Making the decision to cut ties with toxic family members

Graphic by Alan Li

 

“You can’t choose your family!” is something I hear a lot of people say.

If your family member has done something embarrassing or made a social faux pas, it seems to be a way to say that you don’t really associate with them and laugh it off.

What happens when it goes beyond them simply embarrassing you? What happens when they break the law, destroy their friendships, ruin their life and leave you in the wake?

The effect that a toxic family member has on you is more important than the fact that they are family. The effect on your mental health is not worth the connections.

It’s a nasty feeling; I know from experience. You can sit for hours and wonder whether you could’ve said or done something differently. It can reach a breaking point where you have a nervous breakdown over your toxic family member.

I’m telling you that it’s ok to cut ties. If a family member – be it distant or close – is damaging your mental health through their actions or decisions, it’s acceptable to stop associating with them and cut them out of your life.

Many people are willing to cut friends out of their life the moment the friend starts dragging them down, but we tend to have a much higher tolerance level for our family members. While this makes sense, it can be damaging to people who are surrounded by ones who are inherently selfish. It only takes one toxic person to drag you down.

This does not necessarily mean that your family member is a bad person, and it is good to remind yourself of this while cutting your toxic family member out of your life. It might hurt your family member as well of the rest of your family if you cut them out; such is life. But even with family, your own mental health comes first.

The danger of allowing a toxic person to stay in your life because they are family is that you allow yourself to be damaged for the benefit of another human. A family member is meant to be someone special, but that does not mean they must stay in your life if they are causing you mental and/or emotional pain.

If you are going to cut ties with a toxic family member, however, you must prepare yourself.

The reaction from a toxic family member is much worse than that of a friend. They might say horrible things about you and they might pick on your insecurities, because a family member knows that better than a friend would. They may also try to guilt you into changing your mind because you are family.

The effect that a toxic family member has on you is more important than the fact that they are family. The effect on your mental health is not worth the connections.

You may not be able to choose your family, but you can choose who to keep in your life. It can be difficult, but you must do what is best for you – no matter the fallout.
It is okay to want to cut ties with somebody who causes you pain; it is ok if that person is a family member.

Last but not least, remember that you can always let a person back into your life if their behaviour changes and they are less toxic towards you.

Cutting ties with somebody is not always a permanent action. Do what you want with the people that are in your life.

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