Life Coach, Sayeda Habib explores why we should heal strained relationships and offers practical strategies to get the job done.
Assalamu ‘alaikum and a very warm Shahr Ramadhan Mubarak to all my sisters. The holy month of Ramadhan is designed to take us out of our comfort zones, physically and emotionally, but we are also given much greater rewards, aren’t we? The long-term benefit is also ours, because genuine transformation tends to stick. So why not use this time to take on the challenges that we would normally shy away from?
A huge challenge for many people is how to deal with a difficult family member. Once a relationship has become strained, it may be extremely difficult to get it back on the right track. Is there a family member you aren’t getting along with right now? Close your eyes and picture him or her. What is the first thought that comes with the picture? The emotions will be somewhat unpleasant, most likely, so just think about how much this situation is taking from your happiness and contentment. Our Prophet r said: “If you want to be happy the whole year, reconcile with your kin.” (Bihar al-Anwar, v74. Pg 405. No 2)
Why is reconciling with kin so important in Islam? Leaving the social reasons aside, healthy relationships provide us with contentment and happiness, which in turn leaves us the emotional space to do things. If you’re using up valuable energy being angry or resentful, that’s robbing you of your productivity, to say the least. Healthy relationships contribute to who we are in several ways, of the most important being that they contribute to our own personal health and wellbeing. One of my clients recently understood this concept first hand.
Sister Taqwa* came to coaching because her relationship with her sister was starting to impact her health. Her sister is very direct and would often comment on every little thing about Taqwa, including her haircut. Taqwa was starting to have health issues because
she was unable to speak her mind in front of her sister for fear of being put down. It was straining their relationship to the point where she didn’t want to speak to her. After a few sessions, she learned strategies on how to communicate with her sister more effectively. Now she is able to share her own views and maintain her relationship with her sister as well.
Take 5 minutes to come up with your own motivations to rekindle or heal this strained relationship. Remember, if this relationship continues this way, it’s likely that you may not have this person in your life in the future. Ask yourself, “Is it ok with me if this person is not in my life anymore?” If you realise that it’s not ok, then you know you have to do something. Next, ask yourself:
“What does this relationship bring to my life?”
“What could it be like in the future? Is the effort required to heal worth it?”
If you get a “yes”, then you know you’re ready to do the work. So now let’s look at some practical ways through which you can bring healing to this relationship, insha Allah.
One of the most rewarding acts in this month is to forgive others who may have wronged you. Not only will you be rewarded by Allah I, you will be creating renewed energy and space within your own heart. Forgiveness means that you stop punishing the other person (and yourself ). You set yourself free from all the pain associated with the event. Forgiveness is a grace you give yourself.
And when you do, you become a calmer, more productive person, too. Write a “forgiveness letter” to the person. Say all the things you need to say about how you feel. The most important part of this letter is that you declare you’re letting all of it go, you are forgiving them and putting the event in the past. Next, talk about how you want the relationship to be from now on. Once you have done all of this, tear up the letter and dispose of it. Remember, this is your journey, so it really has nothing to do with the person. If you share it, all you will be doing is magnifying the pain – so let it go.
Open the door to communication – and keep it open
Now that you have done your forgiveness-related work, open the door to communication with them. Get in touch with them, reach out and say hello. They may be in a different place emotionally, so be prepared for a luke-warm welcome. Let them know that you would like to heal the relationship, but be open to giving them some time to come around. Each person has his or her own way of dealing with challenges, so be patient. Just let them know that you will be ready to talk whenever they are, and you are open to listening to their point of view.
Keep communication direct
One of the biggest issues that we face with relationships is that things often get relayed to too many people, often fanning the flames. If it is an issue with your mother-in-law, a cousin or even your spouse, aim to speak with the person directly. Often, when other family members get involved, egos are triggered and even receptive people tend to close down because they feel ambushed or disrespected. Also, this can become a big blame game where each party is blaming the other. Remember, the more people you involve, the more they will take sides and offer you different opinions that may make matters worse. Aim to solve the conflict directly. Think about your part in the conflict and take accountability for your actions. Once you take responsibility and are open to a resolution, they may come around and meet you halfway. If all else fails, then talk to an objective person outside the family for advice.
Make plans to do something fun
Getting out of the daily routine can be a great way to break the tension. Make plans with the other person and do something fun. Avoid discussing the issue at all and just enjoy reconnecting. You may find that just reminiscing about old times or sharing experiences you enjoy puts your relationship back on track on its own – or at least provides some help along the way!
Our relationships are a source of joy and fulfilment, but we need to do the work to keep them healthy. We are all human, and resentments can happen. You don’t control the final outcome, but you do control how much effort you put in. Do your part to heal the relationship, and insha Allah, the results will be worth it. My best wishes to you for a fulfilling journey ahead.
Sayeda Habib has been coaching muslims for over a decade. She works with Muslim sisters to help them feel empowered and create results in their lives. She is the author of “Discover the Best in You: Life Coaching for Muslims”. To get in touch with Sayeda, log on to www. makelifehappen.com, or email her at [email protected]