Staying away from toxic relatives can be a difficult decision, but in the long run it is often healthier than continuing to interact with abusive, addicted, or difficult people. If you are thinking about severing ties with a family member, start by evaluating your family relationships and think carefully about the best course of action. After that, take steps to move away from them, while taking care of your emotional and mental health in the process.
Method 1 of 3: Assessing Your Relationships
Step 1. Identify toxic relationships
Think about your current relationship with your family, identifying those that are toxic and distinguishing them from those that are just difficult. Ideally, work with a mental health professional if you are comfortable with this, as he or she can help identify toxic relationships.
- Abuses, constant negativity and manipulation are serious signs of this type of relationship.
- The line between a difficult and toxic relationship is very thin. Trust your own instincts and remember that some people may try to minimize their feelings. However, if you are sure someone is being abusive, don't fall for the excuses of others.
Step 2. Brainstorm
Try to find ways to deal with family problems without cutting the relatives out of your life. Consider not attending family parties, taking a stand against bullies, or just ignoring conflicts instead of arguing with your family members.
- Finding a simple solution may not be an easy task, but easing negative situations is often less stressful than cutting ties completely.
- Look for Al-Anon, a group that started as a way to help and support the family of people addicted to alcohol, but has grown a lot, serving people in other situations as well.
Step 3. Think carefully about the costs of cutting a relationship
Before moving away from a relative, think about how this action might affect your life, including your other family relationships. Make sure you are prepared to deal with the possible negative consequences of this act.
- You may, for example, decide to cut off relationships with a sibling who has toxic tendencies, and your other siblings may end up viewing the act as an affront, causing you to lose them all at once. You will need to consider whether it's worth keeping a dysfunctional person around to preserve other relationships.
- Make a list of pros and cons that will help you determine if the problems and benefits generated by the breakup are worth it, and leave it somewhere you can always read. Asking a friend or family member to help you make the list can also be a good thing, as they may think of things you hadn't thought of.
Step 4. Think about the consequences of not cutting the ties
While moving away from toxic family members can cause emotional pain and fights, it can also bring peace. Especially if these relatives tend to make your life more difficult with their toxic behavior.
- For example, you may have relatives who steal, lie, bully or abuse drugs and alcohol, which are likely to cause more stress than happiness. Your mental health and peace of mind will benefit if you move away from them.
- If you already have a list of pros and cons, take a good look at it. If not, do one to better understand the potential problems and benefits of not walking away. Read it over and over and ask friends or family to help you do it.
Method 2 of 3: Moving away from Toxic Relatives
Step 1. Stop trying to change a dysfunctional person
Accept that your relative will never behave otherwise unless he wants to. Also, don't try to convince him to change or understand your point of view. Instead, step back and make a decision to prioritize your own well-being a little over his.
- If he has self-destructive tendencies, understand that you cannot save him from himself. You may even be unconsciously encouraging this behavior by giving it all the attention it wants.
- Don't feel obligated to explain your choices, especially more than once. Also, don't get into a conversation and end up having to defend them.
Step 2. Avoid blaming yourself or others for your relative's behavior
He is fully responsible for his own actions, no matter what he says, so never make excuses for his behavior, nor let him say that you are to blame.
Passive aggression is the preferred tactic of toxic people. If your relative is passive-aggressive with you, understand that this is just a manipulative strategy and don't fall for it. The ideal is to remain silent and, later, let off steam with a friend or psychologist
Step 3. Set healthy boundaries.
Decide which situations and behaviors you are no longer willing to put up with, making it clear to your family what they can expect from you and what you need from them. Be firm with limits, not giving up or apologizing for them.
- Make a list of behaviors that will not be tolerated and share it with your family. For example, you might say: “I lent John a lot of money, and he didn't even bother to pay. That's why I will never lend money to anyone in the family again.”
- Setting boundaries can take some time and effort, especially when you are a very permissive person. If someone tries to convince you to go over a line, say something like: “We've already talked about this. I won't change my mind." If they keep insisting, just ignore it by hanging up the phone or putting an end to the conversation.
Step 4. Stand back
It doesn't matter if you're thinking of severing a relationship or just getting away from the dysfunctional relative, in any case, avoid visiting him, talking to him on the phone, or attending family parties where he will be attending. Above all, pay attention to how you feel when he is no longer an active part of your life.
- Distancing can even cause a feeling of guilt, especially when you are in a co-dependent relationship with the relative in question. So it's important not to feel obligated to break your silence until you're really ready.
- Taking time off from your family member can provide a new perspective, helping you to decide whether or not you should permanently sever ties.
- Think about what you will say to the rest of the family when someone asks you about your decision to leave. Try to be brief and forceful, without making room for discussions. You can, for example, say something like: "I decided that walking away would be the best thing for me, and so far I haven't been wrong."
Method 3 of 3: Boosting Your Well-Being
Step 1. Keep in touch with the relatives you care about
If you have good family relationships, take care of them. Emotional support is especially important when dealing with family issues, and usually your other family members will understand what you are going through better than anyone else.
By having an inside view of the situation, it is possible that other family members will have good advice on how to deal with dysfunctional relatives
Step 2. Allow yourself to take care of yourself
If you're used to putting the needs and feelings of others ahead of your own, you're probably not a fan of self-care. Try to maintain a healthy balance between your responsibilities and your own well-being.
- Don't feel guilty about taking care of yourself. Remember that you deserve this as much as anyone else.
- Make your health a priority by exercising, sleeping and eating well.
- Set aside time daily or weekly to do something you enjoy.
- Ask a friend to act as your coach, pointing out every time you start putting others' needs ahead of your own.
Step 3. Acknowledge your emotions
Instead of repressing them, find a healthy way to admit and express them. Try writing a journal, letting off steam with someone you trust, or taking a long walk.
- Recognizing your emotions is the only way to work on them.
- It's common to feel angry after going through certain situations with a broken family, especially if the biggest problem was with your parents.
- Remember that loneliness is a common feeling for those going through this process, even in the company of family and friends. It's sad to lose someone who plays an important role in your life, but don't forget that you'll feel better in time.
Step 4. Spend more time with people who support you
We cannot choose our family, but we can choose our friends. Strive to develop positive and mutually beneficial relationships in your life. Look for those people who make you feel loved or who are there for you when you need them most.
Step 5. Get help
Moving away from an unbalanced relative can bring up emotions that are difficult to deal with alone. If you are having difficulty overcoming them, make an appointment with a psychologist.