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How to survive family members that are toxic (A comprehensive guide)

Toxic people can destroy your life... More so when they are family. Do this to protect yourself!

Toxic people can destroy your life. If you don't learn to control them, they will consume you until you are nothing more than a shadow of your former self.

When dealing with a toxic person, it is important to understand how to get rid of their harmful energy and influence on your life.

In today's comprehensive guide, I will be revealing How to cope with family members that are toxic, self-absorbed, rude, and narcissistic...

You will discover how to manage them in ways that will ensure that your life stays in one piece.

Causes of dysfunction in families

A dysfunctional family is defined as a family where conflict, violence, substance abuse, and sexual assault occur frequently and/or result in long-lasting consequences. 

But why do dysfunctional families exist in the first place? 

There are many reasons why a dysfunctional family can arise. These reasons can include:
Violence: Children of violent homes are at risk of developing mental health issues, substance abuse, or violence themselves. Many studies have shown that children raised in violent homes are at a higher risk of experiencing violence in later life.

Parental substance use and addiction: A parent's involvement in an unhealthy relationship with substances can affect the child's development, behaviour, and school performance. Additionally, children raised in homes where parents have a history of addiction may be more likely to develop similar problems themselves.

Domestic violence: Domestic violence is a major cause of dysfunction in families and can lead to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse within the home.

Parental depression: Parental depression can affect the ability to care for a child. Depression is often associated with various other conditions, including substance abuse. In addition, parental depression can affect the development of a child's social skills and overall health.

Economic hardship: Families that struggle to pay their bills can feel helpless to help their children. These economic struggles can lead to increased stress, which in turn can cause parental neglect.

Sexual abuse: The experience of sexual abuse in a family can lead to feelings of shame, rejection, fear, and anger, negatively impacting the family.

Separation: When a couple separates or divorces, children can feel confused, insecure, sad, or angry.

As a result, they may become dependent on the family's primary caretaker (usually the mother).

The lack of contact between children and their non-residential parent (the father or another male figure) can cause them to develop behaviours that disrupt the family unit.

Parental incarceration: Children of incarcerated parents are at a higher risk for developmental delays, behavioural problems, and drug use. In addition, they are at a greater risk for low self-esteem and poor academic performance.

Who is a toxic family member

A toxic family member is someone who knowingly or unknowingly harms another person.

Toxic family members are often difficult to identify. This is because they may not directly show it by being aggressive or hostile toward you, but they may cause damage to your mental health or your ability to succeed in life. Toxic family members can be parents, grandparents, siblings, children, and other relatives.

In a totally healthy family, there is no bullying or teasing. Everyone knows that they have a right to live life the way they choose, and nobody is allowed to harm another.

30 Common signs and signals of toxic family member relationships

If you have grown up in a toxic family, you may struggle to realise that your situation is not normal. Your family might not even understand what a toxic relationship is. And they may deny it even exists. You might feel alone in the world. No one can relate to you or what you're going through. But you are not alone.

You are not alone in being raised in an environment where your childhood and adolescence were negatively impacted by an abusive parent or caregiver.

If you find yourself in this situation, you are not to blame for the actions of your parents and other adults who are responsible for creating this negative and abusive environment. No matter how much you love and respect them. No matter how good their intentions were.

The truth is they have hurt you, and your future relationships.

They have hurt your body and your soul.

Toxic families and environments cause many problems in our lives. They rob us of a good night's sleep, a positive attitude, a positive self-image, and the ability to trust and to be open. They cause emotional pain, steal your dreams, and take your health.

If you are wondering whether or not you have been in a toxic environment, here are some signs to look out for:

1) They make you feel bad about feeling bad: One of the hardest parts of being around a toxic family member is that you are constantly feeling guilty. They make you feel bad about how you are feeling. And if you live with them for a long time, you develop a habit of keeping your negative feelings to yourself. This causes you to develop bad poor emotional management skills. You develop a tendency to put up with abusive behavior. Which invariably turned you into a magnet for negative people.

2) They sow conflict with other family members: It's a real pain to be around a toxic person who spreads negativity around the house. They may deliberately try to stir up trouble, spread rumors, or deliberately attack other family members. Even if you think they don't mean to cause problems, they usually don't see it that way. The best thing to do when you are around a toxic family member is to avoid talking about sensitive topics, to limit your interactions, and to let them have their space.

3) They use emotional blackmail: Emotional blackmail is a coercive technique used to manipulate people into acting in a way that they would not normally do. Toxic family members use it to control and coerce you. It happens when a family member puts your emotions at risk. An example of this could be when a family member threatens to break up your relationship or divorce you if you don’t do something.

4) They use gossip and rumor: Gossip and rumour are forms of passive aggression designed to hurt other people. Gossip and rumour can damage your reputation by spreading lies and misinformation. People who gossip and spread rumours tend to believe the lies that they are saying. They are looking for others to confirm their own beliefs.

