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

Via Tanya Lee Markul
on May 5, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

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. Sally Jo says:

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

  2. B H says:

    Similar situation with a sister who lived in home of mother, running up caregiver costs, draining accounts, & confounding any financial clarity – hid it- until after death of loved one. Her "game" was to take the max, and stir up legal workings, in order to remain in the deceased home – like she had/has squatters rights. Dishonesty and concealment, plus puzzling financial losses will be part of conundrum of events I must face over time waiting for living trust to begin to settle-after a first legal issue she began must go before a judge. My widowed Mom and I thought that the live-in sister would become responsible; use some of her skills on the families behalf (she is Trustee), but nope… She is still out for herself big-time, and has spent years perfecting an act. Eventually, I believe, the truth or the law will get her. There has been complete lack of empathy, or ethics.

  3. Barbara says:

    My situation is so different, but the experience you have suffered is almost identical. For me, there was a positive experience, in hearing your story. I do have healthy relationships which have enabled me to survive true abuse- largely passive aggressive- from my sister. Sometimes, these situations are deliberate; a family member can decide to "throw you under the bus" if they can, & senselessly.

  4. andrea says:

    Stani, my husband and I are going through something similar; he has always given above and beyond to everybody in his family (my husband has the biggest heart and is kind to everybody; it's just his nature) whether help has been requested or not. They have taken advantage of his kindness, and his 2 sisters and mother have banded together against him because of a financial matter. He is at the point where he wants to maintain his position even at the cost of ending our relationship with them. I'm wondering how best to support him and wonder how you handled that. In your opinion, is your husband glad he made the break from family-is the cost of gaining peace in his life worth the guilt or sadness he faces because of the loss? Andrea

  5. Kat says:

    Hi Sally Jo,

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

  6. Kurgan says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  7. emma smiley says:

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

  8. Jess says:

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

  9. Karen says:

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

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

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

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

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

    Thank you.

  10. Tina says:

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

  11. Pissed off says:

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

  12. Andrew says:

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

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

  13. betty says:

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

  14. Megan says:

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

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

  15. Leslie S. says:

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

  16. Megan says:

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

  17. Tara M. says:

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

  18. Lily says:

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

  19. Lily says:

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

  20. Darren says:

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

  21. Renée Layberry says:

    I totally understand how hurtful that is. Being dismissed—whether in person, on the phone, in conversation, or online—all feels the same: painful. If you feel that cold ache in your chest and gut, it's because you've been hurt. I have had to do the same thing lately; when I pointed out how I felt, I was told that I was creating it all in my own imagination. That was the last straw. Removing from social media is the first step.

  22. Olivia says:

    Katie, I know this was posted a long time ago but maybe you will get a notification for my reply. You described my thoughts completely. My immediate family members (mainly my mom and sister) are so delusional and psychotic. I finally pushed my sister out of my life about 4 months ago and I don't miss her at all, only the old her. Now I have distanced myself from my mom because they are the same person, and my mom will tell my sister any information about my life. She is manipulative. We moved and havent told anyone where we live, but I caught my mom trying to get information out of my THREE YEAR OLD daughter. It was creepy and I hardly talk to her anymore. And they make me feel like I'M the one with issues. They treat me like i'm emotionally diseased because i'm being distant. That's the hardest part! I so feel you on this and since your post was almost 2 years ago, I sure hope you have come a long way since. I hope you have successfuly removed toxic people and come to a better place in your life.

  23. Linda says:

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

  24. leftwithmemories says:

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

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

  25. Dcouvertier says:

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

  26. Kelly says:

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

  27. No confidence says:

    I have the exact same situation – only it is my daughter. I realized I hide from the world and have lost my self confidence through all the negative things that have been said to me and posted publicly on forums where old friends and family can read them. This is a very scary and lonely time.

  28. Kiki says:

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

  29. Amanda says:

    This was very helpful, thank you! <3

  30. 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.

  31. APA says:

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

  32. 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?

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. Emmy Logandorf says:

    You are a smart cookie.
    Live your life free of them.

  37. Emmy Logandorf says:

    Yes. Heal yourself. Make your own life. When necessary, shut them out. Slam the door on their fingers. Figuratively.
    Don't look back. If they ever become worth reclaiming, resume the relationship cautiously.
    In my infrequent contacts with relatives, we meet in restaurants.

  38. Emmy Logandorf says:

    The burden of forgiving does not rest on the victim. If it is possible, it is desirable, yes. If it is not possible, it is not a moral imperative. Sometimes the moral imperative is simply to write them out of your life. And to move on with your life. Yes, it's very hard. Do it anyway.

    What I loved in particular was that I was the person painted as dysfunctional, evil, vicious, vindictive, etc., by the damaged bunch of vampires I grew up in. I tried again and again to accommodate, acquiesce, adapt, and tolerate. You just end up being a doormat. At some point, you have to walk away. If anyone were to come and say, "I made mistakes, I'm sorry, forgive me," I would work with them. That almost never happens, except in the movies. What they want is to come back into orbit (because they need a loan for a new hot water heater or something), and then they kick your teeth out again when the correct moment arises. After you pick up your teeth a few times, you need to get the message, and get out.

  39. 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."

  40. Emmy Logandorf says:

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

  41. 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?

  42. 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.

  43. 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…

  44. 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.

  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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?

  48. Michelle says:

    I completely understand you, seems like we have been both thru very similar situations. It is still hard.

  49. 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.

  50. I am sorry but this is on you. I know it’s not easy and to loose the other pillar of a family is very tragic, but if you hope to keep it together, and do what you are supposed to do in the name of love you shared with the person who has parted you you gotta see the reality and not your pity. If your teens are in a “bad” energy perhaps it is maybe them reacting to your bad energy of lack of self esteem, hopelessness etc. It is very common for people who have suffered such loss to be in this mental and emotional state. And it is natural as humans to be selfish. And just focus on ourselves but shift for a moment if you care about your kids at all: They also lost some one. They are not as old and wise and need guidance and parenting, a source that will let them know things will be ok because things must go on. A source if strength. You do not know how string you can be until the only option you have is to be and there is no room for conformity and lack of motivation. Your kids’ lives and futures are in your hands dependent on how you handle this and it can start as simple as just talking to them about it and telling them how you feel and asking them if they notice and if it makes them uncomfortable (which they will notice and find uncomfortable more so because they also don’t feel too well about it) So just get talking, normally no control, no pity partying for anyone just sympathy and the sense that it is a team and as a team everyone must support each other, cheer each other up and get the ship sailing again. My best regards.