12 Ways to Deal With A Toxic Family/Family Member.

Via on May 5, 2012

Breaking up with a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend is one thing and there’s a lot of advice out there for doing it, but what about a family break-up?

Most of us are not in a position to “just leave” nor do we feel we want to, or that it’s the right thing to do. So what do we do when a toxic family member (or members) is literally ruining our lives? How do we deal with the feeling of obligation, guilt, confusion and heartache?

It is important to note that not everyone’s family is there for them to lean on, to call on or to go home to. Not every family is built on the premise of interconnectedness, support and stability. Sometimes family simply means that you share a bloodline. That’s all. Some families build you up and some suck your energy dry.

There are relationships and friendships that just aren’t fixable—this includes family. There are situations that you can endure for only so long before you’ve outgrown them. There may come a crucial time when you have to separate yourself from your family in order to do what is best for you and possibly for them.

In many respects, the way we were treated by our family ends up being the same treatment we offer the world.

Often times the signal and energy we put out into the world is similar to or exactly what we have experienced by others. And for most of us, this influential force has been our family. Think about it. Think about just how much the interaction, or lack there of, from our family, sets the tone for the quality of energy we give off during our lifetime.

What is unacceptable treatment?

Rejection, abandonment, not taking the time to get to know you or to be in your life, making you feel unwelcome, someone being competitive or hypercritical of you, pressuring or forcing you to be someone you are not, blaming, ostracizing, manipulating, belittling, neglecting and abusing you…the list goes on and on and on. These types of experiences can make a deep imprint on our hearts and inhibit our ability to react without them being present in the back of our mind’s. Our reactions to life become skeptical, doubtful, fearful and we more often see the dark instead of the light in both people and situations.

These negative experiences can jade us for a lifetime, unless we learn to do whatever it takes to get ourselves into a positive nurturing environment and replace negatively influenced reactions with positive ones.

What are the signs indicating that you could use a break or change?

-Your own health and mental well-being is damaged
-You feel emotionally, physically and/or spiritually injured
-The relationships with your immediate family/spouse/partner is suffering
-There is violence, physical and/or emotional abuse
-There is substance abuse
-There are constant struggles for power
-There is unnecessary distrust and disrespect

What to do, how to get out…

1. Get group help. If it’s possible and your family/family member is up for it, get counselling.

2. If it’s possible move out. Move in with a friend, your partner, an extended family member. Get to a place where people want to be with you, try to move into a nurturing environment.

3. Accept your parents or family member’s limitations. Know that you don’t have to repeat their behaviour. You are not them.

4. Allow yourself to get angry. Use it productively. Exercise. Do sports. Use art and creative expression. Write in a journal. Don’t withhold your emotions.

5. Seek guidance for yourself. Talk to someone, a counsellor, a life coach, your yoga teacher—anyone who will listen, someone you feel comfortable with. Ask for help with change and with taking risks.

6. Limit your time. Do whatever it takes to limit the amount of time you have to spend with the toxic family/family member. Limit visits, holidays, do what you can to prevent as much conflict as possible.

7.  Set healthy boundaries. Try to not allow yourself to get sucked back in. You can love and wish them the best from a distance.

8.  Learn ways to protect yourself. Practice meditation. Learn to be patient with yourself and others.

9.  Become aware of yourself. Observe your reactions. Become more self-aware in order to break negative patterns as much as you can.

10. Practice doing good things for yourself. Do things that build self-esteem. Do things you enjoy. Invite others that love you along.

11. Create balance in your life. Take care of yourself physically and eat a balanced healthy diet. Be aware and be cautious of things you may do compulsively (eating, shopping, drinking, etc)

12. Take charge of your life and your happiness. Don’t wait for others to give it to you.

Is it wrong to hold grudges (is life too short)?

Letting go can prove to be more helpful (even life saving) than grasping at toxic strings, looking for what ifs or chasing disillusioned beliefs. At the end of the day, we are all certainly in this together, but each of us have an honest obligation to do what is best for ourselves. You can be a lantern of hope, you can lead by example but you can’t force anyone to change.


Have you experienced a family break up?

Do you have any suggestions?


Relephant read:

Why Some Parents & their Children have Great Friendships.