5) They try to isolate you: Isolation is another tactic that toxic family members use. It’s a way of controlling others. Family members trying to isolate you try to cut you off from your friends and people you care about. This can happen in many ways. Maybe your loved ones avoid you or spend more time with others. Or maybe they just don’t want to have anything to do with you. In either case, isolation can be dangerous. When you are isolated, you feel helpless and at the mercy of those who have control over you.

6) You have consistent blowups: Toxic family members are often prone to blowups. These are episodes where they become angry, agitated, or upset and lose control. Sometimes these blowups last for only a few minutes. Other times, they can last for days. There is usually nothing you can say or do to stop them. 

7) You are constantly being compared to others: This is a manipulative tactic used when a toxic family member is trying to change you. Their intention is to undermine your confidence, to put you down so much that you feel as though you are lacking. They hope this will make you more pliable so that they can mold you into doing their bidding.

8)They don't respect your beliefs: they constantly impose their views on you. You are expected to believe everything they say and to do exactly what they say. You are made to feel guilty if you don’t comply with their wishes.

9)They consistently lie to you: No matter how many chances you give them, they are never willing to admit that they are lying to you. They will keep telling you lies and twisting facts and even lie about having lied until you feel worn out. 

10) You don't like being around them: You get uneasiness, a heaviness, a lack of enthusiasm in your chest whenever you are around them. Your stomach hurts when you are around them. You feel exhausted and unable to concentrate on anything. You find yourself wanting to avoid them. Even if you are not certain, this is a very common sign that you are in a toxic environment.

11) They meet you with unrealistic standards: The demands they place on you are unreasonable and seem designed to make you fail. They always give you negative feedback about your performance. They seem invested in making you feel that you are never good enough. 

12) You feel controlled all the time: When you are with them, it is always "your" job to do something. If they are angry at you, you are the one who has to fix it. When they are happy, it is your job to be happy. No matter how much you help them, it never feels like enough. They demand that you do things, and if you don't do them, they get angry.

13) You don’t feel love, compassion or respect: They can put on an act of pretending to love you, but they are really only interested in controlling you. They use the show of affection as a way to manipulate you and make you feel guilty. They may even go so far as to verbally abuse you. The problem is, they are only doing this to hurt you. You feel empty inside. There is no real connection.

14) They give you the silent treatment: When they are around, they constantly give you the silent treatment. They refuse to speak to you unless they have to. This is a sure sign that they are very controlling and possessive. You feel like you are going crazy. There is no communication, no kindness, no compassion. The more time you spend with them, the worse this feeling becomes.

15) You are expected to take care of them:  They demand that you take care of them financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. This is sometimes used as a way to punish you for not living up to their standards.

16) They undermine your authority: They see themselves as superior to you, and they try to push you down and make you feel like you are a failure. They believe that because of their superior knowledge and skills, they are in a position to take over your life and make decisions for you.

17) You feel lonely and isolated: No one seems to understand how bad it feels to be in this situation. Everyone around you is supportive of your toxic family members, but they don’t see the reality. When you leave them, they seem to get even happier, telling you that everything is fine, and that you should be grateful for the relationship. They don’t want you to leave. If you leave, they will tell you that you are being selfish. You are making a mistake.

18) You feel like you are crazy: You start to believe that there is something wrong with you. You start thinking that you are crazy and making a big mistake. You start feeling like your head is going to explode. You may begin to cry. You may start seeing things, hearing voices. You may even feel like you are losing your mind. You need to stop this. This is all a sign that you are in a toxic environment. You need to get out of this before you damage yourself or your loved ones.

19) You feel trapped: You feel like you are in prison. This is because you are. Your toxic family members have taken control of your life, and there is no escape. You are afraid of them. You want to run away, but you can’t.

20) You are always afraid: You are always afraid of them. It is like you can’t even breathe without them knowing. You are always worried that you will get into trouble, that they will find out and do something to you. You are always thinking about what will happen next

21) They destroy your desire to live: You get uneasiness, a heaviness, a lack of enthusiasm in your chest whenever you are around them. Your stomach hurts when you are around them. You feel exhausted and unable to concentrate on anything. You find yourself wanting to avoid them. Even if you are not certain, this is a very common sign that you are in a toxic environment.

22) They make cruelly critical remarks: If you already struggle with low self-worth, having to listen to criticism from a family member makes it much worse. You have no idea how much harm they are doing to your self-esteem. When they are insulting you, you begin to question yourself. You start to wonder if you are good enough. You wonder if you are smart enough. You start to feel unworthy of love, friendship, and good things in life. They hurt you, and you don't know what to do about it.

