5 Tips: How to Deal with Manipulative Family Members

12 May, 2020
Q Assalamualaikum! My cousin with her family live upstairs.

When my cousin started going to university she kept borrowing my new clothes. Even the ones that I hadn't worn yet but still I gave it to her without saying anything. As I knew she couldn't afford new clothes every month.

Anyways, One day I wanted to put nail polish as I was on my period and I didn't have one so I went upstairs and my cousin was sitting on her bed talking with her friend on call.

I tried to open her glass cupboard in front of her and took the nail polish, she immediately told me to always ask her before taking anything.

I was taken aback since I never said anything to her like that ever but I didn't reply to her and simply put her nail polish back and went home.

Everything was going normal until that day. I slept early at night and my cousin had to go to a party the next day, so she and her mother (my aunt) came downstairs and opened my locked cupboard and took whatever they needed.

I got to know about it when I woke up. The next day they returned all things back to me after using them.

I just said that ask me first before taking anything.(same thing that she had said to me, nothing more).

After this incident the whole family ( my aunt and her daughter) stopped talking to me and it's been more than 3 months that nobody is talking with me.

Should I go for reconciliation or should I give some more time ? what is my fault in this matter ?

I just treated her the way she did to me and now her whole family is acting as if I am a rude person.

I feel like I have committed a crime? what should I do to stop thinking about it?


In this counseling answer:

Setting boundaries is very important, in any healthy relationship.

Communication is an essential part in any relationship.

Using “I-statements” to communicate is a powerful tool.

Look out for other manipulative tactics.

Recognize when negativity starts affecting on a deeper level.

Assalam alaykum, 

In your post, you have mentioned that your cousin has been borrowing clothes from you without your permission, even the ones that were brand new. You never said anything to her.

However, when you wanted to use your cousin’s nail polish, your cousin made a fuss of it, and told you to ask her permission before using any of her things.

Afterwards, she and her mother took your clothes again from the cupboard while you were sleeping, and when you told her to ask permission before taking your things – the family stopped talking to you.

You have mentioned that it has been three months and the family is still not talking to you, and it bothers you. You want to know if you should reconcile with them, and also how to stop thinking about the incident. 


Firstly, it is apparent that your cousin has been crossing boundaries for a long time; and you have kept quiet for the sake of relationship / friendship. On the other hand, when the time came for her to return the favor – i.e., you wanted to borrow something from her – she was rude and unfair. 

When you responded to her in a similar way – she and her mother started making you look like the “criminal”. When in fact, it was them who were borrowing your clothes without permission. And to make matters worse, they have not been speaking to you for 3 months. 

Sister, you definitely have every right to tell anyone to ask for your permission before using your things, and you have not done anything wrong.

The discomfort you are feeling is natural; because you are being held accountable even when you were not the one who was in the wrong. It is up to you whether you want to hold your ground, or be the first one to reach out to them.

The way they are responding to your objection is by being passive-aggressive. I feel there are a few things you need to look out for in this relationship and perhaps generally in your other relations as well. 

5 Tips: How to Deal with Manipulative Family Members - About Islam

Set Explicit Boundaries

Setting boundaries is very important, in any healthy relationship. Setting healthy boundaries helps you understand, identify, and communicate. To others what things and behaviors of others are acceptable for you and what are not. For example, you can let your family members know that you do not like or want them to be going through your cupboard when you are not around.  

Think about and make a list of things that annoy you about other people. Reflect on why these things annoy you or affect you negatively. You can then express these feelings to the people who affect you the most, for instance, in this situation your cousin and aunt. 

Be Assertive

Communication is an essential part in any relationship. Don’t be afraid to communicate your feelings to your cousin. Tell her that you did not mean to offend her in any way, when you asked her to not take your clothes without your permission. 

You can also communicate to her that you have never had an issue before about taking your things, but you felt hurt by her gesture when she told you off for taking her nail polish. 

You can also communicate to her that you feel uncomfortable for being held in a spot without undue reason, since you have a right to tell her whether she can use your things or not. 

Use “I-Statements” To Communicate

Using “I-statements” to communicate is a powerful tool. It makes you take responsibility for your feelings and actions, without making the other party feel as though you are blaming them for something.

Using “I statements” allow you to fully acknowledge and communicate your own feelings to the other party. For instance, in the situation you are currently facing.

One example of an I statement communication can be saying to your cousin, “I don’t know what I did wrong, that you have not been speaking for three months.” or “I feel uncomfortable that you are not talking to me, can we talk about it?” 

These could be good ways for opening up the conversation about the issue – and even when the argument pursues , make a conscious effort of not turning it into a blame game. (for example, you did this, so I did this). 

Check out this counseling video:

Look out for other manipulative tactics 

To me, what you have mentioned about the behavior of your cousin and aunt – already seems like a big red flag, for manipulation. Therefore – be sure to look out for such maneuvers in future as well.

From what I can tell, your aunt and as well as your cousin may already be having a pattern of using this type of manipulation in their relationships to get things done their way. But this does not mean that you have to bow down to them or succumb to their whims.   

Just be aware of how they relate to you, as well as other people in the family. Your awareness will keep you one step ahead, if they are using any manipulative tactics in future as well. 

Don’t Let the Negativity Overrule You

I know that this is easier said than done, and we all do get affected by negativity to varying degrees. But it is important to be aware of it, and recognize when negativity starts affecting us on a deeper level.

For instance, if you keep thinking or ruminating about any negative experience; you will keep going in circles. Further, unconsciously, you will also be magnifying the event over and over in your mind. 

Getting stuck in pessimism or negativity also takes a very heavy toll. And eventually it will affect your ability to function well within the family and also in other areas of your life.

Therefore, I think it is important to be aware of what this negative interaction feels like – but also know that it does not define who you are.

Even if your aunt and cousin choose not to talk to you – you have the power to choose over how much you want to let it affect you. Know that you have a right to choose healthy relationships and let go the ones that become and feel too heavy to carry. 

Wish you all the best. 



Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees are liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

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About Zainab Farrukh
Zainab Farrukh is a Counseling Psychologist. She is deeply inspired to bring about change at the individual, interpersonal and global levels.  She can be reached on her Facebook page – Thrive Now