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. Kat says:

    I so needed to read this today, over the last few months I've been dealing with a toxic member of my family and it has been tearing me apart little by little. Now I know what I must do I must move on and do better for myself. Thank you for this and it's so nice to know I'm not alone when dealing with something like this.

  2. APA says:

    I am happy this posts exists!! Feels like I am not the only one 🙁

    • m says:

      Yes. It has been an emotional rollercoaster for me with my family ( sisters, “mother and father”) They used to blackmail me when they couldn’t find something out that really had nothing to do with them because I would do everything for myself. I feel like they do it to make a point or make me look guilty. They are sick and that’s something that we have to understand when people are toxic, manipulative or suffered something in their childhood and its now making me sick. The difficult part is severing ties and dealing with the projective feelings that I have from my family effecting new potential relationships and hopefully recovering from it all.

  3. jim says:

    I have successfully and rightfully severed all ties with family members who have alienated and manipulated me for years, on top of breeding and spreading brutal lies about my character and my life (about which they know almost nothing, and never cared to know). Feels good to live in truth without such disgusting and immoral people constantly back-stabbing.

    But there is an issue. They attempt to track me, to spy on me – either digitally or otherwise. They try to reach out, but not directly. Not sure if they are spending all kinds of money or what, but they seem to pop up and purposefully try to continue their malicious ways by contacting people in my life presently. It is embarrassing and I have had enough. It is hard enough to build trust again and then I must deal with an inability to just get rid of their lies and B.S. Please help me I cannot keep dealing with this, it is harassment and I cannot keep moving around, changing phone numbers and addresses. I am thinking about getting rid of all my electronics and living in the wilderness without human contact for the rest of my life. How do I get rid of this poison?

  4. Becca says:

    I have read this article several times (normally after I have yet another falling out with family members I shouldn't still be talking to or even trying to help but I feel obligated to) and I've finally worked up the courage to post. My mother, my brother, his ex wife, and his present wife are all very toxic and my father is just downright violent. My mother has been abusive since I was little and informed me it was my job to watch my younger siblings and I was punished when they made mistakes or did poorly in school. My brother quickly caught on to how "the game" worked and would actively blame me for his failings and get me in trouble. My mother told my husband and I this joke on our wedding day: What did the geek do with his first 25 cent piece? He married her. My own mother called me a whore, in so many words, on my wedding day. And, when my daughter died (my firstborn child), she informed me it was God's way of saying I wasn't meant to be a mother. These incidents are 20 years old and still sting like it was yesterday. I've been able to completely cut my ties with my brother (even though my mother intentionally brings him around when I am required to see her without telling me he's going to be there in some warped attempt to make us get along). However, I am finding it impossible to completely cut ties with her and she's much more poisonous than my brother.

    I have also done most of the steps listed and they do work, but it's hard when the toxic people literally show up at your doorstep and accuse you of not "being there" when they needed you or accusing you of helping someone more than you've helped them. I'm one of those people who feels obligated to help anyone in need–especially family and it's tearing me up inside. I've already bailed my younger sister out (she was living with our mother) but now she's living on my husband's and my dime like a queen and refusing to find a new job. There are days I truly wish I could just walk away and not feel any guilt about them suffering, but it's not who I am. So, I'm torn between the knowledge of what I need to do and actually being able to do it.

    I am so sorry to see so many other people here struggling with the same issues I am. To top everything else off, my extremely sweet and understanding In Laws are getting very old and sick and I have to spend time helping them out as I deal with the rest of this. I don't mind helping them. In fact, I enjoy spending time with them, but the added strain is starting to make my physically ill. I hate telling my father in law what's going on because he feels sorry for me and I break down in tears when he hugs me and tells me it will eventually be ok.

    If anyone has suggestions on how to just stop caring or at least not feel obligated to help those who have hurt me my entire life, I would be appreciative. I don't know how much longer I can keep my sanity. We don't have the money for counselling (not included in our insurance) and paying my sister's rent is starting to drain us. I'm very sorry for the rant.

    • Kiesha says:

      Please try Jesus. I’m going through something similar. I’m wanting to separate myself from spiritually toxic people so that I may fulfill the call of God on my life. Sometimes we have got to consecrated ourselves and step away so that we can grow strong enough to be in their presence and not feel agitated. We’ll get there! But not without the Lord’s help.

