Disclaimer: If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, please seek out help and connect with these resources: Coalition for Family Harmony (805) 983-6014, Interface Children & Family Services (805) 485-6114, or loveisrespect.org (1) 866-331-9474.
This blog shares information on coping with toxic family members. You or someone you know may have struggled in relationships with a toxic family member. Whether this be a sibling, parent, extended family, in-laws, or blended family. It can feel discouraging and stressful trying to navigate through these relationships.
It’s true that we will not always get along with our family members. We may butt heads, have differences in opinions and values, or have petty arguments. However, when we are able to take accountability for our actions and resolve issues together, it’s possible for relationships to strengthen and grow.
In instances where your family member is toxic, it can be difficult to feel validated, heard, or understood. It may feel like a losing game every time you are in contact with them, where you are somehow always in the wrong. While you may want to maintain a relationship with them, you know if things continue as-is, it would be unhealthy for your well-being.
This blog shares information on signs of a toxic family member, how to create and maintain boundaries, avoid feeding into unnecessary disputes, create a strong support system, and seek out your own individual healing journey. By following these points, you may experience relief, increased self-esteem or self-respect, and better navigate or identify these types of relationships.
Individual therapy in Simi Valley, CA provides you with a space where the focus is solely on you and your needs. Make sure to check out our blog on 3 Benefits of Individual Therapy to learn more about what you can expect.
You can find relief in navigating contentious relationships with family members by seeking out your own healing journey.
What Are Signs of a Toxic Family Member?
The definition of a toxic individual is someone who regularly acts and behaves in a way that hurts others and negatively impacts their life. There is a difference between someone who may be innately toxic, and someone who responds in a toxic manner as a defense mechanism, but is aware and actively working to change their ways.
Examples of signs of a potentially toxic family member include:
- They are constantly criticizing or blaming you for things.
- You feel the need to carefully pick and choose what to say to avoid setting them off.
- They do not consider your needs or boundaries.
- You feel anxious, fearful, or frustrated in their presence.
- They are controlling to an inappropriate and unhealthy extent.
There may be instances where you are continuously asked questions that you have already stated having no interest in discussing. This can pertain to questions about your political stance, opinions on social justice issues, your relationship status, career status, and more.
Individual therapy in Simi Valley, CA validates your experiences and feelings from having a toxic family member in your life. You may struggle to feel that your feelings matter with this family member, but in individual therapy, they do.
It is important to remember that you deserve the same love and respect that you give out to others.
Make sure to check out our blog on How to Validate Yourself!
A Note for Teens with Toxic Family Members:
If you are a teen currently living with toxic family members, you may be stuck in a distressing situation. Whether you are constantly being berated, critiqued, interrogated, or put down, it’s valid for you to want to get out of the house as soon as possible. You don’t want to live with people who make you feel this way, and may feel desperate to get out of the situation. It could be that you have little to no support within the household, and feel alone or isolated.
It’s important to remember that your feelings matter, and your existence matters. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please consider calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or 988 or text the Crisis Line at 741741. You can also go to your nearest emergency room. Additional resources include loveisrespect.org or The Trevor Project for LGBTQIA+ teens.
It may not be possible for you to separate yourself from the household or family members until you are an adult. In the meantime, it’s important that you find ways to navigate these situations and survive through them. Make sure to check out our blog on 4 Tips for LGBTQIA+ Teens and How to Be Responsible for Your Mental Health.
Prioritize your mental health by coming up with a list of coping mechanisms. What are healthy, positive activities you can engage in to relieve stress? What makes you feel calm, centered, or grounded? A few examples include creating art, reading, taking a walk, exercising, playing a sport, watching your favorite show, or talking to someone you trust. Avoid engaging in self-harming behaviors or using substances to cope.
Understanding that you will make it through this and find a community of people who love and accept you, can help you persevere.
Coping with Toxic Family Members: Create and maintain boundaries
It’s important that you are firm in your needs or desires. By creating and maintaining strong boundaries with the family member, you can make it clear what you are willing to tolerate and compromise. If your family member continues to try to overrule your boundaries, it may be time to evaluate how much space you want to give them.
It can be intimidating creating boundaries. Your family member may take them personally, become argumentative, or find ways to try to avoid them or push past them. However, the whole point of creating boundaries is to protect your sense of peace and wellbeing. You have a right to set healthy expectations, rules, or boundaries around yourself or your family whether they agree to them or not.
One instance in setting boundaries could be with a parent in-law. There may be times where you feel constantly mistreated or disrespected by them, and they are seeking to be more in control with your child. An example could be interrogating you about your parenting methods. The family member may offer unsolicited advice that you do not align with.
Boundaries are essentially firm and direct statements that lay out your needs. Examples of this include:
- If you continue to yell and speak over me, I will hang up this phone call.
- If you continue to insult me, I will walk away from this conversation.
- If you continue to make unnecessary comments about my appearance, I will leave.
Maintaining the boundaries means that you will exercise the stated consequence if they are not respected. When you set boundaries and do not exercise the consequence, it may not be taken seriously and continue to be overruled.
