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

Via Tanya Lee Markul
on May 5, 2012
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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

Luring the magic of what is natural back into our daily lives, Tanya Markul is a freer of creativity, of inner beauty + power, and an enthusiastic igniter of the wild spirit! She re-writing the wild flower sutras, and offers a refreshing & badass view on spirituality, wellness & authentic living. Sensitivity is her tree trunk, flower stem, and nucleus. It is her belly, and her heart. Tanya is an artist of life, a faery of trees, a wanderer of the dark, a writer of heart, a misfit yogini, and an Urban Priestess apprentice. She believes in the power of your personal weird, quirky, magic, and that only path toward inner freedom & light, is through the dark — eyes closed, heart open. Tanya is the creator of The Urban Howl, Yoga Write Now & Waking Wild. Join her free forum for monthly yoga & writing practices here. Join her free forum for 30 days of exercise for 30 days here. Join her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter & get her free weekly & quirky newsletter here.


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

  1. jessicafaith says:

    my therapist says "go in clean, and come out scrubbing" when meeting with my family. This can mean actual dietary cleansing, emotional purging, spiritual strength training before and after. If I am visiting the family for the holidays, I schedule five days before and after for prepping and debriefing, which usually includes major self-nurturing in the form of yoga, meditation, extra sleep, walks in nature, writing, green juice, etc. and actively negating internalized depression (fighting the "pig").

  2. Shannon says:

    Fantastic article…..how I wish I could have read this when I was 17!!

  3. Gaby says:

    I could not have read this at a better time. i just lost my greatest friend, my 8 year-old black lab succumbed too quickly to lymphosarcoma. My mother makes everything worse, and though I've known my whole life that I needed to separate from her, in my hour of need it's ultimately SO taxing. You relieve my awful guilt and self-doubt with your confidence in what you say, and I am eternally grateful. Thank you much. <3

  4. Maggie says:

    I could not agree more than I do with this writer, however I would like to make yet another point. Very often young people think their parents are "toxic" because they see a child, because of immaturity, making bad decisions for themselves. There is some normality between parents and children to start to separate and grow in some different directions ,but parents still have the responsibility to warn their children when they see danger in their children 's lives.
    I have a child that I love who is influenced by some who do not necessarily care about her and they ,at this time, have a stronger hold on her than any of the things she was taught by those that have loved and cared for her. It is a difficult time to find the balance of letting her grow and find herself and protecting her from causing larger bumps in her life. We have always been there to help her through the small bumps and she does not seem to realize that some things even we cannot fix. Yet I am sure ,she would tell you we are "toxic", because we still have rules in our home and some of her new found friends do not.

    • Sandra says:

      They sound like free spirits to me. Maybe they are making 'bad' decisions – but you should feel confident in yourself. If you have raised your child with awareness, then trust that they will choose ultimately what best works. Perhaps your child needs to experience life for himself/herself in order to challenge those rules and come to his/her own conclusion.

      Rules are important, but so is freedom. We each need to express who we really are and often it takes a few rides down those very bumpy roads before we start to truly know how to do it with ease and comfort.

      Be patient. Offer trust to your child. Look at your child with warmth in your eyes, not worry, fear, anger. This will only drive your child away. Let them know you believe in them…but really mean it. You can try and manipulate through these actions to draw your child back, but not being authentic will only push your child further away.

      Have faith and be kind, not judgemental. The best thing you can do is be a friend to yourself, love your child unconditionally, and provide a warm and loving shelter for your child to come home to. And if he/she chooses something different, then learn to let go. We don't own our kids…they come through us, they're not ours to keep.

      • Emmy Logandorf says:

        There are nuances to different situations. One size doesn't fit all. It can take decades to figure things out sometimes. I spent 25 years trying to make things work in my family. It wasn't worth the investment. Putting someone out of your life should come only after many sincere efforts to make a relationship work. But then, if necessary, do it.

  5. Hann says:

    This is a brilliant article. My sister is 4 years younger than I and has always caused me to feel on the outside of the family as a result of her bullying ways. I have just recently had a fight with her that has not ended so well and I now keep my distance (not geographically as I have been geographically distanced since I turned 17, but more emotionally distanced)
    As a result however I am distanced from my 2 beautiful nieces (10 & 4) sadly 🙁
    However the fight this time was not as devastating as it has been in the past because I was prepared and now after reading this article I am confident in the path I have chosen to remove my self from such a toxic life.
    Thank you for the inspiration and strength.

  6. lastincarnate says:

    After giving everything I owned away, putting it on the street and watching it all get carted off from an 8th floor apartment, I put my dog and 2 cats into my Ford Festiva and drove 1600 miles away, south to an unknown city. That was almost twenty years ago and I never looked back. Although there is distance, I am still dealing with crisis and manipulation, criticism and sarcasm, but I am here and they are all up there with their bitterness, bad health, and ill will. Two recent incidences have given me cause to really put the breaks on. I am still affected, and there is work to do around that, but my obligation is finished, and although it is painful and the reach is still internally disturbing, I am out of the way and now say, "gotta get off the phone", and can protect myself on social media by clicking 'delete' when they poke a vicious finger at me with a snide and sarcastic psyche zinger. I recently even posted, "thanks guys" to a nasty comment on a project near to my heart, hopefully so they see who they truly are– brutal bullies. Crushing, but also satisfying. I know that's not particularly elevated, but it is helpful….

