If you ask me, there is nothing more painful and devastating than having to break the connection and distance yourself from certain family members.
Family ties are one of the strongest types of bonds that we have in life. Our home and our family are where we should feel most loved and secure. That’s why when we must cut them, it can scar us deeply. After all, your family is supposed to be always there for you, they are the people that you never expected to hurt you.
However, sometimes you must face the cold truth that some people, even if they are members of your family, are simply toxic to you and you’ll be better off without them.
You must put yourself first. You should never put in jeopardy your physical, mental, and emotional well-being just because you feel like you have to tolerate them because they are your family and you were taught that family bonds are eternal.
So, how can you know that you are dealing with a toxic family member? Watch out for these 5 signs of toxic people:
1. THEY FEED OFF DRAMA
You decide to turn to a family member for advice or share with them your deepest fears and expose your vulnerabilities because you trust them entirely. Then you find out that they betrayed you because now every member of your family knows your secrets. It is the ultimate betrayal, especially since it comes from a family member, a person with whom you share the same blood.
2. THEY JUDGE YOU
Criticism can be good and healthy only when it is constructive. However, constant degrading and unjustified criticism can really affect a person’s self-confidence. Family members that are judgmental and nothing you do seems to be good enough for them are toxic and you should remove yourself from their presence.
3. THEY ARE ONLY THERE FOR YOU WHEN THEY NEED SOMETHING FROM YOU
A toxic family member will only be there for you when you have something they want. Usually, they will go to you for advice or emotional comfort. But as soon as they get what they need, they will distance from you again. And when you need their support and love, they will never be there. They will decline your needs and use everything they know about you to manipulate you.
4. THEY QUICKLY JUMP BETWEEN POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT
One moment they will yell at you and insult you, and the next they will praise you and support you only to lure you back into their trap. They can’t stand when you ignore them, so they will do everything in their power to regain the lost control of you. Of course, these pseudo-approvals are very short-lived as they will inevitably go back to their manipulative behavior.
5. THEY GASLIGHT YOU
If your family member ceaselessly claims that they never said or did something when you and everyone else knows that that’s not true – you are being gaslighted. Gaslighting is a manipulation technique with the purpose of sowing seeds of doubts in the victim in a hope to make them feel powerless and question their own perception, memory, or even their sanity.
If you recognized a family member in the description above, then they are dangerous for your mental health. Toxic relationships, even when they come from friends or family members, can really affect your sanity and your overall well-being.
There are many things that you can do to make a relationship with a toxic family member more tolerable. Still, the best solution is to cut them out entirely from your life.
This is not easy, especially when the toxic member is your parent. However, when the situation escalates to a point when it is almost impossible for you to live happily and freely – eliminating the source of your unhappiness is essential.
Also, you should know that when you decide to remove a toxic family member from your life, there will be feelings of loss, guilt, pain, uncertainty, and doubts about whether you made the right decision.
However, you must determine how much you are willing to sacrifice yourself to protect your emotions. Sometimes, you must experience pain to help yourself. That pain is not malicious, but it is a normal part of the process of letting someone go.
And even when you do eliminate the toxic family member from your life, understand that you may need some time to recover from the abuse. This is also okay, and it is a part of the healing process.
Finally, love and support don’t always come from family members. You can get all the love and support you need from your friends and/or your significant other. By surrounding yourself with supportive people your life will change for the better.
TAKE CARE! You owe it to yourself.
I am currently writing my first book titled “Inside The Narcissist’s Psyche: His Ability To Make Victims Stay With Him Even Though The Pain They’re Feeling Is Unbearable” If you are interested to take a glimpse at it, follow this link and tell us whether you like the subject so that we can send you a free chapter after we publish it.
I’m at 50 -50 on this. You may cut them off temporarily but at the end they are still family. In my opinion it depends on the culture you were brought up. I’m down with loosening yourself from toxic family members for a while. But we should remember we still go back to our roots. At the end we should learn to listen and forgive. Cause one day we will all be gone in this earth. We dont want to pass life with a burden in our hearts or regrets.
I cut them out and it was the best thing that ever happened even though it was my parents and they both have passed away without trying to reconnect. Their fault, not mine. I made peace with it years ago for my mental health. Good article.
I agree with Zendley. Keep your distance, be aware of what they are doing, and try to change how you REACT to their actions.
In reaction to Anonymous. It all depends on how damaged you are by them. It may not be possible for your own wellbeing to reconnect.
Too many young “entitleds” are using this Philosophy to emotionally blackmail loved ones into getting what they want. When parents say “No ” they suddenly become toxic! I know that there are occasions when this action is necessary but unfortunately this practice is used too often to justify punishing loved ones for not giving into unsafe or irrational demands.
Sometimes, the best family you can have is the one you create for yourself.
I decided to cut ties with a toxic brother, and with him went my own mother, several aunts, uncles and cousins, and a couple of nieces. As hard as it is, I realized that those who went along with the narcissists are being held hostage by the situation and the toxicity of my mother and brother…and as much as I grieve the others, I don’t regret going no contact with the first two. Such behavior is emotional abuse, plain and simple, which is why I disagree with “but it’s your mom/it’s your family” logic — Some of us will never go back, and some of us are healthier for that decision. I listen and forgive people who are sorry, not to unapologetic narcissistic abusers who only talk to hear their own voice tell me why I deserve what I’m getting. Ultimately I want to model good behavior to my daughter that NO ONE gets to emotionally or physically abuse you, ESPECIALLY family, and model good, two-way respectful behavior for how families should be.
They are not family when they lie about your moms health leave your mother to die, on the floor alone and not tell anyone for 5 days because they were digging all the money from the freezer after they made a home made will taking everyone but them out. Estate worth 1,5million plus.
We are 8 with parents.
As precisely said, it is true and high lights mostly after grown up and become independent and also separate family.
Some are selfish, with ego, form group, some like to be with the family for their benefit, etc, etc.
But the person who sincerely love the family is the most effected.
No body has come to live permanently in this world. Some become prestigious, Top professionals, wealthy, Politicians, etc, etc. but at the end of the life contract, we all leave without any of above.
Some families are united only as long as the parents are alive.
People have become like machines, has no feelings. Not everyone, but mostly. Nobody knows where humanity is heading.
There are degrees in all things and people are too quick to judge, point fingers and argue. No problem with cutting off abusers, but all relationships still require give and take, patience and work. Nothing and no one is perfect. Too many articles are being written like this pointing fingers and calling mothers/ families toxic. Families are being destroyed and lives ruined. All should be taking ownership of issues and using communication to improve relationships not throwing away loving, caring people. A wise person will put effort in first and learn to place boundaries and express themselves and needs in an honest way. There are two sides to every story – there are good people suffering and broken – having been devoted and loving to their children.
I totally agree with Mary o in spades.
My brother showed me this article, based on his perception of our father. It’s amusing how all of these are exactly how my brother acts and treats me. But I agree with the article, it is okay to cut a family member out who is like this. There is a reason why my brother and I hardly talk
I have a low- lifer half brother, whom I only hear from wherever he needs money. I mean he wants, like thousands. I cut him off.
He didn’t want “family” as much as someone to give him money. No way.
Go get a job, I told him.
I totally agree with Anonymous hurt mother! And Mary o.
This is so true; just let them go and never look back; so sad, but so is life.
I totally agree with Mary.
I also agree with Mary o. This is exactly what has happened with my toxic daughter. If we didn’t hand over enough money, or take her kids for overnights, we were punished. She has treated me horribly since she was a teen because I had the audacity to try and make her realize that she had to abide by some rules. Ever since then, she has fed everyone lies about me. Unfortunately, she got away with it for over 20 years. Now my family is seeing what I’ve seen for all these years. She has cut us completely off, and sadly our grand daughters are paying the price. I sincerely believe she has a personality disorder, but as many counselors have told me, people with BPD or narcissistic PD will never think it’s their fault. Sad on so many levels. I feel sad for her as well.
Advice like this and we still wonder why American families are falling apart….sad.
I think it’s healthy to keep distance from family who feel use silent treatment and other tatics to force a outcome that they feel is best for you such as a relationship from personal experience I’ve needed a family member who claimed they cared so much yet I knew I was being purposely avoided which landed me in a place where verbal abuse happened, gaslightig and other forms of emotional abuse to place. Basicly throwing me to the wolves it hurt to the core but not surprised honestly my husband even mentioned later how in the past I encountered the same thing from friends n family. Being a addict yet still being able to help siblings still then not being able to get them to help when I needed them the most had Me going back n fourth with addiction. Truth is thats no excuse to continue to use what I do and plan on doing Is getting myself in a healthy place mentally emotionally and change of environment bc that is a must for me. I tell myself this fact when everyone is gone on you n family n friends fail u you must remember you still got yourself and as long as you got enough strength to get up you can give yourself all that love n time n then choose who is healthy n right for your life not the ones who force or try too place themselves in your life I hate that I’ve had people try n force crap on me and that made me angry because these people I can careless to have around me they fucked me up mentally no joke I felt betrayed by whoever the disrespectful person was who thought it was there duty to involve people in my personal life and business as well as give out my location. Not everything is for everyone n not all family is family people get stupid w that unity bs as well I’m focused on getting me together not a unity forced interaction and around people who has again caused me w great deal of damage in ways only God will understand that between me and God. Forgivness is all I owe slot of people n that’s all they will get my siblings n a hand full of family members n friends I care to keep n touch with n the new ones I will meet during my journey of finding myself m healing n recovery. Owe myself so much lost time n those closet to me. I owe also a lot of people a gift of permant abstance with no explanation.
I had to leave my parents. I still keep the door open but, they left me in a nursing home and never visited me for years. I’m also going thru this with my daughter. She is (Gas Lighting) me. I miss her terribly. But I don’t miss her behavior. It’s a shame. I always thought family was supposed to stick together.
It depends on what the family member does. Some things are unforgivable like when a sister is so greedy that she lies and sneaks behind your back to steal your inheritance that your mother wanted you to have, you cannot possibly have a relationship after that! GREED
I moved 13 years ago thousand miles farther away….from Her. She said, i am not a responsible person,i am not able to care about myself,i am a piece of shit…Now, i am qualified, active carer for more than 10 years….with 3 any other diplomas…..anyhow, so painful was hearing…
undecided yes you need to first be true to your self but coming from what i thought of as a close family thenhardly any or no contact seems extreme however i do see both sides of this coin
I had to cut off ties with my brother and 2 sisters. Very painful but after my parents died they cut me off so they could live free on our inheritance. It was the best decision Ever. Toxic people should be cut off completely.
Im thinking to cut of ties my dad, for many years i suffered from physical abuse and mental abuse… but i always want to forgive him, and everytime i do he hurts me again.. i just think hes not worth it my forgivness now. Am 20 years and now the physical abuse has stopped two years ago, but the mental abuse is still there, he shouts at me for no f**** reason i told him to get help millions of times and he said he will, never did!!! I feel hes better of dead then i can live my life in peace.
Who made the rule that families are suppossed to stick together? Parents who like being in control? Parents who think they owed respect because they carried a child and raised them? If the parent is caring and supportive and loving then a child has no reason to leave or cut ties. As an adult who no longer communicates with parents I hear my parents and others who have been cut off say I and others like me are ungrateful and entitled. Toxic people not just parents always see themselves as victims. If people do not choose to be around you, it is a reflection on you not them. My advice is work on yourself and change yourself. Once kids become adults they have the common sense to know what is good for them and what isn’t. You can’t control and change others and you are only making a fool of yourself if you try.
You spoke straight to my heart! I had to take the therapist’s help for cutting out all the bonds with my parents. Maybe the most toxic and abusive parents on earth. No1 is my mother, No5 is my father. I couldn’t understand how is possible for parents to abuse mentally, psychologically and physically in such ways their own children. I always thought that parent is always there for you, a huge hug of comfort and love. For me was like leaving constantly with my worst nightmares. At first, it looks crazy to cut them off. In my early 30s, my body started sending me signals that all my pain was turning in a physical nuclear bomb. Dermatological and heart problems didn’t give me much time to think. Doctors were straight and clear, “you must cut bonds with all toxic people in your family or your family will cut years from your life”. After 2 surgeries and 10 clean years without my parents in my life, I can say that it was not easy but worthed every second of my try. Today I am full of the love of my husband, relatives, and friends and I know that that’s the only love I need and want.
My family treated me badly from day one. I was the child my mother had out of wedlock and when she married my step dad and had my brothers and sister I was reminded constantly that I was not one of them. I was shipped off to grandparents and camps so they could have there family without me. I wasn’t a bad child and tried so hard to gain their love and respect. I left home at 17 and made a good life for myself only to have to return to their fold when my relationship broke down, leaving me a sole parent of one amazing child. I did my best to raise my son on my own and was always told how bad I was no matter how hard I tried. I was the butt of all their jokes at family gatherings and no matter how much I succeeded in my career and in raising a beautiful human being, it was never good enough. The last straw came when I found out my brother (44) had taken candid photos of a 12yr old in the shower. My son and I called the police. The family protected him and made us out to be the bad people. My mother actually said to me “How could you do this to my son?” It hit me like a lightning bolt. I wanted nothing more to do with these toxic people. Yes it took me a while to grieve the loss of my family, but my son and I agreed that they will never change and we don’t need them in our lives. This article has helped me realise that we have made the right decision. Thank you.
In my case my mother was toxic and I almost have no contact with her and my father has no say and supports her always. I had to suffer a lot when I was thrown out of their house barely 6 months after my marriage. I was 26 at that time, little did I know about life and had little money to start my newly married life. Now I have my own house though had to shell out a big chunk of my earnings to close the loan. At 42, I still feel for them but they sadly have not changed. I have seen how supportive are some of my friends’ parents and how are they enjoying life together. I am the only child of my parents. My parents both had relations outside their marriage and spoilt my childhood when I fell in-between their fighting, and then ultimately they both came down heavily on me and my wife, sadly. I wonder what did they achieve by doing this? Any answer?
I am 81 years old, mother and grandmother. I guess I said something to upset my daughter 2 years ago and haven’t heard from her or my son in law since. They purchased an r. v. and are traveling the country. I tried calling and e mailing to apologize, but to no avail. I sent a Christmas card which they returned. I miss my daughter everyday, and love her. How can I forget her? Do I just give up? Should I keep trying? You can say what you want, but a mothers love never dies.