23) They consistently manipulate you: manipulation is a strong characteristic of a toxic family member. This includes lying, gas-lighting, and controlling your behaviour. A family member trying to control others is also trying to control themselves. They feel insecure and needy. They are convinced that you are their enemy. They want to punish you, make you feel bad, and get even. The only way they feel safe is to control you.

24) Your needs are never regarded as important: We all have needs. We all need to be taken care of, to be heard, and to be validated. But when a family member is toxic, your needs are never considered important. Their needs always take precedence over your own. If you try to talk about what you need, they will either brush you off or make up some excuse. The bottom line is that they think that you don't deserve to have your needs met.

25) They don’t respect your boundaries: Your personal boundaries are the things that keep you safe and protected. They are also crucial for feeling empowered to be in charge of your life. helping you be the person you want to be. When toxic family members force themselves on you and violate your boundaries. You can tell that your personal boundary is being invaded if they talk over you, come too close to you, take over your time, keep trying to micromanage you, or otherwise make you feel anxious, uncomfortable, or vulnerable.

26) They drain your energy: Do you experience exhaustion, irritability, or loss of motivation? These are all signs that your energy is being drained. And if these symptoms occur every time you have interacted with a certain family member, this person is likely draining your energy.

27) They play the blame game: In situations where they are trying to hurt you or your relationship, toxic family members will often play the blame game. They will say that you are the problem, that you did something to cause their behavior, or that you are overreacting. They want you to believe that it is your fault.

28) They use threats harsh language: When they don't get their way, toxic family members often use threatening language. They will sometimes threaten physical harm or violence against you or other people. They may also threaten to tell your coworkers about your problems, which could lead to them losing their jobs. You need to be careful in these situations. Do not react in anger or use threats back against them. Just leave. 

29) They are forever moving the goalposts: Toxic people always try to change the subject whenever things aren't going their way.

They want you to fix the problem, but they are unwilling to fix themselves.

They are always trying to get you to change the topic of discussion.

They are also often extremely manipulative, using their control tactics to create confusion and keep you from thinking clearly.

They are very good at changing the topic and never letting you get to the heart of the matter. 

30) They gaslight you: It is hard when you feel like someone you love is lying to you, but it is extremely common. Gaslighting is when someone lies to you so that you will question your own reality.  

Their goal is to get you to doubt yourself and to feel like you are crazy. They want you to feel like no one can help you. Which leaves you feeling helpless and hopeless. 

Can you heal from being raised in a toxic family?

After what seems like a lifetime of living in hell, you might wonder f you can ever recover from being raised in a toxic family. But the fact is that you can, and with the right help.

You can take control of your life. You can make choices that will help you leave behind the painful past and build a life that is satisfying and full of joy.

But first, you must ensure you do everything you can to not recreate the toxic patterns of your upbringing.

10 Common toxic family patterns people take into adulthood

1) Chronic conflicts that breathe more toxicity:

Chronic conflicts are never easy to navigate. Most of us are familiar with conflicts around a dinner table, where parents, siblings, and friends are expected to show respect and tolerance to one another.  However, chronic conflicts in toxic families can last for years and decades, resulting in feelings of resentment, betrayal, and even fear.

2) Beware of Infantilizing:

Infantilizing is any process that turns adults into children. It

This may be a parent behaving like a child to manipulate their older adult children to tend to them. In this case, the parent becomes the child.

The abuser could be the patronising child, talking down to the parent and stealing all their power and autonomy away. Or it could be a parent who is never allowing their now-adult child to grow up.
Whichever case, infantilising results in total degradation of the self-respect and sense of power that an adult should possess.

3) The Parentification trap:

In this case, the parent is attempting to raise a child so they will be dependent on them. The parent tries to control the child in every aspect of life, and in so doing, tries to make the child into an extension of themselves. This is a very unhealthy process.

4) The Defectiveness Obsession:

This occurs when someone needs to be perfect, no matter what the cost. It could be that the parent wants to be perfect, and they want their children to be perfect. In order to achieve this, the parent tries to control the child by manipulating the child to be perfect but invariably has a detrimental impact on the child.

 5) The Narcissistic Parent:

This is where the parent is overly focused on their own needs and wants.

They try to control everything to satisfy their needs. In this case, the parent is controlling the child.

The narcissist doesn't think about their actions' impact on other people. Instead, they focus on how they are feeling. In addition, they tend to see themselves as the only one who has certain needs. The narcissist is almost completely self-centred and has no interest in the feelings of others.

They use others to get what they want.

6) The “Look what I can do” syndrome:

An example of this is a parent trying to gain the child’s admiration, respect, and affection by constantly doing things to show off to the child.

7) The “Why don’t you do it yourself?” syndrome:

Another example of this is the parent who always tells the child that the child is incapable of completing tasks. In essence, the parent is saying, “You cannot do anything on your own. You are not capable of taking care of yourself.”

