There’s a lot of advice in the world today for what to do when it comes to breaking up with a friend, a boyfriend, a girlfriend and even a spouse, but what about a family break-up?
Most of us are not in a position to just walk away from our family like someone we’re dating, nor do we feel we want to; however, sometimes we strongly see it’s a must when a toxic family member or the entire family is literally ruining our lives. That was my situation in my own family. Surviving the ups and downs of their moodiness and vile disrespect towards me was a challenge.
On another note, lets face it, not everyone should have children and not everyone’s family is there for them to lean on, call on or to go home to. Some family members have motives of their own, and not every family is built on love, support, and stability. Sometimes family simply means that you share a bloodline. That’s all. Nothing else, because although there are some that build you up, there are others that do nothing more than suck the life out of you, like my own once did, making it impossible to live a healthy and happy life, on both a spiritual and personal level.
Simply put there are relationships that just aren’t fixable, family or not. And there are situations that we can only endure for so long before we’ve outgrown them through our own walk in life, and we see the error of the their ways and understand how much they are hurting us. There are crucial times when we have to separate ourselves from family in order to do what is best for us and possibly best for them too. Just look at the Family Violence Statics from the U.S. Department of Justice, these people should have walked away to save themselves jail time and a criminal record and possibly even their own lives.
A family member making you feel unloved, unwelcome, and ashamed for someone else’s behavior towards you, like rape (child molestation\sexual abuse\incest), is not acceptable treatment. Rejection, abandonment, someone being competitive, trying to diminish your accomplishments, or someone who is hypercritical of you, pressuring or forcing you to be someone you are not, or to do something you don’t want to do, blaming, ostracizing, manipulating, belittling, neglecting, physically or verbally abusing you……the list goes on and on and on.
These negative experiences can and will jade you for a lifetime, ruining your life, shifting your existence, changing the way you walk in the world, haunting your days, sometime even making you a product of their environment, repeating these toxic behaviors so it’s a must that you do whatever it takes to get yourself into a positive, nurturing environment, surrounded by loving, affirmative, true God-fearing people.
Know all the signs:
Toxic people are not the people who see therapist for change, they don’t want to look at themselves and their behavior toward others, they don’t want that kind of scrutiny. The people who spend big bucks on therapy are people just like you and I, the friends and family members who have been hurt and wounded time and time again by the toxic people in our lives. We seek help for years thinking that we are 100% of the problem; struggling with the notion that we are the reason the toxic people in our lives can never be satisfied, which is simply not true, it’s the exact opposite, in fact, toxic people are truly not happy with themselves.
I’ve learned dealing with my own family and further studies that toxic people tend to share some common harmful characteristics.
- They use others for their own needs and benefits, regardless of the impact on the other person
- They lie easily and frequently to shape reality to serve their own wants and interests
- They pit one person against another in a “divide and conquer” manner to keep control of others
- They create chaos and conflict during which others are invariably to blame and they are the faultless victims
- They completely lack empathy for others, even, and especially, when the toxic individual themselves have caused the harm
- They frequently find fault with people who threaten them or disagree with them, in order to discredit the other person.
So, having fought my way out of a toxic family, here’s my advice, from personal experience, and what I’ve learned over the years:
1. If it’s possible, move out and move on without them. What we cannot control, unfortunately, is the behavior of others, good or bad. What we can control, however, is how we conduct our own lives and relationships and whether we allow the behavior of others to impact us. Toxic people share the characteristics, I believe, of essential dishonesty and unwillingness to accept any responsibility for their behavior, therefore repairing relationships with toxic people is challenging at best, and often impossible.
If your family or a family member insists on destructively dictating an emotional atmosphere, then be clear: they are toxic. If you are suffering because of their attitude, and your compassion, patience, advice, and general attentiveness doesn’t seem to help them, and they don’t seem to care one bit, then ask yourself, “Do I need this person in my life?” Answer this question seriously and if the answer is “No”……
Move on or move in, if possible, with a friend or an extended family member and explain the situation. Get to a place where people want to be with you. Do your best to move into a nurturing environment, or live on your own if necessary. Get away from the toxic behavior.
When you delete toxic people from your life it becomes a lot easier to breathe, so if the circumstances warrant it, leave those people behind and move on. Seriously, be strong and know when enough is enough! Letting go of toxic people doesn’t mean you hate them, or that you wish them harm; it simply means you care about your own well-being and you should, this is not selfish when it comes to your health and your growth. Become an asset, a truly productive member of society by letting go of destructive life forces.
A healthy relationship is reciprocal; it should be give and take, but not in the sense that you’re always giving and they’re always taking.
2. Forgive. This is not for them, it’s for you. Don’t give them anymore of your life than they’ve already taken.
3. Accept your parents and family members for who they are and accept limitations. Know that you don’t have to repeat their behavior. You are not your family. Just accept them for who they are and move on, living your life by being the person that you truly are, the person that you want to be. Life is a stage so perform at your best.
