The three brothers have such a deep history of not getting along that Tee, my radio talk show caller, was concerned there could be a fist-fight at their mothers funeral. Digging deeper in to the story of this family tension, it was uncovered that for years the mother had been pitting the brothers against each other. It was an interesting revelation in to the roles of what I want to call, Toxic Family Members.
We’ve heard it said before that we don’t get to pick our family. So true. Who wouldn’t like to re-birth in to royalty; what girl doesn’t want to be a princess, what guy a prince? If you’re royalty, even if there is family dysfunction, at least there are the crown jewels to hide behind!
When it comes to toxic family members, you know who they are. They’re the ones that everyone puts up with and make excuses for, the ones who create all the drama and discord. You dread seeing them at the family functions and maneuver around the buffet table in an attempt to avoid talking to them. They are the ones who’ve lost jobs, friends and respect by their peers for just plain being selfish, or nasty, or critical, or royal jerks…there’s a little piece of family royalty for you…the royal in your family may be a “royal” jerk?
So, when is enough, enough? When is it time to cut ties with those toxic family members? First, let’s review the typical evolution of dissolution. (Evolution of dissolution? How’s that for a little rhyming ditty?…)
You’ve spent years in conflict trying to figure out how to fix things. You’ve complained incessantly to your friends. You’ve had other family members try to mediate. You’ve wondered why you’ve been the target of this toxic family member. You’re finding that this conflict has invaded your personal life and time, to the point that it needs resolution. Maybe you’ve even pulled out the big guns and gone to family counseling, all to no avail. You just can’t get along with this one toxic family member and you’ve had enough!
Before you pull the trigger and sever ties with this one impossible family member here are a few things to consider. First, there is that old saying: “It takes two to tango”. What has your part been in this dance of conflict? Have you taken the necessary steps on your part to fix the relationship? I’m sure you recognize that while you are considering breaking ties with this family member, they don’t like you either. I’m sure they have plenty to say about how you are the problem, or the cause, or the fault, or the toxic one. Are you? One of the best ways to gauge if you are, or not, is to look at how your relationships with other people are in the family. If you’re on pretty solid ground, but your toxic nemesis is always making waves with one person or the other, you just may have found yourself with the target on your back from no real serious fault of your own.
Being the moving target for a toxic personality can put you at risk for depression, anxiety and stress. It can trigger old wounds and bring on feelings of guilt, failure, emptiness, doubt and even grief.
Something to consider before breaking ties is how this will affect the family dynamic. Will it strain your other relationships in the family? Will you end up being ostracized or criticized for “making waves”? From the other family member’s perspective, they would probably be fine with you putting up with the mistreatment and discord forever, just so long as you don’t rock the royal yacht. They would rather you suffer in silence than drag them in to this. Plus, the usual habits of toxic people is that if the target is taken off your back, it will find it’s new home on another family members backside. Toxic people have to have their scapegoats to pick on.
That said, if the family relationship you have had enough of is so toxic that you are hanging on every word of this blog, you shouldn’t let the opinions of other family members keep you from taking the steps you need to protect and preserve your mental health and personal happiness.
Listen to Tee tell her story in “Brothers Fighting Over Mothers Funeral” and listen to “Toxic People Who Divide Families” for more chatter on this topic. The writings of L. Izett @ hub pages was referenced for parts of this blog and podcast.
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