By definition, a family is “a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit.” However, we can all agree that there are all kinds of different families out there, stretching beyond this simple definition. For most people, it is much more than a gene connection – it is the core of love, support, and compassion. However, while positive feelings are indeed present, families can be complicated.
Just remember the splendid portrait of a dysfunctional family that is the movie “The Royal Tenenbaums.” In this movie, eccentric and weird individuals are joined in one group, trying to overcome their past traumas and differences as the story progresses. It’s a tribute to all the people struggling with their family relationships. Still, the movie is only a two-hour snippet, while real life is something that you cannot simply put aside after the end credits. If you are struggling with a toxic family, here are some tips that will help you deal with all the poison.
Identify the signs of toxic behavior
Family relationships are packed with emotions, and it is often difficult to be cool-minded when thinking about them. That is why it is essential to take the time to reflect on your family’s behavior and identify toxic elements. Here are some things to watch out for:
- One or more family members want to have control over your actions (who you’re dating, what you’re doing in your career, your choice of friends, etc.)
- Your siblings are too competitive, and they seek to outshine one another in everything.
- They use threats or emotional blackmail.
- They are too critical about everything.
- You don’t feel comfortable being yourself in front of them.
- Someone is always complaining.
- There is no end to the drama.
Assess the impact it has on you
Sometimes, it seems more comfortable to ignore the problems and observe them as occasional quarrels. If you asses and admit the effect that situations like these have on you, it will be easier to face the problem head-on. If the majority of your interactions are negative, this could lead to depression, anger management problems, anxiety, and stress. Think about how you feel after a family dinner, what emotions a phone conversation with your parents causes, etc. Don’t hesitate to talk with an expert about it.
Understand your differences
It’s only natural that people are different. These dissimilarities are even more apparent when there’s more than one generation involved. Just think about the different ways you and your parents tackle finances and success in general. And what about romantic relationships, marriage, and offspring? Acknowledge their viewpoint, but don’t let it have any impact on how you live your life. Make sure you make that clear to them.
Toxic family and people meddling in your personal affairs can be exhausting, and it’s no exception with family. They will test your patience and tolerance to the point where you start losing it. Tell them how far they can go with you and don’t allow them to take one step over that line. You don’t need to be there for every crisis or be available at all times. Most certainly, you are not obligated to change yourself in any way.
You don’t have to be involved in every petty argument in your family. Don’t participate in messy situations, try to keep the conversations light, avoid topics that lead to quarrels, or be shy to abandon the conversation when it becomes too much for you.
Keep some things to yourself
Toxic families and individuals have their way of using the things you say against you. Are there some past actions or personal regrets of yours that you’ve told your family, and now you never hear the end of it even though you’ve asked them to finally let it go? Are your personal failures and fears used against you in arguments?
If that’s the case, try to save some details from your personal and professional life for yourself, and share only the things that are either very relevant or have a positive context.
Enough Is Enough
All of us feel like we’re in debt to our family – and that is true, to some extent. However, when you’ve been through years of emotional torture, and you feel like you’ve tried everything, perhaps it’s time to cut ties. Here are some things that should raise red flags:
- They insist on intruding on your privacy even after you’ve tried all the tips above.
- They are verbally abusive (body-shaming, name-calling, rudeness, or slurs).
- They are manipulative and won’t hesitate to lie to you to get what they want.
- Every contact with them causes emotional distress.
You can see how things go and how you feel if you distance yourself from them temporarily, or you can decide on permanent isolation. If you can, don’t cut all ties suddenly. Try to explain to them what’s going on (you can write a letter, make a phone call, or talk to them personally). Prepare for their reaction, but expect that you will feel some guilt and confusion as well. Be sure to have a close friend or a counselor to help you through the rough times.
Toxic families can make us feel unworthy, sad, and small. But the fact they make you feel like that doesn’t mean you truly are. Look within, learn to appreciate who you are, and love yourself. Everything else will follow.
Meet The Author
Sarah is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and a curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.