Male-bashing articles are notoriously en vogue, admittedly at times for valid reasons. From the outset, let me clarify this won’t be one of them. The difficulties faced in joining a man to a woman with previous (or more) relationship experience isn’t just a “Muslim male” problem, but a social phenomenon with dimensions that need to be picked apart carefully and understood so that practical solutions can be proposed on a case-by-case basis.
A more intellectually honest approach that doesn’t hop on the bandwagon of populist chest-thumping would force us to realize that firstly, this isn’t a male problem exclusively – it is often the case when Muslim men bring home the idea of marrying a woman with previous relationship experience, it’s mom and her gaggle of auntie ji’s who shut down the idea for cultural reasons. The same women who remained in dysfunctional marriages because society would call them out (as well as lack of support options post-divorce) are now among those causing the biggest ruckus, so very clearly this is beyond being just a male / female phenomenon, but a cultural phenomenon with dimensions coming from both scriptural interpretation as well as local customs which even the non-Muslims of those areas share.
Putting aside the cultural side of the discussion, there’s also the difficulty of Muslim male emotional insecurity. However, this isn’t just a “Muslim” male problem. It’s a male problem period for both Muslims AND non-Muslims. Do a Google search on emotional insecurity and you’ll find scores of sexually active non-Muslim men struggling with the idea that their partner has more relationship experience than they do. It’s not a “Muslim” problem, it’s a human psychology problem that requires a mentor-like approach which encourages personal growth, not yet another polarizing male-bashing article.
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I’ve read some noble attempts at getting brothers to marry our sisters with previous relationships with anecdotes like, “The man married the woman pretending he couldn’t see how disfigured she was due to his nobility of character,” which is great until you realize you’ve just explicitly said these women truly ARE damaged goods, and it’s our duty to marry them for the good of society. Which sister wants her marriage to be some well-intentioned brother’s community service pity project? I may be wrong, but I think ideally, our sisters want a husband who loves them for who they are, respects their humanity, and doesn’t consider them as some type of cultural, physical, or emotional liability which they take on “for the good of the team”.
My belief is we have to re-orient our cultural misgivings to the standard used by the Prophet (SAW) and the Companions and remove the cultural stigmas surrounding previously married sisters, but as with all types of ignorance, this is a type of daw’ah and daw’ah has to be done with wisdom, not anger, sarcasm, and pseudo-intellectual arrogance. Likewise, we have to invite our brothers to overcome their emotional insecurities with mercy and practical mentoring strategies based on solutions provided in our scriptural literature as well as what is beneficial in secular sources. The intent of this article is to touch on the former (the cultural side) while spending more time on the latter (the emotional side).
Many years ago I considered marrying a divorced practicing Muslim sister and found within myself unexpected insecurities. By the blessings of Allah, I was able to overcome them quickly and move on to seriously considering the sister for marriage. What I offer is my own thought process in overcoming issues such as these, and I would recommend using this as a complementary resource to whatever you find beneficial from Muslim or secular relationship counselors / experts.
1. Follow The Standard of the Messenger (SAW)
When any issue comes before me, the overarching principle that defines the direction I want to move is the attempt to find what it is that will be pleasing to Allah (SWT), and furthermore, what standards did He (SWT) convey to us either in the Qur’an directly or in the life of the Messenger (SAW)?
Among the evidences cited towards marrying only previously unmarried women is the question of the Prophet (SAW) to one Companion about why he did not marry a virgin woman, and the oft-quoted hadeeth regarding those who are martyred receiving 72 hoor al-‘ayn as reward.
What I’ve seen missing in that discussion is the life choices of the Prophet (SAW), and an understanding of those ahadeeth in light of his life since he is the paragon of Islamic practice – as Aisha (ra) mentioned, he was the walking Qur’an. His first wife, Khadijah bint Khuwalid, was a widow with children from a previous marriage, older than him (some narrations say 40, others say 28), a wealthy career woman, and the initiator of the marriage proposal.
This is extraordinary when you consider that The Prophet (SAW) at the time was 25, part of the most prestigious clan (Banu Hashim), a very handsome man, and well-respected by the community at large (he was known as al-Ameen, the truthful). He could have married any woman, and had there been any disgrace in marrying Khadijah, his uncle would have advised against it. To my knowledge it was never reported that people looked down on the Prophet (SAW) or made fun of him after Prophethood for this. If we look at his life in Madinah, except for Aisha all his wives had been previously married and had exited their marriages either due to their spouse’s passing or divorce. You may note that he also recommended marrying women who were fertile, yet he also married a woman who was likely not so (his second wife Sauda).
