Do You Have Toxic Family Members? Here’s Why It’s Time To Cut Contact
According to the media and popular culture, family bonds are sacred. We are told that family should always come first, and that “blood is thicker than water.”
Unfortunately, sometimes our relatives don’t act in our best interests, and we have to make a tough choice – should we try to tolerate their behavior, or cut contact? Although it goes against society’s messages, removing negative family members from our lives comes with several benefits.
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Here’s why you should think about breaking free:
1. You can’t change them
It’s not fair to say that people never change. After all, psychotherapy can self-improvement can make a big difference. However, no one changes without intrinsic motivation. Never make the mistake of hanging around in the hope that someone will undergo a spontaneous transformation.
2. They are unlikely to apologize
Toxic people put their own feelings first, and they find it hard to look at a situation through the eyes of someone else. It’s natural to want an apology, but you probably aren’t going to get one. Making a conscious choice to cut contact with a toxic person helps you release these unrealistic hopes, and can make you feel lighter.
3. You have better ways to spend your time
You’ve probably already spent many precious hours trying to analyze your relative’s behavior, devising new communication strategies, or trying to calm yourself down after yet another difficult encounter. Consider, too, the amount of time you’ve spent talking about your relative’s behavior to other people. Can you afford to waste yet more time worrying about someone who brings nothing good to your life?
4. Their negativity may rub off on you
No matter how upbeat and optimistic you are, spending time with toxic relatives can wear you down. If you seldom see or talk to them, it might not be a big deal, but if you have to socialize with them regularly, you may find yourself internalizing their negativity. It’s difficult to maintain a healthy view of the world if you are surrounded by people who dwell on the downside of every situation.
5. They might betray you (if they haven’t already done so)
Some toxic people are overtly nasty, but others put on a show of being nice to you face to face, and then spread gossip and lies behind your back. If your relative abuses your trust and tells others your secrets, they aren’t worthy of your time or attention. If they go one step further and deny that they shared sensitive information, they are gaslighting you.
6. Your self-respect will suffer
When our actions don’t align with our thoughts and feelings, we lose our self-respect. If you know that it would be best to cut a toxic family member out of your life and yet you carry on seeing them, you will start to feel guilty for causing yourself emotional harm. When you decide to break free, you will feel a sense of inner peace.
7. They might come between you and your partner or children
Handling your relatives when you are single is difficult enough, but if you commit to a long term relationship or have children, these issues takes on a new layer of complexity. A toxic relative can cause disharmony in your primary relationship, and can even interfere with the relationships between you and your children if they criticize or undermine your parenting.
8. They may try to use you
Do you have a relative who only talks to you when they want a favor? Toxic people often see others as pawns who exist only to serve them. When you cut them out of your life, you will no longer have to wonder about your relative’s ulterior motives; you’ll be free of their manipulative ways.
If it’s time to sever some family ties, do so with the minimum of drama. Using whatever medium feels best, tell them that you are cutting off communication, and you’d prefer that they didn’t contact you.
At first, they may bombard you with messages and calls. Be prepared to defend your boundaries. Watch out for the “flying monkey” phenomenon, whereby a toxic person recruits others, such as siblings or family friends, to reach out to you on their behalf. Find a support group, whether in person or online.
Not everyone will approve of your decision, and that’s OK
You might encounter some pushback from the rest of your family when you stop interacting with your relative. Some people believe that you should remain loyal to your family at all costs, and so are unlikely to understand your decision. Nevertheless, you must stand by your choice. It’s your right to decide who to let into your life.
Someone who makes rude comments or tries to bully you into changing your mind may secretly admire your assertiveness, and wish that they too could cut contact with their toxic relatives. You might even inspire someone else to stand up for their emotional needs.