8) The “I’ll give you all my money/time/energy/attention” syndrome:

This is the parent who is offering the child their resources, such as their money, time, energy, or attention, but they are not being truly supportive by giving them what they need.

9) The “I’ll do it for you” syndrome:

This is the parent who does things for the child but is not making the child feel like a true partner. For instance, they do the child’s laundry, cook their meals, and drive them places. They are not letting the child be the decision-maker.

10) The “I’ll help you if you help me” syndrome:

This is the parent who always needs help but never offers to help the adult child. If the child helps the parent, the parent will let the child know how special they are for helping them. However, if the child does not help the parent, the parent will not let the child know how important that action is to the parent.

How to stop the cycle of toxic family relationships for good

 Master detachment

Detachment is an important skill to develop to survive the toxicity of toxic families.

Detachment allows you to put aside your own emotions, concerns and wants, and focus on the needs of others. When you detach you become more objective, and your relationships with others become less emotional.

When you become detached, you are less likely to lose your cool, feel insulted, or be offended. This allows you to see what you want to see and to deal with it appropriately.

Detachment allows you to put aside your own emotions, concerns and wants, and focus on the needs of others. When you detach you become more objective, and your relationships with others become less emotional.

In toxic families, your emotions are often controlled, suppressed, or ignored. You learn to suppress emotions, not experience them.

When emotions are repressed, you become disconnected from yourself. When you become disconnected from yourself, you are unable to express yourself and connect with others.

Detachment allows you to put aside your own emotions, concerns and wants, and focus on the needs of others. When you detach you become more objective, and your relationships with others become less emotional.

It is a skill that will serve you well, regardless of your family's toxicity.

 Allow yourself to be angry when necessary

The shame of becoming angry can become a huge obstacle in our lives, especially when dealing with someone who is a toxic person. 

When anger occurs, we feel ashamed of being angry. This can result in trying to cover up or hiding the anger, even from ourselves. It can be very difficult to admit to yourself that you are angry with this person. As a result, you may avoid them entirely, which can result in other unpleasant situations such as arguments, or you may engage in passive-aggressive behaviors.

Anger is often accompanied by sadness, fear, and resentment, and we might think we are not allowed to feel any of these emotions because they are “bad” or “wrong.”

However, anger is a healthy emotion. It is an emotion that tells us something is wrong and it should be dealt with appropriately.

We can be angry at someone, but we do not have to suppress our feelings. Instead, we can process them and take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation.

Be direct and assertive

To be direct and assertive, try saying what you mean and don't waste time with pleasantries. Your family members may not listen, so be direct and clear about your message. Let them know you're serious about ending the problem. You could say something like, "I want to end our relationship, but I need you to do your part first."

If you don't feel comfortable telling them directly, then send them a letter. Tell them you want to terminate your relationship and why. Include the reasons for your request and let them know how you expect them to respond.

Refuse to chase  after closure

Whilst closure may be a goal, it is rarely achievable. It’s also never guaranteed. Instead, try to acknowledge your feelings and move forward in a healthy and productive way.

Even when you’re in the middle of a difficult family situation, you need to acknowledge the feelings that come with it. Your family may have hurt you deeply, and you’re probably experiencing pain.

But it is crucial to acknowledge your feelings and accept them so that they don’t take root within you. If you want to move forward, it is necessary to stop being a victim.  

Avoid seeking revenge and instead focus on your recovery, moving forward and taking positive steps to change things for the better.  

It may feel easier to turn the other cheek, but this can actually be counterproductive in the long run and will ensure that the situation continues to escalate.

 Instead, confront the situation head-on, talk about it with trustworthy people, and seek support.  

This will help you to grow in strength and learn to love yourself again.  Ultimately, the only person you can change is yourself.

Avoid trying to change what you don’t control

Attempting to change what you don't control results in stress, depression, or anger, leading to even more bad behaviour.

Instead of fighting or arguing with toxic family members, it might be easier to let go and move on. Sometimes the best strategy is to focus on yourself, your health, and the people who matter to you. Don't give up! There is always hope.

Sometimes, it can be helpful to remind yourself that there's no such thing as a perfect parent or sibling. This can be comforting when you're dealing with the pain and frustration of being a victim of someone else's poor behaviour.

Stop taking responsibility for their actions

Learn to see when you are making excuses for someone behaving in a toxic way. Quite often, people say things like...

"He was abused himself as a child himself," Or "He is a victim of war".

This blurs the line between being the person who is suffering and the person who is causing it.

Once you start making excuses for someone else's behavior, you've given up your power to do something about it.

If you see them doing things that are harmful to yourself or your relationships, tell them so! Don't let them get away with it. I

f you are afraid they will fight back, then take care of yourself before they do. It is also essential to keep the police informed if you are concerned about your safety or the safety of others.

