How To Proactively Deal With Toxic Family Members

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frustrated woman

We’ve all heard of toxic romantic partners — but what about toxic family members? Unfortunately, they also exist and those relationships can be much harder to navigate.

While it may sometimes seem impossible, there are ways to proactively deal with toxic family members.

First, you need to get a better understanding of how to notice the signs of a toxic family member.

Signs of a toxic family member

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All relatives are bound to butt heads every once in a while, but with a toxic family member, it can feel like more than just a disagreement.

Verbal abuse

The signs of a toxic family member can range from jealousy to verbally abusive comments and just blatant disrespect for your boundaries.

If you're constantly walking away from this person and feeling poorly about yourself, there's a good chance that they're toxic.

Toxic behavior can be incredibly dramatic or rather manipulative.

If someone is toxic in a dramatic fashion, they usually have an explosive temper and can go as far as name-calling, yelling, and putting you down in a very obvious way.

This behavior can come out of nowhere and make you feel like you are always walking on eggshells.

Meanwhile, if someone is toxic in a more manipulative manner, their toxicity might be a little more discreet.


They might make you question yourself by playing the victim. Or they compare you to others in a way that you don’t acknowledge as toxic until later when looking back at the conversation.

A manipulative toxic person might have you leaving every conversation feeling like you did something wrong even though they're the ones creating a negative relationship.

If someone in your family is treating you like this, it’s easy to think of just brushing it off because you’re related. While this feels like an easier option, it will lead to problems down the road as well as permanent damage to your relationship.

If you want to keep this person in your life, it’s important to face the situation head-on.

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How to deal with toxic family members

To proactively deal with a toxic family member without ruining your relationship, set aside a designated time for the two of you to talk.

Let them know how you feel

Once you’ve set the scene, calmly explain to them what they are doing and how it makes you feel.

Not every toxic person knows that they're toxic!

Maybe they genuinely didn’t realize the problem at hand, which can be enough to change your situation. However, this is usually not the case.

Create and enforce boundaries

If nothing changes or they deny their behavior altogether, create boundaries that will guide your relationship in the right direction.

This could be something as simple as designating topics they aren’t allowed to weigh in on or discuss with you. If these boundaries are still being pushed or altogether broken, take some time to distance yourself.

This shows the person that you're not going to entertain a toxic relationship with them. They will, hopefully, realize that, if they want you in their life, their behavior needs to change and they will begin to act accordingly.

It’s going to be hard to make the necessary changes and stick with them.

Consider seeing a therapist

A toxic person will make it seem easier to go let them go back to their old ways rather than face them head-on. In some cases, it may be beneficial to see a therapist together to ensure that there is a safe place to voice your feelings.

A therapist will help you cut through all the red tape and validate your emotions in a way that your relative can understand.

Cut the toxic family member off

If they ignore all of your attempts to create a stable and healthy relationship with them, it might be time to cut them off — or, at least, keep them at arm’s length.

This is obviously easier said than done because this person is a relative, but it's totally okay to cut them off!

If someone is making you feel terrible or creating negativity in your life, you must do what’s right for you and your mental health.

You clearly love this person enough to try time after time to make amends with them and they are still beating you down. You deserve to be surrounding by people who are putting in the same effort as you.

Your family should make you feel safe and loved, not guilty for their toxic behavior. Remember, it’s their toxic behavior, not yours.

Cutting off a family member will be one of the hardest things you ever do, but it could also be the best thing you ever do.

It’s important to keep in mind that it probably will not last forever.

You might go a year without speaking to each other and then slowly start to introduce a healthy relationship in which you feel safe and respected.

Once you’ve taken the initiative to essentially cut this person off, you're going to feel a wave of emotions. These emotions will likely include guilt, sorrow, anger, and maybe even regret.

It's totally normal!

You can benefit from talking to a therapist in situations like this, especially if you're finding these feelings to be overwhelming. They will help you to work through the transition of no longer speaking to your toxic family member.

The therapist can also help you decide when and if to let the toxic family member back in your life.

Figuring out how to proactively deal with toxic family members is an uphill battle regardless of the steps you chose to take. Know your worth, acknowledge the signs, and do not let them win.

You deserve respect, if they belong in your life, they will appreciate that.

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Lindsey Matthews is a writer who covers love and relationships, news, and pop-culture topics.