My takeaway from this is that while there may be some benefits in finding a partner without prior relationship experience, it’s most certainly not the only factor to look at, and the weight it’s sometimes given is disproportionate relative to more important variables (eg. Islamic practice, taqwa, character and manners, how attractive the person is, chemistry, chastity, life ambitions, child-rearing philosophy, worldliness, etc). I think there’s a need for us to re-calibrate our standards and realize that if Allah (SWT) doesn’t evaluate people by these standards, perhaps we ought to re-align ourselves accordingly.
If there was nothing wrong for the Prophet (SAW) in taking previously married wives, I don’t see how it should be a problem for the rest of us. He’s our example to follow, and we should proudly take from it.
2. Remove Your Doubts and Hers with Istikhara Prayer
Deciding on a partner for marriage is a daunting undertaking and there are far too many variables to consider, most of them too far out in the distant future for any but Allah (SWT) to see, so the best plan is to pray istikhara and take guidance from Allah (SWT) on the matter. The beautiful thing about istikhara is if the marriage works out, then any lingering insecurities can be shut down with, “And this is what Allah ordained for me, and this is what is best for me.” If things don’t work out, that’s good too, disaster averted. Share your decision with her, and let her know it was based on istikhara prayer.
Beyond this, when there are insecurities that come to mind, you can turn to Allah (SWT) to keep your heart firm on the guidance He’s given you and make du’aa for help in overcoming any mental roadblocks attempting to bar your way to happiness with this soulmate He (SWT) has chosen for you.
3. Take Control of the Inner Dialogue
Every single day, you will meet people who are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, wittier, and more skilled than you. If you allow your mind to dwell on your weaknesses vs their strengths, then you will always see yourself as the lesser person. What can be worse in this situation is dwelling on what is unknown, wondering if you are being compared unfavorably against someone else.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important you move forward only after feeling confident in your istikharah and making du’aa to Allah to help with your heart. Additionally, you should seek refuge with Allah from Shaytaan and his whispering. Beyond this you have to also tie your camel, and part of this is taking time alone to reflect on your fears and try to understand where they’re coming from.
Upon reflection, you may find that your mind is asking itself the wrong questions and answering with worst case scenarios, such as “What if I’m not as good as her previous husband?” and answering with “She will think me a lesser man.”
Part of solving this problem is taking control of that inner dialogue by asking yourself much better questions. If you’ve prayed istikharah and feel confident you’ve made the right decision, you might instead ask yourself, “How much barakah and love will Allah (SWT) place between us because we are doing this to please Him?” and you may start to imagine a scenario in your mind where your wife is wildly in love with you and you with her. The more often you do this, you’ll find your heart at ease, and the other question will become like a fly buzzing around your head, easily swatted away with du’aa to Allah (SWT) and the strong, positive emotions in your heart.
The ultimate confidence is knowing that Allah (SWT) supports you, and when you know that, you cannot help but imagine the best is yet to come, both in this life and the next, no matter the difficulties you encounter along the way.
In the end, the marriage with the divorced sister didn’t happen for me (she ended it) and we parted amicably for the sake of Allah (ok, so the first few days I was really disappointed, but it passed :)) and although I didn’t have to revisit the issue, I was thankful for the experience because I grew tremendously as a person and I gained an appreciation for the difficulty both women with previous relationship experience face in finding husbands and the difficulty some men may face in overcoming their own fears and insecurities.
If anyone were to ask me about a situation similar to mine, I’d tell them to not turn away the sister just because of their insecurities or cultural stigmas. If you find you have insecurities as I did, then take it as an opportunity for growth and work on overcoming them while seeking help from Allah (SWT). It may be that her previous relationship and the lessons from it is the means Allah (SWT) has chosen for both uniting you with her as well as teaching her, based on experiences from her previous relationship, to appreciate the good that you possess.
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7 Powerful Techniques For Keeping New Year’s Resolutions
Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks. Here are 7 powerful techniques to make sure you’re not one of them.
