Growing up I lived with a toxic family member.
I know this family member loved me, but they did not have some necessary life skills.
There were times of fun and joy, but there were also times I don’t like to remember. I experienced frequent harsh criticisms, name-calling, rejection, and was held to unreasonable expectations.
Shame and guilt were the motivating forces for me to behave, even though I often could not predict what would set off this family member’s temper. I endured explosive, sometimes violent, bursts of rage.
A significant amount of my childhood was confusing, sad, and frightening. It still affects me to this day. Unfortunately as a child, I did not know how inappropriate many of these actions were.
I also did not have the skills to deal with this unacceptable treatment. Now as an adult, the two of us have been able to somewhat repair our connection.
This did require time away from one another once I was able to move out. It also required that both of us implement changes in our own behavior.
We don’t always get along, and there are still hurtful remarks made sometimes, but I am now able to have a generally pleasant and mostly supportive relationship with this family member.
Your family is supposed to be an inherently safe and loving, but that’s not always the case. Some family members are destructive, difficult, and controlling. It can be made especially difficult if the toxic family member is a parent.
In any close relationship with another person, you’ll encounter some disagreements and challenges.
We all have family members we butt heads with over our taste in music, life choices, or politics. Typically we choose to put in the required effort to work through the problem or, depending on the issue, just smile politely and let it go.
A toxic relationship, however, is a relationship in which one person is emotionally and possibly physically damaging the other on a consistent basis.
Just because someone is a part of your family does not make this behavior acceptable.
Your top priority must be your own health and emotional well-being. If someone else is jeopardizing those, then you need to make changes to remedy the situation.
So how can you determine whether someone is toxic?