    • Kurgan says:

      I totally agree with your decision to cut ties with people like that those of the type of people you don’t even want to have know where you live or how to get in contact with you by phone mail email anything.

      I have a grandmother that is very similar when it comes to accusations I cared for her and her husband when her husband and was dying–I was there through it all, putting my career in hold to administer their affairs and close the eyes on his corpse upon his demise.

      Afterwards I watched your fire the home health aid who had helped on-demand it any hour for stretches of time that were unimaginable– well actually she screamed and yelled for days in person and on the phone for days and made me do it. She didn’t even want her to get unemployment, but I superceded her on that– one of our many power struggles.

      As I started to realize she had some form of dementia or Alzheimer’s and tried to get her help I taking her to the doctor she began fighting with lawyers and accusing me of all types of outlandish theft like using my day grandfathers credit cards to buy stock in foreign companies and own it in her account and all these crazy things. She had always been very controlling making me come home at 11 o’clock when I was 25 years old and calling me throughout the day every day, but once she started to lose her mind she became truly unadulterated evil.

      She threatened me with this disinheritance ,theft charges, lawsuits, complaints against my professional license and even had people coming to my house that appeared to be process servers or private investigators. My wife and I had to move three times because she step she kept finding ways to contact us through email or phone or having people show up.

      We now live in a *wink undisclosed location wink* and are at the moment out of fear.

      In her case she may truly be suffering from Alzhiemers as these type of behaviors are symptoms but she still was toxic before and at best of the Alzheimer’s has accentuated her evil ways.

      Your relative with the threats of commitment sounds very similar. I’m sure my grandmother is saying all kinds of crazy crap about me but I’ve chosen to let it go because she particular has a problem I think your family members due to the did that to you when you were a child. We all want to assume other people are family are normal but they aren’t always normal sometimes they do have afflictions and mental disease that we don’t know of or don’t recognize because that’s the situation were born and we find ourselves in. I would move far the hell away from people like that I was my plan to probably get out the state or find a location very very far in the states and deliver large state that is far away and unknown to any family members I’ve had to cut ties with even the family members that were good to me with the exception of emails that contain no other identifying information (phone numbers, address, etc).

      Good luck and do yourself a favor, act like you’re in witness protection– ANY THREAT TO YOUR LIBERTY IS UNACCEPTABLE!

  7. micamouse says:

    Thank you –
    I absolutely needed this, as I was just contacted again by a family member I had to cut ties with. It seems that every time I get my life together, they begin to interfere, always trying to make me feel bad somehow.
    The person has been violent, manipulative, and un-trusting to the point of insanity – and it wrecked my self esteem for my entire life, made me practically unable to live my life at all. I still always hear those hurtful words and assumptions going through my head all the time.
    Recently they contacted me, not to ask how I am or be friendly, but to guilt me about them having to get tested for cancer. This person is a total hypochondriac and pretty much constantly thinks they are dying. I feel so bad, but I just can not respond. So many times in my life, they have put me in situations where they did not care one bit whether I lived or died, and gaslighted me threatening to put me in a mental institution and pull strings due to their job to make me committed against my will.
    When a boyfriend committed suicide years ago, they actually disowned me on the way back from visiting with his family because I was crying that he was gone and she said that I should not be sad because it is not MY family, and that I needed to stop showing sadness or else I'd upset my brother (in his early teens).
    And now I am supposed to get reeled in, by a possible cancer test – not a diagnosis or anything? They kicked me out after beating me for not getting my brother ready for school in some particular way that made no sense and I was homeless. After beating me one day (again for no reason) I actually found pictures the person took of their face to persecute me if I were to ever say anything. To this day, they tell everyone I attacked them and had I actually told someone at the time to try to get help, they would have tried to frame me as the violent one.
    This is the game these people play. They may be related, but they are certainly not family. It is dangerous to keep ties with them, do not do it just for the sake of guilt or tradition – it is not worth it to ruin your life over someone who does not care about you or truly love you at all.

  8. -Jo- says:

    Thank you for this. My sister used to be an incredibly positive person in my life, and protected me and took me away from the craziness of our parents a lot of the time after she was married, also beforehand sometimes keeping my parents separated physically. It is so disappointing that she has become full of the same anger management issues and mental unbalancedness we saw at home, and is now doing similar things, but not to the same level thankfully.

    I just don't know what to do because I'm terribly close to her daughters and want what is best for them, but how do you make that happen if the adult will not take mature actions, get help, etc? I wish so much that she would get help. I wonder if there is some way that that might happen still. In the meantime I am trying to juggle what way I can be the best resource or influence in order for her daughters to stay on a well-adjusted path, the possibility of me or possibly all of us convincing her that she could benefit from help, and also worrying about being in the line of fire because I don't cope too well during and after her outbursts of craziness. It's so confusing. And somewhere in the midst of that do I grieve that I've lost a wonderful sister, or do I still see how things go, what do I do? It's so confusing. It's very sad.