  5. Michelle says:

    I thought my sister and i were almost alone about these kind of problems. My sister cutted all contact to our father around 1 year ago, and i am thinking about doing the same. I'm 20 and she's 15. I really don't know what to do.. The last time i was talking with him was before my graduation. I didn't wanted him to show up the day i finished my last exam, which i told him. I had invited him to show up at the graduation where everybody gets their certificate.
    At first it was his girlfriend who asked what day i was finishing my last exam, but i didn't wanted to tell her and she reacted like i had slapped her in the face.. It had nothing to do with her first of all and for second of all, it wasn't towards her, but she understood it as was it personal. The day after, my father called me and we talked calmly to eachother for around 5 minutes until he asked the same question as his girlfriend had done the day before; What day do you finish your last exam? Again, i didn't wanted to give the date and he accepted it at first.. Then suddendly he went really angry and said it wasn't my decision, but i was my mom who had told me to say that. When i said to him, it was my own decision and had nothing to do with my mom he said to me we could talk some other day, where i would be able to talk with. (He blames my mom for everything that goes wrong when it's about my sister and i. It began after he got the girlfriend.) I was so frustrated because he just wouldn't listen. I know him well enough to know, that he doesn't trust me and therefore i haven't trusted him for.. I can't count how many years now… He hasn't really been there for me and he has rarely trusted me – it's a very long story. When i'm around him and his girlfriend, who btw. always has to be near him, it feels like being with strangers. I can't really be in the same room with my own dad anymore. It's so awkward; i don't know what i can say or how i can act. I'm scared of meeting him and when i'm waking up in the morning, i've begun to think "he might call today." It gives me stomachache. Last week i went over to my best girl-friend, who lives in the same city as my father. When we went down to the store to buy some food for dinner, i kept looking over my shoulder thinking; "Is he there..? If yes, did he see me?" It was horrible.. I can't really take this anymore.. This article and the comments below has helped me getting the strenght i need. Hopefully, within the end of this month, i no longer have to fear getting a phonecall from my father.

  6. Emmy Logandorf says:

    I came from a history in which there was horrific physical, emotional and sexual abuse. At a certain point, you have to say to yourself, "This person will not change, cannot change, is unwilling to change." Then you disconnect from them. Their correspondence goes unopened into a paper shredder. Their calls are dodged with caller ID. If I get ambushed by them and discover them on the end of an active phone line, I hang up. I want to do NONE of these things. But I must foremost protect myself and my children. Face it, when the people around you are all damaged goods (to put it nicely), their pathology becomes and remains infectious. You can be left with no other choice than to shut them out.
    If that's what it takes……DO IT.

  7. Emmy Logandorf says:

    What made the biggest impression on me was how the vicious bunch of vampires I was born into reacted when I finally stopped appeasing them and reacted to their viciousness. I immediately became the monster, not them. And I became the one who needed to be rejected, shut out, rebuked, etc.

    They distanced themselves from me. And I have concluded, despite overtures, that I would be out of my mind to let them back into my life. When it becomes necessary, I yank out two important words: "Restraining Order."

  8. Emmy Logandorf says:

    I need to shut up. One last thought. When your family or a relative becomes so toxic your mental or physical health is being affected, you need to start distancing yourself from them. If the situation can't be repaired, distance yourself from them greatly. If they begin doing real damage to your mental health, finances, reputation, etc., break off the relationship completely. Whenever my siblings come to town and request contact, I meet them at IHOP. If that. They visit with me for an hour, and then they're gone. My phone, fax, and email work for me, and not the other way around. Restrict access whenever necessary, or use your delete button. I have found some of the attempts to "get at me" to be bizarre; there was a line of gossip for a time suggesting "my problem" was that I'd been molested as a child by another family member. It was all vicious lies, intended to provoke responses and create communication. I failed to respond to it. That was the correct course of action. Bottom line: most of these people aren't worth having as tenants in your head. Shove them out of your life, and let them feed on each other. Engage them, and you end up in an endless cycle of conflict, debate, and drama, none of which are worth your energy. LOSE THEM. If they earn their way back into your life later, that's a different matter. But be aware many people do the latter, in a cyclical manner, repeatedly entering and leaving your life. After a point, what's the point?

  9. No one says:

    I’m late to the party, but I’ll throw mine in. I need to break up with my mother. She has borderline personality disorder, but has refused to get treatment for it. Instead, she’s hated from before I was born, blamed me for every problem that she’s ever had, and purposefully destroyed my life, forcing me out of school at 13 and then basically holding me like a kidnap victim, not allowing me to leave the house or talk to anyone or do anything for years. Everyone knew what she did, and no one did a thing about it. Unfortunately, because I knew I’d never have a relationship with my father (addict, alcoholic, physical neglect) and the rest of my family was so bad (full of addicts and your general apathetic people), and that I heard all my life that everything was my fault (you believe that when you’re young and it’s your parents), I lived in denial with my mother until I was 20, and by then it was too late. I’d developed severe agoraphobia as a result of PTSD, had panic attacks every day, and couldn’t function on a basic level. She knew I had agoraphobia and used it to her advantage to control me, would even scream at me until I would have a panic attack on purpose to show that she was the one in control, not me. On top of that, she remarried, and her husband also used me as a scapegoat, blaming me for his financial problems (when it was actually that he’d been having an affair for years and blew all of his money on his mistress), while also being a total pervert with me (had an affinity for going through my clothing and fondling my underthings). I’ve gotten better with the agoraphobia, somehow, and am trying to get together enough money to leave. I don’t have any friends or family to stay with, and a shelter isn’t really an option with my condition, so I have to grin and bear it.

    What gets me through is the fact that I’ve already successfully broken up with the entire rest of my family, many years ago, and gotten past that. But the hardest is this last, and I turn 30 next year, and could not feel more pathetic.

