Being Married to a Toxic Spouse

By Zaheda Motala

Living with a toxic or narcissistic spouse can be an emotional roller coaster, where self-confidence is shattered, personal boundaries are constantly violated, and one’s sense of reality is distorted. 

Case Study

Sara was a pious and righteous 20-year-old girl who had always strived to please Allah. She had been married to Akbar, a successful businessman, whose charismatic presence had initially drawn her in. However, after the honeymoon ended, just in the first month of their marriage, Sara noticed that Akbar was consumed by his ego. He constantly sought praise and approval from her, and as much as she tried, she couldn’t please him.

Over time, Akbar’s behaviour grew increasingly toxic. His need for attention and validation manifested in verbal aggression towards Sara. He would belittle her, dismiss her opinions, and make her feel small and insignificant. Sara, always trying to keep the peace and salvage the marriage, silently endured the emotional torment, believing that she could somehow change\ Akbar or find a way to make the marriage work.

However, the constant emotional strain began to take its toll on Sara. She felt isolated, her self-esteem crumbling under the weight of Akbar’s toxic behaviour. She found herself withdrawing from her family and friends, feeling unable to share the truth of her suffering with anyone. Nights were spent in tears, silently praying pleading for guidance from Allah and relief from the pain of her situation.

It was during one visit that Sara’s mother asked her why Sara would not visit her for weeks on end, to which Sara’s tears flowed without restriction. Sensing her daughter’s distress, she knew something was wrong and intervened. Seeing the toll that the marriage was taking on Sara, she gently urged her to seek help. Understanding that seeking therapy was still stigmatised in some circles, especially in the context of marriage, Sara’s mother assured her that seeking professional guidance did not contradict their Islamic beliefs. She reminded Sara of the importance of mental and emotional well-being, and how seeking help when struggling was not a sign of weakness, but rather a proactive step towards seeking healing and peace.

Encouraged by her mother’s words, Sara found the courage to seek therapy. Through her sessions, she learned to recognize the signs of emotional abuse and manipulation. She discovered that the dynamics of her relationship with Akbar were deeply unhealthy and that she wasn’t alone in her suffering. She began to understand that her worth was not defined by Akbar’s words or actions and that she deserved to be treated with respect and kindness.

Her therapist, a kind and understanding woman, also helped Sara integrate Islamic teachings into her healing process. Together, they explored the concept of patience, not as a passive acceptance of abuse, but as a strength for healing. 

With the guidance of her therapist and the support of her mother, Sara found strength in Dua and Tahajjud Salaah. With a newfound sense of self-worth, she firmly expressed her boundaries and expectations for their marriage. 


While the road to healing was not easy, Sara began to set healthy boundaries to seek relief from the toxic grip of Akbar’s demeaning behaviour.

To begin with, she started doing the social work that she used to do before marriage. At first, Akbar resisted by saying, “There’s no need for you to work”. However, Sara explained to him politely but firmly, that it was not work but service to humanity. Helping others and putting a smile on people’s faces gave Sara inner peace. She returned home content and feeling accomplished. 

With time, Sara’s newfound assertiveness and self-respect began to shape the dynamics of her marriage with Akbar. While he initially resisted the changes, Sara’s unwavering commitment to her well-being began to influence Akbar’s behaviour. He gradually recognized the strength and resilience within Sara. 


What should one do if married to a spouse exhibiting toxic or narcissistic behaviours?:

1. Make dua to Allah Tala for protection against the harmful actions and intentions of a narcissist. 

2. Consider thinking of one’s spouse as a Ma’zhur (one who is excused by the Shariah due to an illness or excuse). Although they might not legally qualify as one, the perspective may help create an understanding in the mind.

3. Make Dua and ask Allah to help your spouse heal from their bad toxic traits. Continue to make Dua for them. 

3. Allah promises an increase in bounties for those who show gratitude. Therefore, shift the focus on the spouse’s good qualities and remain grateful to Allah for the goodness. 

4. Once in a while, feed your spouse’s ego by showering them with the compliments they want to hear. However, don’t over-exhaust yourself. Be genuine. 

