As a general belief, the family seems to be a bond that we shouldn’t break but once in a while, it may be required for your own benefit and peace, to keep a distance from a specific relative.
What is a family?
In just a few words, the family defines us. It’s a significant part of who we are to the core. An interesting thing about families is that people can tolerate more bad than good, and even a strained relationship can still be considered satisfying for both people.
Families can be the ones who drive you nuts but are also there by your side in tough spots. Family members are the ones who’ve seen us at our best and worst, and the love is consistently and unconditionally there or should be. The key ingredients in a healthy relationship are acceptance, love, the ability to agree to disagree at times, and mutual respect without having to change or control each other.
A family isn’t about blood. It’s about who is willing to hold your hand when you need it the most.
A dangerous relationship can burn you out completely and affect your mental health and wellness. You should never compromise your mental, emotional or physical health for the sake of tolerating a toxic family member.
Before you start blocking a specific relative, it’s important to recognize the signs of a toxic one:
- They’re judgmental: Constructive criticism is healthy, but persistent, unwarranted criticism can deteriorate anyone’s self-esteem.
- They feed off drama: Have you ever turned to a family member for some personal advice? Yet, somehow after you’ve shared your most vulnerable moments with them and everyone in your family knows everything about your personal life.
- They gaslight you: If your family member continually claims they never said something, when you and everyone else knows they did, it might not seem that serious. However, this is a form of gaslighting, which is highly emotionally abusive behavior.
- They only talk to you when they need something from you: Often, they’ll go to you for advice or emotional comfort. But once you turn to them for support, they dismiss your needs or hold your personal information against you.
- They flip-flop between positive and negative reinforcement: They can lash out at you, yell and insult you. However, once you ignore them after this senseless attack, they’ll likely get you back into their trap by offering you false praise and support. These positive interactions are short-lived before this individual goes back to their manipulative behavior.
Although you might feel an innate impulse to keep your toxic family member in your life, especially if that family member is your parent, it’s important to understand that keeping a toxic person in your life will have damaging effects on your mental health.
Nevertheless, it’s okay if the toxic family member in your life never changes. Though you might become obsessed with getting them to change, this obsession can also negatively impact your mental health.
Just because someone shares some DNA with you they get to take your stuff? Call you names? Demean you? Sabotage your relationships and career?
It’s okay to say goodbye when—
- The relationship is physically or mentally abusive.
- It causes enough stress that it affects important areas of your life, like work or home life.
- You find yourself spending a lot of time thinking about the sour relationship and losing sleep over it.
- The relationship is one-sided when there is no valid reason why there isn’t some effort made by the other person.
- The relationship is only about borrowing money.
- The family member is taking you down with them or constantly demanding favors or asking you to bail them out of trouble.
- The person is using gossip to manipulate and control you or other family members against you.
- All contact with them is negative. They only call to bring you down and put you down, too.
- There are negative consequences every time this family member doesn’t get what they want from you.
- They play childish games—the silent treatment, blame games—and there is no talking to them.
Even after you distance yourself from that toxic person, it will still take time to recover from that abuse, and that’s okay, too. The family is a subjective term so you can form a new family from your supportive friends. Surrounding yourself with supportive people will help you reinforce the positive change that you need in your life.
After all, toxicity is noxious, and you don’t need that kind of behavior killing your mental health.