    • Kiki Unhinged says:

      Please don't feel pathetic. I am just now breaking up with my mother at 49. It's very confusing while she chipped away at me little by little, until she finally made it easier for me. It was her own toxic behavior without any help from me that finally gave me the "ah ha" moment. It still hurts though but not so much anymore. peace be with you…

  10. Lucas says:

    Excellent article. I "broke up" with my family about 30 years ago. I stopped talking to them and seeing them. It was far from easy, but it was the smartest move I ever made. Once this negativity was removed from my life, I began to see other things, observe other ways of being in the world. I observed real love in families and love of children. The path has been very bumpy but so worth it. I have surrounded myself with people who care for me and who are happy to be my friends and I avoid toxic people at all costs. Life is too short.

  11. Sister problem says:

    I have a toxic sister who lies about me. It seems to be jealousy. I am 7 years older than her and I am not into family drama and she stirs up all she can.
    Her business partner sent me a disturbing message on Facebook this week. I didn't know who she was until my Mother told me that she is a family member.
    This is a copy and paste of the message:
    "You should be ashamed. I'm going to pray for you. That you will find peace in your life and let go of all the bitterness. Good day."
    I don't have a clue as to what this is about. She set the link so I could not respond back.
    After this message, I found out that this person and my sister started a business. Apparently the health department received a call from someone and they probably think I'm the one who called. I did not know they were starting a business and if I did, I would not take the time out of my life to do such a thing. Also, my sister is telling people that my husband and I foreclosed on our home and that is why we moved back to our home state. I can not get my sister to respond to me as to why she would tell such a thing. I can not go on any longer with this between us. I would just like to know the reason for this.
    My sister also has nothing to do with our Mother. It really doesn't matter about me not being invited, however they did not invite Mother which hurt her. They invited a former baby sitter and treated that person as as "grandmother of the bride". When one of my sister's daughters had a baby, they kept mother out of that too. Now all of this started before I moved back to my home state. The problem is, we live in a small town and word, truth or not, gets around very fast. I hope people will notice that I'm not the one spreading lies, and I know that will take time. Just hope I live to see it.
    A true Christian would want people to know why they're mad at another person.

  12. Vernon Nielsen says:

    i lived it for 45 years, all i can say is there are other ways if you haven't found them , thats a shame. i got out of being toxic, when one family member does that the rest get jealous and try to match or beat youth it, so i shared how i did it,,viola! massive release of family toxicity, not quite there yet but vastly improved. i just call weak ass bull shit on the duck and run method. face what makes you toxic and use it to detox, end of story.

  13. Lee says:

    This is good advice for anyone, even if they don't live in a toxic situation. While this is good advice, I'm witnessing a situation where an adult child is living in their parents home and is seemingly destroying the harmony in that family one day at a time. She needs to move out before her damage is irreversible (if it's not too late); however, how do you force your teenage/adult child to move out? The reality is that nobody else will take her in. She is aggressive, verbally abusive, depressed, and downright mean, keeping everyone on pins and needles when she is in the house. I've offered suggestions to the mother on how to get her child out, but it seems that if she does something that drastic, she's concerned that something even worse could happen. This child has put her whole family through the wringer for the past 5 years and is lucky that her mother has managed to keep her out of prison and alive. Any suggestions?

  14. marteen says:

    I feel better knowing I am not alone I am 52 my mother is 70 and I have cared for her most. Of my life. She’s all about her an does not care who she walks over to get her way I have had a life time of this. But she all ways manages. To suck me back in. I an full of hurt and anger at the moment and I am walking away for good the last straw was I bought mums car off her for a 1000dollars it’s just a little bomb for a to b paid her the cash in front of family and she came back and stole the car in the middle of the night.

  15. And through much dullness and despair, this rock turned into a diamond. For times such as these it's bets to develop or[han psychology. Autonomous. Detached (does not mean uncaring I am caring just selective because I am a limited resource). I couldn't have done it with ought therapy though… so if you are in trouble get help asap. Psychoanalysis helped me the best. It helped me detect, and rewrite my responses. Bets of luck ppl send love to everyone stay strong, do what you must do and live. It is your life, you matter, what you do matters has importance and can make a difference so get the toxicity out.

  16. Nate says:

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!! I'm glad I found this article! I felt like it was me against the world and no one understood why I don't want to see or hear from my family again. My mother and adult kids have mentality drained me. My mother not only deliberately destroyed my relationship with my kids but she destroyed my relationship with my siblings. She is a control freak! If it doesn't go her way she destroys it with no remorse. She has breast cancer now and I feel no pity.

  17. Linda says:

    My family uses me as a "whipping person" many times, and are not very nice to me. So last Christmas, and last summer, we did not go up to be with everyone else when my sister from out of state came to visit my parents.. Three siblings, and their children, but not my husband and me. I really have no other family. What no one really goes into is, when you separate yourself, how to deal with the extreme sadness and loss of people that are your closest family. I'm in my 50's and I never expected to have no family at this age. The sadness is very hard to deal with. It is like they all died.