    Compassion and love to all of you with a worse or more confusing situation than me though. I am so sorry.

  9. Joe Hudson says:

    A very enlightening article, I found much of myself and my current situation mixed within it. Unfortunately, I was left with, what I felt was no other choice, leaving them all behind me, cutting all ties, and communication with them. It’s been over a year, I’ve since moved out of state, and while I have yet to really get settled, ultimately I know it was what I had to do. Thanks for at least validating some of the key points for me.

  10. clarke fitch says:

    nice timing to find this! I am working with a 13 year old orphan who is so confused and challenged! your info has given me more tools to be useful than i had a week ago! more hopeful and still holding my breath! Thank you and happy day of Thanks

  11. Emily says:

    So glad I saw this, perfect timing….

  12. Sarah says:

    Exactly what i needed to hear.

    Ive been dealing with my parents who have been very unsupportive and always forcing their ways on me since they found out that i am gay. Since the day that they found out, everything had to be done their way for me to cleanse and “change’ to be what they define as normal again and this involves using a lot of guilt, fear, emotional and physical abuse. It has affected the person i am and also my long term relationship with my partner. My sister who was once supportive has become quite toxic too. I lived with this for two years and finally, i am moving out in two days. I am only 20 and i am nervous for the challenges ahead but also excited to finally have a say in things. But i know that even though im going to be physically distant, theres always that emotional distance that isnt broken.

  13. Gwinn says:

    I can't thank you enough for this article. I wondered if I was being too dramatic in thinking of breaking ties with my family, in this case the extended family. Then I saw the word "competition" and realized that this was exactly what I need. Everything in my life has been a competition between me and some of my family members, and I'm tired of it. I never wanted to compete and I don't want my kids to feel they have to compete. I finally have come to the realization that I shouldn't allow people to treat me poorly just because we happen to be born into the same family. If I don't like them, and they don't respect me, they don't need to be in my life. If they can't give me anything but criticism and negativity then clearly they aren't good people to be around. Thank you, again, for helping me realize this and for the advice.

  14. Kim says:

    So glad to have read this comment. I have read the other comments, and can totally relate. On a social media, I have been attacked, viciously, by a cousin, my sister my brother in law, and brother. I have purposely stayed out of he lives of these negative, toxic, individuals, however, one false, comment from a cousin triggered an avalanche of negative comments ( all having to jump on the bandwagon. I have spoken to other family members and friends, who have told me to keep staying positive and to ignore what these individuals say. I decided to “lay these family members to rest.” I would rather have it this way, instead of dealing with the painful interactions I have with each and every one of them.

  15. G says:

    I hope this helps. I have an older sister that is just a complete witch. I don’t really know her but she talks about me like she knows me and she doesn’t. She moved when I was 9 and I’ve been to her house twice in my life. When I was 13 my younger sister was kidnapped from the school bus stop. I was in junior high and she was in elementary school and she rode the bus while I walked because my school was down the block. Every day I walked with her to her stop and then went on to school. One day a man stopped and asked for directions and while the kids were telling him he grabbed my younger sister and fled. Luckily she managed to get away and is safe. I have always felt that they blamed me most of all my older sister. I’ve tried to talk to her but she just yells and belittles me to the point I just wish I was dead. When my second older sister died from cancer I overheard her telling my brother that she wished it was me. It crushed me. I have never done anything but be nice to her and all she does is spread lies about me and talk horribly about me. People listen because she’s older, more established and from what I understand a good real estate broker in southern Florida. But she doesn’t know me and has never even attepted to get to know me. My mother tells me that I need to get along with her and she’s always taken her side. I just want out !! My older sister has saud many horrible things about both my mom and my step mom and she has both of them thinking she’s this great person. If they only knew the things she said. When I was 22 I tried cocaine 3 times, 3 !!! But according to her I still do drugs and I’m a horrible person. I’m 46 now I barely drink and my daughter is an A student but mist of all I haven’t did drugs since I was 22. I’ve offered to take drug tests but get told that I would find a way to cheat the test. Seriously I’m beyond sick of it and apparently my family believes her. Way to stick up for me family !! I’ve never asked for ANYTHING ! I take care of myself & my daughter. I don’t understand why this has been going on for as long as it has and when I ask I hear there’s nothing wrong. I can’t help but feel that I hope karma catches up with her. Isn’t Family suppose to be loving, stand together, not judgmental & mean to each other ??? My blood mom has Christmas eve and for over 30 + years now I’ve hated Christmas eve & hated being around people who judge me based on false truths. This year I’m doing what I want. My younger sister and I used to be close now she doesn’t talk to me and I don’t know why. I’m so confused and when I ask I get told there’s nothing wrong so I have learned to keep my distance and this is the way it is and the way it has been for a very very long time. My

    family is my daughter & my step mom. After all this time this has been going on and finding out I have cancer I do not want any of them near me. U just hope that if I pass they treat my daughter better than they treated me.

