As people are more aware of mental health and the importance of self-care, I see more and more people mentioning that they no longer communicate with most of their family members. While it is important to consider your mental health when dealing with family members, it might not be the healthiest thing to cut them out of your life entirely.
Our family members play such a major part in what type of people we develop into. They will typically always have a place in our hearts no matter how horrible they have been. Cutting a toxic family member out of your life can be devastating. Although you might believe that it is the only way to protect your own sanity, there is a way to protect yourself from your toxic family members while still allowing them a place in your life.
Because we are conditioned by western societal norms, we go through life a lot more independently than most eastern cultures. We tend to make decisions more for what is best for us as individuals than as a system of multiple people. This allows us to make the decision to cut off our toxic family members more easily. We also tend to have “all or nothing” thinking patterns which could feed into our tendency cut people off completely.
When considering if/when to distance yourself from toxic family members, here are a few things to consider:
Are you in danger?
Is your physical safety in danger? If so, in what capacity? Does this family member become abusive? If so, are there specific circumstances when that is more prominent? Is the abuse more likely to occur when there are other people around or is it completely unpredictable?
Is there a pattern?
Most people have a pattern to their behaviors, and it can be beneficial to know the typical pattern of the person. Does the person typically become more toxic in certain settings or around certain people? Is there particular time of day, week, month, or year that they become more toxic?
Are there any benefits to keeping this person in your life?
Is this a close family member that has been around you your entire life? Do your children have a close relationship with this family member? Are they supportive in other areas of your life (financial, emotional, spiritual, etc.)?
If you have determined that the family member is randomly or physically abusive, you have not been able to identify a behavioral pattern, and there are no benefits to keeping the person in your life, it might be a good option to discontinue any type of relationship with the family member. If you have been able to identify a behavioral pattern, you are not in physical or unpredictable danger, and there are benefits to keeping the person in your life, then you might consider other options rather than cutting them from your life completely.
A very helpful tool for keeping a toxic family member in your life while also minimizing the risks that you might face by maintaining a relationship with them could be challenging but not impossible. Setting strict boundaries with the family member is the tool. Boundaries are hugely important in relationships no matter what the status is (friendships, romantic relationships, professional relationships, etc.). Setting specific boundaries with your toxic family members could be the key to keeping a place for them in your life but also protect yourself from any risks. In my next blog, I will go more in detail about specific boundaries that can be set with your family members and other things to consider that will allow you to continue to have a relationship with them without subjecting yourself to substantial abuse.
July 13, 2019