    • grieving says:


      I have been thinking the same thing. After closing ties with my family, whom I always adored, and would (did) do anything for, the feeling that they have all died and the feeling of being completely alone is challenging. I personally feel as though I am an orphan…

      in those moments, I remind myself that we all (even our family members that we have disconnected from) have a divine beauty within. That we are deserving of love, and I try to remember to ground myself and feel my energy rooting through the soles of my feet to the top of my head. That my love will never stop for any of them, but to honor my body, mind, and spirit, they cannot be in my life right now. I remember that it is a choice that ** I ** have made.

      As it is thanksgiving and being without family around the holidays sometimes is more difficult, (although in all of our cases, probably a blessing), I am so thankful for everyone who has shared. It reminds me that it isn’t just happening to me, and that we have virtual families, and that we are very able and deserving to create families that our not blood related but choosen, because they are loving, supportive, those that are happy and willing to see our divine light and see the dark but love us to pieces either way.

      Oriah Mountain Dreamer wrote the Invitation, one of my favorite poems- a quick and powerful read, that may bring hope and strength for all of us who make these hard decisions to release from our blood related families.

  18. Meow says:

    After 44 years of trying to fit in with my crazy, conservative, overly religious family, they completely disregarded my children by not inviting them to 2 of their cousins weddings(within 2 months of each other) while all the other 12 cousins over 13 were invited- even the ones who lived so far away there was no way they would attend- I cut them off. My 3 brothers and their wives and their kids could not find it in their heart- if they had one- to stick up for me and my kids and say that this was wrong. Apparently money is more important than family. I'm glad though that this happened now so my kids don't fall for any of their lies and fake care and concern. This has actually liberated me from having to keep trying to have a relationship with any of them. It feels like a a huge weight lifted but it's also a heavy sadness because all those years I trusted people who didn't really care as much for us.

  19. Seanín says:

    My mother physically and emotionally abused me and my younger sister for years. I got it worst. I didn’t tell my Dad until second year of university.

    He cried. But he doesn’t talk about it. She is vile to him- he’s lost his spirit.

    I started having panic attacks two months ago. I told my dad I’m being tested for a disorder of the mind similar to what we expect my mother has. I also told my sister.

    No response.

    So last week I contacted them again, said I wasn’t coming home for Christmas, and that I was done pretending I havenr suffered enormously at the hands of my mum. I said she needed professional help and until they do something about that, I’m not bothering with them. I’d rather have no family than continue suffering like I have all this time.

    Still no response.

    It doesn’t matter. They were never there-only my youngest sister trusts and acknowledges me. The middle one is cold and competitive, also pretending none of it happened. And my Dad has always responded to the things mum has done by saying ‘So? She does worse to me.’

    Where’s the adult here?

    In order to release my youngest sister from the guilt, shame and self hate I have endured, I’ve ended my relationship with them. She needs someone to set an example- to show her this is wrong. And I need to get well again so I can continue with the rest of my life.

    Food for the soul- LIVING your TRUTH.

  20. KEVIN says:

    The hardest thing about dealing with a family "break-up" for me was dealing with the guilt. I viewed myself as "the bad one", the problem. Then I had my AH HA Moment – I wasn't being difficult or bad – I was protecting myself by refusing to live in a denial system that no longer held things together for me. It wasn't ME who didn't invite family members to weddings – it was my family members not inviting me. It wasn't me who forgot to send birthday wishes to his twin brother – it was my twin brother who didn't send them to me. And it wasn't me seeking to continue living out my life ignoring abuse, neglect, and pain – in fact, there was no abuse or neglect because my family said there wasn't any. My advice: Trust in your truth. Decide what the groundrules are going to be with your family members. And, if they cannot deal with those groundrules, remind yourself that it is YOU that needs protection; they are a colossal ball of dysfunction that you no longer play along with,

  21. lxie says:

    I have been trying to hold on to the myth that my family comprises of normal genuine people with human flaws,but the truth is that I come from a dysfunctional family. It has been too much, to hold on and to cope with so far, in every possible way, when you are buried in miserable emotions of those around you, self pity, demotivating talks and communication, not to miss the unbearable dose of sadness n emotional drama… have tried so hard to be there help, give solution, but am tired, i give up and all i want is a way out- quietly with minimum damage..

  22. KIM says:


  23. jojo says:

    I have a toxic sis who uses her son to do whatever she want an get away with it whether it be stealing from me an my husband destroying our property an lieing about doing . just recent she got pregent 3 month or so she say an she said she lost it with a guy older then our dad choice the guy over her son an family..but keep on her about coming back an she did an I made her take a pregnancy test came back negative.. The same day she left the guy older then my dad she got with another guy an I told her to get on birth control she didn’t an know is pregent again ..tired an feed up with her she hasn’t spent one night here with her son an only come back when he working an this boyfriend tried to tell me how I should treat my sis an get Into our family buissnes . So when I move she will not be moving with me an will not talk to her for a while because from all the things she has done over the years I am done with her an also our other sidling don’t talk to her either because of what she has done to them over the years.

