How to deal with toxic family member

I think I wrote before about how to deal with toxic people, but Ann wrote to me telling the story of her relationship with her mother-in-law and asked for help as she said she can’t go on like this… anymore.

toxic mother in lawI won’t tell you all the details of the story because I think it is private thing (as same I wouldn’t make your story public), but I think that advises I gave her can help others dealing with toxic relationship within their family. Unfortunately in toxic relationship within the family in most of the cases the struggling party is not in position to just walk away, and do what you want to do- even if that would be the right thing.

In order to just walk away you would need to first learn how do we deal with your confusion, obligation feelings often also betrayal and heartache?

First of all you need to accept that not everyone in you family is normal, wishes you well and is mentally healthy. Your home shouldn’t be available for them to lean on, come or even phone. Unfortunately not every family tie is built on the premise of mutual respect, support or/and love. Very often family (sister in law, brother in law, mother in law etc) means that you share common name, bloodline, sometimes a bit of history.  That’s all.

Naturally each family toxic relationship case is different, but I created some general principles to follow just to keep you mentally healthy, fit and most of all happy:

  1. Distance yourself- give yourself space to live. Create a priority list, on this list you are always before the toxic family member and toxic person can’t be higher that 2 people below yourself. Whenever there is sth to be done you look at your priority list and act accordingly to person’s importance on it.
  2. You need to remember that toxic person will “grow” if you let them. Toxic people won’t be happy until they’ve pushed your ego to the ground and stomped on it. You need to stand up for yourself whenever you feel that is happening, talk directly, calm voice.  Don’t give them leeway.  Nobody has the power to make you feel small unless you give them that power.
  3. Toxic family member will most probably hide behind passive aggression- what does it mean? Passive aggression is usually non verbal aggression (at last not direct verbal aggression), but negative behavior- you asked for sth it is not done, does not listen, neglects etc.  Typically they wouldn’t not say directly what’s upsetting them, but they will find ways to take jabs at you until you get angry. Talk to them directly whenever you experience the jab, say directly that you don’t think this that way, protect yourself directly and each time it occurs
  4. Never pretend that their toxic behavior is ok. It is not ok and won’t ever be. If you pretend it is ok they will use their moody behavior to get preferred treatment because it is easiest solution for them.  Don’t be fool.  Toxic people don’t change if they are being rewarded for not changing.
  5. Never neglect yourself, just because they do. Take care of yourself so you can remain centered, feeling healthy and ready to live positively in the face of negativity
  6. Try not to take their toxic behavior personally. Now you are their victim, but if it weren’t you, they would found someone else. Your tasks should be to cut this toxic relationship, fight back, so that they become tired of you and search for another victim.
  7. Don’t hate them, neglect them. Hate will just bring more toxicity into your life, and that is not what you want. When next time toxic person attract you. Smile, say your opinion, get out of the situation with the simple and simply say with a smile- oh…. (name) I didn’t know you are still so immature/childish, ridiculous, unfair etc. Name it, but with a smile on your face.
  8. When nothing above works, or it is simply to late to implement those, you need to let this relationship go for good. And yes that is possible, and yes you can do it. You will feel a great relief after a week or two. And after a month you will be so strong mentally that you will be able to fight this person back easily, although most probably you won’t want to have anything in common anymore

What are your experiences with toxic family member? How do you deal with them?

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