Set clear boundaries before any interaction

Let the abuser know that you will no longer tolerate their behavior.

It’s easy for a toxic person to feel like they own you and your relationships. So don’t take it personally.

The best way to cope with a toxic person is to set clear boundaries: Let the abuser know that you will no longer tolerate their behavior.

You can set boundaries in any way that works for you, as long as it’s firm, direct, and communicated clearly. Don’t be afraid to say “no” — that’s your right and you deserve to have it.

As a rule of thumb, it’s always best to tell the abuser that you’re setting boundaries directly. For example, you might say, “I’m not going to talk to you anymore.” And if they ask why, you can say something like, “Because I don’t want to be around someone who makes me feel that bad.”

If they continue to push against your boundaries, you can escalate by saying something like, “I’m calling the police.” Then, if they get abusive, call the police.

Be empowered by your motives and not your emotions

 In a toxic family setting, the motives that empower you are the ones that you need to keep in mind.

When you feel like you have to please someone, or live up to some unrealistic standard of perfection, you’re more likely to let other people dictate how you feel and think.

You may want to follow some of these tips to help you cope with a toxic family situation.

Instead,  Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over something that wasn’t your fault. You’re going through an extremely difficult time, and you’re feeling everything. Try to remember that you’re human and not perfect. 

Learn to separate your motives from your emotions: As you understand your motives, you will be better able to separate them from the emotions that can distort them.

As you separate motives from emotions, you’ll be better able to see clearly.

Then, you’ll be empowered to choose to help others without enabling their bad behavior.

Remember to breathe. When you’re upset or feeling overwhelmed, it can be very easy to forget to breathe.

Make sure to take a moment to relax and inhale some fresh air every now and then. If you can’t go outside, try taking a walk around your house.

Take control of meetings you have with your toxic family member

Whenever you have a meeting with a toxic family member, It is crucial to take control of the meetings. This is because it is likely that you will not be able to control the emotions or attitude of the person that you are dealing with. So, it is vital to set the stage for the meeting so that you can avoid any conflicts before they arise.

Have a clear agenda: If you do not have a clear agenda of what you want to achieve from the meeting, then you are not going to come out with a definite plan of action. Also, be sure to have a clear understanding of what the outcome of the meeting is going to be.

Stay positive: Stay positive throughout the meeting, as this will help you to remain calm and collected, and this will make it easier for you to come out with a decision after the meeting.

Don't argue: Try to avoid arguing or debating with the other party, because this will only add more negative emotions and tension to the meeting.

Do not bring up past history: When you are trying to get something done with your toxic family member, do not bring up the past history. Because this will make the situation more complicated, especially if the other party knows about your past history. So, instead of bringing up the past, focus on the current issue.

Take notes: Make sure that you are taking notes during the meeting. This will ensure that you have everything that has been discussed or agreed upon.

Make a plan: After the meeting, make a plan as to how you are going to deal with the issue. Don't just go home and leave the other party and his/her family. Instead, make a plan to talk with the other party at a later date.

Always decide on what you want before meeting a toxic family member

Meeting a toxic family member with no prior preparation is like getting in a boxing ring with no training. The impact on you will be devastating, so don’t let this happen to you.

Prepare by deciding what you want. Are you there to make peace? To resolve an issue? To ask questions? Or to just vent?

If you’re there for venting, make sure you’re prepared for that.

You’ll need to know if you have any anger, aggression, or other negative feelings about the topic.

How are you feeling? Is your brain foggy? Can you think clearly? Are you physically tense? Is your heart racing? Are you shaking? Do you feel trapped?

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re feeling this way, try to calm your mind. Breathe.

Decide what you’ll share and what you’ll keep private

Toxic people thrive off holding things over you.

So decide what you want and don’t want to share with your family. Do you want to share that your marriage isn’t going so well? Do you want to share that you’re having trouble getting along with your children? Your husband doesn’t want to listen to you?

If you choose not to share, don’t put yourself in a position where you’re in their debt. Don’t go to them to fix something you did, or try to get something back from them. Don’t ask them for money, help or anything else that they feel they’re owed. You owe them nothing.

If you have to talk about something that’s bothering you, find a trusted friend who won’t judge you, and who you can be honest with. If you have to share something with your family, remember it’s not about them. It’s about you. You’re not being selfish; you’re taking care of yourself.

How to Create Boundaries With Toxic Family Members

What are boundaries and how do we develop them? Boundaries are the line between our personal space and the space of others. When our personal space is violated by another person, we feel anxiety and distress. Boundaries help us protect our personal space and keep ourselves safe.

When we are confronted with toxic people, who are constantly seeking to cause us harm, we have a choice: we can let ourselves be damaged and continue to be subjected to their attacks, or we can put up boundaries.

