In part 1 of Dealing With Toxic People I discussed friends, for part 2 I am going to discuss family, which can be a whole lot harder than friends to deal with effectively. The connections and relationships in families are often more difficult to navigate than friendships. With toxic friends you can just cut them off if it is too hard, but with families it can be harder to do that.
That’s not to say it is not an option, cutting yourself off from toxic family members, it completely depends on the situation, but before you do, there are a few things you can try which might help.
This might sound silly, as it is not really dealing with the issue, but if the family members in question are leeches when you are there, but once out of sight, out of mind it might be worth a consideration. Someone I am close to was having a lot of issues with their extended family. They wanted to cut them off completely, but it is hard to do that when it comes to family. The issues they had to face were unbelievable, everything including drug issues, lying and stealing, all the things no one deserves.
It placed a huge strain on the marriage and nearly ended it. Finally one day the husband had enough. He snapped and decided they were moving. Within 2 months they had up and left their home, moved a few hours away and things were so much better. It did not take the problem away completely, as they still visited a couple of times a year, but when they do they stay in hotels. They are not in the thick of family problems. They are not there to be asked for money or things all the time and not seeing or being part of the family problems helped their marriage immensely.
Some argue moving away does not solve anything, but I know many people it has worked for. It might not solve any of the problems they are all having but it removes you from the situation.
If it is one particular family member causing most of the problems, as in always asking for money, picking fights or something have an intervention. Everyone can meet together and discuss the issues. Each person takes a turn and says how they feel or what is happening. I was involved in one of these once and whilst it was extremely uncomfortable, it helped. It does not need to be a drug, alcohol or gambling problem to have an intervention.
Write a letter
If it just you who seems to butt heads with another family member but you can’t seem to express how you feel, why not try writing a letter to them. Do not write it in the heat of the moment, but really thing about exactly what it is you want to say and the most effective way to say it. Be careful with this as written word can be misconstrued and used against you. It might help to write it then discuss it with them without actually giving them the letter per se.
First discuss the issues you are having with certain family members. Outline the behaviour, why it is not acceptable and the consequences if it continues, then follow through. For example, say you have interfering grandparents who when at family functions tell you what to do with your children or discipline them in a why you and your partner are not comfortable with or do not approve of. It can be tricky to discuss this as different generations have different ideas, but the grandparents need to accept that you are the parents and it is your choice how you raise your kids.
Sit them down, discuss with them what discipline is appropriate, how you want to raise your children and how you do not appreciate how they are going about things. If they disagree with you and refuse to accept it, outline some consequences such as if they choose to ignore it you will leave the family function immediately. If it happens at the next one you will not come to the following one. Each time it happens, reinforce why you are leaving and why you do not condone their behaviour.
Eventually things should improve. If not, you will need to decide how you wish to proceed.
If the family member(s) are willing you could looking to group counselling to sort out any issues. Look up options in your area, find out how much then approach the subject with the them.
Cut them off
As harsh as it may sound, sometimes the headache of toxic family members is not worth the hassle. It can cause you great amounts of stress, tension in other relationships and really, no one wants that. Sometimes it is better to walk away and start a new life for yourself. It will be hard, but if your family will not listen to boundaries you have set and continue to behave inappropriately, you have no other options.
What are your tips for dealing with toxic family members?