Newsflash: Family members can be loved and toxic at the same time. It's possible that the toxic ones are the ones closest to you, and the dysfunction seems unavoidable. Or perhaps, you just don’t like them…at all. Either way, how do you deal with a toxic family member? How do you keep them from making you crazy? Here are some tips on dealing with a toxic family member..
First, how can you tell if they are toxic? Do they put you down every time you talk to each other? Do they always focus on the negative instead of the positive? Do they target your insecurities, and make you feel worse every time you see them? While these aren’t the only ways someone can be toxic, they are tell-tale signs. Your family should be supportive and uplifting. If you are experiencing these problems, yet you still want a relationship with this family member, open communication is necessary. Perhaps, find another family member to help you address the toxic family member about these issues. Don’t go on the attack - rather express concern, and use “I feel” statements. However, if you don’t see hope for this toxic relative, you should distance yourself if possible.
What can you do to distance yourself? If you live with them, you should find things to keep yourself occupied to avoid too much damaging interaction. Consider things you might need to accomplish: cleaning your room, reading a book for class, or even washing your laundry. When they see you're busy, they won't get a chance to say something you don't want to hear (hopefully). Or you can pretend to ignore it. If they simply insist upon intruding, you can go hang out with some friends for a while to get away from a toxic situation. These breaks are necessary for your mental health.
If this toxic family member doesn't live in your house, the best way to avoid them is to create physical distance. You don’t owe anyone a phone call or lunch. In unavoidable group settings, talk to the family members who aren't toxic. They can possibly provide help and insight into your situation. While I was growing up, I was very close to four of my cousins, so I was never bothered by toxic family members. It was just me and my cousins in our little world, so we didn't realize all the possibilities of family drama.
Talking to a trustworthy, healthy relative about your feelings can be so important to your mental wellness. A trusted family member should be able to hear you out and understand why you feel this way about this toxic family member. You can also create plans for group settings, where this family member subtly intervenes to protect you from the toxic relative. Having a game plan will help you so much!
The toxic family member could be anyone: your mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or even your closest cousin. Just because you’re related, you don't have to be close to someone who constantly inflicts pain upon you. The people you love should make you feel uplifted and secure. Please remember this when you are with your loved ones. Your energy is precious; avoid toxic people at all costs!
Written by: Audre Arnett