My parents’ abusive marriage has given me anxiety, depression, and trauma. For decades I watched them scream and get violent over the smallest things, fearing they would kill one another in anger. My father used vulgar, belittling language, called us names, threw objects, threatened violence, and financially supported us. My mother would snap at everyone and spend much of her time visiting others to escape. She cared more about validation from others than our peace. My parents always complained about each other, but my efforts to help were futile. Now I am an adult, and I still hear about their explosive arguments. They have refused treatment or counseling, or divorce even though they are both unstable. They do not acknowledge the toxicity on us and call us ungrateful when we respectfully convey our pain. I call or message every day, I visit, I buy gifts, I am patient, but talking to them leaves me feeling depleted, depressed, and sometimes ill. My therapist told me I need to set boundaries and keep a distance, but I do not know how to reconcile this with my Islamic duties.
Thank you for your question. I empathize with your pain and frustration with growing up seeing such abuse. I pray that you can heal from this trauma and move on to a peaceful household of your own. Please see these links for excellent advice:
It would help if you listened to your therapist and set your own boundaries by testing them out first. There a few steps you can try.
1) Try messaging more than calling; see how well they respond to this. Or perhaps calling twice or thrice a week is enough?
2) Cut down on your visits; see if they are still happy when you visit once a week or less. Explain that you are getting busier with work or school and tell them that you are just unable to come over as often.
3) Instead of taking a gift to them every time, you could have a gift shipped to them and explain that you were too busy to come over that weekend.
4) Plan some special events with them. Invite them with relatives and friends for a dinner party or host one at their house. This way, you get to see them, and they will keep their cool around others. When the guests leave, you leave too. You can also plan occasions to take them out to dinner or another place where they won’t argue publicly.
5) Also, it seems from your question that you are single. I believe that after your spouse comes around, they will contain themselves better around you as a couple so as not to embarrass themselves.
Turn to Allah
As always, ask Allah to help by praying the Prayer of Need, before dawn if you can, and seek his help through this. No problem that you try to solve through Allah is difficult, and no problem that you try to solve through yourself is easy.
Channel your pain into du`a and give charity. Encourage your parents to increase their worship as well and pray or read Qur’an with them. You can also encourage them to take a free course at Seekers to encourage some learning and help them busy themselves a bit. In sha Allah, you will all heal from this.
May Allah reward you for striving to fulfill your duties. Please see these excellent articles.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria, for two years, where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, Tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Master’s in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan, where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.