In general, toxic relationships are detrimental and hard to deal with. However, it gets even more complicated when those relationships are with toxic family members. After all, you potentially have an easier time dealing with toxic co-workers or toxic friends as you don’t have to see them too often. You can also switch jobs or cut off your friendship. Toxic family members tend to be more difficult to simply cut out of your life or get away from.
Recognizing a Toxic Family Member
Toxic family members exhibit certain behaviors towards others that are fairly recognizable when taken together. If someone in your life, or a family member displays the following behaviors towards you, then you are likely dealing with a toxic person:
• Constant criticism
• Blaming and gaslighting
• Dismissing your feelings
• Emotional abuse
• Lies and manipulation
Toxic family members often works to control the other person in the relationship through manipulations like criticism, blaming, threats and telling you that you are the problem. If you don’t realize what’s happening, it’s often easy for them to get a foothold in your life and heap emotional abuse on you at the same time.
How Do You Know If You’re In a Toxic Relationship?
As mentioned above, toxic family members are very good at manipulation, and you may find yourself in a toxic relationship before you know it. However, there are some signs that a relationship is toxic. Take a look at the following attributes of toxic relationships:
• It’s based on mental, physical, emotional or sexual abuse
• You only have negative contact with the person
• It creates stress that affects your life negatively
• The relationship is almost completely about the other person with no effort by them towards you
• It’s dominated by crazy games like no-win arguments and blaming
Toxic family members often have personality disorders like narcissism, which results in obsessive attention-seeking behaviors through manipulative means. Toxic people try to have relationships where all the effort and attention is focused on them while they do little or nothing to maintain the relationship from their side. If someone in your life is constantly expecting things from you, but giving nothing in return, then it’s likely you’re dealing with a toxic person.
How To Respond To Toxic Family Members
There are three main ways to deal with toxic family members. You can cut them off completely, which is the no-contact method, or you can reduce your contact with them to polite contact or low contact. The purpose of any of these methods is to set boundaries on your relationship with them. It’s not healthy to continue trying to maintain a real relationship with them simply because you’ll likely never have one. Let’s take a closer look at these three methods.
In this method, you reduce your previous full contact with the toxic family members to basic polite contact. This means not revealing too much of yourself with these toxic family members and limiting conversations to positive, pleasant and superficial subjects. You can either purposely direct your conversations to be about them, which is often what they want anyway, or you can simply stick to neutral subjects that allow them to talk about themselves.
This generally means that you don’t go out of your way to have contact with them, but you don’t refuse contact or avoid contact with them. For example, you might see them at family events or accept an invitation for lunch or something similar.
You can also lower your contact with toxic family members even further by going with the reduced-contact method. This usually means you avoid initiating or accepting contact with them and thus only see them when you are mutually invited to something else, such as a holiday dinner. It also means that you generally don’t go out of your way to converse or interact with them at these events either.
The only negative side of this method is that the person is likely to catch on that you’re pulling away from them. As previously mentioned, toxic people tend to have personality disorders and are very good at manipulating people into doing what they want. They don’t know how to function in a middle ground situation where you haven’t cut them off but are also not giving them what they want.
In some ways, no contact is the best way to deal with toxic family members. It may not be the easiest way, but it’s healthier than letting your family member continue to cause you stress and manipulate you. No contact is usually not a voluntary decision, but one born out of necessity. It’s important to remember that you probably would not choose to have someone like your toxic family members in your life if you had the choice. Toxic family members have probably entered your life from an early age. The only difference with cutting off toxic family members versus a toxic friendship is that you may be cutting off a number of other people who don’t see the person as toxic or have not been abused by them.
That’s why it’s important to have a support system in place before you go the no-contact route with your toxic family members. It’s also important to remember that your toxic family members may escalate their manipulation and bad behavior to get you to come back to them. Don’t take the escalation as a signal to give in, but instead as a signal that you’re doing the right thing for your own health. Eventually, they will leave you alone as long as you stick to your decision.
Don’t Expect Toxic Family Members to Change
One thing you shouldn’t do is reduce or cut off your contact with toxic family members in the expectation that they will change. In many cases, they will try to get you to come back through manipulations and lies, but eventually, they will likely move on to someone else. If you try to stand your ground while expecting them to change in response, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and possibly even giving in to their demands.
If you’re struggling with toxic relationships, toxic family members or have recently cut them off, then it’s time to seek healing and a better state of mental health. Dr. Howard Samuels serves clients through different types of therapy in Los Angeles, CA. Get in touch today to find out more about his services and methods.