About Tanya Lee Markul

Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Rebelle Society. She’s convinced that she once swam the depths of the deepest ocean and in the next round, grew over two hundred feet tall. In this life, she’s a vulnerable creation in process. She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & a Master’s in Business. In 2009, surrendering to the good fight within, she became a certified teacher of yoga. Now a full-time devoted student to the sacred art of self-discovery and creative expression, she spends her days on her yoga mat, in wellness experimentation and tilling the fertile soil of Rebelle Society, sharing bouts of black sheepish rebellion, self-acceptance and the beauty of darkness and well-being. Tanya is the creator of ThugUnicorn.com and Yoga.Write.Now.org. She is also the co-founder and Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness. Get to know her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and at Yogacentralen.dk. Sign-up for her free and almost monthly Newsie and contact her via email: [email protected]


219 Responses to “12 Ways to Deal With A Toxic Family/Family Member.”

  1. Sarah M says:

    Carol Hyde,

    Same situation here. Sister who causes a problem then plays victim but was caught on social media in her lie and still not accepting responsibility for it. Blames "something dark" Hello? you are the dark one! Same behavior all her life and will never change and sees nothing wrong with how she is operating. Worked on our mother when her husband passed a few years ago to gain control of her through lies and mother does not want to "rock the boat". I only communicate through email now with her and its to say hi. Oh, and now she has been baptized as if to say that she is not liable for her behavior that caused pain for others and continues to do so. I am glad to be free of her and that the Universe/God takes care of it in her lifetime.

  2. helena says:

    My sister never used to call me unless she had been drinking. On these occasions I would sit up all night chatting. When her daughter would put the phone down it was I who always was there to listen
    Sometimes she would just not call for months at a time. She’s moved back nearer her family and all my nieces don’t talk to me. My parents died a while back and as my sister and i was so close in age (I’m older) but that even worse as I cant share my late parents birthday or Christmas by having a nice talk. My sis lives by the sea but she is always busy going places I summer. But the last time u saw her in march I helped her decorate and pain her new house.
    Wr also watched the lunar eclipse. Since then up to now she has disowned me. She always runs me down and mt grown up children as they still live with me. She boast hers have all left and shed free now. Also told me my kids be living with me until I’m 90. She last text me in April and said I’m good ad dead to her. So after 6 weeks i still called her to make friends again but she started calling me names so I changed my.mobile number. Its been over 6 months shesr not even written. But she can get on a train to visit her old school friend who she has just got in touch on facebook. She I votes her to stay in summer. We are both single. I was upset and lost for losing my sister. But I have moved on I stll start thinking why she hates me and my family. csnt think I did anything major to upset her. I just think my sis mo ed to a nice home and near her daughters. Then left the past including me on purpose. Horrible having it done to me as we are both carers and when she was stressing out she would always call me and i would sit up all night talking about her feelings. She will miss me maybe not now but one day she will realise she lost her soul mate her best friend and the one person she could confine her problems with.

  3. NXS says:

    Been dealing with a negative mother my whole life am 40-years old now my sister just disowned her and left and refuse to help her ever again. If i leave she can't take care of herself and how much negative and controlling she can be i just don't have the heart to abandon her no matter how much i want to my heart denies it. I really hate my mother at times well most of the time all she does is talk about people and puts you down and makes you feel like you can not accomplish anything no matter what you try and do to bring yourself up she takes it away. No matter how much thought i put into myself to make my life better even if it's work or other things she takes it all away and brings you down below her. I feel like just ending my lie why bother anymore it sucks and it's half way over and never had a taste of life because of her.

    • Libby M says:

      Hang in there NXS! It will get better in time! Hugs & prayers to u!!!

    • Maxwell says:

      NXS, maybe you need to put her in nursing home or call State social services. It appears u r co dependent n it is causing depression. There are meetings for coDA which may help as others may have ideas of how to lessen ur burden. You need a lot of joy and positive experiences to combat her toxic negativity. She has had her life before u were even born. Now it is time to live YOUR life. Dont give up on being happy. Things can change.

  4. jackie says:

    soo diifficult is hard to convince abuser / user of the damage that they are doing to themselves and to the people who do care for them its hard to not be sucked in to the blame game

  5. bill says:

    Great article! I do all those things except one. Get away from them. I have 2 brothers that are just scum. They continually impose on my life. Plotting & scheming behind my back. My mother is the core of the toxicity. I can't get away from her bc she has me in a financial bind. Im stuck & have to endure their bs. Its gotten to a boiling point. For 16yrs my mother used me. I made her over a million dollars. I solved all her problems big & small. Gave up my life for my stupid family. They don't appreciate anything. A couple of years ago i discovered my mother is just a big fat liar. So are both my brothers. Both are losers. I thought i could just find a job & leave but no one is hiring me bc for 16yrs my mother paid me $500/month under the table. I didn't care too much bc i thought i was just doing stuff for my family & thought i would be taken care of later But when i wanted to leave my mother made it impossible. Im stuck. Still need help. But now all 3 are going to be in my face for 3 months. No one i talked to has an answer & the job thing is the biggest hurdle. If i got a decent paying job i could leave but min wage jobs aren't going to cut it.