It can be difficult to maintain boundaries with a family member who may not already take your feelings into consideration. Even though you have stated your boundary, it may still come as a surprise to them, or cause further upset. Continue to be firm in your boundaries and take them seriously for yourself. If you tell a family member you will cut off communication, it’s important to follow through with that until things change.
Anxiety therapy in Simi Valley, CA supports you in identifying the boundaries you can establish to meet your needs. If you are questioning whether anxiety therapy is right for you, check out our blog on Signs It’s Time to Start Anxiety Therapy.
Setting boundaries helps create a clear guideline of how you would like to be treated, by letting others know what is and what is not okay or acceptable.
Coping with Toxic Family Members: Avoid feeding into unnecessary disputes
Avoid feeding into unnecessary disputes with your toxic family member. An unnecessary dispute could look like arguing about past issues that have since been resolved, unprovoked and hurtful critiques or opinions, and more. It could be that your family member themself struggles with feeling heard or validated, and continues to bring issues up.
In these instances, you may have already attempted to connect with them and resolve their concerns. Regardless of your efforts, they may hold a grudge against you or have a desire to continue to voice their opinion, knowing that it is harmful to you.
When you respond and engage in the unnecessary disputes with them, it may escalate the situation, and lead to further arguments. It may “add fuel to their fire”, where once they get you sucked into their dispute, they will continue to pile hurtful statements onto you, or bring up more irrelevant issues.
You may experience these scenarios in person with the family member or over the phone. You can avoid feeding into it in a few ways:
- Avoid spending time around them unless necessary.
- Do not argue back to comments that are meant to get a rise out of you.
- Do not respond to irrelevant text messages or phone calls.
- Ignore the comments or reply bluntly with no further engagement, such as, “Ok, I hear you, and am not going to argue right now.”
If a toxic family member continues to treat you poorly and ignore your boundaries, it is reasonable to consider separating them from your life until they can begin to respect them.
Individual counseling in Simi Valley, CA provides you with tools and skill sets to cope with stressors. Make sure to check out our blog on 3 Reasons to Start Childhood Trauma Therapy to see if it could be beneficial for you.
Coping with Toxic Family Members: Create a strong support system
Create a strong support system you can turn to in times of need. This can look like strengthening healthy friendships, engaging with other family members, or your partner. There may be instances where you can feel alienated by your toxic family member, and they could even try to sabotage your relationships with others. By establishing supportive relationships with those that you trust, you do not need to feel alone.
Keep in mind, your support system isn’t just for venting or talking about your toxic family member. When you have relationships that are fulfilling and positive, you create other spaces to feel appreciated and valued.
Taking time to plan regular activities such as getting food together, going to the movies or taking walks, or even having one-on-one time is important. During these times, you are able to recharge and enjoy your time and healthy connections, free of any toxic family members.
Individual counseling in Simi Valley, CA helps you find ways to create and establish a strong support system. You don’t have to go through this alone! Taking care of yourself during these times is also crucial, so make sure to check out 4 Self Care Tips for Busy People.
Having a strong support system allows you to navigate through stressful situations with toxic family members.
Coping with Toxic Family Members: Begin your own individual healing journey
You may have heard the phrase “I’m seeking out therapy to cope with my family members who do not seek out their own therapy”. While this can be considered light humor, there is also truth to it. You may notice maladaptive patterns or behaviors that you engage in as a result of growing up with your toxic family members.
Children are products of their social and familial environments. You may have grown up with an emotionally immature parent, and unconsciously taken on their unhealthy communication styles. You may also recognize some maladaptive behaviors that you subconsciously acquired from your family members. Whatever you have negatively experienced growing up with certain members of your family, it’s likely to have affected you in one way or another.
The same goes for if you have toxic in-laws or do not get along with your blended family members. You may experience frustration as a result of this, and feel stuck. Therefore, it’s crucial that you begin your own individual healing journey. You can begin to experience feelings of relief and better manage stressors.
When you connect with a therapist that you feel safe and vulnerable with, you can begin this process. You may bring up unresolved trauma or complex situations you want to talk about with someone who will not judge or criticize you. There can be difficult feelings, decisions, or scenarios that you experience and are needing compassionate, professional help to be guided through.
Individual therapy provides you with a great opportunity to start living life as the person you want to be.
In-person therapy in Simi Valley is ideal for those seeking a separate, safe space from their home. Check out our blog on Online Therapy or In Office Therapy to understand what format is best for you.
By seeking out support, you can begin your journey to feeling relief. You don’t have to go through finding the right level of support alone, either. Make sure to check out our blog on 4 Reasons to Start Family Counseling!
Consider calling our therapy group at (805) 774-1506 for a free consultation! Make sure to check out our blog on Therapy: Where to Start for tips on beginning therapy for yourself or your family.
Seek out a validating, safe environment with us today. We will help you get to where you want to be. Our therapists provide teen therapy, individual adult therapy, LGBTQIA+ therapy, anxiety therapy, depression therapy, family therapy, and more in-office in Simi Valley, CA.