How To Support Your Significant Other If They Have A Toxic Family

Photo: Anastasya Ignateva via Canva
couple hugging

By Brittany Christopoulos

Those who come from healthy families may find it hard to show the proper support to those who don’t.

Whether it’s during the holidays or any given day of the week, spending time with family can be extremely hard for someone with a toxic family. And it’s even harder to understand if you’re not from a family with strained relationships.

Family dynamics truly are different for everyone, and when you’re dating someone who comes from a totally different dynamic than what you’re used to it can be hard to understand (which is totally normal).

RELATED: How To Proactively Deal With Toxic Family Members

The thing is, every definition of “toxic family” is entirely different.

It could mean you have a relative that subtly puts you down or diminishes your accomplishments. Someone could constantly comment negatively about your weight. They could even judge your sexual preference or what clothing you wear.

But there could also be families where someone has physically or sexually been abused by someone at the table or someone who is close to someone at the table. Regardless, they’re all awful situations to be in.

When it’s your own family, you automatically know how everyone is and can assume how things will likely go at your dinners. But when it’s your partner's and you're a newcomer, you really are going into things blind.

That can be a terrifying time because you really don’t know what to expect or how your partner will interact with you in front of their family. You also might become overly agitated about how your partner is being treated or how everyone is talking to each other so you may find it difficult to bite your tongue.

If you’re witnessing the one you love being treated horribly, it can be upsetting. No matter how heated you may get, it’s important to remember that this is their family and not yours.

Sadly, your opinion won’t be as valued as you think. You just have to be mindful and focus on how you can privately help your partner and be supportive.

RELATED: What It Means To Be The 'Hero' In A Dysfunctional Family (& How To Manage As An Adult)

Here are a few ways you can show your partner support when they’re dealing with their toxic family.

1. Before you arrive, create a game plan.

Before you go, encourage a conversation with your partner about what they expect from the event ahead and talk about what they need so you can help them feel as calm as possible.

He or she may want you to be physically supportive by being next to them the whole time, or they may need you to intervene by asking them a question to take them out of a negative situation. Always ask what they need if things get heated.

2. Create a signal.

Creating an escape signal is always a good idea so you can be coy in your exit when you both feel like things are getting to be too much. It could be a gesture, a whisper in the ear, or a specific phrase.

Creating a signal will allow the two of you to make your exit swiftly and promptly to avoid unwanted conflict.

3. Listen to them and be understanding.

Some families either master the art of hiding their drama while others don’t give a care in the world.

If you can’t physically see what your partner needs just listen to them. Hearing what they have to say will allow you to get a better understanding of how they feel during these situations.

4. Vocalize how much you adore them.

When someone vocalizes their family situations it can often cause them to feel isolated, alone, or misunderstood. So be sure to give them that reassurance they’re too scared to ask for and tell them how much you love them and how wanted they are.

All in all, just be supportive and try to be understanding in the situation. You may not fully get where everyone is coming from or understand everyone’s side of the story, but you’ll be relied on heavily by your plus one.

And while their toxic family might even annoy you, just remember to not get involved too much in the drama. You’re needed to be your partner's better half. Prove that you’re the best thing that could happen to your partner by showing them your support.

RELATED: 5 Sad, Underlying Beliefs You May Have If You Were Raised By A Toxic Parent

Brittany Christopoulos is a writer, journalist, and fill-in TV co-host. She's a Senior Writer and Head of Trending News for Unwritten.

This article was originally published at Unwritten. Reprinted with permission from the author.