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Toxic Relationships

Some of us grew up with parents, either biological, adopted or foster.  While others were raised by grandparents or other family members.  Regardless of who raised you, there was probably a level of expectation, spoken or just intrinsically known, that you would show respect, support, and remain in this family, till death do us part, forever and ever amen.  Leaving was something soulless individuals did in books, not real life, taboo is not a strong enough word, it felt forbidden.  

Divorce is something that is no longer talked about in whispers.  Walking away from a marriage is looked upon as necessary and acceptable when the things that brought a couple together no longer mutually serves them.  However, cutting yourself off from parents, siblings and other family is regarded as cold hearted and cruel.  Mind you, the people who judge you often know nothing about your life, but just uttering the words I no longer speak to my parents casts you in a light akin to a woman accused of witchcraft during the Witch Trials.

Because if you think someone is a monster and the whole world says he’s a saint, you begin to think that you’re the bad person. It must be my fault this is happening is the only conclusion you can draw, because why are you the only one receiving his wrath?
-Trevor Noah

We are going to let you into a little secret, blood, a shared last name, a shared history, etc. does not equal a relationship that is healthy, supportive and worthy.  This is a very powerful truth to ruminate on.  There is this notion that family is forever, that we must swear allegiance to them.  Why?  We don’t have a choice as to who our families are, we are born into them or legally placed in them, usually with no input.  So why is there this expectation that we spend time with these individuals that we kind of look or talk like, when every moment with them is torture?  

Just because someone is your family doesn’t mean you have to keep them around if they are toxic or abusive. Don’t let people guilt you.
-Winnie Nantongo

We torture ourselves because we are so afraid of being alone, being cast out of the nest, having financial help cut off, of being the only one you know without a family to visit during the holidays.  But as we often say, life isn’t a movie and the family you are part of isn’t the lovely cast of your favorite show.  A toxic family dynamic isn’t about love at all, it is often based on appearances to the world, control or a playout of generational trauma.

We are in no way advocating cutting off your family or a family member due to normal arguments or misunderstandings, we are talking about families that don’t show love, acceptance, are demeaning or abusive, use guilt to control you and generally cause you undue stress everytime you are in their presence.

Do not hold your breath for anyone,
Do not wish your lungs to be still,
It may delay the cracks from spreading,
But eventually they will.
Sometimes to keep yourself together
You must allow yourself to leave,
Even if breaking your own heart
Is what it takes to let you breathe.
-Erin Hanson

So what is a person to do when they find themselves old enough and wise enough to realize they have a toxic family or family member?  

Establish healthy boundaries 

  • There are times when you cannot cut off a toxic parent because doing so would prevent you from seeing your other parent, sibling or grandparents.  If this is the case, set boundaries, limit your interaction, try to visit when the offending party is at work or away.  It is far from perfect, but so much of life falls within the less than perfect category.
  • If you are constantly pulled into arguments or uncomfortable situations between parents or siblings, explain that you are not going to be their therapist or counselor and either leave the room, hang up the phone or block the family text conversation.  
  • Insist that your get-togethers happen at restaurants or other public places where outbursts and generally embarrassing situations can usually be avoided.

Set Rules

  • If your family doesn’t respect your life choices, who you are with, how you live your life and who you are, let your family know that you will not allow them to continue to disparage you or those you love.  Silence will be tolerated, but cruel bigoted actions and words will not.  
  • Stick to the rules.  If they are broken, consequences, such as a period of no communication, should be set in place.  

No Contact

  • In the most extreme situations where nothing will change, where there is no love, no support, no kindness and boundaries are repeatedly crossed, cutting off contact with your family or family member is necessary.  
  • Necessary does not equal easy, so slowly and at your own pace, block their number, their ability to follow you on social media, unfollow their social media accounts and ask those who know both of you, to kindly not play peacemaker.  
That’s the thing about toxic relationships. They aren’t always toxic. They give us moments of happiness that we wish would last a lifetime. Those are the moments we cling onto.
-Finding Bohemia

In a world that is often dark and scary, we all want the Walton or Brady Bunch family or whatever today's generation's example of the perfect family is.  The reality is, every family has issues, every family has drama, but if there is no love, support, kindness or acceptance and the tears outweigh the joy that occasionally glimmers and makes us hope, then there are some serious decisions you have to make.  We hope you make the right one for your life and that at the end of day, you can lay your head down at night and be at peace with whatever you decide. 

Wishing you all nothing but the best,

Team SG 


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