  24. MsMaggieMia2 says:

    I stopped everything this morning while reading the article when I started reading the comments. I went through approximately 50 comments. All so sad, yet enlightening. I marvel at those who have been able to work through the difficulties of separating themselves from toxic family members. Especially at this time of year when it is almost a sure thing some families continue to get together even though the burden of toxic people come with it. I too have toxic family members, close and extended family. It's very hard to disengage from the need to smooth things over for the sake of the holiday, yet harder still to stuff it all down when there are children involved in the mess of the toxic family. I have 3 people in my life I choose not to see or contact this Christmas. My choice. One is by her choice, a sister who completely cut herself off from me and my family over a year ago. Another is an extended family member who is a Narcissist and is completely and totally a person whom I cannot repair a relationship with. Married to my son, who is a drug addict, she enables. I cannot enable him any longer, or her. This year I am thankful for my youngest sister who is now 2 years + clean and sober. We have been able to repair our relationship and that makes up for those I cannot help or even consider "family" at this time. It will be a good Christmas season, I have chosen to take away all the drama of these family members who I would always suffer anxiety attacks over if they were to appear on Christmas day (only to get their gifts and leave in 10 minutes). This year I am unburdened from them. They will never understand why I disengaged, they are toxic people, family or not. This article helped me so much this morning to realize I have not lost anything but gained everything by putting my faith in God to help me focus on doing good for those who truly care.

  25. Lori K says:

    I'd like an advice to pass on to a friend who had a toxic sister (verbal/emotional abuse) who wouldn't hesitate to use her children to 'punish' my friend. My friend is hurting because she loves her nieces and nephew to pieces but it's the toxic sister that's creating a wedge. How does she go about this?

    • Free advice says:

      Your friend probably needs to see a counsellor I'd suggest which is a quicker way of dealing with it rather than trying to sort it out in her own head. I tried that for 12yrs with my sister who also power played me with my nieces and nephews and it was a massive struggle.

  26. Homer says:

    MY girlfriend is going through this and I am supporting her every way I can. Her family are abusing us and we're trying to get by. She sent me this article and I am so Glad she stumbled upon it. I am so happy there are a lot of people this way, and people overcoming it. It gives me hope. I love her so much and I wish I could just take her away from all of this.

  27. sammy says:

    I truly wish all of you the best . Keep the kindness and love in your life. Release the poison.

  28. John says:

    This is all well and good, but how does one handle a toxic family member who's out to get you by spreading lies and rumour such that it can affect your respect in society, damage career prospects and relationships with clients etc. How can I get them to stop the abuse? I just want to be left alone.

  29. ziyan says:

    I have a reaally toxic mother in law…but the problem is my husband loves and respects her and she does love her children a lot…its just me she has a problem with…i cant avoid her…i have to make phonecalls to her…because i owe that to my husband coz he is more than a son to my parents….he knows his mother behaves like that with me…but as time is passing i am getting used to her and she doesnt affect me as much…and negatvity she put inside me i am trying to get out it….

  30. marlena margarita says:

    It has taken me sixty years to disengage from a toxic relationship with my elder female sibling. After no contact in four years, I have become a more grounded, balanced and peaceful person. I am sad for my sibling and my nephew, but I have accepted the fact that their lives and mine are made up of choices. I choose to consciously live my life. I would be mentally ravaged if I were to return to a relationship with either of them. After this time, I can truthfully wish them well and simply allow them to be. In so doing, I allow myself to be.

  31. Sabrina says:

    I was adopted so family was never about “bloodline” to me, it hurts me so much to even think of getting rid of them. They are so hurtful, so careless, so unloving and I really don’t have anyone else in my life that does love me. I love them so much and family means the world to me, I have a hard time accepting that our family is not ideal. I try so hard to fix it but it’s getting more and more obvious they aren’t willing to change. They don’t think they are doing anything wrong. They are completely oblivious towards the harms they do to me. I couldn’t survive without them physically, my financial situation and living situation has me completely trapped and dependent on them for my survival.

    In my recovery my family fell apart, my sister moved away and doesn’t have any contact, and my parent’s don’t want to have anything to do with us. They are really mean and verbally abusive towards me. My own mother told me to kill myself once and that hurt still remains with me and always will. I understand they went through a lot when I was mentally ill but the whole family is dysfunctional and that only became noticable when I recovered and I was the only one that ever went to therapy. They refuse to go to mediating, they refuse to go to therapy.

    I really wish I could live without them but I don’t think it’s possible for me. I just don’t understand how… how can I go on living alone, without a family, without anyone. I don’t even think if I was to replace them with another family or friends or join a commune that it would make that feeling of great loss and mourning any better. Because I love my family more than anyone else in the world and we’ve been through so much together, I can’t just fucking cut them out and I sort of feel like it would be psychopathic to even be able to just leave someone you love so much like they are just a peice of garbage. I can’t do it. But I can’t go on living like this either.

  32. Thank you for another great article. Where else may just anybody get that type of info in such a perfect approach of
    writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the search for such information.

  33. Mahgii says:

    Hi all, I never really comment when I look up articles like this, but I would like to contribute because of everyone's personal stories about their own experience.

    I'm in a family of 5 including me, + a sister-in-law. My second brother moved to another state for work, and is now living with his fiancee. So in my house, there's my parents, me, my oldest brother, and my sis-in-law. Now let me get this straight, I just turned 25 a few days ago, graduated from college in 2013, and am now working as a contractor (and this company has been amazing to me). Everything's good, except my personal life at home.