It’s the end of the year, and I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking – after wondering if New Year’s is halal to celebrate, you probably want to lose some weight, make more money, talk to family more, or be a better Muslim in some way. The New Year for many of us is a moment to turn a fresh page and re-imagine a better self. We make resolutions and hope despite the statistics we’ll be the outliers that don’t fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions.
Studies show the most common New Year’s resolutions revolve around finances and health. Unfortunately, they also show only a relatively small number will keep most or all of them. The rest will mostly fail within the first few weeks.
Given such a high failure rate, let’s talk about how you can be among the few who set and achieve your goals successfully.
1. Be Thankful to Allah
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Allah Gives You More if You’re Thankful
You’ve been successful this past year in a number of areas. Think of your worship, career, relationships, personality, education, health (physical, mental, social, and spiritual), and finances. Take a moment to reflect on where you’ve succeeded, no matter how trivial, even if it’s just maintaining the status quo, and be thankful to Allah for those successes.
When you’re thankful to Allah , He increases you in blessings. Allah says in the Qur’an:
“And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you give thanks (by accepting faith and worshipping none but Allah), I will give you more (of My blessings); but if you are thankless (i.e. disbelievers), verily, My punishment is indeed severe’” [14:7]
In recent years, there’s been more discussion on the benefits of practicing gratitude, though oftentimes it’s not clear to whom or what you’re to be grateful towards. We, of course, know that we’re not grateful simply to the great unconscious cosmos, but to our Creator.
Despite this difference, there exist interesting studies on how the practice of gratitude affect us. Some of the benefits include:
- Better relationships with those thanked
- Improved physical health
- Improved psychological health
- Enhanced empathy and reduced aggression
- Better sleep
- Improved self-esteem
- Improved mental strength
Building on Your Successes
In addition to being thankful to Allah , reflect on why you were successful in those areas. What was it you did day in and day out to succeed? Analyze it carefully and think of how you can either build on top of those present successes, or how you can transport the lessons from those successes to new areas of your life to succeed there as well.
In the book Switch by Dan and Chip Heath, they note that we have a tendency to try to solve big problems with big solutions, but a better technique that has actual real-world success in solving complex problems is to instead focus on bright spots and build on those bright spots instead. You have bright spots in how you’ve worked and operated, so reflect on your successes and try to build on top of them.
2. Pick One Powerful, Impactful Goal
Oftentimes when we want to change, we try to change too many areas. This can lead to failure quickly because change in one area is not easy, and attempting to do it in multiple areas simultaneously will simply accelerate failure.
Instead, pick one goal – a goal that you are strongly motivated to fulfill, and one that you know if you were to make that goal, it would have a profoundly positive impact on your life as well as on others whom you are responsible to.
In making the case based on scientific studies, James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, writes:
Research has shown that you are 2x to 3x more likely to stick with your habits if you make a specific plan for when, where, and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].”
Further down, he states:
“However (and this is crucial to understand) follow-up research has discovered implementation intentions only work when you focus on one thing at a time.”
When setting your goal, be sure to set a SMART goal, one that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Bound. “I want to lose weight” is not a SMART goal. “I want to achieve 10% bodyfat at 200 lbs in 9 months” is specific (you know the metrics to achieve), measurable (you can check if you hit those metrics), achievable (according to health experts, it can be done, realistic (it’s something you can do), and time-bound (9 months).
3. Repeatedly Make Du’a with Specificity
Once you lock onto your goal, you should ask for success in your goal every day, multiple times a day. Increasing in your du’a and asking Allah for success not only brings you the help of the Most High in getting to your goal, it also ensures it remains top of mind consistently.
A few of the best ways to increase the chances of a supplication being accepted:
- Increase the frequency of raising your hands after salah and asking for your intended outcome.
- Asking while you are in sujood during prayers.
- Praying and supplicating in the last 3rd of the night during qiyam ul-layl.
When you make your du’a, be specific in what you ask for, and in turn, you will have a specific rather than a vague goal at the forefront of your mind which is important because one of the major causes of failure for resolutions themselves is lacking specificity.
4. Schedule Your Goal for Consistency
The most powerful impact on the accomplishment of any goal isn’t in having the optimal technique to achieve the goal – it is rather how consistent you are in trying to achieve it. The time and frequency given to achievement regularly establishes habits that move from struggle to lifestyle. As mentioned in the previous section, day, time, and place were all important to getting the goal, habit, or task accomplished.
