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How to Help a Self-Destructive Partner (and What Not to Do)

Whether it be through flowers, cards, special dinners, or nights out, it’s easy to acknowledge and celebrate a meaningful relationship, especially when it’s uncomplicated and fulfilling.

However, many people are in a relationship with a significant other grappling with some form of self-destructive behavior. This can manifest as an eating disorder, substance abuse, alcohol abuse, other kinds of addictive behaviors, or acts of self-mutilation such as cutting or burning.

If you relate to this from your own or a friend or relative’s experience, you’ll understand that there can be a deeper, even desperate desire to “fix” or “change” the partner in an attempt to help them stop the destructive behavior.

One of the most important things to come to terms with is the fact that no matter how much you love someone, you don’t have the power to make them give up a behavior they are not ready to relinquish. And no matter how much your partner loves you, it’s extremely difficult for them to let go of a self-harming behavior that provides short-term relief or a sense of numbing or self-soothing.

Typically, the self-destructive behavior is just the symptom of deeper, untapped, and unresolved issues that have not been identified, processed, or healed.

Although it’s understandable that your love and concern gets harnessed in an effort to “help” your partner, it actually can set you up for feelings of resentment, frustration, anger, and helplessness when all of your attempts inevitably don’t work. These efforts are always well meaning, but they are often fueled by desperation and anxiety. If your loved one is entrenched in their self-destructive act, they may misinterpret your passion about wanting them to be healthy as judgmental, critical, or motivated by anger. They may accuse you of not being supportive or not understanding their needs and their pain. They might try to rationalize their behaviors as they look for ways to make excuses for or justify what they do.

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Zakat eligibility of The FYI

The Family & Youth Institute, or The FYI, is a well-known Muslim organization in the United States. It works to promote mental health and wellness by strengthening and empowering individuals, families, and communities through research and education. It has been working for many years to bring Islamic perspectives to understanding and promoting mental health in our communities.

It is dedicated to serving and supporting Muslims – safeguarding our deen, our families, and our future generations. Therefore, the work of The FYI comes in the category of ‘fi sabeelillah’ or the Path of Allah, within the eight categories where Zakat money can be used.

Zakah expenditures are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed for it and for bringing hearts together [for Islam] and for freeing captives [or slaves] and for those in debt and for the cause of Allah, and for the [stranded] traveler – an obligation [imposed] by Allah, And Allah, is Knowing and Wise.”
(Al-Tawbah 9:60)

According to scholars who widen the meaning of fee sabeelillah to include any activities that promote Islamic growth, The FYI is indeed eligible to receive part of the Zakat funds for its programs and services. I urge Muslims in America to support this organization through their donations, general charity, and through their Zakat. I ask Allah swt to strengthen and guide The FYI to continue its good work in supporting Muslims.

Shaikh Ali Suleiman Ali, PhD

About Shaikh Ali

Sh. Ali Suleiman Ali was born in Ghana where he spent his childhood studying with various Muslim scholars. He then moved to Saudi Arabia and enrolled in the Islamic University of Madina.  He graduated with a degree in both Arabic and Islamic Studies. Dr. Ali went on to complete his Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Sh. Ali serves on the Advisory Council of The Family & Youth Institute. He is the Senior Imam and Director of the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton, Michigan. Additionally, he serves as the Director of Muslim Family Services in Detroit and is a council member of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA). He is also a member of the North American Imams Federation (NAIF) and the Association of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA).