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Building Healthy Relationships (Pt. 7)

by denise knight 4 years ago in advice
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Sometimes the most toxic people come disguised as family.

With the recent passing of former first lady, Barbara Bush, I am reminded of my romanticized ideas of what family should be. As articulated by Barbara Bush,

"At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent. To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there. I think togetherness is a very important ingredient to family life."

These are ideals that I have believed firmly all my life. Many others, I am sure, have embraced these same ideals.

We go through life with big expectations and a romanticized view of family relationships, only to find out that what we thought about family is a lie. Family members can be the most vicious. Some experience abuse at the hands of their family. Some are used for the accomplishment of another's comfort or agenda. Still others are misrepresented or slandered because of narcissistic, self-aggrandizing family members. Whatever the situation, the emotional pain of being betrayed by the ones who are supposed to be your biggest supports can become unbearable.

As hard as it may be, toxic relationships (whether friends or family) must be abandoned. They must be avoided. One study reports,

"Children who grow up in a toxic family tend to have more problems later in life than those that don’t. As teens and adults, they could have low self-worth, be codependent, depressed, anxious, suicidal, and oftentimes drink and/or use drugs. They may have a tough time building healthy relationships with others and simply feel lost and alone. Some liken the effects of living in a toxic environment to a low-grade fever that can last a person’s whole lifetime. A cloud of sadness follows them wherever they go and lasting happiness just seems to elude them." (AAC, 2018).

So when does one know it is time to move on and cut relationships ties?

  1. It is time when all interactions are negative in nature, when pessimism and criticism rules.
  2. It is time when mind-games for the purposes of manipulation dominate.
  3. It is time when any kind of abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, verbal) is present.
  4. It is time when borrowing money or resources becomes a constant.
  5. It is time when the family member/friend degrades or demeans you or your reputation.
  6. It is time when you are losing sleep or moving into "flight or fight" mode.

Watch for those early warning signs of a toxic relationship. If one can recognize them early enough, even in a family unit, one can begin to guard themselves. And when the time is right, they can remove themselves from the unit. Those signs include, blatant lying, always taking but never giving, condescending, controlling, and disregarding of one's boundaries. Once you have made the decision to cut ties, be ready for negative feedback. However, once you are free, you can begin anew and live a healthy, happy life.

The following guidelines were taken from psychcentral:

If you are seriously considering going no contact with your family or already have, here are a few things to watch out for:

1. Don’t assume that they will respect your decision.

If your family were capable of respecting your boundaries, you wouldn’t have to resort to going no contact. However, they don’t see it that way. They see you as an extension of themselves and the idea that you may want something different to them is impossible for them to grasp.

2. Be prepared for an all-out smear campaign.

Your narcissistic family probably has been managing smear campaigns about you behind your back for years. But once you go no contact, the gloves will come off. Even if you have done nothing wrong, you may find yourself being accused of things you never said or did by relatives you thought were on your side. This is a common tactic used by narcissists to discredit their victim.

3. Surround yourself with a good support network.

Going no contact can be one of the hardest things for anyone to do. It’s even harder if you have to do it without any emotional support. It’s essential to have people in your life who understand what you have gone through and support you 100 percent. (Lee, 2018).


AAC (2018). The toxic family: impact and recovery. ALL ABOUT COUNSELING.

Lee, Rachel (2018). 6 Tips for cutting off contact with narcissistic family members. PSYCH CENTRAL.


About the author

denise knight

wife, homeschool mom, author, musician, educator, and counselor

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