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.

Bonus:

 


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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.

Comments

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

  1. Yenelli says:

    Toxic parent, disabled sib. Forty years of hell–bickering, being blamed and blocked, being undermined if you call a doctor or having no followup which is why you (I) start to "intervene" (HELP) in the first place.

    And that 86 year old embittered hateful manipulative–crushed, afraid, confused–blaming, dismissive, abusive parent continues to suck breath out of a sunny day, even when helping.

    IT IS SO HARD TO FIND SOME KIND OF BLESSING, GRATEFULNESS, I'm filled with poison just being near, yet am prevented in EVERY way from interacting or helping the disabled sib unless it goes through the steel jaws of that parent's bear trap poised seething razored black pus and poison.

    I cannot imagine what it is like to be that parent, I ONLY know that even the car I drive, the soup I make, the offer to buy groceries is EXACTLY LIKE Danny DiVito's experience w/his ma in Throw Mama from the Train. THE ONLY way to deal with it is avoidance. Seriously, did anyone ever give a sermon on how to bring Christ into Danny Di Vito's character's life?

  2. kimse says:

    This is good article. But not everyone is same. I want to punch my aunt. I can not because i stay at her house in foreign country. One example of her insults “If you were not son of my brother i would cut your head”… How to deal with such aunt? I want to beat her so hard

  3. Stani says:

    Hei Tanya,

    I absolutely love the article. It’s really helpful :). Unfortunately in the past few months my husband and I are going through a really bad experience with his family and we reached the point of not talking to each other anymore. I really want to help my husband through this and sometimes I just don’t know how. He’s a very caring and kind person and have always been helping his family unconditionally. But after they’ve been taking advantage of his kindness forever he got enough and put an end to the relationship with them. Honestly I believe that ppl who are poisoning your life should be out of it. He feels way better now but sometimes I see how sad and disappointed he is and it breaks my heart. I’ll have him read your article and hopefully it will help him overcome the sadness.

  4. Maria says:

    I am currently going through a family break up right now. They are so toxic in so many ways, that it's not healthy for me to be around them or interact with them. A couple of Christmas' ago, I basically mourned the death of my family. Now, there is a huge void in my heart. I work on that daily; some days are better than others. The worst part about it, is that now I feel like I have lost who I belong to. I don't have anywhere to call home, no where to run to when I hurt, and no one to hold me up when I've fallen down. It is lonely; that's for sure. I question my identity regularly because I don't have a pack that I belong to. Anyone else go through something like this? Something this tragic?

  5. Steph says:

    Amazing. Stunning. I can’t express how deeply synchronizing this is for my life right now. Thank you!

  6. Havenice says:

    I feel like my family prevented me big time to achieve my potential while I lived with them. Parents totally absent, brothers and sisters pointing fingers and saying stuff like I was dumb, a rebellious by nature, I always blamed myself. Big family, older had difficult life in the countryside in the military years of Brasil, and always made me feel like I came when they weren't so miserable anymore so I should thank them for having house in a city, food, etc. Always had to work to sustain myself, started at 14, in the family businesses, always being the youngest who was never heard, but ignored and manipulated. And criticized a lot and having everyone sticking their fingers in my poor affairs…Yes, had to get out of their environment, in order to be my fully self, and still suffer to get their approval…it's a high price, to away from the thing that identifies that family represents, but I guess, we have just to get used to it.

  7. nina says:

    What a great article. I have a brother with a special needs child with daunting needs. Because of this, my mom sways in their direction all the time despite the fact that my sis-in-law is just toxic. No other way to describe it. You get to the point where you’re like ‘I can’t sacrifice my life and peace for this’. I have to wonder – if I have no trouble with long-term friends, in-laws, hubby, kids, colleagues at work, am I at fault or is it that I’m just not accepted or celebrated for myself by one or two people? Talk about a wake-up call alright! One breath at a time is sure the thing to do.

  8. kalou says:

    Since my parent's death, some of my siblings makes me feel like they just don't care about me anymore. Like the great Billie Holiday's song « God bless the child that's got his own » 😉 !

  9. Suzanne says:

    My adult daughter hates me. It is tearing me up inside. I think we should have no contact as nothing has worked to date. Am I wrong?

  10. Vratika says:

    Thank you. Dealing with an abusive brother was making me go suicidal. Your article came as a pill of faith and i hope to improve my life and not get bothered with negative beings around me. I really needed someone to calm me down. Lots of thanks.

  11. annie123 says:

    I totally get where you are coming from. My husband died and I was left to raise my kids by myself at a young age – my parents really helped me then two years later my parents died. After that my sister whom I was so closed to turned evil. There was fighting over property and I liked the property and she knew it she turned the entire big family against me. One by one my siblings stopped calling me. I really did nothing but she was building a case against me over little things and because she is so controlling and a very good leader and my parents were no longer the center of the family she became the center. Its been such a hard road with no emotional support I desperately need for my kids and me. I would really like to feel connection but I no longer trust her anymore. I used to watch her kids when they were little I did fun things for her kids but there is no one doing that for my children. I am so hurt and I wish I could get over it. I wish I knew how to forgive but I feel like if I let her into my life she will again be critical of me and my children. I don't think I will ever trust her again. Ever. She tends to have drama all the time. Spin the dial of who she has issues with. Wish I could forgive. I'm just too hurt. Having them out of my life is enabling me to be strong by myself but it hurts for my kids not having other people who care about them.

