Family, no matter what?

Family, no matter what?
Family, no matter what

Sometimes it's evident that you should cut an abusive partner or a toxic friend from your life. But what if it's a family member who's toxic? How easy is it to cut ties with them - or should you not ever?

It's never an easy decision to cut someone out of your life. But sometimes, it's essential for your mental health to heal the pain caused by an abusive or "toxic" relative.

You do this not to be spiteful or as an act of revenge but rather to look after yourself and protect your mental and physical health. So if you have repeatedly been hurt by this individual, even though you've tried to repair your relationship, maybe it's time to accept that you will be happier if you move forward without them in your life.

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What are the reasons for cutting ties with a family member?

There's no simple answer to this question. Toxic people can disrupt your happiness with a variety of behaviours, such as

  • Criticising
  • Lying
  • Manipulating
  • Gaslighting - making you doubt yourself and your perception of what's going on
  • Blaming
  • Overreacting
  • Creating drama or crises
  • Playing the victim
  • Ruining special occasions or holidays
  • Ignoring or invalidating your feelings
  • Undermining your other relationships
  • Refusing to compromise or apologise
  • Passive-aggressive behaviours, for example, the silent treatment, criticism disguised as a compliment or deliberate procrastination
  • Volatile moods
  • Yelling, insulting and cursing
  • Making unreasonable demands
  • Belittling your beliefs, choices and values
  • Speaking ill of you or gossiping about you
  • Expecting you to help them, but never returning the favour
  • Threatening suicide or self-harm to get their way
  • Having no interest or concern in yourself and your life

Behaviours such as these can create so much pain, anxiety and stress that they significantly impact your health, well-being and ability to work. Spending time with these hurtful people constantly drains you and makes you feel worse.

And because they can't or won't acknowledge how their behaviour is hurtful, they rarely change - instead, they turn things around, blame you and expect you to meet their demands.

Why do we struggle to cut free from a toxic relative?

We don't put up with abusive behaviour from strangers. So why do we often give our relatives a free pass when it comes to hurting and undermining us?

We just don't see it. We find it hard to see their behaviour as emotionally abusive: while it's hurtful, we minimise it and don't call them out on it.

Guilt

In our society, family life is packed with expectations: we're supposed to get along, keep the peace, respect and help our ageing parents, and put the needs of others before our own. Breaking any of these social norms will likely make you feel guilty.

These rules and expectations make sense only if you have healthy family relationships. If you have abusive relatives, they are unrealistic, unfair and harmful. So it's not selfish, mean or wrong to look after your well-being by distancing yourself from those who distress you.

Loyalty

 You probably learned as a child that loyalty and commitment to your family is a virtue. Healthy closeness and loyalty imply reciprocal care and respect and allow for differences in opinions, values and feelings. However, loyalty may be weaponised to control you if you try to assert your independence and challenge abusive behaviours.

Fear

Cutting someone out of your life is a massive change, and you can't tell how it will play out. So it's understandable that fear of the unknown keeps many of us in unhappy relationships. But you can face down your fear and overcome any challenges that arise. Be kind to yourself and reach out to your support network.

Love

This is perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome. Despite all the problems and pain they cause, you love your family. You share memories, good and bad, and you want to be able to help them in the future. But love on its own won't make a relationship work. So while cutting ties may feel unloving, it doesn't mean you've stopped loving your family. We can still love people even if we have to keep our distance.

Going no contact - be prepared for the fallout

When you cut contact with a family member, be aware that you stand to lose more than the person you are cutting ties with. There are always going to be unforeseen casualties. Other family members can find the situation difficult to process and may not back you up.

But you can't begin healing until you leave an abusive relationship.

How to cut ties with abusive relatives

  • Acknowledge the truth. Stop minimising the abuse, and don't deny the harm caused by your family member.
  • Accept that they cannot or will not change.
  • Grieve the loss of the relationship with the parent, sibling or another relative that you wanted, deserved and needed.
  • Seek support from a support group, therapist, or trusted friend who's gone through similar issues.

And if you’re not yet ready?

If you're not ready to cut ties, it's OK. You shouldn't feel pressured into making a decision. Cutting ties is a last resort for most people, and it often takes years to come to this conclusion. And there's no right or wrong way to do it - you are the only person who can decide how much or how little contact you want.

You have  the right to a happy life

There comes a time when you've had enough. You can't grow and enjoy a positive life if you are constantly being undermined by a toxic person.

So know that it's OK to cut family out of your life, however difficult this may seem. You deserve to be treated with respect and love and find true happiness.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/women-autism-spectrum-disorder/202008/5-signs-its-time-cut-yourself-your-toxic-family

https://www.wikihow.com/Cut-Ties-with-Family-Members-Who-Hurt-You


Marie Pure

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