What Can We Do When Our Efforts to Amend Relationships Fail Invariably?

Answered by Ustadha Raidah Shah Idil

Question: What do we do when we give gifts to amend relationships but they are rejected?

My sister of my husband refuses to forgive him for something that happened over 5 years ago. He has given her gifts, tried to make amends and even asked to talk to which she refuses. He feels so oppressed by this.

Answer: Assalamualaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,

I pray this finds you well. May Allah reward you for continuing to seek guidance on your delicate family differences.

Sister

This is a very difficult situation. It is only natural for your husband to want a better relationship with his sister. However, his sister does not sound willing to reconcile in a healthy and mutually beneficial way.

I encourage you and your husband to see a culturally-sensitive counsellor and learn better coping strategies. His sister sounds like a toxic personality, and by wanting her acceptance, he is putting his happiness in her hands.

It is one thing to give gifts, which is praiseworthy, but it is another thing to give gifts with the expectation that it will automatically make things better. “Should” thinking can make things worse, instead of telling oneself, “It would be nice if giving gifts made her nicer to me, but it’s OK if it’s not. My reward is with Allah. She has a history of being a hurtful person, and I have no control over her actions.”

Remind your husband that he has no control over his sister’s responses. If she thrives on hurting him, then it is definitely time for him to adjust his expectations. The larger the gap between our reality and our expectations, then the more upset we become.

Acceptance

For as long as your brother remains attached to the hope that everything will be OK once his sister is nice to him, he will continue to be disappointed by the reality of his situation. I encourage him to look at Byron Katie’s strategy for accepting reality, called The Work.

It is so easy to be caught up in grief, especially when we are tested by our loved ones. However, from an Islamic standpoint, it’s important to remember that:

1) Despair is forbidden.
2) Everything is exactly as Allah ordained it, and therefore it is what is best for us. How can having a sister like that be best for him? Allah knows best. Perhaps this trial is a way for him to continue to make dua to Allah for help. This situation reminds me of an aphorism by Ibn Ata’illah:

“Whoever does not draw near to God
as a result of the caresses of love
is shackled to Him with the chains of misfortune.”

When we don’t make sufficient shukr for ease, then Allah calls us to Him through difficulty.

Role of a wife

Your role is to remind your husband that he can only do his part, and to leave the rest to Allah. Call him to adorn himself with beautiful attributes such as patience, gratitude, and certainty in Allah’s promise. Model good character and patience for him. Balance being kind with him, alongside being firm.

Solutions

1) Seek counselling for this chronic family issue.
2) Help your husband focus on what he can be grateful for in his life e.g. Daily gratitude exercises at the dinner table, “Alhamdulilah, today I am grateful for x, y, z etc”
3) Go for regular breaks away from his sisters, so that you, your husband and your children can build happier memories.
4) Encourage your husband to build happier memories with the rest of his family.
5) I encourage you and your husband to empower yourselves through a better understanding faith and action, through this course Excellence in Faith & Action (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion).

Please refer to the following links:

What is the Minimum Amount of Relationship I Have to Keep with a Relative I Hate?
A Reader on Patience and Reliance on Allah

Wassalam,
Raidah

Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Photo: torange.biz