In order to be consistent, schedule it in your calendar of choice. When you schedule it, make sure you:
- Pick the time you’re most energetic and likely to do it.
- Work out with family, friends, and work that that time is blocked out and shouldn’t be interrupted.
- Show up even if you’re tired and unmotivated – do something tiny, just to make sure you maintain the habit.
A Word on Automation
Much continues to be written about jobs lost to automation, but there are jobs we should love losing to automation, namely, work that we do that can be done freely or very cheaply by a program. For example, I use Mint to capture all my accounts (bank, credit card, investments, etc) and rather than the old method of gathering receipts and tracking transactions, all of it is captured online and easily accessible from any device.
Let’s say you wanted to give to charity, and you wanted to give a recurring donation of $5 a month to keep MuslimMatters free – all you have to do is set up an automated recurring donation at the link and you’re done.
Likewise, if you’re saving money for a goal, you can easily do so by automating a specific amount of money coming out of your bank account into another account via the online banking tools your bank provides. You can automate bill payments and other tasks to clear your schedule, achieve your goals, and keep you focused on working the most important items.
5. Focus on Behaviors, Not Outcomes
We’re often told we should set up SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. However, one way to quickly fail a goal is by defining success according to outcomes, which aren’t necessarily in your hand. For example, you might say as above:
“I want to be at 10% body fat in 9 months at 200 lbs.”
This is a SMART goal, and it’s what you should aim for, but when you assess success, you shouldn’t focus on the result as it’s somewhat outside the scope of your control. What you can do is focus on behaviors that help you achieve that goal, or get close to it, and then reset success around whether you’re completing your behaviors. As an example:
“I want to complete the P90X workout and diet in 90 days.”
Here, you’re focused on generally accepted notions on behaviors that will get you close to your goal. Why? Because you control your behaviors, but you can’t really control the outcomes. Reward yourself when you follow through on your behavior goals, and the day-to-day commitments you make. If you find that compliance is good, and you’re getting closer to your goal, keep at it.
Read the following if you want to really understand the difference in depth.
6. Set Realistic Expectations – Plan to Fail, and Strategize Recovery
After too many failures, most people give up and fall off the wagon. You will fail – we all do. Think of a time you’ve failed – what should you have done to get back on your goal and complete it? Now reflect on the upcoming goal – reflect on the obstacles that will come your way and cause you to fail, and how when you do fail, you’ll get right back on it.
Once you fail, ask yourself, was it because of internal motivation, an external circumstance, a relationship where expectations weren’t made clear, poor estimation of effort – be honest, own what you can do better, and set about attempting to circumvent the obstacle and try again.
7. Assess Your Progress at Realistic Intervals
Once you’re tracking behaviors, simply mark down in an app or tracker that you completed the behavior. Once you see you’re consistent in your behaviors over the long-term, you’ll have the ability to meaingfully review your plan and assess goal progress.
This is important because as you attempt to perform the work necessary to accomplish the goal, you’ll find that your initial assessments for completion could be wrong. Maybe you need more time, maybe you need a different time. Maybe you need a different process for accomplishing your goals. Assess your success at both weekly and monthly intervals, and ask yourself:
- How often was I able to fulfill accomplish my required behaviors? How often did I miss?
- What was the reason for those misses?
- Can I improve what I’m doing incrementally and change those failures to successes? Or is the whole thing wrong and not working?
Don’t make changes when motivation dies after a few days. Don’t make big changes on a weekly basis. Set an appointment on a weekly basis simply to review successes and challenges, making small tweaks while maintaining the overall plan. Set a monthly appointment with yourself to review and decide what you’ll change, if anything, in how you operate.
Be something of a Tiger mom about it – aim for 90% completion of behaviors, or an A grade, when assessing whether you’ve done well or not. Anything below 90% is a failing grade.
(ok, so Tiger Moms want 100% or more, but let’s assume this is a somewhat forgiving Tiger Mom)
Putting it All Together
Set ‘Em Up
- First, take a moment to reflect and be thankful to Allah for what you’ve achieved, and reflect on what it is you’ve accomplished and what you’ve done in the way you worked and operated that helped you succeed.
- Next, pick one goal and one goal alone to achieve, and use the SMART goal methodology to be clear about what it is.
