You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family, to paraphrase author Harper Lee. Nothing could be more accurate. However, for some of us, there comes a time when we realize that our family is toxic. Once you come to that point, the next dilemma is: what’s next?
Dealing with a Toxic Family
If you have determined that your relationship with your family is toxic, you have several choices. You can try to restore your relationship with your parents or other toxic family members. You can even forgive the toxic family members in your life. Or you may decide to go no contact.
None of this comes easy.
Working through the steps below will help you find the level of contact you want with toxic family members. If, in the end, you determine no contact is best for you, you’ll have the knowledge that you tried everything.
Keep the Contact Cordial
Setting limits on toxic relationships is key, and that’s what cordial contact does. Be mindful of what you share with your toxic relative. This gives them less ammunition to use against you. Keep all emotions and conversations superficial, pleasant, and positive. Keeping the topic of conversation on them, and not yourself, can help you get through any interactions you have with them.
This may keep things calm and peaceful, and if it does, great. However, toxic people tend not to like it when things are calm and peaceful. They live for sowing discord and creating drama. If, after your best efforts to keep things cordial, they end up getting under your skin, it’s time to move on to the next level.
Keep the Contact to a Minimum
Sometimes you can avoid toxic family members entirely with little or no effort. However, they almost always show up at family gatherings or major holidays. At this level, when you do see them at family gatherings, keep the contact to a minimum. Say a quick “Hello” and excuse yourself.
There are just two drawbacks to these methods. Toxic people love to manipulate, and when they know you are avoiding them, they will seek you out. Setting boundaries with them is one way to survive family drama during the holidays and other occasions when you have to see them. However, if this doesn’t work, you may have to cut all ties with them.
No Contact at All
If you’ve gone through both steps above and not found the right level, then it may be time for no contact. This decision is often painful and freeing at the same time. That’s why making sure you move through all the steps is important. You’ll know that you’ve done everything you can and that you are doing what’s best for you. Other family members may try to change your mind or make you feel bad about your decision.
When you take action that supports your emotional and mental health, you empower yourself. Things tend to turn out better than fine as you have space in your life for relationships that are better and healthier for you.