Assalam ‘alaikum sisters! For both men and women, feeling loved is so integral to our well-being. When we feel a sense of being loved, challenges become easier to handle and life seems sweeter overall. When we feel rejected or unloved by someone close to us, then life can become quite unbearable. Sister Samina went through a very difficult time like this. She felt that her teenage daughter hated her. She was always angry and sullen, never speaking to her properly. No matter what Samina did, she felt that she couldn’t reach her. It had gotten so bad that she was taking this behaviour as a personal rejection. It was affecting the quality of her life. By the time she came to coaching, she was on the verge of giving up altogether. Samina learned through coaching that her relationship with her daughter needed some new boundaries and behaviours. She began to put a few different things in place that slowly helped her regain her own sense of calm, and improve her relationship with her daughter.
Relationships are dynamic; they change, and go through ups and downs. Generally, our relationships may be quite healthy, but we may go through periods where we need a little extra work. So let’s explore some ways in which we can bring some healing to a relationship that may be suffering.
1. Create boundaries
Imagine that you have paid someone to provide you with a service of some sort. Things are not going too well, and you very nicely tell them that things aren’t working. Would it be all right for them to yell at you? Of course not. Every relationship must have boundaries. A boundary can go two ways. The first boundary is about what you must have from the relationship (love, respect, behaviours etc). The second type of boundary is around those behaviours that are unacceptable to you. For example, you know how you can speak to your mum or your sister, while also being aware of what’s unacceptable to say. If one of your relationships is suffering, it is quite possible that boundaries have been crossed over by either one or both parties.
Reflect on which boundary you may have broken. Once you figure out what’s upsetting the other person, apologise and make intentions not to do it again. Appreciate the fact that this is something that is a no-no for them. In the same way, if the other person has done or said something that you find hurtful, find a way to express yourself calmly and without blame. Also, take some time to clarify your boundaries in your own mind. Ask the other person to do the same. Once you both have done so get together to discuss it. Creating a sense of healthy boundaries provides each person with a sense of comfort and feeling respected. This will allow for the relationship to heal and grow.
2. Forgive everything
Do you keep playing events over and over in your mind? If you keep remembering things that hurt you, or events in the past, then improving your relationship will become an insurmountable task. Remember that people who are close to you will disappoint you at some point. It may be something big or something small, but it is likely that it will happen. You will also do the same. Don’t worry, this is natural! We all build expectations in our minds about how a certain relationship will be. Our hopes and expectations are important in wanting the relationship in the first place. However, it is virtually impossible for another person to read our minds and know about all our expectations, let alone have the resources to meet all of them. So, disappointment will happen. The important thing is how you handle it.
The ability to forgive is integral to having any healthy relationship. We always ask Allah (SWT) to forgive us our mistakes because we know that we aren’t perfect. In the same way it is essential to be able to forgive others as they aren’t perfect either. Sit down and reflect on the relationship that is suffering. Write down two or three things that you are finding difficult to let go of. Now remind yourself that this relationship is important to you, and imagine how you would really like this relationship to be. Picture both of you being happy and fulfilled. What would that look like? Feel like? What would you be saying to each other?
Now that you have an idea of what you really want, find a way to let go of the negativity that you’re holding on to. Forgiveness means letting the past go so you are free to experience your relationship fully. Use a strategy that works for you, and be imaginative. You can write a letter of forgiveness (and tear it up), do something symbolic, or merely choose to forgive in a moment. If you find that there is something that you just can’t get past, then it may be time to have an honest conversation about it with the other person. Tell them how you feel but do so without blaming them. If you need them to do something specific to make things right, then ask them respectfully. Insha Allah you will be able to put the issues behind you and heal your relationship.
3. Argue about things that matter
We all like to be heard and understood. Do you find that you sometimes argue your point and it gets you nowhere? It is important to speak our minds about things that matter. However, sometimes people argue about things that, in the long run, don’t mean much. It is important to decipher whether the issue is really worth arguing about or not. Ask yourself the following questions:
• What are one or two things that we disagree/ argue over most often?
• Is this an issue (if not resolved) that will impact our lives in the next:
– 6 months?
– 1 year?
– 5 years?
If you discover that the issue won’t really be relevant over a long period of time, then give up the argument. It is more useful to keep the vision of a healthy relationship in mind as opposed to being right in the moment. Take 10 minutes to write down the things that you will now give up arguing about or disagreeing over. Giving in doesn’t mean that you’re losing, it means that you’ve got the bigger picture in mind. Of course, if it is something that will impact your lives in the long run, then it requires discussion in a respectful manner. If these trivial matters keep coming up, then make an agreement with each other to resolve them in a healthy way together.
4. Invest every single day
Imagine each relationship in your life is like a bank account. In order to keep it healthy, you need to deposit something into it on a regular basis. However, we often have responsibilities that pull us in different directions. Important relationships (such as those with a spouse or sibling) can become neglected. This will cause resentment from the other person over time. One healthy principle to adopt is to give something to your relationship daily (or as regularly as possible). Investing in your relationship can be anything from spending quality time with the other person, sharing your feelings, or doing something just for them. Your efforts will tell the other person that they are important. Feeling loved is not only your need, but it is theirs as well. Invest in that person, and insha Allah they will do the same.
Our relationships impact the quality of our lives tremendously. Keeping our relationships healthy takes time, energy, and a degree of self-awareness. I hope that you found these tips useful. Insha Allah by taking small steps we can enrich our relationships and our lives.
Sayeda Habib is a highly qualified professional coach. She coaches Muslim women to help them feel empowered and create results in their lives. She coaches clients one to one and also runs group workshops. She holds the Professional Certified Coach (PCC) credential issued by the International Coach Federation. She is the author of “Discover the Best in You: Life Coaching for Muslims.” She also contributes to various online and print publications. She has been featured in the media in various countries including Pakistan, the UAE and the United Kingdom. To find out more, log on to www.makelifehappen.com or email at Sayeda@makelifehappen.com