- Once this is done, make du’a with strong specificity on a regular basis during all times, and especially during the times when du’as are most likely to be accepted.
Knock ‘Em Down
- Schedule your goal into a calendar, making sure you clear the time with any individuals who will be impacted by your changed routines and habits.
- On a daily basis, focus on completing behaviors, not the outcomes you’re aiming for – the behaviors get you to the outcomes.
- Plan on failing occasionally, especially a week after motivation disappears, and plan for how you’ll bounce back immediately and recover from it.
- Finally, on a daily and weekly basis, assess yourself to see if you’re keeping on track with your behaviors and make adjustments to do better. On a monthly basis, assess how much closer you are to your goal, and if you’re making good progress, or if you’re not making good progress, and try to understand why and what adjustments you’ll make.
What goals do you plan to achieve in the coming year?
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I Encountered A Predator On Instagram
A predator on Instagram posing as a hijab modeling consultant, going by the name of @samahnation, tried to prey on me- an underage, 16-year-old. We don’t know if the photos on Instagram page have been stolen from a victim. These predators operate under various names.
It was a Wednesday night in April and as I was getting ready to go to bed, a direct message popped up in my Instagram inbox. A little background; my personal account on Instagram is private and it is rare that I let anyone, whom I do not know, follow me. But seeing that this was a grown “woman” with a baby and I had at least seven mutual friends, I let her follow me.
I will say, I was definitely in the wrong to respond to someone I didn’t personally know. Somehow I thought her 105K followers gave her credibility.
I was gravely mistaken.
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I opened the direct message.
She had sent me a message complimenting me. This wasn’t new to me because I often get messages with compliments about my appearance from friends — we are teenagers. However, the stark difference was that I didn’t know this person at all. (I came to learn that these types of messages can go under the category of grooming). After complimenting me, she asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.Many young women are targeted by predators on Instagram. Here is my story. 'After complimenting me, 'she' asked whether I had ever considered modeling for a hijab and abaya company.'Click To Tweet
I replied, saying that if I had more details I’d consult with my parents and give her an answer the next morning; to which she responded demanding she must have an answer the same night as she had other offers to make.
I then went to ask my mother. Mama was sick with the flu, quite woozy, but despite her state she said,
“this sounds like a scam to me…”.
I decided to play along with it and test her.
I told @samahnation to tell me more and how I could verify her and her company. She then sent me numerous copied and pasted answers —hecka long— about how I could trust her; how the company would pay me and how they will still make money in the meantime.
Thankfully, I was apprehensive during the entire ordeal, but as you can see, this type of manipulation is so real and possible for young women and girls to fall prey. This experience was honestly quite scary and jarring for me. I was so easily distracted by what she was portraying herself as on her profile. She had a GoFundMe for a masjid in her bio and posts of photos depicting her love for her baby.
I began to do some research. I stumbled upon an article about a ‘Hijab House’ model scam. Using the title of ‘consultant director’ for a well-known hijab company, Hijab House, predators were allegedly preying on young girls in Australia. Hijab House has denied any link to this scam.
The predator went as far as to blackmail and pressure their victims into sending nude photos, or doing crazy things like smelling shoes! Eerily enough, @samahnation’s Instagram bio stated that she was based in Melbourne, Australia.
The more I engaged with this predator, the more ludicrous their responses and questions got. And this happened within the span of 24 hours.
She went as far as to ask me if I would answer questions for a survey, saying all that mattered was honesty and that the purpose of the survey was to make me uncomfortable to see if I “won’t fall under pressure.”
Clearly, this last statement about being a speech analysis specialist was a complete fabrication. Again, may I reiterate that even older people can fall prey. You don’t have to be young and impressionable, these manipulative perpetrators will do anything to get what they want.
This was the last thing I said to the predator before I blocked and reported them in an attempt to get them caught. Observe how as soon as I called this person out they immediately became defensive and tried to manipulate me into thinking that what they were doing and asking me was completely normal- that I was the crazy one for asking for proof.
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. They had asked me questions I found too lewd to even answer or take screenshots of.
This bizarre encounter was honestly astonishing. I do not even know if I was talking to a man or a woman.