    All my life, I've been the outcast because I'm the youngest and only girl in the family. There have been obligatory small talks between me and my oldest brother and sis-in-law ever since they married (and get this, they "married" via Vegas, no ceremony took place whatsoever). Sometimes she's okay, sometimes she's not. She doesn't have a job for a couple years now, and don't intend to work ever (because she's living with us, and my oldest bro is supporting her). I don't care, whatever, that's fine. But I absolutely hate it whenever my oldest bro and sis-in-law has something against me, and they tell my parents and somehow get my parents on their side as well. Yet here's the irony: My parents talk sh*t about them too, because of her laziness and untidiness at home (for example, leaving used napkins around our tables/counter). There is so much hypocrisy at home, and I have to say, it is "toxic" as well. I hate it the most when my oldest bro and sis-in-law talk to each other loudly in the house about me, but saying it like I'm in third person and I'm not there. It's like, HELLO, I can HEAR you??! If you have something to say, say it to my face!

    One last thing I need to vent is the fact I've been out of college. I still don't have my own car, and share the other car with my dad. I have money to get my own, but I'm also afraid to take that next step. I don't think I am mentally prepared, let alone move out of this house. All my life I've been treated like an outcast (I'll always remember they took a family photo + other guests/relatives when I was still around middle school age at a(n) park/event, and they didn't bother looking for me to be part of the photo). I hate how in the next 5 years, I'll be 30, and I sure as hell better have my own car then. I hate asking to use the car. I also hate how my family has issues with me seeing my bf, as he lives an hour away. I hardly see him anymore, and it pains me every now and then. I always wonder to myself how other people do it; I'm just not as powerful as they are I guess.

    I just hate how my family seems me as a 15 year old, not a 25 year old (because guess what? I also look like I'm still in high school). But here's the funny thing, I have never been a troublemaker at school; never late to class; never need to pull all-nighters. So why is my family treating me this way? I just don't get it. And knowing them, you can't change their views. At their age, nope, never.

  34. Czechchic says:

    @ Grieving, Thanks for your post on THE INVITATION by Oriah Mountain Dreamer . I am 53 and a caregiver for both of my parents. My Sister will not help. She doesn't want to see the ugliness of Alztimers. Great to know this blog exists. I feel less painfully alone, now. Hang in there elephantjournal brothers and sisters.

  35. fede says:

    Wow…..this is what i really needed….i thought i was alone….but now im more than ready to disengage with my family i.e my younger sister .mother and her sisters.they only value me when i have money.i guess its me and my daughter..thanks alot for the enlightenment and it feels better to know that im not alone

  36. Dona says:

    Thank you! Thank you! This was a wonderful article. It was of interest to me because I separated myself from my two sisters. It was very difficult to do, but I managed it. It has been several years for one sister and one year for the other sister. I can't even begin to describe the blessed relief this has given me now. I can honestly say I don't even miss them anymore. I don't ever talk to them. I don't attend any family functions. I have an excellent relationship with my brother and he and I get together frequently and talk nearly every day through texts and facebook. That you for wanting to help others by talking about an often unmentionable subject.

  37. Maia says:

    Thank you for this page, i have been in a unhealthy family for ever and i need to get out!

  38. Hope says:

    I'm now free from my family. Free as in guilt-free, emotionally free, lots of free time, lots of headspace. It's great! I recommend.

    Start slowly. Don't give them any clues that they bother you or they will cling to you. Read the book "Art of Seduction," particularly the chapter on anti-seducers. This will help you to understand exactly why you are so repelled by them. Take on anti-seductive qualities in your dealings with them. They will be glad to be rid of you when you finally do disappear.

    I think my family is relieved I'm gone too. We are just really different. Now I see them as a part of my ancestry, like a part of me that is ancient history. It's like watching The Vikings on the history channel. You can start to distance yourself and have an appreciation and respect. You can be yourself. It's worth the trouble.

  39. msiv says:

    My oldest sister is very toxic and has turned my other two siblings against me. Now said oldest has posted pics of herself on FB partaking of her "New Hobby" of target practice. With a large sniper gun no less. And then she adds that it's not to shoot coyotes. It's me basically. She is trying to scare me and I guess it is working because I am scared. The only thing that makes me feel better is that I live a couple of hours away from her but wish it was further. Definitely too close for comfort.

  40. Steven says:

    Great piece on the lacking of familial peace…. I’ve saved this article the past few months now, to re-read as needed.

    Moved away from a toxic family situation 26 years ago. Found peace, mended some bridges where I thought it appropriate, only to have a dramatic flare~up of those good old family hostilities again, after our mom’s passing and the handling of her estate. Some people are just so F’d up, and to recognize the old jealousy, spite and hatred, just for the sake of their own issues, well, I guess I could see it coming from a mile away as mom lay there all morphined out in her last days. Visiting mom on her death bed was hard enough…… not that she was free from creating so much un~necessary drama during her life…..having to spend that time with a sister who just may be the illegitimate spawn of Adolph & Ava certainly was unpleasant in it’s own regard.