The problem is, when we put up boundaries, we risk losing contact with those who are closest to us, and with those we care about most. However, boundaries can be a source of intimacy and connection. They can be the gateway to deep, lasting friendships.

Setting boundaries is a process, one that may take a while to master. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Each person needs to determine what works best for him or her.

Boundaries are the line between our personal space and the space of others. When our personal space is violated by another person, we feel anxiety and distress. Boundaries help us protect our personal space and keep ourselves safe.

As humans, we need to learn to recognize and set healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries is the first step in getting to know someone.

How might a person's upbringing affect how they set boundaries?

Your family has an influence on your life. Whether you like it or not, your family members have a huge impact on how you define yourself, how you relate to others, and what you believe.

You may not realize it, but your family is a constant source of the emotional fuel that shapes who you are. And how you feel about certain people in your family, and how you set boundaries around those feelings, influence the way you handle conflict. 

To set effective boundaries, do the following...

Make sure that you know what you want and that your expectations are realistic. Don't expect that you're going to be able to avoid a confrontation and don't expect to change the other person.

Decide on the boundary that you are willing to accept. You might decide to tolerate the behavior and choose to ignore it. Or, you may decide to tolerate it, but also refuse to engage. It may help to draw a boundary in advance of a situation and discuss your decision.

Establish clear rules about who can and cannot cross the boundary.

Ensure that you can live with the consequences of crossing the boundary. Be prepared to stand your ground, to walk away, and to leave.

When possible, create and maintain a safe environment that minimizes the possibility of conflict.

Create and maintain a safe environment that minimizes the possibility of conflict.

Be persistent and consistent. If someone crosses your boundary, stay strong. If you're afraid that the other person is going to hurt you, it's time to put up a boundary.

If you feel unsafe, leave.

When setting boundaries, consider the following:

• Who has the right to be a part of your life?

• Where do you want to live?

• Are you prepared to leave the relationship?

• Are you willing to change the other person?

• Can you trust the other person?

• Will you have to break up?

• Do you have the financial resources to survive?

• Are you prepared to forgive and forget?

• Are you prepared to accept that this is your life, not theirs?

You don't have to help them through every crisis.

If you've been there, you know that sometimes a family member can bring all of the worst qualities of human nature into your home. As a child, you may have had to deal with your mother's screaming and arguing. Or you may have had to cope with a mother who sides with a spoilt sibling.

These difficult family members create drama all the time and seem to expect you to solve their problems.

You may be expected to keep track of everyone's appointments and take care of the housework.

This means you're often left with no time to spend with your friends or yourself.

Even if you try to take time for yourself, you might feel guilty for taking away from other people. And even when you do go out, your home life could still be affected. You could end up missing an event or appointment because someone else is having a problem.

This could mean that your social life suffers too.

In this situation, is important to remember that you don't need to deal with every problem the rest of the family throws at you. You can start by saying a little "no" occasionally to encourage them to start dealing with their own problems instead of relying on you.

Own your strengths and your weaknesses

Your strengths and your weaknesses both contribute to how well you cope in a toxic situation. 

What weaknesses do you have that they can capitalize on? Or could your weaknesses actually be an advantage?

For example, if you’re much better at handling conflict in small, private conversations, then you may be able to diffuse the tension and maintain control.

Having a good understanding of this and acting on it before things get out of hand can go a long way toward improving your ability to deal with difficult people.

Focus on the solution rather than the problem

When dealing with a toxic person, it is easy to focus on how toxic they are being.

But this just creates an environment where they get to keep being toxic. In addition, focusing on their toxicity causes you to get emotional and unable to find the solution to the problems at hand.

This is a tough concept to apply to certain situations, but if the person is someone who is close to you, then you can’t control everything they do. Instead of focusing on what they are doing wrong, focus on what you are doing right. You can’t control what they do, but you can control your own actions.

Understand why they're seeing what they see in you

Sometimes, it might be helpful to understand why you're being seen in the ways that you are, even if that makes it difficult to feel good about yourself.

Could it be possible that there's something you've been doing that's causing other people to think the things that they think about you?

There is that slight chance that you are actually the one who is being toxic. Looking at the situation more objectively can be useful in helping you figure out whether you need to change your behavior or if it's time to get professional help.

You may feel like you're the only one who is bothered by it, but others who know you may feel the exact same way as you do.

While no one else would want to be treated the way you are treating others, the fact that others feel the same way that you do could mean that you are toxic. It could be the result of your actions or lack thereof. It could be that you need to be working on a lot of things in your life right now. But the bottom line is that you should seek some help and advice about this problem.

Decide what you will and will not accept

Before meeting with your difficult family member make sure to agree on what you want and don’t want to discuss.

Inform them in the nicest way possible that you will have to terminate the discussion if they don't stick with this agreement.