Alhamdullilah, I am so glad because even if I was a little bit gullible, I was aware enough about predatory behavior that I didn’t fall victim to this perpetrator. I am especially grateful for my mother, who has educated me about predators like this from a very young age; whom even in her drowsy state was able to tell me it was a preposterous scam.
I could have been blackmailed.
Talk to your parents or a trusted adult
I am grateful for having an open channel of communication, that my relationship with my mother is based on trust and I could go to her when this occurred. This is a reminder and a learning opportunity for all of us how these scary things can happen to anyone. We must learn how to take caution and protect ourselves and our (underage) loved ones against such situations.
Sis, please talk to your parents. They love you and will be your first line of defense.
Grooming is a very common tactic online predators use to gain the trust of their victim. According to InternetSafety101, young people put themselves at great risk by communicating online with individuals they do not know on a personal level. “Internet predators intentionally access sites that children commonly visit and can even search for potential victims by location or interest.
If a predator is already communicating with a child, he or she can piece together clues from what the child mentions while online, including parents’ names, where the child goes to school, and how far away the child lives from a certain landmark, store, or other location.
Online grooming is a process which can take place in a short time or over an extended period of time. Initial conversations online can appear innocent, but often involve some level of deception. As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship. Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate it to the child.”
These tactics lead children and teens to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer. After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex. Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behavior.
They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.
* Prey on teen’s desire for romance, adventure, and sexual information.
* Develop trust and secrecy: manipulate child by listening to and sympathizing with child’s problems and insecurities.
* Affirm feelings and choices of child.
* Exploit natural sexual curiosities of child.
* Ease inhibitions by gradually introducing sex into conversations or exposing them to pornography.
* Flatter and compliment the child excessively, send gifts, and invest time, money, and energy to groom the child.
* Develop an online relationship that is romantic, controlling, and upon which the child becomes dependent.
* Drive a wedge between the child and his/her parents and friends.
* Make promises of an exciting, stress-free life, tailored to the youth’s desire.
* Make threats, and often will use child pornography featuring their victims to blackmail them into silence.”
Another interesting observation I made is the clear gaslighting this pedophile was trying to perpetuate throughout my conversation with them. You may ask what is gas lighting?
According to Psychology Today, gaslighting is a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. “Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn’t realize how much they’ve been brainwashed. For example, in the movie Gaslight (1944), a man manipulates his wife to the point where she thinks she is losing her mind,” writes Dr Stephanie Sarkis.
Recognizing signs that you may be a victim of gaslighting:
Second guessing. Are you constantly second guessing yourself when talking to this person or questioning your own morals that you wouldn’t have thought twice about otherwise? For example, when this person popped up in my inbox I wouldn’t have thought twice about blocking or just deleting the message if it was a man but, since it seemed to be a woman I was duped into thinking that it was more acceptable or I could trust them more.
Feeling as if you are being too sensitive. Again I cannot emphasize this enough that you must trust your instincts, if you are feeling uncomfortable and your internal alarm bells are ringing- listen to them! Anyone can be a victim of gaslighting or manipulation.
Feeling constantly confused. Another sign that you may be falling victim to gas lighting is when you are constantly confused and second guessing your thoughts and opinions.
1. Trust your instincts (I’m going to reiterate this, always trust your gut feeling, if you feel like you are uncomfortable whether it’s a situation you are in or if you don’t have a good feeling while talking to a certain person I advise you exit the chat or don’t answer in the first place.)
2. Never answer to someone whom you don’t know. I will say this was my first and biggest mistake that I have made: allowing this person’s messages into my inbox, and replying to their ridiculous claims and questions. Now that I think about it I don’t even know if this was a woman or not.
3. Set your boundaries! This is probably the most important tip to take away from this article. Setting up your boundaries from the beginning is so important. Whether it is a friend, partner or colleague, if you do not set your boundaries from the beginning of your interaction or relationship with that person; people will not respect your limits and choices later on. Especially if your boundaries have to do with religion, moral compasses, or even specific pet peeves you have. I cannot emphasize how much boundaries matter when it comes to any daily interaction you may have in your daily life.
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How Grandparents Can Be Of Invaluable Help In A Volatile ‘Me First’ Age
I grew up in a small rural village of a developing country during the 1950s and 1960s within a wider ‘extended’ family environment amidst many village aunties and uncles. I had a wonderfully happy childhood with enormous freedom but traditional boundaries. Fast forward 30 years, my wife and I raised our four children on our own in cosmopolitan London in the 1980s and 1990s. Although not always easy, we had a wonderful experience to see them grow as adults. Many years and life experiences later, as grandparents, we see how parenting has changed in the current age of confusion and technology domination.