    I’ll spare you, (and myself thankfully), any further details but wish to say that Time heals all, and helps you to forget that which festers and scars if you can maintain your own peace and joy of life…….. Time is short….tick~tock…… Some of us may have been born into some pretty shitty situations,completely and totally out of our control, but we CAN find our way out.. and try to live our own lives….. the life we know in our hearts to be true. Ahhhh Sweet catharsis…… Peace!!!

  41. sra says:

    I completely agree. Even though I love my sister(albeit in a more detached way)I feel like I can't continue a relationship with her. Although my parents never paid any mind to it, I always felt like she belittled me to build herself up. She claimed superiority academically, socially, and eventually held herself up as the poster child. I would be lying to say that this didn't take a toll on my self esteem. I started to internalize all our problems and blame them on my own shortcomings. Eventually, however, I stopped spending time with her and discovered that I am a more productive, happy, and confident person when I'm not around her. That's not to say that she brings out the worst in me. . .there are aspects of her personality that help display my good qualities. For example, while she is mostly introverted, I am more extroverted, and being in her company helps me reflect that. . .to the point where we actually foil each other. However, the cons of her personality don't outweigh the cons. At the end of the day, she will always be snide, self-centered, and egotistical. I don't think I'll even attempt to reconnect with her until she can work on her own issues. Thanks for the article!

  42. Eleanor says:

    Thank you for your article. It has made me feel not so alone. I come from a family of 6 including my parents. By the age of 29, my father, sister, and one brother have all passed away. Starting when I was 12. I though dealing withy he deaths of 3 immediate family members was hard. Honestly dealing with my only living sibling, my brother has been harder. I learned at a young age that life was fragile and to treat you loved ones with kindness always. My family, except for my living brother, have been more than supportive and loving.

    I’ve been crying a lot in the last few months and came across this fantastic article. After my eldest brother died in an accident. It quickly became apparent that my living brother wanted nothing more to do with our family, I think all the losses were to much for him. After a couple very hard years of detaching from him. I was okay. Until recently. He has become very cruel towards my mother. She is almost 80 and works full time. She has financial burdens and I have helped her what little I can. I didn’t expect my brother to help. But my mother asked him for a small loan, less than $1,000. Neither of us have asked him for help financially. (I might add he lives in Upper Manhattan and is the 1%). Anyways he tore into her and severed ties. It’s not so much me, I’m sad for, but I weep for my mother. She has already lost 2 children and my dad. Never remarried and is probably the most generous person I know. Spiritually, and emotionally. This situation has brought up emotions I had thought I worked through. But It’s become quite apparent that I need to do a lot more work. This sure is hard.

  43. Maria says:

    I am so happy I found this article. I had been suffering from a toxic family since a child. Now on my fifties is when I am deciding to cut this cycle. Never is too late, isn’t it? My sister and I are like oil and water… we never mix. She talks bad things about me, making me look like the crazy and awful one. I know this, because when those people get to know me, they tells me they didn’t think I was a sweet and marvelous person. We can’t even talk, because that will warrant a war. She has turned my nephews and niece against me, and that hurts me a lot. But I need to do this right now because I am seeing my niece turning like her, or even worst. She lives in my mother’s house. Although my sister children were raised there, my mother was a silent lamb. Never dare to say anything because she is afraid of my sister. My mother is part of the problem because now she keeps complaining how bad they treat her all the time. I had beg her many many times to come to live with me, but she wont move. So that is it! I am tired and sick of this situation. I starting to move away of my toxic family! I will take care of my emotional and physical health away from their drama. I won’t cut communication with mom, but as soon she starts complaining, I will tell her to talk about other things. This will take some time… I will still have nightmares with my sister… but soon they will be gone… Thanks for bringing up this theme!

  44. Violet says:

    I just recently cut ties with my father and stepmother, and their entire side of the family, after suffering in silence for most of my life (I'm 48). How absolutely liberating! A giant relief! I keep wondering why I didn't do it sooner, but perhaps I was still holding onto some hope after all that time. But things never changed. In fact, things just got worse and worse over the years. I think I held on because that's what we're "supposed to do". We're constantly bombarded by these sayings, that "family is everything", and the like, so there's a level of guilt that comes into play when we consider breaking off. But if these toxic people are hurting us, I do not think we need to feel guilty about protecting ourselves. Finally understanding that just because I was born into this family did not mean that I had to put up with their emotional abuse, that I could move on, and live my life free from all that stress, was a huge epiphany for me.

    I put up with this poison family for far too long. I dealt quietly with the pain they caused, and for many years, I thought there was something wrong with ME. I moved far away, which helped a bit, but there was still this niggling way they got at me, day after day. I kept trying to ignore it. However, when they began their vicious gossiping, backstabbing, belittling, rumor-mongering, name-calling, lying, deceitful, hurtful, manipulative ways with my daughter and granddaughters (seriously, who trash talks a sweet ten year-old girl? their own grandchild, even?), I decided that enough was enough. They could mess with me, but there was no way in hell I was going to let them hurt my girls. So, I cut them all off in one fell swoop, and anyone connected with them, and have had no contact since. It was a long time in coming, and I know it was the right thing to do, to protect myself (finally) and my daughter and granddaughters.

