves and reacts is way too much and she bottles her emotions inside her heart without fully letting them out. She tends to cry when someone said something that offended her. She has been told to speak out of her feelings and thoughts and to speak with a counselor. However, she does not. I would like to know how I should interact with her because I truly hate being around and interacting with her.



As Salam ‘Alaikum sister,

I am pleased to hear that you care so much about your aunt and your sister. The fact that you wrote to us shows your true concern about their health issues.

We all come across toxic people in life who are unpleasant, draining and just too hard to spend time with. Toxic people can’t stand the thought that they might be wrong. They can make a big deal out of the tiniest issues just to make their point of view. Sometimes what you feel and think does not matter to a toxic person. They can behave selfishly. They are always surrounded by drama and they suck the positive energy out of you. But there are ways to protect yourself from such people.

The situation with your aunt does not seem to be easy. Unfortunately, people with trust issues and with a habit of interfering in other people’s problems are usually hard to be around. Therefore, I can understand that it can be really annoying and frustrating to live with such people.

I am glad though that she actually listened to your advice and does apologize whenever she has done something “wrong”. The problem here is that her actions and behavior affect you and that’s not good.

You have done all you could by explaining to her and suggesting her to get counseling. Now it is up to her to get the help she can get or not. Do not spend too much time thinking about it as it will only frustrate you.

You can obviously not avoid her completely because you live in the same house, but you can try to be around her more when, for example, she is in a better mood or when she is more calmed. If you are with her all the time then there is more chance she will take her anger and frustration out on you. You don’t want that to happen of course.

You are an educated young girl and you seem to be quite sensible for your age. I would advise you to not go down her level. Try protecting yourself from her. Do not argue or get into any deep discussions with her. Be honest and polite with her, even if she is rude and harsh. Make sure you act on your own standards. Make sure you are careful with what you share with her as she can create it something negative.

Your aunt is not a positive energy to hang around with, and you should avoid being a “shoulder to cry on” because that will only drag you down with her. I am not saying that you should avoid her completely or disrespect her in any way. I am just saying that you should protect your own health and feelings as it’s not healthy to be around this kind of people all the time.

The Prophet (saw) said,

“He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honor the elderly” (Al-Tirmidhi)

That’s why I would suggest that you keep a respectful interaction with your aunt. If she says something you dislike just be quiet rather than engaging in any form of argument with her. This way she will know that you do not want to talk or are not interested in her problems, and she will eventually stop telling you about things that bother her.

Your sister, on the other hand, might just feel uncomfortable expressing or showing her feelings. There is nothing wrong in that. Some people don’t like to be so expressive because they are scared to be judged by others. This is why they keep themselves a little bit reserved.

It is, of course, not healthy to suppress your emotions in such an extremely way as it can be bad for your health. She can try to speak therapy or learn some other techniques to release her emotions such as writing, drawing, sports, etc.

Do not be too hard on her as it will only make her more reserved. Try doing things she enjoys. Maybe through some fun, she will open up a little with you. It is always easier to talk about things when you are in a happy state rather than when you are sad.

If she can learn to speak about her good feelings, then I am sure she will slowly learn to talk about her other less happy emotions, too. She is your little sister and you can try to be more understanding. You should not create a distance with her.

May Allah (swt) ease your problem and give you patience.



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