Walking away from a toxic relationship is tough already, let alone the one with the family. Toxic relationships are not only energy draining but can also be bad for mental health; it can cause you to doubt yourself, weaken your self-confidence, and make you fearful. So, here’s how you identify and how to deal with a toxic family?
How to know if your family is toxic?
It is usually tough to identify toxic traits in the family, as most of the time, they are hiding under sly comments or as sarcasm. Here are some ways you can identify if your family is toxic:
- Growing up, you were expected to meet unrealistic standards like taking care of your sibling most of the day, helping with heavy household chores like laundry and cleaning around the house, or/and providing emotional support to your parents.
- As a child, you were criticised for your personality traits instead of your behaviour, and; it wasn’t constructive criticism, which might have made you feel unloved or unwanted.
- Your parents or caregivers weren’t really concerned about your well being and were okay with things as they were going; they didn’t seem to have any interest in your life.
- You always felt controlled and were not given enough space growing up, leaving no room for growth and development.
- You don’t feel that they love or respect you enough. They mock your choices, decisions, and circumstances to belittle you.
- There is substance abuse involved. The use or misuse of substances can sometimes lead to verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and/ or physical abuse.
- Sexual misconduct, name-calling, body shaming, gaslighting, etc., are also traits of a toxic relationship.
A toxic relationship is a physical or emotional abuse for a prolonged period without resolving the issue and sweeping it under the covers. For example, Tim and Jim are two brothers fighting over a video game console. They start name-calling and verbally abusing each other but later on make-up and address the issue – then it is not considered toxic. Still, if they do this every day and do not resolve the issue, it becomes a toxic relationship.
How to deal with a toxic family?
- Take back your power: Stop letting them take control, manipulate you, decide what you want from the relationship, and set the boundaries accordingly. Make it clear to them about the topics and issues you do not want to discuss and the things and chores you are not happy to do.
- Focus on the bright side: Before meeting a toxic family member, prepare yourself by thinking about all their positive traits instead of negative traits; this might help you handle the situation better because you are not meeting them with a negative mindset.
- Understand that their behaviour has nothing to do with you: When dealing with a toxic family member trying to fit in their shoes, the way they react and the way they attack is because of their own insecurities and personal issues. They are projecting themselves on others without even realising, for example, a liar has a hard time trusting people around for their tendency to lie and cheat. It has nothing to do with the surrounding people.
- Use I statements: Using I statement might help them take their guard down, as they will feel less defensive. For example, ” I do not feel comfortable in this situation” instead of ” How can you feel comfortable in this situation” or ” I would like to talk about it” instead of ” We should talk about it.”
- Learn to disconnect: When talking or interacting on a topic with a toxic family member, try to avoid sensitive topics and disconnect the conversation or disengage in a conversation as soon as a sensitive topic comes up because it wouldn’t end well.
- Selective sharing: Only share topics and news with them you are comfortable talking about; sharing anything good or bad can lead them to mock or belittle you. So choose the topics you know they won’t mock or belittle you on.
- Don’t let them change your energy: If you are in a positive state of mind, do not let their negative emotions and thoughts break down your positive thoughts or state into something negative. Do not let them infect you with their negativity.
- Stop seeking their approval: Sometimes, we go out of our way to impress and seek the approval of our family members, and they act like they couldn’t care less, which can make your entire effort and hard work feel like a waste. Understand that whatever you do wouldn’t be enough for them and start living your life on your own terms instead of trying to impress them.
Be empowered by your goals. Know why they’re upset with you. They might get worse before they leave you alone. Be clear about your boundaries. You don’t have to carry them through every crisis. Go easy. Don’t tell stories. Do not judge. Own your strengths and weaknesses. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.