Cut Off Toxic Family Members

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June 8, 2010 ‐ By Danielle Kwateng


Laugh all you want to, but everyone has someone at the family reunion that gets the side-eye every year. That one relative that brings every ounce of drama. Who doesn’t pay for the annual family t-shirt, but grabs one anyway and ask for an extra. They’re usually hanging with cousin-nevergonnagetajob and uncle-smokedtoomuchinthe70’s playing spades for far too much money then having the nerve to ask you to ‘put up some’ when they run low on cash.

Seriously, blood is thick, but blood can also make you sick. Dr. Richard A. Friedman touched upon this topic in relation to toxic parents in The New York Times.

“All too often, I think, therapists have a bias to salvage relationships, even those that might be harmful to a patient. Instead, it is crucial to be open-minded and to consider whether maintaining the relationship is really healthy and desirable,” Dr. Friedman told the newspaper. “Likewise, the assumption that parents are predisposed to love their children unconditionally and protect them from harm is not universally true.”

So, below are some suggested for dealing with those “special” relatives:

  1. Really evaluate their place in your life. Do they add to your happiness/well-being or take away? What makes the concept of family amazing is that they truly, always under any circumstance have your best interest at heart.
  2. Consider how tolerable they are. Some family members you should call less while others you should file a restraining order against. Figure out how deep it is.
  3. If you’d rather back away than “cut off”, try limiting communication with the person. Call less. Never text. And restrict their access to you and privileges on Facebook.
  4. Keep the least amount of family members in the know about your avoidance. If everyone knows you have an issue with another family member, more than likely they’ll try to patch it up for the sake of comrade– even if you know the person is no good for you. Tell a few close relatives and make sure they don’t broadcast to the entire clan.
  5. Be cordial when in contact. Keep the convo light and fluffy. Don’t discuss pass disagreements and don’t start a new one.

GOLDEN RULE: Be open! See if the family member has changed, sometimes it’s not about an issue but who they were when the issue came around. Time and growth can do wonders, so never “cut-off” the idea of bonding again.

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