While raising children is ever joyous for parents, external factors such as rapidly changing lifestyles, a breath-taking breakdown of values in modern life, decline of parental authority and the impacts of social media have huge impacts on modern parenting.
Recently, my wife and I decided to undertake the arduous task of looking after our three young grandchildren – a 5½-year old girl and her 2-year old sibling brother from our daughter, plus a 1½-year old girl from our eldest son – while their parents enjoyed a thoroughly deserved week-long holiday abroad. My wife, who works in a nursery, was expertly leading this trial. I made myself fully available to support her. Rather than going through our daily experiences with them for a week, I highlight here a few areas vis a vis raising children in this day and age and the role of grandparents. The weeklong experience of being full time carers brought home with new impetus some universal needs in parenting. I must mention that handling three young grandchildren for a week is not a big deal; it was indeed a sheer joy to be with these boisterous, occasionally mischievous, little kids so dear to us!
- Establish a daily routine and be consistent: Both parents are busy now-a-days earning a livelihood and maintaining their family life, especially in this time of austerity. As children grow, and they grow fast, they naturally get used to the daily parental routine, if it is consistent. This is vital for parents’ health as they need respite in their daily grind. For various practical reasons the routine may sometimes be broken, but this should be an exception rather than a norm. After a long working day parents both need their own time and rest before going to sleep. Post-natal depression amongst mums is very common in situations where there is no one to help them or if the relationship between the spouses is facing difficulty and family condition uninspiring.
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In our trial case, we had some struggles in putting the kids to sleep in the first couple of nights. We also faced difficulties in the first few mornings when our grandson would wake up at 5.00am and would not go back to sleep, expecting one of us to play with him! His noise was waking up his younger cousin in another room. We divided our tasks and somehow managed this until we got used to a routine towards the end of the week.
- Keep children away from screens: Grandparents are generally known for their urge to spoil their grandchildren; they are more relaxed about discipline, preferring to leave that job to the parents. We tried to follow the parents’ existing rules and disciplinary measures as much as possible and build on them. Their parents only allow the children to use screens such as iPads or smartphones as and when deemed necessary. We decided not to allow the kids any exposure to these addictive gadgets at all in the whole week. So, it fell on us to find various ways to keep them busy and engaged – playing, reading, spending time in the garden, going to parks or playgrounds. The basic rule is if parents want their kids to keep away from certain habits they themselves should set an example by not doing them, especially in front of the kids.
- Building a loving and trusting relationship: From even before they are born, children need nurture, love, care and a safe environment for their survival and healthy growth. Parenting becomes enjoying and fulfilling when both parents are available and they complement each other’s duties in raising the kids. Mums’ relationship with their children during the traditional weaning period is vital, both for mums and babies. During our trial week we were keenly observing how each of the kids behaved with us. We also observed the evolution of interesting dynamics amongst the three; but that is a different matter. In spite of occasional hiccups with the kids, we felt our relationship was further blossoming with each of them. We made a habit of discussing and evaluating our whole day’s work at night, in order to learn things and plan for a better next day.
A grandparent, however experienced she or he may be, can be there only to lend an extra, and probably the best, pair of hands to the parents in raising good human beings and better citizens of a country. With proper understanding between parents and grandparents and their roles defined, the latter can be real assets in a family – whether they live under the same roof or nearby. Children need attention, appreciation and validation through engagement; grandparents need company and many do crave to be with their own grandchildren. Young grandchildren, with their innate innocence, do even spiritually uplift grandparents in their old age.
Through this mutual need grandparents can transfer life skills and human values by reading with them, or telling them stories or just spending time with the younger ones. On the other hand, in our age of real loneliness amidst illusory social media friends, they get love, respect and even tender support from their grandchildren. No wonder the attachment between grandparents and grandchildren is often so strong!
In modern society, swamped by individualism and other social ills, raising children in an urban setting is indeed overwhelming. We can no longer recreate ‘community parenting’ in the traditional village environment with the maxim “It needs a village to raise a child’, but we can easily create a productive and innovative role for grandparents to bring about similar benefits.
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