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Linda D.
Linda D., Psychotherapist, LMSW, CASAC
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 710
Experience:  LMSW, CASAC
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I am 38 and have strict Muslim parents. I have been dating a

Customer Question

I am 38 and have strict Muslim parents. I have been dating a non Muslim man who has been divorced and has 2 children. They have ostracized me for doing so and none of my family members will speak to me. How should I approach this situation?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Linda D. replied 1 year ago.

Hello Amina, my name is ***** ***** I am a licensed psychotherapist/family therapist in private practice in New York State. Thank you for using just Answer, I am glad you reached out. I know this must be very difficult for you to have your family who you love upset and not speaking to you. However, it is important in your development as an adult that you do not react to their behavior and compromise your own beliefs and what you feel is best for you. I am going to compose some ideas based in the goals of family therapy for you in one moment. You can feel free to ask me more questions at any point. Linda

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you. I will await any other help you may provide in coping with not having them in my life
Expert:  Linda D. replied 1 year ago.

In family therapy we encourage individuals to be self differentiated from their family of origin. The emotional and mental health of a person is often a reflection on this concept. Here is a description of what I mean:

People with a poorly differentiated “self” depend heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others or they dogmatically proclaim what others should be like and pressure them to conform.

A person with a well-differentiated “self” recognizes her realistic dependence on others, but you can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotions. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family issues, making you less at the mercy of your feelings in the moment. What you decide and what you say matches what you do. You can act selflessly, but your acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures.

Expert:  Linda D. replied 1 year ago.

Essentially, what i am saying is that it is important that you respect and honor your families values/beliefs/faith, but even more important that you do not react emotionally to their behavior toward you. If you have rationally thought through your decision to be in a relationship with your boyfriend then it is important that you calmly respect, honor and stand by your decision. You can write them a letter and let them know that you love them, respect them and miss them in your life. However, this is the person that you have chosen to build a relationship with.

Expert:  Linda D. replied 1 year ago.

From a family therapy view point what they are doing is called an emotional cut off and can be a very destructive way of handling conflict. You can stay engaged through letters, cards, whatever way you are comfortable. And take it one day at a time. You may want to go online and read more of Bowen's family system theory. It addresses self differentiation from family of origin and emotional cutoffs. You are not responsible for the feelings of your family members. You are responsible for your own development and happiness. What I have seen in my practice is that in time family members will usually work out these differences. Does what I have shared with you make sense? Do you have any questions?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That is very helpful. It has impacted my relationship as well. To give you an idea both my boyfriend and I are highly educated professionals in good financial standing. I'm 38 and he is 45. His kids are 10 and 12. They are good kids. We have been dating for a year and a half. I have started to interact with the children. It is overall a healthy situation. Their behavior has affected my relationship. I don't know how to remain present in it and not be sad about losing my family.
Expert:  Linda D. replied 1 year ago.

I know, and unfortunately it is a loss. Have there been any other situations in your life where they cut you off emotionally like this?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
No, this is the very first time. It has been incredibly taxing for me
Expert:  Linda D. replied 1 year ago.

Yes, I am sure it has been and yet, the relationship you have been building with your partner sounds healthy and filled with potential for the two of you and the children. I would recommend that you consider seeing a therapist, possibly short term (6 - 8 sessions) who specializes in family therapy, to process this family dynamic. The therapist would be someone neutral to minimize the effect that your conflictual feelings may have on your partnership. You may also be able to do some problem solving on how to approach your family in the future when they may be ready to reconnect with you. Do you think that would be helpful?

Expert:  Linda D. replied 1 year ago.

Amina, I hope the information and suggestions I have made here tonight will be helpful to you. Thank your for letting me be a part of your journey. I wish you, your partner and the children all the best, ***** ***** in the future. I will be meeting with a patient for the next 90 minutes, but please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. And I would truly appreciate it if you would take a moment to rate my service to you. Sincerely, ***** ***** CASAC