  16. Betsy says:

    A week after my mother died , while I was still bereft and exhuasted from being her main care giver while she was dying of cancer, my sister and uncle and aunt from my father's side of the family attacked me for financial reasons. It was so horrible that I decided that to continue to have them in my life would not be loving my self at all. I have not seen or spoken to my aunt and uncle since that fateful day five years ago, and have seen my sister only once then. I don't miss any of them, and actually it has been a relief to have them out of my life – they were always negative influences. Sometimes you have to let people stew in their own juices and not get all their toxic mess all over you. If you can do it, disconnect as much as possible. While I feel sad that I am basically out of three family members, when the family was small to begin with, those particular people were never up to any good and I feel much more positive being around loving friends at this time of the year.

  17. AmaHugs4 says:

    How do you handle it when it's your adult child and his spouse? When their bad decisions have created havoc with your other children (who give you no grief)…..when the adult child then withholds visits with your grandchildren (and you only live 15 minutes away? It's awful driving through town and seeing the child you raised walking with your grandchildren and you KNOW you cannot stop. No hugs. No "I love you". It's awful to hear your other children say…."I want nothing to do with them." It's awful to love someone so deeply and yet know it's best to stay away from them. I just fear that when he comes to his senses, it will be too late.

  18. kris says:

    Thank you for this.

    My toxic, life long battle has been with my mother, of all people. She has been removed (once again) from my life just 8 months ago. This last break has been nothing short of a blessing, but it’s still hard. I have no family left. It’s hard and scary, but as a result my health and spirituality have flourished. This Christmas has been especially difficult, but there’s just no taking back a toxic person who acts as if their soul purpose in life is to destroy you and your spirit. Thanks for the the post, it came at a good time for me.


  19. Jenna B. Wiser says:

    Awesome!! Good to know.

  20. Des says:

    Great article! though im still learning and practicing dealing with this situation…and it sux

  21. Tori says:

    Hi, thanks for this very helpful article. I have a toxic family member and reading this I realised that I have already taken many of these steps unknowingly, such as moving away, limiting time spent with the person, meditating, practising yoga, avoiding anger and not holding grudges. Unfortunately the person in question does not understand my reasons for doing most of these things as he does not realise that he is the source of the problem and therefore does not understand why I have distanced myself from him. So now I have feelings of guilt as I struggle to protect myself from further emotional damage whilst also trying to limit his hurt (because, despite everything, I love him and don't want to hurt his feelings). I don't know how to reconcile my need to distance myself from him in the name of self preservation with trying to maintain some semblance of a normal relationship with him.

  22. Shannon says:

    I think this article is helpful. However i feel the author should spend a week as a fly on my wall during the holidays then re write it . lol its that bad in my family. its sad.

  23. Peter says:

    I have not seen or spoken to my Mother,and two sisters for 13 years after a financial business failure in which all blame was placed on me. I have been osteracised from all Uncles, Aunties and cousins as well, so I have no Family whatsoever. I am also divorced with two young kids under 6 as of three years ago. It is very upsetting to go through forced separation. In the present moment I am stronger, more at peace with myself, and believing that I will be better off with all this negativity and hatred behind me. I love my children and I know they love and miss me. I will always be their Father, and will always fight to be with them as much as I can.

  24. Lyssa says:

    Family breakups- not an easy task to come to the conclusion that you are better off without.

    I let go of a toxic relationship with my mother, and I’m not sure if we’ll ever talk again. I miss her some days- as any child would miss their parent. But when it benefits every other part of my life- from my relationship with my child’s father, to my own personal growth- that’s what keeps me going. That’s what keeps my head above water.

    Also, knowing I have the love of my son, fiancé, and my grandparents who helped to raise me when things got really rough as a child- helps me

  25. jeannie says:

    Beautiful article ..and speaks directly to me, after years of enduring ostracism, abandonment , criticism and belittlement from a sister who unfortunately hosts all holidays for extended family. I feel wooden inside when I attend, awkward, afraid to say anything, This Year I decided that it was the last time I will go anywhere like that – out of obligation, or with the pathetic hope that it might be different. Thanks for saying out loud what many of us have felt ashamed to say or afraid to address.

  26. Ger says:

    Just on time for new year

  27. Linda says:

    My sons partner is toxic in my life she's a drunk and treats his children bad, her own child to him is treated better, she gets drunk at family parties and starts talking badly about myself and my husband to my other daughter in law, she talks about myself Nd my husband with such contempt when all we have done is help,her ..she's jealous that the kids have.a closer relationship with me their nan but she has done nothing to help create a good relationship with them herself they hate her , she recently took my son and her son on holiday to Spain and left the other three kids with me and grandad, she got drunk and physically attacked
    My granddaughter by grabbing her throat becUse she wanted to get in her bed After having a nightmare , she screamed at her not to effing wake the baby up, we used to be a loving happy family who always had lovely get togethers at our homes but no one will invite her because she gets drunk and bullies the kids and acts disgracefully, our family cannot be all together in the sAme room. Our parties and get togethers have gradually ended, she has driven a wedge between me and my son and his brother, she puts negative thoughts into his head about his family, our family is broken because of her, I could go on but it would take too long, my relationship with my son is damaged because of her when we were all so close, shes manipulating mean spirited and a drunk, her family life with her parents and siblings revolve around alcohol I'm soon sad.