    I'm sure that side of the family has spun their warped side of the tale to any and all who will listen, but you know what? I don't care. The break has been incredibly freeing, and I feel like I have a new lease on life. My entire outlook has changed. I feel stronger, more healthy mentally and emotionally, and free to concentrate on the people that truly matter to me, the people that truly love me in return. As that popular quote goes, “Letting toxic people go is not an act of cruelty. It’s an act of self-care.” If you, yourself, are suffering from toxic relationships, then I wish you the strength to choose a better life. I wish you the strength to choose to save yourself.

    • Miss. Hurt says:

      I wish I could have the courage to do that. I'm So proud of you I don't even know you your in my prayers

  45. Miss. Hurt says:

    I will do the 12 step. But my situation is I work for a family member for years now and all of sudden he doesn't want me to work there he says it's because he has to downsize. I'm the only employe he letting go. I have try to ask him why me I'm the lowest paying person here. For the last 20yrs of my life I have done what ever he had asked for I have put his happiness first. I have never felt this kind of hurt I can't describe it. I can't get a handled of my own life I feel my heart beat so loud. I'm shocked he knows I'm paying for my child college education. I have cried my eyes out to him nothing seems to faze him all he says is oh well I'm not responsible for you. Someone please give me advice. Thank you for listening. Oh by the why my work and child has been my life I don't have friends that I can turn to and he is my only other family members besides my child

    • Miss. Hurt says:

      I should have mention he is married to his 2nd wife for 25yrs. She has never liked me from day one. I don't know if she has something to do with him letting me go after 20 yrs working for him. He is 25yrs older than his wife. I feel she may has something to do with this even if she does have something to do with this I feel he needs to explain why this only be done to me. I have a lot of emotion that I have never had before can't eat sleep crying my heart feels broken it hurts. I'm 51yr old and I completely lost and hurt. I would love to hear any advice you may have for me. Thank you

  46. tina says:

    i am in a relationship with a boy for five years. but we are other caste so that my family is not ready to get marriage with him..they always abused me and behave like i am animal..i have no emotions or feeling at all. my parents always give me an offer for marriage to other boy..but it is so painful to me..after giving pressure i agreed to marry with other but this it was not good family so its all over now…but my parents did take a rest they always search a boy and press me to marry.but i denied so they always abused me and dont give me a value or respect..it made me so depressed.i have headeak and feeling unhappy all time..how can i be happy? please help me.

  47. Leni says:

    Great advice. It has always been difficult watching my mom being a ‘victim’ to my money hungry paternal aunts and uncles who I believe will never change. Honestly speaking my mom has turned into a bitter woman but I bet any person in their right mind would when faced with a gang of siblings who always manage to turn any conversation into something about money. And to make matters worse my dad always manages to side with his ‘loving’ siblings and it’s so frustrating. I don’t think I’d ever be able to reconnect with these aunts and uncles and I know it’s a horrible thing to say but the day my dad dies will be the day we’ll be finally free of this toxic greedy group of relatives.

  48. Carol Hyde says:

    My sister is a shallow, vicious, bullying, lying narcissist, or to use the short version, a psychopath. Her technique is to tell lies, which she then believes herself, to convince other family members that I’m the one who’s harming her. In this way, she’s convinced her empty-headed meat-puppet of a daughter that I’m a monster. Her son, thankfully, has got more sense than to believe her vicious propaganda. Our parents, sadly, lack the courage to stand up to her. Although I’ve not suffered physical abuse, her bullying was such that I have been plunged into depression. When I stood up to her bullying, her response was not ‘my sister is in great distress of mind, what can I do to help?’ but ‘how dare you criticize me, you evil madwoman’. Standing up for yourself is essential, no matter the apparent cost. Counselling is also helpful – being able to vent and cry in a non-judgmental atmosphere makes a big difference. I also challenged my parents for effectively enabling her by not criticizing her bullying behaviour. The initial effect was negative, as they were shocked that I thought they were in the wrong. Denial is a major part of their worldview. However, after some time, my mother, who has a long history as a passive-aggressive control freak, has finally grasped that constantly needling and belittling me is not acceptable behaviour. People who want to change, and care about you enough to make the effort, can. I’ve binned my sister and her daughter. I have as little to do with that venomous harpy and her mini-me as I can. She’s still resident in my head, but I hope with the support of my friends and anti-depressants to evict the loathsome piece of sub-human filth in time.

  49. Muthukumar says:

    I want to get out of my family. They destroyed my life.
    I want my life back.
    I want to get out of my family

  50. Deschutes says:

    Well the lesson I'm learning now, at age 50 with both parents long dead and 3 surviving siblings (none of us are close), is that we as a society place WAY, WAY TOO much emphasis on "the family", as if it is some sanctified entity: IT IS NOT. It is not at all worth carrying around guilt or hope of reconciliation with negative, passive-aggressive, back-stabbing family members. Don't waste your time trying to make nice or visit at Christmas. They are not at all worth it. Completely divorce yourself from such abusive family members. Life is too short to carry around guilt and blame about bad family relations. Better to dump them completely and make a fresh start. Your mental well being is much more important than trying to 'make nice' with crap siblings.

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