Do You Have Toxic Family Members? Here Are Some Ways To Deal With Them (2022)

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Updated on February 18, 2020

Clinical Psychologist

By Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert in clinical psychology, an inspirational speaker, former radio host of the Dr. Sherrie Show. She is the author of several books and earned her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Regis University.

(Video) How To Deal With Toxic Family Members

Last updated on February 18, 2020

When it comes to letting go of relationships with our toxic family members, we have some options available to us. I know from experience and from treating others that it is essential to try all of these options. When we try everything, it makes our final decision to go no-contact more comfortable as we come to see the toxic people in our lives leave us with no other choice.

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(Video) How To Deal With a Toxic Family

1.

Cordial contact

The first step to setting limits on these toxic relationships is the option of cordial contact. Through this option, we fake it till we make it when in the presence of our toxic family members.

With cordial contact, we are mindful not to be too self-revealing. We make sure to keep conversations and emotions superficial, positive, and pleasant and largely about our toxic family members. Because they love feeling as if everything is about them, we can use this as a workable strategy, knowing we're doing it on purpose as a way to keep ourselves safe from unwanted drama, at least to the best of our ability. Knowing we're doing this on purpose helps us to avoid beating ourselves up for always acquiescing our needs to our toxic family members as a way to make them happy.

Cordial contact can work, at least in the short term. The problem is that our manipulative family members do not like it when things are peaceful or cordial, so they are likely to get under our skin in one way or another, striving to cause us to lose control of our objective and end up back in their web of destruction.

2.

Low contact

Another option is initiating a relationship of low contact with our toxic family members. In this option, we choose only to see or talk to them at family gatherings or other major holidays or events. Outside of this, we do all we can to avoid them. This option also may work for a while, but our toxic family members will catch on quickly and do all they can to force their way fully back into our lives.

(Video) How to deal with toxic family relationships | Johnson Chong | TEDxRolandPark

The bottom line is this. When our toxic family members sense we've pulled away or are pulling back, they escalate their manipulations because they do not respect any of our needs for space. They do not want us having the space or time to think rationally about our relationship with them because once we do, they get exposed and lose. For this reason, the middle ground is the worst place to be with our toxic family members. They have no idea how to function in that arena. They prefer to be all in or all out. When our toxic family members feel the gray area between us, what they usually do is cut ties with us.

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3.

No contact

When we finally reach the point with our toxic family members where we decide the only healthy option for us is to go no-contact, we have arrived on the front lines of a very challenging, freeing, and yet deeply painful decision. If we are at this place, we can trust that we more than likely took more abuse than we ever deserved—assuming we ever deserved any of it. If we have reached this point, we can trust that we were pushed to it by our toxic family members. We must never feel guilty for protecting ourselves with the no-contact option.

We have every right to protect ourselves from those who manipulate and emotionally abuse us. At one point we loved our toxic family members and wanted them in our lives more than anything else. Yet at too many points in time, we sacrificed our happiness to serve theirs, shut our mouth when we desperately wanted to speak up, and did what they wanted because doing that was easier than dealing with their drama. We must understand that our toxic family members have simply walked us to the door we're now choosing to shut.

Signals of a toxic relationship:

  • When the relationship is based in any type of abuse: mentally, physically, sexually, verbally, or emotionally.
  • When the only contact you have with them is negative.
  • When the relationship creates so much stress that it affects the important areas of your life at work or home.
  • When you find yourself obsessed with the gossip about you and trying to right wrong information and constantly being ostracized to the point you are losing sleep over it.
  • When the relationship is all about the other person, and there is no real reason why the other person cannot make any effort toward the health and maintenance of the relationship with you.
  • When crazy-making, no-win games dominate the relationship—such as the silent treatment, blame games, and no-win arguments that spin around on you.

Important questions to ask before going no-contact:

  • Does this person ever admit wrong?
  • Does this person ever genuinely apologize and change his or her behavior?
  • Does this person show remorse for what he or she has done?
  • Has this person ever validated your perception as right?
  • Does this person respect the limits or boundaries that you've set?
  • Is this person willing to do anything and everything to make a relationship with you work?
(Video) How to deal with your toxic relatives | Mel Robbins

If the answers to these questions are undoubtedly no, then you need to consider cutting ties.

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Why going no-contact is challenging:

This decision is more forced upon us than it is voluntary, and it's confusing because we're conditioned to believe that terminating relationships with family is morally wrong. However, our toxic family members are just people and not always healthy people. In reality, if these individuals were not our family members, we would never choose them to be part of our lives. Under the ideal of family, we spend years sacrificing our mental and emotional health under the notion that we have to make this sacrifice because these people are family. We are conditioned to believe that if we end relationships with them, we are bad people. No one wants to feel that they are inherently bad.

