Family is meant to provide a sense of support and nuturing, safety, identity and belonging. But the truth is, not all families get along and some toxic relationships are not worth preserving.
Some of the key things that can cause families to erupt are finances (which includes inheritance and lending family members money), unresolved conflict, meddling in each other’s business and a family business without firm boundaries or clear roles and responsibilities.
Relationship expert and author of Embracing Conflict (Amazon) Paula Quinsee says you should know it’s time to cut ties with your toxic family when it’s starting to affect your health in terms of stress, anxiety and feeling physically and emotionally drained. She says when you start feeling that way, you need to evaluate whether you want to resolve the family issues or cut ties.
Quinsee adds that if the toxic relationship with family members is starting to affect your marriage, partner and children, you may want to distance yourself from that toxicity because it is bound to permeate your life.
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Author of Unfathered (Evera) Dr Disa Mogashana agrees and says it’s time to rethink certain family relationships when they breed negativity. She says a toxic family will never have anything positive to say – about you or anyone else. She says the relationship serves to bring you down or make you feel like you are not good enough.
“It’s even worse when they’re negative behind your back – they’ll pretend to care for you yet behind closed doors, they’re busy messing up your relationships with other people,” she says.
Quinsee says in dealing with such a situation, it’s about putting healthy boundaries in place in terms of the kind of behaviour you are willing to tolerate. “Stick to those boundaries in an assertive way and stand by them so that the other party knows the line they can’t cross,” she says.
If you choose to cut ties, you need to understand the consequences, what it means for you down the line and if you’re OK with that
Both Quinsee and Mogashana say it’s important to protect your own state of mind, emotional space, energy and happiness and that sometimes, it’s best to cut ties for the sake of your own sanity.
“When you entertain negative relationships, you end up being drawn into a circle of negativity. Any relationship that affects your happiness is not worth it,” Mogashana explains.
Quinsee says should you decide to walk away, then you need to understand it’s a difficult choice that has consequences. The major repercussion is that you will never be a part of that person’s life and vice versa. However, in saying that, Quinsee maintains each person needs to take accountability and own their decisions.
“If you choose to walk away from your family, you need to understand the consequences, what it means for you down the line and if you are OK with that,” Quinsee says.
She adds that you may think you’re OK with it in the heat of the moment, but regret it later. “If you do end up regretting it, then you need to ask yourself if you’re willing to come back and repair the relationship,” she says.
Mogashana maintains that once you cut ties, try not to the troubled, because those toxic members haven’t added value to your life and instead, have disrupted your emotional state.
The benefit of cutting ties, explains Quinsee, is no longer feeling anxious or guilty. “Your world will no longer be caught up in the drama – you’ll be free to live your life the way you want,” she says.
Quinsee adds that you will no longer have to carry the weight of other people’s problems, which can, for some, be a hard burden to bear. “Some people feel obligated to carry the weight and responsibility on their shoulders. But if they distance themselves, they don’t have to carry that burden.”
Mogashana says if you aren’t ready to cut ties, then the best way is to keep your distance from toxic family members. She says by walking away, you can simply minimise your interaction with them. “You can meet at an important family event like a funeral, but not interact with them on a daily or monthly basis. When they text, respond – if you want – but remember that blood isn’t always thicker than water,” she ends.