5 Warning Signs You Are Dealing With a Toxic Family Member (and you might better cut the cord with them)

“Just because someone shares some DNA with you, they get to take your stuff? Call you names? Demean you? Sabotage your relationships and career? No way!” — Dr. Phil McGraw

What Is Family?

Our family plays a significant role in our lives. It’s the closest relatives like the mother, father, brothers or sisters who influence us the most and make us the people we become as adults. But the sad truth is that our blood relatives not always become our friends. Sometimes it turns out that they are quite the opposite and that is really sad.

First and foremost, you should accept the fact that not everyone’s family is healthy or available for them to lean on, to call on, or to go home to.

Not every family bond involves respect, love, and care. Sometimes “family” means that you share a bloodline. Nothing more. Some family members build us up, and some break us down. And most importantly the harsh truth is that – some of your family members, no matter how much you love them, care for them and feel attached to them, are merely toxic for you and you are better without their presence in your life.

What is more, when it comes to close relatives our opinion is usually too subjective because we feel attached to these people and can’t see their true colors.

That’s why we have outlined 5 warning signs you’re dealing with a family member who has a poisonous personality. Read on to see if your relatives are really toxic.

1. They judge you.

Constructive criticism is fine but persistent, unfair objections could lower anyone’s self-esteem and undermine their confidence. Here is what John who has been through that with his family shared with us:

” Sometimes it is better to disassociate from people who have only negative effects on your life. Just because we call them family does not permit them to put their emotional baggage in your space. My closest family members are judgmental and cause friction, so I just asked them to stay away until they could find something good about me and my life. Life is too short to let others, no matter what their role in your life is, destroy it.”

2. Drama makes them happy.

If someone from your family always gossips about other people and feels happy about their misery, or they betray your trust by sharing the secrets you have confined to them with the whole world, then you might be dealing with a toxic relative.

“My mother and father are narcissists. They are incapable of compassion for anyone but themselves. And they also live on other people’s drama. They lack empathy even for their children. For example, I am now middle-aged and single and they used to mock about it. And used to pass nasty comments on how pathetic I am in front of other relatives. That was making me feel unworthy, vulnerable and lonely. Until eventually last year I had decided I didn’t need more of such treatment. And cut the cord with these toxic and unloving people that I had to call my family. Amazingly I started to feel better. I managed to recover at least partly my self-esteem. I know I might need therapy, but now it all seems much more positive. Trust me, cutting out of my life my sick narcissistic parents who were humiliating me, was the hardest but wisest and most relieving decision I’ve ever made…’

3. They gaslight you.

Gaslighting, at its core, is a kind of emotional abuse that gradually eats away at your ability to make judgments. Typically, a Gaslighter talks and acts negatively towards you, shifting the responsibility for their abusive actions towards you. That is usually done by making you feel “unstable,” “paranoid,” “stupid,” “unhinged,” and many other things that could make you doubt your perception and opinion.

If your family member continually says they never mentioned this or that, while you and everyone else are aware they did, it might not seem that serious. Nonetheless, that is a way of gaslighting, and you shouldn’t ignore it. Here is the story of Andrew:

“My father was an angry, bitter man. Every day I was afraid to “tip the balance” of his mood because he would often burst out in fits of rage calling me a “bastard” and a “worthless little loser,” among many other hurtful names. When I confronted him about this aggressive name-calling, he would laugh and tell me “to stop being so sensitive.”

4. They play the good cop/bad cop game with you.

They might lash out at you, shout and abuse you. Then, if feeling ignored, they might try to display positive behavior and offer you false support and understanding. That resembles up to a point to the good cop/bad cop tactics but instead of having two different people involved you are dealing with the bad and the good side of your relative’s personality. Sometimes they would show you their friendly side while other times they would behave threateningly. However, these people would switch from bad to good only to lure you back into their trap and to regain control over you. And when they succeed, they would probably turn back to their manipulative nature. And that could be dangerous for your mental health and you might need a professional help.

Below is the opinion of Alithia Asturrizaga, a licensed clinical social worker at Alithia Psychotherapy Associates, P.C.:

“I have worked with countless people who have lived their lives dealing with toxic family members and significant others. That is one of the chief reasons that many people seek therapy.”

5. They call you only if they want something from you.

Usually, they come to you for help or emotional comfort only. But when you need their help and support, they tend to disappear or hold your personal information against you. Below is the story of Martha:

“I’m dealing with a toxic family member. I’m the second oldest of my siblings, and my older sister Lilly is very toxic. She would only call me when she needs money (she’s been jobless all her life) otherwise she wouldn’t even care if I existed. She never acts like a real sister, and sometimes she would even try to blackmail me If I refuse to help her. And she behaves the same way with our third sister. We feel bad about this but can’t do anything about it. Lilly is our sibling, and we have to help her when she is in need…”

The question here is if it is necessary to help your relative although obviously, they are trying to take advantage of you. Isn’t it better to just cut the cord with this person?

After all, toxic relationships, even with family members, could exhaust you emotionally, and worsen your mental health.

Here is the advice of Alithia Asturrizaga:

“There are certain techniques that people can use to make these relationships more tolerable—these methods generally involve distancing yourself to a certain degree from the toxic person. However, in many cases, the best solution is to remove the toxic individual from your life completely. That is rarely easy and is often complicated and emotionally conflicting in the case of close family relationships, such as with a parent—but when situations deteriorate to the point of making it impossible to live a happy and liberated life, this course of action is usually the best.”

Have you ever been involved in a relationship with a toxic family member?

Please, tell us about your experience.

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