  28. Ann says:

    My sons partner is toxic in my life she's a drunk and treats his children bad

  29. Kat says:

    My mother and my brother behave disgracefully towards me. I’m 34. We don’t live together. I have a partner and a toddler.

    They both shout and swear at me when I try to bring up an issue which needs addressing. The last and final time was a month ago when I confronted my mother for telling my personal business information to her entire family . I

    had asked her many times over the last year to keep my new business a secret ( it is

    experimental and i had wished to keep it away from the critics and negative naysayers in the

    family and anyone else as well who may try to shut me down emotionally and damage my dreams.). Nevertheless she told them all behind my back then let it slip in conversation with me. I was stunned so went to her house to try and calmly discuss why she broke my

    Confidence. She very quickly got to a shouting and abusive state and my brother (older than me) put himself between us and screamed and shouted at me the most vile abuse I’ve almost ever endured. He supported her betrayal. I left almost in tears. I just can’t believe my brother who preaches confidentiality and honesty etc doesn’t extend these values to me. My only guess is that my mother is a very poisonous person and my

    Brother has some serious emotional problems I haven’t realized. Anyway that was a month ago and I’m done with them. I replied short and sweet but firmly to both their provocative nasty email that they are not welcome in my life or my family’s life until I believe they will treat me with the respect and kindness I deserve. My mother constantly uses guilt tripping and the “family card” to try keep ne in the fold. Well im no longer up for more of what they dish out. They are shitty souls.

    Thanks for your article! It gives me strength and conviction that I’m making the best choice for me and my family.

  30. I’m filled with sympathy and support for so many of the contributors here and a great admiration for the sensitivy of many of the respondents. I understand that the general aim is to uplift and encourage others in coping with emotional upheaval, trauma and pain, that’s admirable. However, so many of these comments do not stress the importance of self examination. Sadly, I speak from personal experience. With the benefit of hindsight and a maturity I should have shown years ago, I now recognise that I allowed pride, stubbornness and to an extent my own inability to accept well meaning but I’ll timed advice as genuine to influence past decisions with my FIL. Finally after 8 years of estrangement from him, we have been able to lay down ‘arms’ and my daughter is able to enjoy hours in his company. It would appear she has inherited her incredible musical flair from him and our joint pride in her achievements has forged a bond that I hope will now before keeps. Times and dynamics change, we are so blessed by this once unlike change. Be happy within yourself, do what is right for you and those that are dependent on you, make sure that your physical and mental health are a main priority. But and it is a BiG but, don’t let bitterness take hold. Clinging to old prejudices might well wipe out a wonderful future…

    Anyway, I thinks that’s maybe enough positivity for now! Having been there and done that, I’m sure there are many of you nursing a strong urge to thump or argue the smugness out of me. Please don’t, I changed me and I’m happy. I like this new me. So does Grandad 😉

  31. Sally Jo says:

    After my mother passed away, my brother and I felt this underlying tension with my extended family and didn't feel supported or loved. We kept trying to connect with them but always felt belittled and ignored. Years later, I learned it was because of a favoritism my grandmother had with my mother and my brother and I. At a recent funeral, the tension was unbearable and I overheard a family member absolutely tearing me apart and making up lies about me, and later was absolutely sweet to me giving me no clue there was a problem! My family is not terrible, but they have aweful coping skills, and are constantly unhealthy and miserable. There is an underlying family dysfunction that goes way back, and no one is willing to talk about it. Now that I have my own daughter, I fight this obligation to have her get to know her extended family, but I don't want her to witness this behavior and treatment towards me. I don't accept this in my daily life and I can't accept it from my family either. Letting go of this family, has freed my time to focus on other more positive family members who will be supportive and caring towards my daughter – a good role model for her. Thank you for the article and reinforcing my decision!

    • Kat says:

      Hi Sally Jo,

      Wow, your situation is so similar to mine. I have a small daughter too and I don’t want her exposed to such negativity either. It seems many famillies suffer from dysfunction. I don’t know if it’s a modern disease – probably not.
      Anyway, it was comforting and inspiring to read I’m not the only one with this situation.
      I wish you luck with your quest for a positive family environment – I know my life is much less stressful now than it was 2 months ago when I was putting up with my mother and brother’s abusive behavior.

