The Toxic Family Member

©Unsplash/Jan Baborak
©Unsplash/Jan Baborak

🕒Reading time: 4 minutes


⚠️Trigger warning: sexual abuse is mentioned

During life we quit a lot things. We walk away from jobs that no longer suit us, friends that turn out to be enemies, dead-end relationships and so on. But somehow we are conditioned to let certain toxic family members stay in our lives, while we do our best to accept them and everything that comes with them. But when is it necessary to end the relationship?

I've recently had to deal with the dilemma of finally and permanently cutting a toxic family member off. It was only a dilemma for me, because I knew that cutting him off would also mean cutting off access to people who are very important to me. But the deal breaker for me was the realisation that my mental health is directly tied to him. He is my trigger. A trigger that can set off my depression. Which would mean I'd be mentally at war with myself every time he decides to do or say something that would have an effect on me. Therefore, I had 2 choices.
Accept that he is toxic and forms a risk for my mental health and overall peace. Or cut him off completely so I can remain to be as mentally healthy as possible. I feel like I've suffered enough in the past. So I chose for the latter, because I really want to start off my thirties with a healthy head space.

The complacency of family
Most of us are familiar with the stories of having a so called "crazy" unfiltered uncle or a parent who treats parenthood as a part-time thing. And often our family makes us believe that "that's just how they are". It's expected of us to just accept how someone is. Flaws and all. And while that can be a good thing when it's combined with a healthy relationship, you really have to set boundaries when someone is toxic to you.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of cases of sexual abuse within families and other members of the family being aware of it, but remaining silent. Accepting and allowing the toxic behaviour of family members can cause trauma, depression and even worse.

We live in a day and age where we have unlimited access to a lot of means to get the help and support we need. Books, websites, therapy, online-counseling sessions, etc. are overflowing. Therefore knowingly remaining toxic is a decision.

What is a toxic family member?
A toxic family member is someone whose actions or words inflict pain on someone else. They often claim and cling to their toxicity and demand the people around them to accept them for who they are, instead of doing the work to improve themselves.
If their toxic behaviour has an effect on you and your life, you have to make a decision. You could choose to limit their access to you or avoid them all together.
It's up to you to protect yourself. A truly toxic person does not have your best interest at heart.

"Heal before having children, so your children don't have to heal from having you as a parent." - Unknown

Examples of toxic traits, actions, behaviours
• Dismissive to you as a person,
• Does not apologize,
• Takes no responsibility
• (Passive) aggressive
• Manipulative, judgmental, discriminatory, mean spirited
• Physical abandonment, gaslighting
• Mentally, physically or sexually abusive
• Drama seems to follow them anywhere
• And unfortunately, so much more..

Why they will probably never change
The only relevant apology anyone can give you is changed behaviour. A true apology is consistently working on changing behaviour that has a negative effect on the people around you.
But for someone to change they have to be aware of themselves first.
Often toxic people are unable to look within, or even sit still with themselves. They most likely have unhealed and/or unaddressed trauma that they've accepted as simply part of their character instead of healing from it.
If they are aware of their toxicity, they could have a personality disorder, mental illness or they've made a conscious decision to not change it, because it obviously pays off.
Why change, if there's no consequence?

When is enough, enough?
So when is it enough? Whenever you feel like it is enough.
It's enough when you are suffering because of someone else's actions.
When your mental health is affected.
When they deliberately cross your boundaries.
When they always shift the blame towards you. You don't have to accept anything from anyone.

The toxic actions, language or behaviours of others, have nothing to do with you. Their toxicity belongs to them because they are the only ones who can change it.
So even though it's extremely hard to distance yourself from them, you have to decide what is in the best interest of your life and mental health.

Thank you for reading and I'll talk to you soon.

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