How To Deal With Toxic Family Members
Most of us purposely try to rid negativity and toxic people from our lives. We go out of our way to avoid those tell-tale signs of a bad influence and try to surround ourselves with people who uplift us and make us feel good about ourselves. Sometimes, now and then, we let someone through the cracks that isn’t the most worthy and upon finding out the truth do our best to let them go and cut off contact. But what do you do if it’s people in your family. You want to give them a chance because let’s face it, we’ve been told our whole lives that family is the most important but what if the people in your family no longer support and uplift but rather hurt you and let you down.
I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with my own mother at best. She was born in an environment where she was abused and hurt and as a result she never really learned how to love and let herself be loved. I would make excuse after excuse for her bad behavior with friends’ parents and even excuses for the abuse I suffered as a child. As an adult my relationship with her has been off again on again. I sometimes let my guard down and want to believe that this woman, who I love, loves me and has good intentions but time and time again, I found out that she has been talking badly about me to relatives and mutual friends and everytime my heart ends up broken.
Not too long ago I found an article by bustle.com called 6 signs you have a toxic mother. I have found that these signs can apply to any toxic family member.
My mom fit 5 out of the 6 to a T.
Dismisses your negative feelings (CHECK)
She thinks you’re responsible for her happiness (CHECK)
She doesn’t respect your boundaries (CHECK)
She can’t deal with not being in the spotlight (CHECK)
She’s cruel. (CHECK)
You’re scared to stick up for yourself (Hell NO)
Research. Read. Recover.
After having a child of my own and deciding that I did not want him to be raised or treated the way I was, I began to heal. I realized that I needed to read about it. So I read as many articles, blogs, advice that I could find. I educated myself in order to try to target the exact issues that I was facing with having a toxic parent. There are so many books and articles about this exact subject because as it turns out, according to Dr. Richard A. Friedman, a professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College that parents are NOT predisposed to love their children unconditionally and protect them from harm. Friedman also noted why we're likely to stick with a cruel mother: "Research on early attachment, both in humans and in nonhuman primates, shows that we are hard-wired for bonding — even to those who aren’t very nice to us."
Surround yourself with people that love you!
The next thing I did was surround myself with people that loved me. Feeling good is very important and the opinion of one person has nothing to do with who you actually are. I began to make a new family, one with people who were respectful, loving, loyal, kind and not hurtful for the sake of being cruel. I started to notice that the cruelness of my mother didn’t seem to hurt me as much because I placed less value in her company and in her opinions. I also noticed that the more I distanced myself and the less in the spotlight she was for me, she became more and more angry and resentful. Sending me nasty text messages about disinheriting me or telling me not to talk to her “family”.But the less I spoke to her, the better I felt.
What are your expectations?
This led me to begin to determine what kind of relationship with her I wanted. This was the most difficult because I felt best when I had no contact but I didn’t want my son to lose out on having a Grandparent close by. At the same time I was deathly afraid that her cruel and gossipy nature would affect my sweet child. So I decided to come up with a clear and concise idea of the exact nature of our relationship and what my expectations of her would be. This, in turn, would allow her to understand the expectations and decide whether or not she would abide by the rules.
I’ve come to a place in my life where my relationship with my mother no longer hurts me. Whether I’m speaking with her or not, I am confident and strong in my own abilities as a woman and a mom that I am no longer affected by her toxicity. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will never change her, that she will never change and that it is what it sadly is but I can love her and send her all the loving energy that I can muster. Unfortunately we do not pick our parents or family but once we are adults we can chose to forgive them and have whatever relationship feels the best for us.