  32. emma smiley says:

    i have been cutting family members from my life since my teens. physical, emotional, and mental abuse was my daily diet from both my parents. i was very fortunate with lots of strong support system from school, government, and friends. after i left my parents, i had only my siblings left. even though they were not the most supportive of people, i thought they we on the same boat as myself. so i clung onto them until my 30's. when i finally realized that they were as toxic as my parents, one after the other, i cut off ties. sometimes i second guess myself. maybe i was too harsh and nobody was perfect and everybody deserves a second, third, forth, chance. cannot choose family, blah blah blah. but then i talked to people who go through similar experience and realized that true self preservation comes from within. i cannot keep making excuses for bad behavior. at the end of the day, i have a choice. do i keep myself swimming in a toxic pool, and thereby contaminating my environment that includes my spouse and friends, or do i get myself out of poison and do a deep cleasing? i choose survival and cleansing. reading articles like yours help to reinforce my decision. i thank you

  33. Jess says:

    I am glad I found this article. I have a sibbling that goes out of his way to make every interaction a power struggle and emotionally abusive. I have limited my contact with my brother, but for my mother's sake I would like to make it work. I now realize that I have to assert myself in a positive way and accept that he wont change. I hope he will understand that bullying people at his age is not acceptable. Thank you.

  34. Karen says:

    My younger sister and I used to be very close. We are in our 40s now and eight years ago everything changed. After she hung up on me and screamed at me on the phone, I stopped taking her phone calls. I stopped riding in the car with her after she abandoned me several miles from our parents' house. She has told lies to her children about me and, when called on it the next day, said "I can't remember what I said." I talked to her about these things recently. She admitted she had done some of the things, denied others, and continued lying about what she had said to her children. She gave me a limited apology and then wanted me to apologize for "being part of the problem." When I asked her what I had done wrong, she said she couldn't remember but that both people are always at fault.

    The whole thing is a mystery to me. The abusive incidents are isolated (I stopped talking to her on the phone after one hang-up and one screaming session, for example), but none of them involved arguments. They happened in the middle of normal conversations. I've spoken to the other people in my family about this. My father says that she hung up on him once, but apart from that no one else has had experiences like this with her. My other sister points out that these events are isolated and that they might not be part of a larger pattern.

    I have tried to think of how my sister would describe my role in these incidents, but I can't come up with anything. It is more like a switch flips inside her, she goes out of control, and I am just a bystander. But from my other family members' accounts, it doesn't happen with them.

    She has done some odd things in the past when she felt that "life" was treating her unfairly, but those things were never directed at family members. Up until eight years ago, we were on great terms. She is very smart and fun and was always super-supportive and trustworthy. She has a wonderful relationship with her kids, who are terrific. They are college-age now. She has no physical health problems and has always been very fit and active. Her family doesn't have financial stresses. She doesn't drink or take drugs. In recent years she has started describing herself as a "people-pleaser" (which makes me incredibly angry, given the way she's treated me).

    Does anyone recognize this behavior? I have looked at borderline personality disorder and some of the symptoms fit. What other possibilities are there?

    Thank you.

  35. Tina says:

    Glad I ran across this article but it’s the comments especially that are so validating. It’s sad so many of us experience these things with people who are supposed to love us and care about our well being. People who have not gone through this look at you like you are crazy or a weirdo for coming to a point in your life when you have to break ties and get away. I am helping my husband deal with this for his mother. It was extremely painful to both if us to do it but for his entire life I believe she has emotionally abused him. We now have a son and unfortunately something happened and we realized we didn’t want our son to know he was loved less by her because of her lack of love for my husband. She has always been incredibly toxic in his life but his father never had much of a relationship with him so she is the one he had around growing up. We are dealing with so much in our lives right now and this is one added stress we did not need but it happened and I believe now it wasn’t such a bad thing. People always say you get a second chance at things. I’m fairly certain she believes she will be able to walk back into our lives at any point. I don’t believe she realizes there won’t be a second chance with my husband. He finally decided she needed to go out of our lives because it wasn’t healthy for him and it was impacting his own family. The down side is we have to move half way across the country. My guess is only then will she realize he’s serious and there’s no going back. She will never be a part of this grandsons life. I feel so sad for her, he is truly a gift. But then again, so is her own son and she NEVER saw that in him. He is nothing like his family and for that, I thank god daily.

  36. Pissed off says:

    My husband's Family is extremely toxic . His father has really poisoned the well and while I feel bad for my husband I am REALLY tired of bearing the brunt of the toxicity in silence. I don't want my children to be around their grandfather who is an alcoholic, probably borderline personality disorder ( but is asshole really a diagnosable disease) , their enabling possibly alcoholic grandmother and sister who never says anything to her parents because the free babysitting might end and then she would have to watch her own children *gasp* .
    My poor husband is suffering because he realizes that his father is lying to him about me ( just caught him in one whopper of a lie about me ) and that he is telling the rest of the family that I am the cause of the family breakdown ( sorry refuse to leave my kids in the care of drunks and liars) but conveniently leaves out lots of pertinent details like never calls or visits the grandkids he supposedly loves so much who live 70 SECONDS away . Now it's apparent he has started lying to his brother ( he may also be a drunk ..I don't think you are supposed to get shitfaced when you are on dialysis are you ?) because of some public Facebook comments he has made to me.
    I would say go to hell to them all if it weren't for my husband and kids, I have zero use for them.
    The worst part is that my husband has repeatedly asked me to "take" it and I have but that is making me sick . No one should be asked to be attacked in silence. One of these days i am going to tell them what i really think because I can't take any more.