4. Allow yourself to get angry. Use your anger productively. Exercise, do sports, write in a journal, don’t withhold your emotions. Anger is a good thing, it also a part of the healing process so be angry at your losses but don’t seek revenge, God handles that for us so we don’t have to and this is a blessing so honor God and leave the toxic people to Him.
5. Seek guidance for yourself. Talk to someone, a counselor, a life coach, a close friend or distance relative. Anyone who will listen, someone whom you respect, look up to and you feel comfortable with. Ask for guidance and get some good sound advice. We are social beings, and we need to surround ourselves with good, loving individuals. I sought out many people in my life just for this, I looked for those who were strong where I was weak and I spent time with them, learned from them, embraced their advice and guidance. I still do this today when I find myself struggling in an area.
6. Limit your time. Do whatever it takes to limit the amount of time you have to spend with the toxic family member or members. Limit visits, holidays, do what you can to prevent as much conflict as possible. Walk away from them entirely if you must. You do not have to entertain anyone in life who mistreats you or does not have your best interest at heart. God gives you a family but just like anyone else who turns out not to be the person you thought they were, you do not have to entertain them or keep them in your life.
7. Set healthy boundaries and stop pretending their toxic behavior is okay and hold them accountable. Sometimes it seems easier to quiet toxic people down and make excuses for them than to listen to their hurtful rhetoric but don’t be fooled. Short-term ease equals long-term pain in situations like this. Toxic people don’t change if they are being rewarded for not changing. Decide not to be influenced by their behavior. Stop tiptoeing around them and making pardons for their continued belligerence.
Constant drama and negativity is never worth putting up with. If someone over the age 21 can’t be a reasonable, reliable adult on a regular basis, it’s time to speak up, hold them accountable and put your foot down.
Your dignity may be attacked, ravaged and disgracefully mocked, like mine was and still is by my toxic family but it can never be taken away unless you willingly surrender it. That’s right, they can NEVER take it away. It’s all about finding the strength to defend your boundaries.
Stand up for yourself and do not accept their behavior towards you. Demonstrate that you won’t be insulted or belittled. Don’t allow yourself to get sucked back in. You can love and wish them the best from a distance, a great distance if you have too. Not everyone has lived your life and not everyone is going to understand and that is okay. You know what is best for you so don’t feel like you have to explain yourself to anyone. Read more of my experience walking away HERE.
8. Become aware of yourself and don’t take their behavior personally. Observe your reactions. Look deep inside yourself and become self-aware of exactly who you are. This will help you to break any negative patterns you’ve inherited from living or growing up in a toxic environment. Your goal is to be a better YOU and to build a better life so don’t bring any negative, self-destructive behavior into your future. This includes punishing others for the way you were treated in the past. Don’t punish new friends (boyfriend\girlfriends\spouses) for the crimes committed by old friends. Trust, Love and Cherish those that are good to you and pray for those who aren’t.
Also, toxic people, like my own mother, will try to imply that somehow you’ve done something wrong. And because the “feeling guilty” button is large on many of us, even the implication that we might have done something wrong can hurt our confidence and unsettle our resolve. Don’t let this happen to you.
Remember, there is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally. Most toxic people behave negatively not just to you, but to everyone they interact with. Even when the situation seems personal – even if you feel directly insulted – it usually has nothing to do with you. What they say and do, and the opinions they have, are based entirely on their own self-reflection – how they see themselves.
9. 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.) to keep things stress free and your body in good health. Learn to read good books, volunteer, takes lots of walks, stroll in the park and get plenty of rest. Dance in the rain if you must but keep your life in balance and work at this everyday.
10. Take charge of your life and your happiness. Do good things for you and speak up. Don’t wait for others to add value to your day. Give it to yourself. You get out of life exactly what you put into it so shine a good light on yourself. Do things that build your self-esteem. Do things you enjoy, things that make you feel good and things that you can be proud of. Invite others that love you along and allow them to share in your new experiences and happiness. Make lots of memories.
Letting go of toxic people can prove to be more helpful (even life saving) than grasping at toxic strings. I spent years saying to myself, “If it do this I’ll be loved by them, if I do that……….” but that a dysfunctional belief because you need to love yourself before you can love others. At the end of the day, we are all certainly in this together, but each of us has 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.
Do you have any suggestions? Have you had to let go of toxic family members in your life? How did you do it?
Read more Healing Kerri on Kerri Chronicles:
Sinful, Unchristian, Ungodly or Just Plain Smart?
Dear Rapist, an Open Letter to the One Who Abducted My Innocence
My Mothers Legacy of Shame – An Open Letter – From Me, the Daughter She Didn’t Protect