5. Set healthy boundaries, with all due respect, where you don’t allow yourself to be trampled upon. 

6. Seek professional help from a learned Islamic Counselor. 

7. Strengthen your connection with Allah. 

8. Try to cope with your spouse’s behaviours by not taking them personally’ and putting a temporary shield between their behaviour and you. Suppose they belittle you by passing a nasty comment, then put a barrier between that comment and yourself and do something that brings joy to your heart like watering the plants, praying, or baking. 

9. Continue to pray this dua in abundance:

اللھم لا تسلط علینا من لا یرحمنا، ولا يخافك فینا

Allahumma laa tusalit alayna man laa yarhamna wa laa yakhaafuka feek

10. Recite this Ayah throughout the day – 

وَ اُفَوِّضُ اَمْرِیْۤ اِلَى اللّٰهِؕ-اِنَّ اللّٰهَ بَصِیْرٌۢ بِالْعِبَادِ

11. Please seek professional help and support especially if verbal abuse becomes physical. 


In the end, Sara’s story serves as a reminder that seeking help and guidance is not at odds with our Deen. Rather, they are essential tools in navigating the complexities of life and striving towards emotional and spiritual well-being. 

13 thoughts on “Being Married to a Toxic Spouse

  1. Olaniyi Aishat says:

    A very lovely write up, many Muslim women are going through depression and other mental Health illness( especially in my country) but refuse to seek professional guidance all in the name of not in line with Islam.

    jazakumallahu khayrah

    • Reem says:

      Salam Alaykoum, this is a very nicely written article, jazakum Allah Khayran. However, it feels more of a fictional story than a real life story with real examples of Sarah’s struggles and journey to stand up for herself. Another point is that I am afraid that a narcissistic man will not let go his territory with a simple explanation. When a woman defies such a man he will probably resort to physical violence… then it would be interesting to know how she deals with it

  2. Manaal A. Ahmad says:

    Ma Sha’Allah a beautiful piece of writing dealing with such a prevalant and neglected issue in our society. Most women are made to feel that it’s a part of responsibility of a wife to patiently suffer through such behavior. Not realizing that it’s zulm on her. Loved the way the author expressed it in a case study. I felt deeply connected. In Sha’Allah it’ll helpful for anyone going through such tough tests. May Allah make it easy. Ameen.

    JazakAllah Khairan for bring this up. 🫶🏻

    • Syeda samya Bokhari says:

      Essential topic, but lot has been left unsaid. A Narcissist would rather kick u out rather bowing down. Their head so full of themselves that they think they are never at loss. Secondly is emotional detachment a better form of sabr???

  3. Amany Osman says:

    Salem alaikum, it is very good article and a lot of these cases especially I find it in Arabic countries where men have high status in the family more than women. and yes, every word in the article was true but unfortunately by searching a lot about narcissism. It’s extremely hard that these people can change.
    One of the articles said yes he can change if he believes in something higher than him. For example He believes in Allah…

  4. Fatima Ismail says:

    Assalamu Alaikum, thank you for this write up. Indeed very much need to break the stigma of mental health and seeking professional help, in Muslim faith communities. This article is hopeful. I appreciate the optimism and focus on breaking the silence and receiving support from women self. Although it’s really not that easy. Once someone is empowered and assertive, a narcissist can try harder at other tactics to have power and control over the other. To change, requires insight and reflexivity. Allah bless you for your work.

  5. maryamou dieye says:

    Seeking help, accepting and exposing situations that are emotionnally draining our energy does not mean weakness in imaan. I like thi illustration will resonate and give confidence to open some intim bot hot boxes with lot of pressure we cannot handle.

  6. Sana Noorain says:

    Helpful points however I wouldn’t want to label him as toxic or narcissistic because that would block me from lovingly making those healing duas for him. *Your words create your world* as my dear respected Ustadh and Islamic Psychology Mentor Dr. Sadathullah Khan hafizahullah taught me. These minute things make a HUGE difference. *Separating the action from the person.*

    I’d reframe it as

    Being married to a wonderful spouse with some narcissistic tendencies

    *Whatever you resist persists.* when you label them as toxic, even good advice from them seems toxic.

    If you label them, you won’t be able to stay married “willingly” and you will feel like the martyr making sacrifices “for the sake of Allah” while looking down on a believer and eventually mirroring the same behavior as theirs.