  37. Andrew says:

    Why do people now use the word toxic to describe people. It used to be used to describe poisonous chemicals. Does it not by definition mean the instant I condemn another person as poisonous, that my judgement and blame implies my own behaviour is poisonous also.

    I wish people would stop labeling people who behave badly or who thwart their own desires as poisonous in their very being.

    • Megan says:

      Actually, the definition of toxic includes: "extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful" (according to Merriam-Webster) and "Very bad, unpleasant, or harmful" (according to Oxford). So describing a person who is destroying aspects of your life as "toxic" is very appropriate.

  38. betty says:

    Great to have these blogs to vent anonymously. Family dynamics can be so difficult and being single and childless with a very manipulative in-law and mean sibling makes for a pretty lonely existence. Ageing parents add to the conflict and I fear for what is in store. Although I have a large extended family, their means of support is to pray about it yet give not phone calls or relief and all busy with their lives competing with their friends and other relatives. What a muddled world we live in. I tread lightly since my in-law has cut people out of their lives already and their other in-laws all have deep depression and also hang by a thread from their controlled contacts. Makes for a pretty lonely life. Thank-you for 'listening'.

  39. Megan says:

    My mother-in-law has always been difficult, but since the birth of my daughter 14 months ago (her first grandchild), my MIL has become unbearable. She is an incredibly selfish, negative, and jealous person who says and does unbelievably rude things. Among other things, she trash talks my husband (her only son) to other members of the family for no reason. When she said my 5 month old was "too fat", my husband told her if she has nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. She has taken that opportunity to not speak to me for nearly 9 months now.

    We recently discovered that she stole my husband's identity and opened accounts on his social security number. That was the line for me and my husband. When I messaged her about that being illegal and not tolerated, she and my sister-in-law called me, screaming, cussing me out, and calling me names before hanging up on me. I'm beyond ready to cut these women out of my life. My husband alternates between cutting them from our lives and still having hope that his mother will actually be a "mother" to him. It breaks my heart. Hopefully we'll get through this soon and our marriage will be stronger for it.

  40. Leslie S. says:

    I am the fourth youngest in my family. I am not perfect and understand about silent blocks of time, but life is way to short. A Sister lost her husband suddenly, and now 9 months later a brother(s) has stop communicating with her, I don't understand. She has the hurt of losing her partner and now more hurt by family who should be there for her and supporting or calling. What is wrong with them?

  41. Tara M. says:

    My only sister is 4 years older than me. She has always been a source of anxiety, arguments and upset for me. We had a major fall out 7 years ago when I lived very far from my home town and we stopped talking, but as usual I forgave her to call truce (she has never once apologised for anything she’s done though). There has always been issues on her side to do with me, jealousy, competition and always very hypocritical. I am always to blame for her malicious nasty actions. Then at the end of last year I found out she’d been poisoning my best friend against me & that they’d both been incredibly duplicitous & betraying towards me so I stopped talking to both of them. My sister couldn’t cope with this so when I wrote a letter to explain my side she managed to twist everything to suit her & make me the bad person in it all (again, like she always does). I’ve been with my husband for 12 years & he wants me to cut all ties. My parents are completely brainwashed by her & won’t stay neutral. They all live in same city and are always together so they only hear her side. They used to always stand up for me with her but since she had children a few years ago that’s not the case now. My sister is now also using her young kids to portray me as a selfish nasty aunt who doesn’t want to see her nieces&nephews which of course is not the case and is heartbreaking for me. So I’ve tried several times to patch things up (for sake of peace & rest of family) but she throws it back in my face. But my parents know I’m always the one who is the bigger person & solves it so they are constantly on at me now to make it up with her. Lord knows I’ve tried but I know there’s no reasoning with her & she twists everything, never taking responsibility for her actions. I am a very family orientated person so this whole thing is so upsetting for me. I never thought she could hurt me so much -it has been a nightmare. I’m tempted to forgive & forget just for an easy life but I know she will continue to walk all over me and I don’t want anything like this to happen with my children involved.

  42. Lily says:

    Im so glad I came across to this article. Somehow it helps to know that there is people out there going through the same situation . I live abroad with my youngest sister. She is 23 and I’m 27. We both decided to go to college abroad and since then it has been a horrible nightmare. We use to be very close. I was probably her best friend. She was a difficult teenager and I was the only person who could help her with her alcoholism. At that time I thought it was just the age and I didn’t believe it was as bad as everyone said. Now I know! For the last 3 years I’ve been feeling physically, mentally, spiritual and emotional exhausted. Living with her has been the biggest challenge of my life. She drinks and cheats on her boyfriend all the time, she hides my food, takes my money, she doesn’t clean, she leaves all her stuff Laing around for me to clean. The first 2 years I fought back but it was actually worse. Multiple times she has insulting me … Anyways I decided to reinitiate my Buddhism practices to try to overcome my emotions because I know she won’t change. At least not for now. For the last 10 months I decided not to say anything else and let her be herself ( untrusted, manipulated and yeah toxic) I know she is unhappy because I know a happy person wouldn’t do what she does. We have another sister and she doesn’t talk to her for 3 years because of the reason. And our parents don’t do anything about the situation because they think if they do she won’t finish college. I just feel trap. It’s one more year to go before I can go back home but as now is still feel affected like depress and stress and it worries me that this will have a permanent effect in my life. It’s been 3 years of continuos stress from her. I’m so glad I found this blog and I hope some of you can reply to me and give advices because I love with a constant pressure on my chest. 🙂