  6. Melina says:

    Waylon’s video is great. <3 Oh, the article is good too. :)

  7. Ingrid says:

    My family of origin is exceptionally toxic and abusive. DIvorcing them has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and probably ever will do. The process of extricating myself from them as peacefully as possible began around 7 years ago. I am still grieving the loss though have absolutely no regrets. It has definitely been a necessary and beneficial decision.

  8. Marco says:

    Yes get as far away from them as possible and never look back. Done it and I have no regrets. I've been able to mend my spirit and reach beyond the limits of what they had me believe I could. That's what walking away does for you.

  9. Evan says:

    The problem I have is that my sister is toxic. It hurts me deeply how ignorant she can be but as I try to explain this she blames me constantly. Since we are both in our early 20's, we still are in uni/collage and visit our parents regularly. It's gotten to the point where I want to remove myself from such abuse and give up on trying to convince her of the err of her ways; mainly not seeing that we are a family and shouldn't point faults in others while avoiding your own faults. My parents, however, who have seen this happen with their own siblings know that this will be the stake that ends our family. Talking about this to my father, he has no solution for the daughter her loves who seems to point out nothing but a horrible situation for herself and the son (myself) who understands that she needs to widen her scope and see things for how they actually are. I'm sick of abuse, I'm sick of stating shes not the abuser, when it actuality its just to hold our family together. What do you do when the toxic relationships ending means the ending to that which is irreplaceable; your family?

  10. MagikalKat says:

    Wow I know EXACTLY how all of you feel! I have a uncle who is very toxic and i have since cut all ties with him. In high school i moved in with him and my aunt ( mother's sister). My dad was sick so i couldn't live with him, and my mom wasn;t around. Well everything started out fine during H.S. years, but then little by little I was restricted. I couldn;t go out after school, i had to come right home, I couldn;t out to the movies, I couldn;t have friends over my house, i couldn;t give out the phone number etc etc etc . Then when i started dating, it got worse! I had 1 boy who was interested in me, and I didn;t dare to tell my uncle about him. One day i didn't care anymore and this same boy asked me if i wanted to go to the mall with him after school i said yes.. I came home"late" like around 5.. and you would have thought i had gotten kidnapped!! All hell broke loose. My uncle DEMANDED that i call up this boy in front of him and break up with him! I was devastated, i couldn;t do i was soo upset, so my uncle calls him up and tells the boy i said said all these horrible nasty things about him. The boy believed my uncle and broke up with me and never spoke to me again! Fast forward to my college years, and another guy comes along and Uncle tries to sabotage that relationship too! Luckily this guy was smart and could see thru my uncle's mind games! 5 years of hell we went thru with to be together! My uncle was vicious!! He screamed at me all the time, called me vile names, threw things at me, nearly slammed a door on my fingers! Called up the guy i was with non-stop and accused him of things too! While I lived with them they also treated me like a maid/slave! I had to cook for them, run out to stores for them, pick up things for them, cleaned for them, all the while being screamed at non-stop! I literally felt like Cinderella!! Finally i had had enough and i moved out! Still to this day, this same uncle texts me on my cell phone and leaves messages telling me what a terrible person i am and how the family is ashamed of me and my actions! I now ignore his texts and have stopped all contact with him. Me and the guy are still together to this day and have since moved out of state away from my CRAZY uncle!

  11. Chey says:

    My dad has been toxic to my family for 20+ years. I had moved in with my spouse 1 year ago after my parents had divorced and my sister moved out of state. To this day, my dad still causes problems. I had tried to distance myself but I keep thinking about the past and how we used to talk. I tried forgiving him in the past but every several months, he does the same thing again, so it turns into a vicious cycle. I don’t know how to handle another one of his cycles. It’s so incredibly hard to block out a family member. I try to stay positive but it becomes very challenging at times.

  12. JayAreP says:

    I have chosen to take a toxic family member out of my life. I have felt a much better life after doing so. The only thing since then is another family not agreeing with my decision and now pressures me to forgive and forget. Which then makes me feel like another toxic relationship is starting. I'm at an age where I can decide who I would like to speak with and who I will not speak with. So here I am feeling down and out over and over again from another family member who just won't give up on this because it hurts there feelings?! I'm on day two of a constant headache from this situation……

  13. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Thanks girl!

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