    To understand better I highly recommended Dr. Sadathullah Khan’s workshops and retreats (

    just my opinion from my limited knowledge and experience of 9yrs in the field of Islamic Psychology. Wallahu Alam 🙂

  7. Mazin Abdul-Adhim says:

    The problem with articles like this is it creates a similar mindset as an article titled “10 ways to prove that your spouse is cheating on you” would. These articles might apply to some people, but many people who they *don’t* apply to will get caught in the undertow. The problem is you are giving them tools to be suspicious or accusatory, which sows division in a marriage instead of tranquility and reconciliation. Now, anything he does that she doesn’t like is him being toxic or narcissistic or abusive.

    Words like narcissist and toxic are thrown around recklessly these days by anyone wanting to talk about relationships or men in general, and will often cause more harm than good. Most people are terrible at psychology and assessing others psychologically, so when you give them these loaded nuclear weapons and send them out into the field, all you’re doing is risking them blowing themselves up and everyone around them.

    Now, after acquiring these labels, the reader will look for reasons *why* they apply, not *if* they apply. So, anytime the husband displays dominance in the home, he’s being toxic; if he argues and is better at winning arguments, he is a narcissist. And so on.

    Articles like this must be prefaced with context and caveats. Something like “It is important to know that such and such qualities does not mean someone is a narcissist or toxic” or “Being unhappy in a marriage does not mean your spouse is necessarily the problem, maybe you play a role in his/her behaviour too” or “We should not look to fit our spouse under a title to simplify things and make ourselves out to be the victim, rather these details are only there to help those who it might apply to” and so on.

    That is one way to balance the article and give better perspective. But even then it can still cause issues. Generally, we should avoid using these terms when discussing relationships with Muslims. We should use reconciliatory terms that promote working together instead of pitting men against women and vice versa – as the morally and psychologically sick West constantly does.

    This is aside from the fact that this seems like a made up story, as it contradicts itself. First he is a cliche controlling, toxic, narcissist, but then she heroically “firmly” tells him she is going to continue volunteering – when a real controlling narcissist would never allow that. The house would become a war zone until he gets his way. So, the contradiction is in that he really wasn’t a narcissist in the first place, as he allowed her to continue doing what she needed to feel good about herself instead of him making it about her disobeying him – as a real narcissist would. It gives a false image of what it is like to deal with a narcissist, as if standing up for yourself is enough, because it isn’t. You can’t win with a real narcissist. He or she gets their way, period, or they will fight forever until they win or destroy the relationship, and even then they won’t stop trying to harm the ex, because to a narcissist simply disagreeing with them is an insult, regardless of who or what is right or wrong.

    The bottom line is real narcissists are extremely rare. Most people are just argumentative or stubborn or have a bad temper or other similar issues. These are much simpler and easier to deal with and potentially fix. To label them all – especially aggressive/dominant individuals – as narcissists is to try to impose passive, agreeable, submissive qualities upon people who are naturally aggressive, disagreeable, and dominant – all of which are good qualities when managed according to the guidelines of Islam.

    I hope this doesn’t come across as overly critical. But as Muslims involved in the realm of psychology, we must be careful and make Western psychology the *subject* of our thinking, not the *source* of our thinking. In other words, the West’s perspective on psychology should be something we are always critical and cautious of, not use it as a guide or take as a model. They are very unhealthy psychologically, and are in a severe state of social decline. Islam is the cure for their relationships and our relationships, not the other way around.

  8. Aneeqah says:

    I appreciate that in our society and communities people are more open to seeking help, guidence and knowledge. And to search to knowledge and help that aligns with both Islamic principals, as well as mental and emotional wellbeing.
    I admire that the personal task of the wife was not aimed at “villainising” the spouse, but rather at healing herself, mashallah, in order to grow and become unstuck in her situation, and, possibly inspire healing and growth withing the spouse as well. Which happen in the case study, Alhamdulillah.
    I do however find the labeling of ‘narcissist’ to be an unhealthy trend, set by pop-psychology. Narcissm is a complex disorder that ranges on a spectrum and doesn’t mean that the labeled person is an abusive villain. Many of undiagnosed people display some narcissistic tendencies, yes, but I do feel that the label itself being abused these days, particularly for “the husband’s we don’t like”.

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