For any relationship, such as marriage, a sibling relationship, or a parent-child relationship, to flourish and be sustainable, each party must have these three things:
First, you have to know yourself and who you really are. What your weaknesses are and how to offset them. Just being aware of your issues, your needs, and genuine feelings aren’t going to solve all problems. But the first step of solving *any* problem is recognizing that a problem exists.
So the first step of having a solid relationship is knowing yourself and not being in denial about who you are.
Secondly: it’s not enough to know yourself and your issues. You also have to have enough honesty to own them. To acknowledge what your problem areas are and not try to deflect or dodge them. To accept reality, which involves you not being perfect.
This requires radical honesty with yourself *and* others. Sometimes when we find out some undesirable parts of ourselves that had hitherto been hidden, we are reluctant to admit it. We don’t, especially like that we’ve discovered that we crack under pressure, or that we have trouble maintaining healthy boundaries, or that we sometimes operate out of jealousy, or that we have a deep-seated fear of abandonment, or whatever it is we’re just now uncovering of our personalities.
But without honesty, we have only illusions. We aren’t being our genuine, authentic selves because we refuse to see or acknowledge certain parts of ourselves that make us uncomfortable. We close our eyes to reality because we don’t like it.
But closing your eyes to something, as young children do, doesn’t make it go away.
Thirdly: after recognizing who we are and having enough honesty to admit it, we need to be able to communicate these things to the other person in the relationship. This is so they know how we work– so that we can find a way to work together.
You have to find a way to say honestly, “Look, these are my flaws, my weaknesses, my fears. How can we find a way to work together through these issues? These are my needs; how can we meet them?”
This is a two-way street, of course. Each person gets to state their needs and have the other meet them. Each person gets to sacrifice a bit to meet the other halfway, in a seamless rhythm of healthy give and take.
This is how compatibility can be achieved.
This is the foundation of bonding, the basis of any strong relationship.
When Musa عليه السلام was commanded by Allah to go confront Fir`awn, he said,
وَأَخِي هَارُونُ هُوَ أَفْصَحُ مِنِّي لِسَانًا فَأَرْسِلْهُ مَعِيَ رِدْءًا يُصَدِّقُنِي ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ أَن يُكَذِّبُونِ
“My brother Aaron is more eloquent in speech than I: so send him with me as a helper to confirm my truthfulness for I fear that they will reject me as a liar.” (Surat Al-Qasas, 34)
Musa عليه السلام was extremely self-aware, knowing exactly what his areas of strength and weakness were, and he had the honesty and integrity to acknowledge it, and he clearly communicated it.
When Yusuf عليه السلام told his dad, Ya`qub عليه السلام , his dream, Ya`qub replied,
قَالَ يَا بُنَيَّ لَا تَقْصُصْ رُؤْيَاكَ عَلَىٰ إِخْوَتِكَ فَيَكِيدُوا لَكَ كَيْدًا ۖ إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لِلْإِنسَانِ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
“He said, “O my son, do not relate your vision to your brothers or they will contrive against you a plan. Indeed Satan, to man, is a manifest enemy.” (Surat Yusuf, 5)
The wise father, Ya`qub عليه السلام , was fully aware of the personality traits of his elder children, and as much as it pains any parent to be forced to admit such deep-seated issues even mentally to themselves, he communicated these issues to his young son with clear-eyed honesty.
People who are unable to do this cannot operate in healthy relationships or sustain true bonds. They often sabotage the relationship with their delusions, their refusal to accept reality, or their inability to communicate.
And these types of people cause a lot of pain and heartbreak to themselves and others. Instead of taking responsibility for their issues and apologizing, they instead blame and destroy others.
The wife of the Egyptian Aziz (minister) tried to seduce Yusuf عليه السلام. When she got called out on her unrestrained lust, she refused to acknowledge her mistake and simply got Yusuf thrown in jail instead.
It was only many, many years later that she finally was able to have the self-awareness and honesty to admit her own faults, saying,
قَالَتِ ٱمْرَأَتُ ٱلْعَزِيزِ ٱلْـَٔـٰنَ حَصْحَصَ ٱلْحَقُّ أَنَا۠ رَٰوَدتُّهُۥ عَن نَّفْسِهِۦ وَإِنَّهُۥ لَمِنَ ٱلصَّـٰدِقِينَ
ذَٰلِكَ لِيَعْلَمَ أَنِّى لَمْ أَخُنْهُ بِٱلْغَيْبِ وَأَنَّ ٱللَّهَ لَا يَهْدِى كَيْدَ ٱلْخَآئِنِينَ
وَمَآ أُبَرِّئُ نَفْسِىٓ ۚ إِنَّ ٱلنَّفْسَ لَأَمَّارَةٌۢ بِٱلسُّوٓءِ إِلَّا مَا رَحِمَ رَبِّىٓ ۚ إِنَّ رَبِّى غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ
“…The wife of al-ʿAzeez said, “Now the truth has become evident. It was I who sought to seduce him, and indeed, he is of the truthful.
That is so he will know that I did not betray him in [his] absence and that Allah does not guide the plan of betrayers.
And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”” (Surat Yusuf, 51-53)
Another example is the brothers of Yusuf. They didn’t have enough self-awareness to recognize their jealousy, insecurities, and deficits. They instead decided that they hated Yusuf and that their dad, who loved Yusuf, must be confused. Instead of recognizing their own issues, they simply projected all blame and fault onto Yusuf and decided to kill him or leave him for dead.
It was only decades later that their crime was uncovered, and they finally were forced to admit their issues:
قَالُوا۟ تَٱللَّهِ لَقَدْ ءَاثَرَكَ ٱللَّهُ عَلَيْنَا وَإِن كُنَّا لَخَـٰطِـِٔينَ
“They said, “By Allah, certainly has Allah preferred you over us, and indeed, we have been sinners.”” (Surat Yusuf, 91)
It was only after that moment, after their emerging from their state of self-delusion and denial, that the broken ties could be mended.
Any relationship worth having must contain these three elements: self-awareness, honesty, and communication.
Otherwise, the relationship can’t last.