Toxic People

At the risk of making this very long, I have recently come to realize just how toxic a close family member is. Actually, there are two family members that are just alike. Both have or have had (several times) addiction issues. Both have some diagnosed mental issues. Both are good at making everyone around them feel miserable. One is particularly wonderful at making me feel guilty and obligated and has been my. entire. life.

For those of you who have experienced similar problems or dealt with people such as this - how do you deal with these people? Cutting them out of my life entirely is not possible, though at this point I wish it was. There are other family members too closely involved, family members that are innocent to all of this and that need me and depend on me, in addition to the fact that I love them more than anything on Earth and could never think of walking away from them...

Do you just emotionally detach so that these toxic people will not hurt you any more? How?!
Perhaps you can't entirely cut the person out of your life, but you can limit your exposure to that particular toxic person...things like stay in another room when that person is at a family gathering, find excuses not to personally address that person unless absolutely necessary, don't engage in the toxic nonsense, etc.
Hi Rheanna,
I read a book that was helpful called Codependent No More by Melodie Beattie. It's in paperback and available online and any bookstore. Toxic family members can drive you crazier than anything - I hope you find a helpful way to deal with the situation. Good luck and try not to beat yourself up and feel guilty - very hard, I know.
There's a great native american saying that goes "If you mind two fires, they both go out." It basically means that you can't tend to yourself if you're too deeply engaged in other's troubles.

It's OK to protect yourself, to keep yourself healthy. Detaching doesn't mean abandoning, it means setting clear boundaries on your relationship (with said toxic person). You need to get very clear on what and what you will not put up with, communicate that, and not waver when those boundaries are tested.

And they will be. Relentlessly. It's hard, it's tiresome, hell, it's BORING, but if you want these people in your life, their own games will tire even them and they'll either modify their behavior or just go away.
Great advice here. ITA that you don't necessarily have to cut them out of your life, but limiting the exposure to them, not making a real effort to see them, etc. is good advice.
You must set clear cut boundaries and stick to them, don't budge an inch. Tell them the rules and state that you will not tolerate_________. If they start up, remind them, then get away from them, leave the room, hang up the phone, etc. Don't engage them at all when they start their toxicity. They might fight and try to reel you back in, it will probably get worse before it gets better. But eventually they'll get the message.
I agree with setting boundaries and limiting your time with them. I had to do that with a close relative and his wife.

It's sad when you realize you can't maintain a close relationship with a relative, but it's much better for you to eliminate the toxicity.

(((HUGS)))
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I've had to do this before. I also limit my exposure to the people, and I refuse to be dragged into their negativity. If they want to engage in those types of conversations, I either don't give them the response they want (which makes them quit trying) or I call them on it.

It's gotten much easier since I've had a baby. We now focus on DD and have very little to talk about outside of discussing her. It's been the best thing for our relationship.
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Thanks everyone!!! I appreciate the advice. I'm sure it won't be easy. The situation is really complicated, which makes it worse, but I'm going to have to learn to back away, even if it is mostly emotional.
It won't be easy no, but fortunately this is one of those life skills that, once you master it, will serve you well for years to come.
Rheanna83 - I agree with all the advice you have been given so far. I will keep you in my prayers so that you might find the strength you need to take care of yourself. Hugs to you!
I have the same problem with toxic family members. A certain one drove me to the point of having to put myself in therapy to deal with it. I don't want to cut her out of my life but I still can't deal with her. She is an alcoholic and I worry about her all the time. Then she calls me to ask for money and hangs up on me just today. It always makes me super emotional, no matter how hard I try, but I just have to take a few deep breaths and try to keep my mind busy with something else. I've moved far away from my family and that helped a lot, but she still tries to put me on a guilt trip like I owe her something. Thank god I have my DH to be there for me and stick up for me, I used to give in to her when she tried to use me and bring me down with her guilt trip. You just have to think of yourself and stay away from the toxicity. Don't let them get you down. It's very hard I know, it's taken me years, but I just try not to take anything personally no matter how much she attacks me, I just imagine that she has problems and issues that have nothing to do with me.
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Last edited by lacunaCoils; 08-19-2008 at 09:31 PM.
Good luck!

It's so much easier when it's not family, but sometimes you have to put up with a toxic family member or two for the sake of other family members. You can separate emotionally, though, I'm sure of it!
The pews never miss a sermon but that doesn't get them one step closer to Heaven.
-Speckla

But at least the pews never attend yoga!

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