Nevertheless, here is what I know for sure. It is far better to make the decision to go no-contact and break our own heart than it is to stay in a relationship in which our toxic family members break our heart over and over.

Finally: Secure a support system.

Before you choose to go no-contact, I highly recommend that you have a loving support system in place to reassure yourself that you will not be alone once you make this change. What you have to be prepared for is the response of your toxic family members. They will likely do all they can to isolate you by targeting your key supports to do what they can to turn them against you. Once you see the smear campaign is in full effect, you must come to trust that you need to stay quiet and not engage. Just let it happen and let it pass. The more you fight the smearing, the bigger the gossip and lies become and the crazier you will look to others. Our toxic family members smear us for the sole purpose of trying to rob us of the very support system we need and deserve to have in place. They want to ensure we are robbed of having a soft place to fall and that we do not have people on our side supporting our decision.

If we want to be healthy, we must prepare for the fact that when we leave our toxic family members, we will likely also be forced to leave behind many others who connect us to them. We must be OK with this, embracing it as an acceptable loss. I have experienced in my own life and watched others who have also been in a similar position have things turn out better than fine when they make these decisions. In some ways this is a blind journey, to be sure. We cannot predict all that will happen. But I believe whenever we activate positively for our mental and emotional health, we find that what has been left gaping and empty in our lives will eventually be replaced by situations and people that are better and healthier for us.

Based on excerpts from But It's Your Family...Cutting Ties With Toxic Family Members by Sherrie Campbell with the permission of Morgan James. Copyright © 2019.

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(Video) 15 Ways Intelligent People Deal With Difficult and Toxic People

FAQs

How do you deal with toxic family members? ›

Here are five ways to cope with toxic family members.
  1. Create boundaries. OK, easier said than done, but very essential to do. ...
  2. Limit your contact. This may be hard to do, especially because family members often get together on various occasions. ...
  3. Don't engage. ...
  4. Create a solid support system. ...
  5. Cut off all contact.
28 Apr 2022

How do you deal with toxic people? ›

Read on for tips on how to respond to this type of behavior.
  1. Avoid playing into their reality. ...
  2. Don't get drawn in. ...
  3. Pay attention to how they make you feel. ...
  4. Talk to them about their behavior. ...
  5. Put yourself first. ...
  6. Offer compassion, but don't try to fix them. ...
  7. Say no (and walk away) ...
  8. Remember, you aren't at fault.
20 Nov 2019

How do you know if your family is toxic? ›

The toxic family member repeatedly sabotages plans. They're never held accountable for their actions. They rarely say 'thank you,' even though you're always making sacrifices for them. You find yourself doing things just to get approval or attention from them.

How do you not let a toxic family affect you? ›

Here are five helpful strategies:
  • Give yourself time to mourn. We all want a family that's supportive, loving and kind. ...
  • Set limits and boundaries. Make toxic family members aware in advance of what topics you will not discuss. ...
  • Work on your self-esteem. ...
  • Get what you need from others. ...
  • Separation and Individuation.
24 Feb 2015

How do you deal with family problems? ›

Suggestions include:
  1. Try to stay calm.
  2. Try to put emotions aside.
  3. Don't interrupt the other person while they are speaking.
  4. Actively listen to what they are saying and what they mean.
  5. Check that you understand them by asking questions.
  6. Communicate your side of the story clearly and honestly.

How do you avoid toxic people? ›

How to eliminate toxic people from your life.
  1. Let them know how you feel. While you do not owe them an explanation, this is probably more for you. ...
  2. Put some distance between you and them. ...
  3. Set hard boundaries. ...
  4. Don't be pulled into a crisis. ...
  5. Spend more time with positive people. ...
  6. Talk to someone. ...
  7. Forgive but don't forget.
25 Sept 2020

How do you deal with a toxic mother? ›

13 Strategies For Handling A Toxic Mom
  1. Figure Out Your Boundaries. ...
  2. Have A Serious Conversation With Her. ...
  3. Limit The Amount Of Time You Spend Together. ...
  4. Pick & Choose What You Tell Her. ...
  5. Don't Let Her Sway You. ...
  6. Ignore Toxic Comments. ...
  7. Don't Take It Personally. ...
  8. Try To Be Empathetic.
25 May 2017

How do you deal with a mean family member? ›

  1. Don't try to fix the difficult person. Accept them exactly as they are. ...
  2. Be present and direct. ...
  3. Do encourage difficult people to express themselves. ...
  4. Watch for trigger topics. ...
  5. Know that some topics are absolutely off-limits. ...
  6. It's not about you — usually. ...
  7. Your own well-being comes first.
22 Feb 2018

Should you stay away from toxic family? ›

There's no right or wrong way to deal with toxic family members. Some people choose to cut off contact entirely. Others try to work with the situation by limiting contact with toxic family members and taking steps to protect their emotional well-being when they do see their family.

