Life Lessons: Dealing With Toxic Relatives

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Everyone has a relative or two who brings negativity with them at nearly every encounter.  He or she gossips about other family members and think that they are living the perfect “by the book” life.  In reality, they are the ones who are doing it all wrong.

Dealing with toxic relatives is challenging and stressful.  We can’t expect people to change, but instead, we can change the things that we do have control over and therefore, empower ourselves by setting boundaries and controlling our own reactions and responses.  Criticism is to be expected because it’s the easiest thing for people to do rather than being logical and admitting they were wrong about their actions or how they may have treated you.  Many people cannot be introspective; they cannot examine and consider their own ideas, thoughts, and feelings with an open and rational mind.  Instead, they allow traditional, societal, and religious standards to guide their thoughts and actions into a generalized way of thinking that they feel everyone should live by.

Toxic relatives may not think they’re doing anything wrong, and may not see the negative effect they have on you or others. They think everyone should live and act the way they do.  That’s their right, and it’s your right to live the way you see fit and without pressure or guilt.

“You don’t owe your family affection if they are being abusive and treating you poorly. I know that it’s so difficult not to feel guilty for holding back that love. I know that there are people who will tell you that you should just grin and bear it because they’re family. People who will shame you for the way you feel. People who will try to convince you that wanting to take care of yourself in this way is selfish and unjustified. But the truth is, that it’s not your responsibility to be kind or loving to people who have consistently hurt and mistreated you – especially when these people continue to disregard your feelings, ignore your boundaries, and refuse to take responsibility for their behavior. Just because the person hurting you is family doesn’t make them an exception. Choosing not to be affectionate with family who have abused or mistreated you doesn’t make you a bad person. It isn’t selfish or disrespectful. It’s a form of self-care. It’s about you honoring your feelings and holding people accountable for their abuse. It’s about you standing up for yourself and your needs. It’s about you making your mental health a priority. So, if getting distance from certain family members is what you need right now, or permanently, then you have every right to withhold your love and leave. You don’t have to sacrifice yourself for the sake of maintaining a relationship. And you don’t ever have to apologize for creating a safer space for yourself.”

— Daniell Koepke


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