Most of understand how family relationships can sometimes prove a little complex.
However, while disagreements are totally normal, it’s important to know the difference between a little family feud and a straight-up toxic family member.
Alexandria Deas, is a licensed therapist and the owner of the practice Wisdom Meets Beauty. She says:
“It’s difficult to get clarity on whether or not an individual is toxic.
The concept is easier to understand if you think about toxic interactions.
And surprise surprise, toxic interactions = a toxic relationship.”
This article explores some of more common feelings that people experience when dealing with toxic family members.
And some tips on how to handle them.
You Don’t Like Being Around Them
If you feel any of the following when you spend time with this person, you may have a toxic family member on your hands.
You dread being around them no matter the occasion.
Your interactions leave you feeling unseen or weak.
The way they treat you and others is unsettling.
They guilt trip you during conversations.
They make you feel unsettled being in the same room as them.
You Have Consistent Blowups
Some conflict is totally normal when it comes to family life. That said, when you have a toxic relationship with a family member, even the smallest disagreements can turn into a major argument.
Tracy Ross, a family-focused counsellor explains:
“There’s a feeling you have to walk on eggshells so you don’t trigger a fight.
But try as you may, you can’t always predict what might set them off.”
Toxic family members may also engage in the following:
They take everything you say personally.
Your fights are a result of personal issues and not misunderstandings.
You feel like you’re walking around grenades when you’re around them.
They make personal attacks on your character during the argument.
They display active contempt for you.
Their behaviour toward you is extremely controlling and hypercritical.
So now you’ve identified a toxic relationship you have with a family member.
And because you don’t want to live with the mental and emotional burden, it’s time to consider some possible steps to take.
Your approach will likely fall into three categories, depending on the severity of the toxic family member in your life.
Set Boundaries And Limit Your Interactions
Deas says that as long as your personal safety isn’t threatened, you should be wary of cutting people out completely.
“The cut-off is the most severe consequence that one can enforce for a boundary violation.
If the relationship is important to you, it might be worth exploring less drastic options.”
The following are some tactics you may wish to consider.
Refuse to discuss certain topics with this family member. Leave the room calmly if you need to.
Limit conversations to specific settings or lengths of time.
If things usually get heated limit yourself to ten minutes of small talk.
Insist that all interactions with this family member is on your own terms.
Have these interactions on your own home turf, or on theirs so you can leave whenever you want.
Take a little me-time to figure out what works best for you.
Work It Out With A Third Party
Sometimes a situation requires more than just talking it out with your toxic family member on a one-to-one basis.
If you believe there’s any chance or hope of improving your relationship, you may wish to consider seeking the help of professionals.
In which case….
Invite your relative to attend regular family counselling sessions with you.
Ask them to go to a workshop with you to work on their bias or prejudice issues.
If you feel they need one encourage them to see a therapist on their own .
Cut Communication Completely
A relative should *never* violate your sense of safety or consistently disregard your boundaries. Abuse is a serious issue, and if that’s what you’re dealing with, there’s no shame in walking away.
Remember: It’s not your responsibility to ‘save’ this kind of person or keep them in your life, and you did nothing to ‘deserve’ the way they treated you.
“Ultimately, you get to choose the people in your life,. You don’t need a reason or permission to cut someone off if you think it is in your best interest to do so.”
Still, it can be incredibly hard (and scary) to cut a toxic family member out of your life.
Here are some tips that might help you on this journey.
If there is a threat of violence, cut off all communication:
Block them on social media.
Block their number.
Don’t invite them to family gatherings.
Reach out to a trusted friend or family member and ask them to help you navigate the situation.
See a therapist who can help you end the relationship safely.
If any of the above sounds familiar to you in your relationship, then you’re probably going to need a big dose of help from either a therapist, a friend or a support group.
These resources can help you to get the outside perspective you need to reinforce your own judgment.
They can also be your source of truth and help you to understand that your thoughts and beliefs are, in fact, correct.
And with that kind of outside perspective, you can begin to trust yourself again.
I thank you for reading and hope you come back soon. I leave you now with John Lennon’s rendition of Real Life… enjoy.
Peace and Tranquility.
Author: Michael W.
Special Thanks to