Why is this all necessary? This cause of action is necessary because there's a chance they might use a trick or bait you into saying something you'll regret later.

For example, they might try to bring up something that happened years ago that you really don't want to talk about. If they do, walk away immediately, and be polite but firm. Don't give them the opportunity to continue the discussion.

If they insist on continuing the discussion, politely end the conversation by stating "we've talked enough. I have to go now".

If they continue to insist, tell them that you need to go to bed soon. This tactic is effective because they're likely already exhausted from the day. Letting them stay up late doesn't give them the energy to argue and won't allow them to stay awake and think clearly. This makes them less likely to be able to come up with something clever to say.

Decide what consequences and privileges you will implement

If things go wrong, it is helpful to have some structure in place. What consequences can you implement for the situation?

What if the toxic family member is your Dad, can you come up with consequences that might be well suited to him?  If the problematic person is your spouse, What privileges are more likely to work with him? Do some research to come up with some concrete options.

You might find that consequences and privileges work better with your kids than with your spouse, siblings, or parents. So you want to be careful how you use this one.

Don't be the victim

It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of family, and the pressure to fit in can be overwhelming. It can feel like you must always agree with those around you, and sometimes it feels impossible to say “no.”  In many cases, we don't fall prey to becoming a victim overnight. And in my opinion, it is even more dangerous to ignore the signs that you are becoming a victim.

The problem is that you are constantly trying to please others. Trying to be “good enough,” or “happy” for the sake of everyone around you. You try to be everyone's best friend. You want to avoid conflict at all costs.

This can lead to a sense of being trapped and not knowing how to break free.

To stop yourself from becoming the victim, it is important to make a conscious choice to either put yourself first or protect yourself.

Choose your battles wisely: Toxic family members can ruin you

What you decide to do or not to do in your family matters.
If you choose to act in a manner that would bring you peace, you will be setting an example and showing others how to survive in their families. If you choose not to act, then you may be bringing more pain to yourself and others.

If you have a choice to make, choose to act, and choose wisely. You may have to endure hurt and pain, but at least you will be acting in a way that benefits you and those around you.

So how do you choose your battles carefully?

Try the following:

1) Consciously give your toxic family member some wins.
2) Choose your battles wisely.

3) Decide ahead of time whether you are ready to make a decision.

4) Give yourself some room to breathe.

5) Know that this battle will not be over tomorrow or next week.

6) Choose to act, and choose wisely.

7) Stay positive!

When is it appropriate to cut ties with a toxic family member?

A big reason why we struggle to cut ties with a toxic family member is that there are often too many complexities involved with breaking away.  We don't want to be accused of being selfish. We don't want to hurt our parents. We don't want to be accused of abandoning our kids. Or we feel guilty about making our kids lose a parent. 

However, if you are convinced that the toxic behavior you are faced with is creating lifelong damages to you and your kids then it is time to break free. Here are some things to consider before you take the plunge:

1. Make sure the family member in question isn't dangerous. We all know people who act like they're always the one getting hurt. They've been emotionally abusive before. Or they use their position of power to exploit others.

2. Make sure you are ready. You need to have the emotional strength and self-care to endure any fallout. Also make sure you have your financial situation in order so that you can move forward. You may need to file for bankruptcy if you have a lot of debt. 

3. If you want to stay in touch and support your children, make sure you keep your relationship professional. Don't go on social media and trash talk your ex-partner.

4. Don't feel bad about saying no. You are not obligated to take care of someone who is harmful.

5. Cut ties with someone who has caused you to suffer financially. Your health could be at risk.

6. Make sure that your kids are okay. If your partner's behavior has caused your children to feel unsafe, unhealthy, or insecure, that's not a good situation. They may need to get away from the situation to recover.

7. Don't give in. No matter how badly you feel, keep your head held high. You are doing the right thing by getting out of an unhealthy situation.

8. Don't let anyone convince you to give in. You are not obligated to take care of someone who is toxic.

9. If you decide to stay with your partner, set boundaries. Your goal should be to avoid getting back into a relationship that will be equally damaging. It's not healthy for your kids to be in a relationship with someone who is causing pain.

10. Make sure you have a safety plan in place in case of an emergency.

Do you have your family doctor on speed dial? Do you have a safety plan in place if you are physically attacked?

Do you have a backup plan in place if your ex-partner gets violent? You need to be prepared for all eventualities.

11. Keep a journal. Write down everything that is going on in your life. It can be helpful to write down the reasons why you need to leave. And also the reasons why you are staying.

12. If you are thinking about cutting ties, do it as soon as possible. The longer you put off the decision, the harder it will be.

13. Be prepared to face criticism. Even if you are 100% sure you are right, your family members may disagree with your decision. Don't get mad. They might try to convince you otherwise, but stick to your guns.