How do you deal with a toxic child? ›

Here are some powerful, practical ways to do that:
  1. Be empowered by your motives. ...
  2. Understand why they're seeing what they see in you. ...
  3. They might get worse before they leave you alone. ...
  4. Be clear about your boundaries. ...
  5. You don't have to help them through every crisis. ...
  6. You don't need to explain. ...
  7. Don't judge.

How do you deal with a family member you don't like? ›

6 Ways to Cope When You Can't Stand a Family Member's S.O.
  1. Figure out the root of the problem. There are about a million reasons that you might dislike someone. ...
  2. Have an honest conversation. ...
  3. Fake it 'til you make it. ...
  4. Change your mindset. ...
  5. Set boundaries. ...
  6. Stay positive.
18 Sept 2018

How do you deal with a jealous family member? ›

How to Deal With Jealous Family Members
  1. Understand the reasons for their jealous behavior. ...
  2. Open communication is the key. ...
  3. Address the issue in a calm and peaceful manner. ...
  4. Deal with their poor self-esteem cautiously. ...
  5. Avoid playing a blame game. ...
  6. Tell them that you will work together to resolve the issue.
23 Jun 2022

How do you deal with toxic family members during the holidays? ›

9 Ways to Deal with a Toxic Family at the Holidays
  1. Be prepared. ...
  2. Accept that holiday happiness isn't a given. ...
  3. Try to stick to your routine. ...
  4. Understand your family's coping mechanisms. ...
  5. Find a way to find solo time. ...
  6. Remain an adult. ...
  7. Stay in neutral. ...
  8. It's okay to say no.
17 Dec 2018

How do you deal with toxic siblings Quora? ›

Originally Answered: How can one deal with a toxic sibling? Help make the sibling non-toxic, or find a new sibling.
...
  1. Have good, well defined boundaries. No, you may not borrow money. ...
  2. Decide whether this person is going to be in your life or not, and stand by that decision. ...
  3. Don.

Who is a toxic person? ›

A toxic person is anyone whose behavior adds negativity and upset to your life. Many times, people who are toxic are dealing with their own stresses and traumas. To do this, they act in ways that don't present them in the best light and usually upset others along the way.

Do toxic people change? ›

If you've addressed toxic behavior with the person exhibiting it and they have taken it to heart, it's possible for toxic people to change. “Toxic people can absolutely change,” Kennedy says, “however they must see their part in the problem before they are likely to find the motivation to do so.”

Why do people become toxic? ›

Perhaps they feel you aren't paying them enough attention, or aren't making them feel special enough, which triggers their own feelings of unworthiness. So they might try to hurt you back to make themselves feel better (even though you probably weren't aware you hurt them in the first place).

How do you stop toxic behavior? ›

Learn how to stop being toxic with these seven steps:
  1. Apologize when necessary. Everyone exhibits bad behavior from time to time. ...
  2. Assess yourself regularly. ...
  3. Be open to feedback. ...
  4. Deal with past trauma. ...
  5. Practice mindfulness. ...
  6. Respect boundaries. ...
  7. Seek opportunities for compassion.
4 Mar 2022

Should I reply to a toxic person? ›

You're happier without toxic people.

When it comes to surrounding ourselves with toxic people, or even listening to what they have to say, it's best to take the highroad and completely ignore them.

How do you tell if you're toxic? ›

All the same, you could notice some of these signs in yourself, your partner, or the relationship itself.
  1. Lack of support. ...
  2. Toxic communication. ...
  3. Envy or jealousy. ...
  4. Controlling behaviors. ...
  5. Resentment. ...
  6. Dishonesty. ...
  7. Patterns of disrespect. ...
  8. Negative financial behaviors.

How do you know someone is toxic? ›

Here are some traits to familiarize yourself with, and to help you navigate these trying relationships:
  1. Toxic people are manipulative. ...
  2. They are judgmental. ...
  3. They take no responsibility for their own feelings. ...
  4. They don't apologize. ...
  5. They are inconsistent. ...
  6. They make you prove yourself to them. ...
  7. They make you defend yourself.
29 Aug 2016

How do you deal with living with toxic parents? ›

10 tips for dealing with toxic parents
  1. Stop trying to please them. ...
  2. Set and enforce boundaries. ...
  3. Don't try to change them. ...
  4. Be mindful of what you share with them. ...
  5. Know your parents' limitations and work around them — but only if you want to. ...
  6. Have an exit strategy. ...
  7. Don't try to reason with them.

