Defending Yourself Against Toxic Family Members

From personal experience, I can tell you how hard it is to deal with toxic people. Whether it be friends, partners, or family, there is plenty of advice out there to help. However the hardest of the three to deal with or let go of, is definitely family in my opinion. So what do you do about it?

Most of us can’t get away from them, or we really do not want to or think that it’s the right thing for us to do. So what do we do when they fill our lives with nothing but negativity or toxicity? How do we get over our own feelings of guilt, obligation, sadness, anger and heartbreak?

To most family is everything, but in a lot of people’s lives they don’t have family to lean on or confide in. Sometimes they don’t even want to go home to their families because of the lack of respect, mutual support and love and even at times, abuse, whether it is sexually, emotionally/mentally or physically. Sometimes “family” to some people means nothing more to them than the fact that they share blood and that is it. Some families build each other up and others tear each other apart at any opportunity.

You may be empathetic towards your toxic family member(s), knowing that they had gone through trauma, feeling a lack of love and emotional support, or are experiencing a stressful time in their lives. There is nothing wrong with trying to support them, listening and caring for them, as long as you are taking care of yourself and protecting yourself from their toxicity when it arises.

Dealing with toxic family members can vary from situation to situation, however there are some universal tips to keep in mind to help yourself.

Your family member may not be a bad person at heart, but they are definitely not the right person to be spending time with or communicating with every day. Toxic family relationships may not always be toxic on purpose, sometimes some of these relationships include those who may care about you, like a parent for instance. These types may have your best intentions at heart and really truly love you, however they are toxic because of the fact that their needs and ways make you compromise yourself as a person and your happiness. Trust me, as difficult as it can be sometimes, the best thing to do in this situation is to separate yourself enough to give each other your space to live without the toxic behavior and constant flow of negativity. You can not hurt yourself for the sake of someone else on a daily basis, eventually this does create long term problems for you. You have to make your well-being your main priority. Whether this means spending less time around someone, talking to them less, or letting go entirely. You have the right to give yourself that space and take care of your health.

Toxic family members will try to beat you into submission if you let them. We know people can be terrible sometimes, whether at school or work or everyday life, but it’s even more terrible when it is toxic family who treat you with disrespect. Even if you are empathetic to why they treat you in such a way, it does not excuse the behavior! Period! There is no justifiable reason for someone to ever hurt you so horribly. Unfortunately, misery seems to love company and these people will not be happy until they make you as miserable as they are. You need to find the courage to stand up for yourself and your well-being and happiness. Nobody has power over you, unless you allow them to. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to your family, but you have it in you. Sometimes this toxicity and abuse comes from the most unlikely of places, be cognizant of how the people closest to you treat you, and look out for the subtle signs they show. When necessary, call them out on it and give yourself the opportunity to grow as a person.

Pretending that the way your toxic family member is is alright, is not okay in the slightest. It is unhealthy for both you and them. If you’re not careful they can use their behavior to get preferential treatment. It’s much easier just to go along with and walk on eggshells than having them screaming in your face right? Don’t get the wrong idea. Short-term ease equals long-term pain for you in a situation like this, sometimes, even causing you issues for a lifetime. Toxic people don’t change if they are being rewarded for not changing. Do not let yourself be influenced by their behavior. Stop walking on eggshells, stop making excuses for them and their behavior. Constant negativity and toxicity in your life is never worth putting up with, life is too short. If someone in your family, who is a grown adult can’t be reasonable, reliable or respectful on a regular basis, speak up and stand your ground.

If their toxic behavior becomes physical, please seek help and take legal action no matter how scared you are. If you have gone through any kind of abuse, particularly physical abuse, please seek help and know that it is not your fault. If you forgave and struggled, succumbed to outbursts of anger… If for years you kept true to the notions of trust and faith, even after you knew in your heart that those beautiful intangibles would never be reciprocated, if you stood up against an abuser for someone you cared for and took the brunt of the abuse in their place… You are a survivor.  Enough is enough, because if someone is physically abusing you they are breaking the law and need to face the consequences for their actions.

Do not take their toxic behavior personally. I know this can be difficult, because with toxic behavior or abuse, your self esteem can be shot to nothing. Understand, you are not to blame, it is them with the problem. Toxic family members will try to imply or flat out make everyone (including yourself) believe that somehow you’ve done something wrong. Don’t let this happen to you. There is a great sense of freedom and relief that comes with finally realizing that their behavior is not personal. Most of the time toxic people tend to behave negatively to everyone in their lives. Even when their anger and behavior seem to be directed towards you, it is still not personal. Their actions, things they say and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection.

Hating them only makes things more toxic for you in the long run and is a waste of effort. The hardest part about dealing with toxic people, especially family, is to forgive and move on. You want to hate them, you want to make them feel as hurt as they made you feel, you want to cut them out completely. However, what good does this do you? It only makes that toxic influence linger on your heart and in your mind more and more. The best way to really get your point across is to simply be the better person, forgive them, learn from the toxic behavior you witnessed and make sure you never become that way. Live your life well and make peace not for them, but for yourself.

Sometimes you can repair these relationships and other times, maybe you should let go for good. Even with all the advice in the world, ultimately, it is your life and you will do what you think is best for yourself. You can choose who to keep in your life and who to cut out for good. In a perfect world we would always be able to fix our relationships with toxic family members, but as you know the world isn’t perfect. Try to keep the communication lines open and make the effort to fix things if that’s what you choose to do, but don’t be afraid to cut someone out, even if it is family. Do what is right for you.

Have you ever been in a toxic relationship with family and how did you handle it?


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