The Best Way to Deal with a Toxic Family Member

We are conditioned to believe that that ending a relationship with a family member is morally wrong; no matter how toxic that relationship might be.  

I have found that the word 'toxic' has come to light in recent years. As a society that has started to care more about our mental health and wellbeing than ever before; many of us have begun to recognise when a relationship or friendship is harming our life.  

The toxic relationships we usually hear of are with frenemies, a shitty boyfriend or girlfriend or maybe a toxic workplace. We rarely hear of how this toxicity may exist in your own family circle.   

While usually unspoken of, toxic family members are widespread and can take many forms. Whether you are always dealing with sibling rivalry, unkind and critical parents or if someone in your family has untreated mental health issues; no matter what the problem, if someone in your family has a negative impact on your daily life, chances are the relationship is toxic.  

As I said previously, many of us are under the assumption that you can't cut a relationship with a family member, even if it is toxic. We assume that you stick by your family no matter what. However, treat a negative familial relationship the same you would with any other link, and be prepared to walk away if it is inflicting pain and mental harm on you.  

Sometimes fully cutting ties with a family member isn't an option, as you may have to see them occasionally at broader family events. However, there are steps you can take to make seeing them a bit easier and ensure you are looking after your wellbeing.   

Be prepared  

Before your encounter with a toxic family member, be sure to prepare yourself mentally. Take a few quiet moments to yourself to collect your thoughts and ground yourself. Take some deep breaths and focus on all the positive things in your life, outside of this relationship. By tuning in with your mind and body, this will help separate your positive energy with their negative energy when you meet them.  

Stick to a time limit  

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When encountering a toxic family member, it's essential to limit your time with them. Have a strict time limit and stick to it, whether that's 20 minutes or an hour. This is setting a boundary for your relationship and keeps your wellbeing at the forefront. It sometimes helps to have plans made for after, so you have a valid excuse to leave abruptly.  

Keep private matters to yourself  

Toxic relationships with family can be extremely complicated. It can be hard to establish boundaries with them, as we have been so conditioned to thinking that blood is thicker than water. To forge intimacy with people, we share private matters and vulnerabilities; sometimes at an attempt to reconcile a relationship with a family member, we may divulge personal aspects of our life. However, a toxic family member rarely has your best interests at heart and may use this information against you down the line or to make you feel inadequate about your life choices. It's best to just keep private matters to yourself, no matter how much you want to feel close to them.  

Accept who they are  

You are fighting a losing battle trying to change who someone really is. If someone is showing you who they are, believe them. You are only hurting yourself trying to alter their behaviour, and it will just fill you with anger and resentment; which can be exhausting holding onto. Instead, just accept that this is who they are.  Having expectations in someone who is clearly unable to meet them is just a form of self-sabotage. Truly accepting who they are will free you and your mind and you won't expect anything more from them than they can give.  

Don't rise to the bait  

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Toxic people love trying to get reactions from people and have various methods in which they do this. Family members especially may know how to push your buttons even further and know precisely the things to say or do to trigger you. When someone tries to rise you like this, don't react to it. You can only control your reactions to someone's behaviour, so make sure you don't rise to the bait as they want. Stay calm, cool and collected and mentally send them compassion and love. Their behaviour is usually coming from a place of insecurity and low self-esteem, and you should always remain above it.  

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