I lived with a mother who would gaslight and manipulate a situation to get what she wanted from her kids when all she had to do was ask. I was the only child of 3 that lived in the same town as my parents so my mother expected me to be at her disposal at all times. She would use my fathers illness as a way to quilt her kids even though my father handled his heart disease quite well for over 30 years. After 19 years of marriage, my ex-husband got tired of living our life around my mothers demands. Fortunately, I met a wonderful man that excepted the fact that I felt that I “needed” to be there for my parents (my father was not demanding and was very appreciative and we became very close) so he would also give into my mothers “requests” in order to keep peace and to help me help them. After my father passed, she became very dependent on me b/c my siblings wouldn’t allow her to manipulate them. After two years of helping her through the grieving process (not being able to grieve in my own way), she became so dependent and demanding that it was beginning to take a toll on me physically/emotionally and still operate my business I had built up over a 30 year period. The first time I said NO to one of her crazy demands was the last time she has spoken to me. My siblings knew how much of my life I had given up (but as long as my father was OK, it was worth it) and did not understand how my mother could turn on me and do and say the things she did. I would try to talk to her in hopes of keeping the family together but I would leave feeling emotionally drained, demeaned and depressed. After 6 months of putting up with her emotional abuse, I finally felt defeated enough to say that I can’t continue to put myself through this emotionally and physically. Fortunately, I have a husband who has stood by me then and now. I am working on finding my true self and enjoying not living under that constant quilt that she imposed on me if she didn’t get her way. Instead of her enjoying ALL her children and grandchildren and benefiting from the love and care that she can have from our family, she will cling on to just one of her kids until she burns that bridge and then she will move to the next. It have been nearly 2 years since we spoke and I admit I miss her but not the turmoil she created in my life. Once she figured out that I wasn’t going to let her antics get to me any longer, she has announced that I am no longer her daughter. Just another way to cut into my soul. I have always been self sufficient, strong and independent and I couldn’t let her take that away so I had to cut the once strong bond we had before I completely broke.
Mary Wright, you have unknowingly helped me a lot! Thank you so much for this article. You u answered all me questions and cleared my confused thoughts. I was a victim and target of 4 toxic people, all in my own family. My husband and I decided to cut them off and we moved out to live separately. Although we are now in complete peace and in control of our own lives with heightened levels of self confidence, we were still a bit in pain and confused wondering if the decision we took was right or wrong. After reading your article, I am glad we took the right decision. No one deserves to be treated ill by such toxic people. Those who feel it is okay to be treated ill, then they have very low self esteem and will definitely need to focus on their own mental health. Thank you Mary, you made my day!
The first segment. .DRAMA….there IS my sister! True to form, every segment after that. Like I’d written them myself! After years of distancing myself, every time things came to a screaming, abusive (physical as well as verbal) head….I would cut, move if possible and keep my location SECRET! I had no contact with my Dad for FOUR years…..in order to keep my daughter n I safe. I knew my Dad was powerless to keep location from sister. I had told him, over the years, of all her dreadful outbursts n interfering behaviour. …….”I don’t want to get involved ” was always his reply. On coming back from Africa once, n seeing her behaviour ‘afresh’, I suggested, to him, she needed some ‘professional help’. I will never forget the deep but SILENT look he gave me. After other ‘breakups’ with my sister, there came another relenting, on my part, to TRY AGAIN. “You’re wasting your time again.” My daughter would say. A month before my Dad died, (I’d just ‘opened door’ to my life again, to my sister)….my Dad rang….”I’m very pleased you and …….are speaking again……just don’t have too much to do with her!” IN that moment he acknowledged n confirmed EVERYTHING I had EVER told him! Those words…with every inflexion in his voice, are as clear as the 11 years ago he spoke them. I have JUST………..FOR THE FINAL TIME…TOLD MY SISTER I WANT NOTHING MORE YOU FOR WITH HER! I live moments away n there is not much possibility of being able to relocate…….not at the moment. ………….
All I want to say is that this article describes every single family member of mine. My parents, brother and sister. I walked out of my house 3 years ago with my newly married wife. It was the best decision I have made. Things were so bad I was basically finding every chance every day just to smoke weed so that I could somewhat tolerate my family.Since the day I moved out
, my wife and I have been In an out of contact with them. Recently after the last argument, my wife and I decided to cut them out permanently. I think its the best move we have made. My life has improved a lot since we moved out. I had thoughts of going insane and even wanting to kill myself but I pulled through. I hope many more people see this article and the comments.