  43. Lily says:

    Im so glad I came across with this article. Somehow it helps to know that there is people out there going through the same situation . I live abroad with my youngest sister. She is 23 and I’m 27. We both decided to go to college abroad and since then it has been a horrible nightmare. We use to be very close. I was probably her best friend. She was a difficult teenager and I was the only person who could help her with her alcoholism. At that time I thought it was just the age and I didn’t believe it was as bad as everyone said. Now I know! For the last 3 years I’ve been feeling physically, mentally, spiritual and emotional exhausted. Living with her has been the biggest challenge of my life. She drinks and cheats on her boyfriend all the time, she hides my food, takes my money, she doesn’t clean, she leaves all her stuff laying around for me to clean. The first 2 years I fought back but it was actually worse. Multiple times she has insulting me and once she tried to hit me (sober) … Anyways I decided to reinitiate my Buddhism practices to try to overcome my emotions because I know she won’t change. At least not for now. For the last 10 months I decided not to say anything else and let her be herself ( untrusted, manipulate and yeah toxic) I know she is unhappy because I know a happy person wouldn’t do what she does. We have another sister and she doesn’t talk to her for 3 years because of the reason. And our parents don’t do anything about the situation because they think if they do she won’t finish college. I just feel trap. It’s one more year to go before I can go back home but as now I still feel powerless and affected like depressed, anxious and stressed and it worries me that this will give health problems or a permanent effect in my life. It’s been 3 years of continuos stress from her. I’m so glad I found this blog and I hope some of you can reply to me and give advices because I live with a constant pressure on my chest.

  44. Darren says:

    What a great article. I finally drew a line in the sand with my mother yesterday over her continued inability to accept me as I am and her inability to accept my new wife (she won't even look at her). I wrote a letter saying that the term of future contact were very limited if there was to be any. It was really hard, but I feel much better having sent it off and knowing that I've tried my best at all the other options listed above before taking the steps to remove myself from the relationship. It's great to know that I'm not alone in this journey.

  45. Linda says:

    I am an adult struggling with self doubt and a mother that is too controlling and critical. She is toxic to be around, but I feel guilty and wrong to say so and she makes me feel bad about it, while still wishing I would stand up for myself. I’m so lost and confused, and we recently had a fight because she has been snooping in my journal, found some less than pleasant sentiments, and was angry at me for them. I feel like she doesn’t empathize with me or try to understand where I’m coming from, and other friends and family are only so much help. I don’t want to poison them against her, but I wish she would admit she was wrong and for once in her life act like she was sorry about it. She’s admitted doing things wrong in the past, but in a “get over it now” sort of way. It’s frustrating and feels so toxic because whether she knows it or not she is very controlling and manipulative, and I’m a grown woman that needs space

  46. leftwithmemories says:

    I needed to find this thread.
    As I am getting married in 5 months I have found what was already a toxic family life become more of a hardship for me. The day I have been dreaming of and waiting for my entire life is approaching and
    1. my identical twin sister has pulled out of my wedding because I refuse to support her having a relationship with a basically married man
    2. my mother refuses to be of any help or show interest and tells people shes not even sure she is invited to the wedding after I have begged for her attention
    3. my father clearly favors my sister and just avoids me all together unless he needs me to do something for him

    I've always known my family life was toxic but I never thought it would be as bad as it is now. And it is really hard for my fiance to understand, but I am going to share this article with him and I am sure it will be very helpful.
    Thanks for writing this and thanks to everyone who posted comments, because I am now sure that I am not alone in this and its good to know people out there suffer over the same thing I am.

  47. Dcouvertier says:

    This article is amazing and heaven sent. I have been destroyed with this conflict for many years with some family members, and the constant need of battle, compete or so much more. This made me feel lost, confuse, and or disppointed with never arriving to my purpose simple due to my family structure. I move out of state, where I grew, and today I am a better woman. Now, living in the same state or even in the same home with my family has been extremely complexed. Thank you for your incredible article.

  48. Kelly says:

    I am going back and fourth with my family.. my parents, siblings, aunts, cousins.. etc. They have been so negative all my life. I am so over being part of the negativity. they are always so concern but other people's problems and they are so caught up in the negative events and gossip. I am so different… every time I say I am going to stay away to help myself I feel guilty because they are my family and they always find a way to suck me in again. This article made it so much more clear. Thank you!!

  49. Kiki says:

    A beautifully written article. I recently divorced my family (aka the Cuckoo's Nest) and it's still a mind-bender but I value survival more than being uncomfortably comfortable with the idealism of family.

  50. Amanda says:

    This was very helpful, thank you! <3

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