How to Handle Toxic Family Members
This week's question from my portal “The Neagle Code: Directions for Life” comes from someone who wishes to remain anonymous.
I have a family member who is lashing out and telling me all kinds of crazy, wild things. It’s exhausting to deal with. I have that person in my life on a limited basis. I’ve set boundaries. I’ve made peace with the situation. I’ve tried to forgive and have acceptance.
But still…they keep creating chaos in my life. Every time something happens, it takes energy to work through it, because it’s triggering.
Can I keep them in my life and become “immune” to their toxicity? Or do I need to remove them from my life?
If you’ve restricted your exposure to that person, drawn very clear boundaries, and they still continue to break them — the only choice you have left is to remove that person from your life.
Every time they break your boundary, they re-traumatize you.
You’ve got to get that person out of your life.
Even if it’s a family member. Even if it’s your mom.
We have the ability to choose. We get to create our life however we want it.
Sometimes those choices are difficult when it’s people we love. But when they become toxic, and they won’t change — you have to choose what’s best for you, your spouse, and your kids.
If you think you can build up your “mental fortitude” to a place where you’re unaffected by their toxic behavior…it won’t happen. That’s magical thinking.
You could do that with a random person walking down the street. But with people you love, you have to be vulnerable with them, so that you can love them. You cannot allow yourself to be vulnerable AND have a shield up at the same time. That’s what keeps the toxicity going.
Note: there’s a huge difference between toxic and dysfunctional.
Dysfunctional is when maybe the person is argumentative, or not polite. Or they don’t respect mild boundaries, like time.
Toxic is abusive — they’re affecting you psychologically, emotionally, or physically.
Toxic is when they don’t honor and respect your point of view, or your decisions in life. Or they’re telling you that you need to change, so they can feel better.
It’s completely exhausting to be around someone like that. Sometimes the effects are so bad, it harms your health.
When we’re in a relationship with anyone, and their behavior has become toxic, and they’re not willing to change it — the only choice we have is to leave.
The healing of a relationship like that requires BOTH parties to accept responsibility for their contribution to the problem.
Your family member isn’t doing that.
Don’t be in denial about what they’re doing.
Your responsibility is to you, your spouse, and your kids. Not to any of those other people.
First and foremost, you have a responsibility to make sure you’re healthy, and that your environment is healthy. That is self-love.
You have a responsibility to keep toxic people away from your children.
When your kids see you letting a toxic person remain in your life — you’re teaching them it’s OK to tolerate toxic people in their lives.
You’re not doing something TO a toxic person by removing them from your life. You’re doing something FOR you, and the quality of your life. That’s how you make peace with it.
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