14. Take time to heal. If you are trying to break away from a toxic family member, you may have a lot of emotions going on. You need to be able to separate yourself from the situation and not be consumed by your feelings.

15. Make sure your children are cared for. They may have to make adjustments in their lives because of your leaving. It's important that they know they are loved and supported.

Should you go "no" contact or "low" contact?

 Here are some important questions to help you decide if you should go no contact or low contact...

1) What are you trying to achieve by avoiding contact with that person? (Eliminating an ex, a bad business partner, or a bad relationship with a client?)

2) What are your goals for that person in the future? (Avoid the toxic, avoid the drama, stop the conflict, stop the negative energy)

3) Is it worth the risk? (How much are you willing to sacrifice to protect yourself from getting hurt?)

4) Is it worth the pain to reach out? (Is this the right decision for you? Is it worth the effort to try to fix the situation?)

5) What are the chances that you will get to that goal?

6) What is your risk tolerance? (If you decide to stay involved, what will be the cost and risk to your relationship?)

7) What is the outcome you are looking for? (What are you hoping will happen when you stay involved in this toxic relationship?)

8) Is it possible that the other person could hurt you and never be able to change?

9) Is there any evidence that the person will change?

10) Will the outcome of the situation change if you stay involved?

11) Can you afford to stay involved in this situation or can you move on?

12) What is your financial situation? (What are your options if you don’t have enough money to pay the bills or to maintain your lifestyle?)

13) Do you have any leverage? (What is the most important thing that you can give to this person? How can you use it to your advantage?)

14) What is the benefit of staying in the situation? (Will it make you feel better or worse about yourself?)

15) Are you prepared to walk away if it doesn’t work out?

16) Are you sure that you want to do this?

17) How do you know that you are ready to be alone? (What do you need to know before you can move forward on this?)

18) How will you know when it is time to give up? (How can you tell if you are doing the best thing for yourself?)

19) What are the risks of staying involved? (Can this person still hurt you if you remain in this relationship? What is the cost to you?)

20) Are you prepared to take the risk and put yourself out there?

21) Is this the right decision for you?

22) Is it worth the risk of hurting yourself?

23) If you decide to stay involved, what will you do?

24) Is it possible that you will become dependent on the toxic person? (Can the toxic person make you feel better about yourself? Does this person help you see the best in yourself?)

25) Is this the right relationship to have at this time?

26) Are you willing to commit to this person or are you going to look for other options?

27) Are you going to stay involved with this person for the rest of your life?

28) What is the benefit of staying in this situation?

29) What is the cost to you if you stay involved?

30) Is it possible that this person could hurt you and never be able to change?

31) Is it possible that this person will never change?

32) Will the outcome of the situation change if you stay involved?

33) Is it possible that you will be hurt more by staying involved?

34) Is it possible that this person is so broken that you can’t fix them?

35) Is it possible that you can’t fix them?

36) Is it possible that this person won’t change and will continue to harm you?

37) Can you afford to stay involved in this situation?

38) Are you sure that you want to do this?

39) Do you have any leverage?

40) What is the benefit of staying involved in this situation

it is important that you stick with your choice. Sticking with your decision is a lot easier said than done! I’ve learned that it is easier to make the first move and then stay the course rather than waiting for the other person to make a move.

Sticking to your guns means that when things are rough, you won’t fall apart. If you make the first move and then don’t follow through, you run the risk of ending up in a messy place and losing the respect of that person. If you’re committed to the goal of no contact, staying the course means you have to be able to handle a situation where things get tough.

Finally, make sure you have a supportive community rallying around you

Dealing with a toxic family member can be extremely daunting. But hopefully this comprehensive article helps you get through it, with some practical tips on what to expect and how to survive.

Toxic people will try and drain you of your energy and your confidence. They’ll take away your self-esteem, and they’ll try and drag you down with them. But if you can stay positive, even in the face of negativity, then you’ll be able to move on.

Articles in this series

- How to stop a manipulative family member from draining you emotionally

- When family members fail to understand your mental struggles and emotional pain

- Is family trying to tear you down? Here's how to protect yourself

- Dealing with family members that are toxic (This article)

- 30 Shocking Ways Your Family May Be Manipulating You: And what to do about them.

- How to Set Boundaries with a Manipulative Family Member

- Dealing with Difficult Family Situations? Don't Bother - Embrace the Chaos!

- The Dark Side of Improving Family Relationships: The Secrets They Don't Tell You

- The Truth About Resolving Family Tension: It's Not Just About Maintaining Peace and Harmony

- Decoding Emotional Games: Life Lessons from Manipulative Family Dynamics

- Recognizing and Responding to Psychological Triggers in a Toxic Family

- Why Frequent Reality Checks Are Vital in a Toxic Family

- Harnessing Personal Values For Navigating Manipulative Family Dynamics

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa


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