  12. Superpook says:

    This is so overly simplistic it is close to being wrong in ways. I must add too that if someone is abusive, manipulative, etc….then the option to sever ties with the person who is being abusive should be included. We don’t get to handpick our families and nobody is obligated to remain tied to a person who is abusive to them simply because they share the same bloodline.

  13. 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").

  14. Shannon says:

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

  15. 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

  16. 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.

  17. Punkie says:

    Hi Stacie, I am experiencing this same situation right now. My family is trying to create as large of a wedge as they possibly can between myself and my oldest son. They are succeeding in some ways and hopefully failing in others. He knows the past pain I have endured with them but refuses to learn from it and is now being treated the same way and manipulated emotionally in the same way as well. I hope you find peaces in knowing you (and I ) did not fail as parents but rather nurtured our children to think for themselves and hopefully that nurturing will win out in the end. Thank you Stacie for posting your comment, I don't feel so alone on this journey. Namaste

  18. 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.

  19. 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….

  20. maya says:

    Letting go and forgiving is the hardest bit but its essential for moving on in life and experiencing joy. I struggled for three decades to forgive my parents for the way they treated me all my life. I think what helped most was when I start seeing their behaviour as a result of circumstances they've been thrown into. There must be a reason why they act the way they do. I tried to imagine them when they were little kids, innocent pure souls.Then probably mistreated, hurt, unable to cope with the pain and eventually spreading the negativity onto their own children. Now I understand they suffer deeply themselves and that fills me with compassion! Forgiving is much easier to do from distance, when you no longer have contact with the person involved. Good luck!!!

  21. 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.

  22. -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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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

  25. Emily says:

    So glad I saw this, perfect timing….

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. Betsy says:

    just tell him. He deserves to know and will appreciate the honesty

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

    ~Namaste

  34. Jenna B. Wiser says:

    Awesome!! Good to know.

  35. Sandra says:

    Alternatively, you could choose to remove them completely, take a stand, and say no….you get to seriously choose who can be on your friends list. Family don't just have a right for no good reason. Either they deserve to be there by respecting you, or they don't. Their call ultimately in that regard, and yours too based on how they're acting now.

  36. Sandra says:

    Carla, that's awesome, and a tough decision. I am also in your position – only yesterday my sister (who is on holiday from abroad and I haven't seen in 5 years) came into my home and swore at me in front of my 4 year old. Both parents said nothing and allowed the bullying to happen. Through tears, I stood up for myself and asked them all to leave. I'm not sure I want to spend Christmas with them but am afraid they'll turn my boy against me in the future telling him that I'm the one who stopped them from seeing him.

    I think you've done the best thing. Your Mum is attached to the drama…the pattern, the cycle. When we keep ourselves connected to that pattern, it doesn't help them to grow. Sometimes good love is hard love. Saying 'no' to that treatment, as you would if it were a stranger instead who was treating you that way. The lines are blurred when it's family, but it's still not acceptable.

    You've taken a courageous step forward. You'll find your way and in time, will feel so detached from those emotions, you'll eventually be able to come back in and show them the way through too. By not subjecting yourself to it all now gives you space to breathe and find your true self without them telling you who you are (not)…and through that, you'll transcend the pain and go beyond what they've told you about yourself and most likely create an awesome, fun, successful life.

    Thank you for sharing and inspiring. This Christmas will be the last of it for me for a while too…I'm done!

  37. Sandra says:

    Maria, you'll be the leader of your new 'pack'. You will travel solo for a while..until you find yourself again, and that's okay. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself permission to meet good people, to do good and happy things. Be ready for a new beginning – be prepared now to heal and no longer live in misery.

    You cut ties but now you must remove yourself also from the suffering and begin empowering yourself with positive thinking and action each day. Get your life on track, find a job that you love, do yoga or a sport that excites you…and travel! Be a darling to people you meet everywhere…allow the true you to shine through.

    Sending you love and healing and letting you know you are not alone. I feel your pain…am going through something similar myself xxx

  38. 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.

  39. Des says:

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

  40. 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.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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

  44. 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.

  45. Faye says:

    I don't think so. I've had no relationship with my son for about 10 years. He's a slowly recovering drug addict—gave up the drugs before the thinking, won't attend meetings, etc. He hates me for not accepting his behaviors, but they're toxic and sometimes threatening to me, so I can't… It's hard to lose relationships with our children, but we can and actually must move on if we're to be whole ourselves. I'm sorry for what you're going through and hope for you that some healing will occur down the road, but live your life for yourself until or unless that happens.

  46. Ger says:

    Just on time for new year

  47. 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.

  48. Ann says:

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

  49. 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.

  50. 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 😉

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