How do you deal with negative parents? ›

How to Deal With a Negative Parent
  1. Consider whether this is a new problem. If it is, there could be a medical reason for this change in personality. ...
  2. Accept that negative behavior is not your fault. ...
  3. Acknowledge your parent's concerns. ...
  4. Tackle boredom. ...
  5. Set limits (if you can) ...
  6. Get help. ...
  7. Take care of yourself. ...
  8. Take a break.
9 May 2022

How do you avoid toxic parents? ›

How to Successfully Stop a Toxic Relationship With Your Parents
  1. Set boundaries with your parents (and enforcing them!)
  2. Accept the guilt (and live with the discomfort)
  3. Don't try to change them—change what you can control.
  4. Take care of yourself first.
  5. Surround yourself with supportive relationships.
24 May 2019

When Should toxic family members be cut off? ›

When is it appropriate to cut ties with a family member?
  1. Lying.
  2. Blaming.
  3. Criticizing.
  4. Manipulating.
  5. Overreacting.
  6. Invalidating or ignoring your feelings.
  7. Undermining your relationship with your spouse, kids, or other relatives.
  8. Creating drama or crises.
18 Oct 2019

What are the signs of a toxic person? ›

Toxic people: 7 signs a person is toxic
  • You're left feeling emotionally exhausted after an encounter with them. ...
  • They try to intimidate you to get their way. ...
  • They try control you by guilt tripping. ...
  • They are easily jealous. ...
  • They constantly see themselves as a victim. ...
  • They give backhanded compliments. ...
  • They're overly defensive.
15 May 2020

What the Bible says about toxic family? ›

The Bible does not tell us to continue in relationships with people who have damaged us or are still damaging us, family or not. In fact, the Scriptures are full of teachings instructing us to leave relationships with wicked or evil people, to be separate from them, to shun, outcast, and purge them from our midst.

How do you avoid toxic people? ›

How to eliminate toxic people from your life.
  1. Let them know how you feel. While you do not owe them an explanation, this is probably more for you. ...
  2. Put some distance between you and them. ...
  3. Set hard boundaries. ...
  4. Don't be pulled into a crisis. ...
  5. Spend more time with positive people. ...
  6. Talk to someone. ...
  7. Forgive but don't forget.
25 Sept 2020

When should you distance yourself from a family? ›

It's generally safest to distance yourself from family members who cause you physical harm. If you have to see them, try to always meet them in public or have someone with you. Verbal abuse can be more difficult to recognize, but some examples include: name-calling.

How do I stop being toxic? ›

How to Stop Being a Toxic Person?
  1. Be aware of yourself and your behavior.
  2. Know your values and abide by them.
  3. Be a good listener.
  4. Be empathetic and compassionate.
  5. Think first, react second.
  6. Let your ego go.
  7. Show vulnerability and accountability.
  8. Reach out for help.
19 Jul 2021

What are things that toxic people say? ›

7 Toxic Phrases People In Relationships Say Without Realizing It
  • “It's not a big deal” or “You'll get over it.”
  • “You're just like your father.”
  • “You always ... ” or “You never ... ”
  • “You're doing it wrong. Why can't you just do it my way?”
  • “I am done.”
  • “You're too sensitive.”
  • Not saying anything.
2 Dec 2021

What do Toxic people do? ›

Often the phrase “toxic person” is used to describe someone who is subtly or outwardly manipulative, self-centered, needy, or controlling.

How do you say no to a toxic family? ›

You are focusing on saying what you mean and meaning what you say for your own peace of mind, not for the toxic person's.
  1. Tell the person what you want them to think. ...
  2. Tell the person clearly where that leaves them in relationship to you. ...
  3. Don't debate your thoughts, feelings, or boundaries. ...
  4. Stick to the boundary.
21 Jul 2017

What is toxic family? ›

What Is a Toxic Family? A toxic family is one where your family members don't respect your boundaries. Toxic family members create an unhealthy family situation. Toxic family members also build stressful interpersonal relationships and cause mental and emotional distress.

When God is removing someone from your life? ›

God Wants to Bring Someone Else in.

Removal of a person from your life can be a sign that God wants to bring someone else in. In other words, this can be His way to make room for another individual who might need you more and vice versa. Also, understand that there is an addition in every removal.

How do you teach a toxic person a lesson? ›

Here are some lessons, which will be a helping hand to protect yourself from people who can become a real obstacle in your life.
  1. Avoid people who don`t keep their words. ...
  2. Don't afraid to express your thoughts directly. ...
  3. Be strict. ...
  4. You need to do what is right for you. ...
  5. Pay attention to the energy of others.

How do you deal with a toxic mother? ›

13 Strategies For Handling A Toxic Mom
  1. Figure Out Your Boundaries. ...
  2. Have A Serious Conversation With Her. ...
  3. Limit The Amount Of Time You Spend Together. ...
  4. Pick & Choose What You Tell Her. ...
  5. Don't Let Her Sway You. ...
  6. Ignore Toxic Comments. ...
  7. Don't Take It Personally. ...
  8. Try To Be Empathetic.
25 May 2017

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