Toxic people do see themselves as victims; most are narcissists. My sister is one. I’ve tolerated a lot from her; forgive the behavior when she calms down, just for it to start all over again 2 months later. It never ends. She’s a narcissist, bordering on psychotic. She’s an alcoholic on top of it, and when she starts drinking she gets ugly, cruel, harrassing. The more you try to calm her down, the more enraged she gets. Then she attacks…..harassing you via text messages, phone calls, voice mails, emails – she’s relentless. She’ll finally give up after about a week or so. But this time I’m not accepting her apologies and blaming it on alcohol or anything else. This behavior happens at least once a year, and all the other time around that is spent walking on eggshells around her, fearful of saying the wrong thing that will set her off again. NO more. I’m done with her. There comes a time when you have to cut them off; how much is up to you. I went a 2 yrs not talking to my sister after one of her crazy verbally abusive, slandering episodes. Then one day she calls me, I picked up and she was all sweet, apologetic, full of explanations as to what caused her to react that way (alcohol was always the excuse), so she reeled me back into her life and even though I was cautious at first, it wasn’t long before she was calling me all the time with her drama, her neediness, her financial distress, how everyone was at fault for the latest mess she was in at the time. People don’t change, you have to walk away. I’m done. You can’t have a relationship with toxic people. They will damage you if you are too carrying of a person because they have no empathy, when you do – so you become an easy target. Even therapists have to be careful when counseling Narcissists because they are very good manipulators because they truly believe their own lies.
I got on a plane with my husband and children from Belfast, Northern Ireland to Australia 🇦🇺 WA 12 years ago to get away from my family and haven’t looked back or been back. My life changed for the better and I’m happy with my life now without them
There are times when you need to stop being around toxic people but total abandonment of a parent is usually the result of Parental Alienation Syndrome. The parent who is left alone can’t be allowed to be apart of the adult child’s life because the reality clashes with the denial and fantasy that they live in so the other parent will love them. The way I dealt with a toxic person in my life was to say calmly “I love you but I won’t stay around you when you are hurting me. Bye” The third time that I did that (and had removed myself physically from the situation), the toxic person yelled in frustration, “What do you mean I’m hurting you?” and I said, “Your mother treats you badly so you think it’s normal to treat me badly but it’s not okay.” I didn’t have to abandon that person……….just remove myself anytime their behavior was abusive towards me. In Parental Alienation Syndrome, the abandoned parent hasn’t done anything wrong…….it’s to complicated to describe here but check it out before you abandon a parent you think is toxic. You may be abandoning the wrong one!
Most young people dislike their parents at some point – didn’t we all? It’s natures way of encouraging young people to reject their parents and “leave the nest.’ Don’t encourage young people to believe their parents are toxic – a word which is so over used it’s getting ridiculous. Healthy adults talk and resolve their differences – they don’t cut their parents out of their lives and deny them the love of their grandchildren. But before they can become healthy adults they need to learn values like compassion, communication and forgiveness. Family estrangement is a silent epidemic and the ones who suffer are the children who lose their loving grandparents. Many loving parents are suffering unimaginable pain and suffering which they carry for a lifetime because they are estranged from their children and these parents have done nothing wrong. I have recently sat with a 40 year old man who sobbed because he estranged his parents 10 years ago and he’s an emotional wreck. It only takes learning to set boundaries, self respect and empathy. This is the answer not disowning our families. Mental illness is a separate issue. Only a very small number of children / adults cut themselves off from their families due to abuse and that’s a fact. I have been studying family estrangement for many years and my evidence comes from those involved on both sides, therapists and a leading psychologist who specialises in family estrangement.
I walked away from my mentally, emotionally abusive Mother in 2004 when she held a funeral for my brother and didn’t bother to include my sister and I. It was the last straw for me. Yes, there are still days when I wonder how she is…I wish her no ill will…but when the phone rings I actually answer it now. The years of deceit and pitting one child against the other took its toll on me but I’m happy and stronger than I imagined. I love her because society expects me to and she is my Mom…but she cannot break the wall around my circle of space…I won’t allow it.