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Toxic Family Members: What to Do About Them

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Do you have toxic family members? The folks who make you feel worse and worse every time you talk to them? You need to read this.

Most of the time, a family is bursting with support and love for each other. For example, grandparents make our lives so much better. If your kids are lucky enough to be surrounded by grandparents, they will be all the better for it.

Toxic Family Members: What to Do About Them

Toxic Family Members

There may be relatives in your life right now that are causing you to feel almost constant upset and stress. Whether it’s a parent, sibling, cousin, or that weird uncle everyone tries not to sit by at the family reunions, people we’re related to can hurt us pretty badly.

Let me give you an example. 

Once upon a time, there was a woman who had two sisters. One sister was awfully good to her. She always had her back. When the woman’s husband cheated on her, her sister asked for permission to beat him up and leave his head on the lawn as a warning to other cheating husbands.

Even though the woman declined her offer, she absolutely believed her sister. She would defend her to the end. Those kinds of sisters are everything. If you have one, call her right now and thank her. (READ: 7 Reasons Sisters Are the Best Ever.)

The other sister? Not so much. She seemed to almost take pleasure in the drama. Somehow she finds a way to make the situation even more painful. She brings up the woman’s past failed relationships. She reports seeing the husband laughing and having a good time with his new person.

In short, her superpower is the ability to make people feel bad about themselves. Are there people in your family like this?

How to know whether you have toxic family members.

It’s one thing to occasionally say or do the wrong thing. We’ve all done that! But, it’s so much more than that with toxic family members. Here are some things to watch for.

1. If you don’t do what they want you to do, they get angry and criticize. They don’t understand, won’t understand, and aren’t interested in your reasons.

2. They report things you do to other family members. Because of them, your Grandmother knows you had one too many drinks at girl’s night.

3. They call your names either to your face or behind your back. You would think that adults stopped calling people names when they graduated from middle school. Unfortunately for you, your relative didn’t get the memo.

4. No one does ‘passive-aggressive’ better than they do. These are the folks who post things on Facebook like, “Some people shouldn’t think they’re better than everyone else. Just saying.” They aren’t brave enough to speak to you directly. They show their jealousy on social media hoping you’ll read what they say and feel bad.

5. They are sicker than you, sadder than you, and they hurt more than you. I don’t even have to explain this one. If there are people in your life that do this, you’re well aware of it.

Do you have the right to remove toxic family members from your life?

The short answer is yes. You have the absolute right to cut out anyone who makes your life miserable just by virtue of their connection to you.

This is your life, and not to be a party pooper, but you only get one. How do you want to spend it? Encircled by people who are good to you, or by people who make you feel bad every time you speak to them?

There are plenty of people who will tell you that you should never cut family members from your life. If that’s your opinion, that’s what you should do. Always be true to your own conviction! But please find other ways of protecting yourself from the damaging emotional erosion they can cause.

How do you remove family members from your life?

Draw a hard line. If you feel miserable, and talking it out hasn’t worked, perhaps you should simply close down the channels of communication. Block phone numbers and social media accounts.

Have a conversation. Talk about how you feel. Listen to how they feel. Discuss what the two of you can do to make it better.

Draw hard lines. You don’t have to answer the phone when they call. Voicemail can be your go-between. You don’t have to share your personal life with them. You are under no obligation to include them in anything you do.

We wish you luck and hope you’ll share your own experience with us. How do you handle toxic family members?

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2 comments

  1. WOW! WHAT A GREAT READ!!

  2. I do not agree with completely cuttingba family member out of your life, unless you have exhausted all means of trying to work things up. Too many people these dsys just give up and slam the door on parents, grandparents, sisters, children etc….
    And so many therapists are relling their patients to remove toxic family members when they havent heard the other side of the story.
    I speak from experience. I have 2 adult children. They had a wonderful stable loving childhood, growing up around wonderful grandparents, aunts, cousins etc. .. we have been married 32 years.
    Both children were a delight, we all had so many wonderful memories.
    My daughter went thru a very bad relationship with a boyfriend that had addictions. They broke up and i encouraged her to go into therapy. I offered to go with her. She lives 1500 miles away but we were still very close, tslking daily by ohone and 100 texts.
    Her therapist encouraged her to cut her whole family out of her life. He told her that we were the cause of her anxieties, and especially me in particular! She is 27 and this happened 3 yesrs ago. We all reached out to her in live and asked what was wrong, did any of us say or do anything etc??? No eesponse.
    She walked away from her entire family and childhood.
    Cutting a loving family entirely out of her lufe? No! There was no abuse, no drinking, no fighting. We have no idea other than the breakup with the botfriend. She finished college and is happily married. No kids yet. There is no explanation…..?