This is an important post. The most important post that I’ve written here on the blog. It’s also a labyrinth of a situation to be in. I really don’t know if I can do this post justice, because there is nothing simple about knowing how to deal with toxic family members.
Here is what we all know:
- Toxic co-workers are difficult and can be detrimental.
- Toxic romances are difficult and can be detrimental.
- Toxic friendships are difficult and can be detrimental.
So, we know the same will apply to toxic family members. However, it is an especially insidious connection to have, as our family is meant to be the safe haven that we fall back on in life.
We can choose our friends, but our family is a choiceless deal.
For better or worse, these are your relatives. Love them, hate them, or loathe them.
- It is where we first learn about love, boundaries, and how to connect with others.
- It is where we learn patterns – healthy or otherwise.
- It is where we learn the value of loyalty, being loved, being cared for, and valued.
Sadly, these qualities are sometimes learned through growing up and being denied them.
This is a naked fact. Not a pleasant one, but a fact nonetheless.
Toxicity in relationships. There are four ways it presents itself:
- Physical abuse
- Mental abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
First, know that if you are in a situation where you are dealing with toxic family members (or anyone else for that matter)…
When a family member is toxic, remember that you do not deserve to be treated badly or abused. We are meant to flourish, be happy, feel loved and cared for. To be safe. If you are dealing with a toxic family member who shows no respect for your feelings or boundaries, as crushing as it can be, it doesn’t have to be your forever. Staying away from toxic family can be defined in many ways.
We start life belonging to a special group, taking these people for granted in some ways, as the ones who will always be there for us. We call them our family. The ones with whom we share special traditions, things we do on birthdays, at Christmas or holidays, ways that are passed down through generations.
We share recipes, physical traits, heirlooms, and secrets. Sometimes, we also share toxic traits with toxic parents; behaviors that serve no one but exist anyway.
This is where the labyrinth becomes twisted.
We cannot give out free passes to family though just because they are family. If you are dealing with a destructive relative, it is no more acceptable than it would be in any other individual.
Excuses – not reasons.
There are people who damage others and refuse to own their behavior in any way. They are full of excuses, or others provide excuses for them. Well-being isn’t of importance here. And we feel guilty.
As a child, there is little to nothing we can do about a parent who is addicted to alcohol, drugs, in and out of relationships, violent, verbally abusive, sexually inappropriate, or narcissistic. That is the travesty. We must live with it. This becomes daily life, our reality, the way we grow up. What is even harder, is almost always, the toxic family member doesn’t care about the negative impact they have on others. On us. On our growth and development.
Sadly, often other family members who are aware of the toxicity are either powerless to change it or too afraid to make any attempt to intervene. In a way, this is one of the hardest things to swallow about a toxic family member: sometimes others that we trust and depend on, enable and endorse their sickness by covering it up or excusing it.