Toxic Relationships – Toxic Family Members

Would you know if you were in a toxic relationship? Are you dealing with toxic family members or people in your life who manage to drag you down, make you feel angry, worn out, deflated, belittled, ridiculed or confused? Are you dealing with conflicts and problems because of a toxic parent, sibling, co-worker, spouse, friend, toxic in-laws or other extended family members? Are toxic family members causing stress, anxiety and even symptoms of depression during the holidays and special occasions, a time that is supposed to be about family, love and togetherness?

Most of us could write a laundry list of names of people who make us feel miserable whenever we’re around them, spewing their noxious negative attitudes, behaviors and gossip like nauseating toxic waste. Have you ever wondered what makes toxic people tick, or why some family members have the tendency and inane ability to be two-faced in their relationships with others in the family?

Who Are Toxic People?

Toxic people are extremely negative, miserable, whiny, jealous, inconsiderate, financially irresponsible and entitled, manipulative, narcissistic, selfish, disrespectful, gossip mongers, mentally and emotionally abusive bullies who have no boundaries. Everyone and anyone is fair game for toxic people, with toxic relationships creating undo stress and anxiety for everyone involved. If you are dealing with these problems and conflicts in your life, know that you are not alone.

According to mental health specialists and psychologists, toxic people are “highly insecure people who only feel better about themselves if they make others feel worse, and they make up about ten percent of the population. A toxic person, including family members and in-laws, cause over 50% of all communication and relationship stress in others, health problems such as headaches, stomach pain and digestive problems, due to negative baggage brought on from low-esteem”.

Understanding how low self-confidence and low self-esteem causes some people to grow up to become toxic adults may help you feel better about yourself. However, having some understanding, compassion and empathy for bad childhood experiences and memories that continue to fester and linger in their personalities does not change the fact that their toxic attitudes and behaviors will continue until you stop allowing them to hurt you and your life.

Toxic people are this way because they can and often do get away with it, and it works well for them. If it didn’t work, and work very well, they wouldn’t continue doing it.

Toxic People Will…if not dealt with:

  1. Rob us of our dignity.
  2. Destroy our self-confidence.
  3. Increase our stress levels.
  4. Cause health problems.
  5. Destroy our morale.
  6. Destroy family relationships.
  7. Foster negativity.
  8. Decrease productivity.
  9. Get you fired from your job.
  10. Drive you to bankruptcy.


How to Deal With Toxic People and Family Members:

Recognize that toxic people have issues within themselves, and their toxicity has everything to do with them and nothing to do with you. In life, everyone has to take personal responsibility for their own choices, attitudes, actions and behaviors. Toxic people do not do this. You become their personal target. They habitually turn things around and manipulate you to the point where you feel bad, you feel guilty, you feel like you are at fault, therefore responsible for their problems.

You may even begin to feel like you’re “going crazy” or “losing your mind”, wondering if you have become the victim of a psychopath desperately trying to manipulate and control you. Once you recognize the toxic behaviors that are engulfing your life and health, it allows you to take your power back.

Keep emotionally toxic people from ruining your health and happiness by setting limits and personal boundaries, assertively speaking up for yourself, and standing your ground. Don’t make someone else’s problems your own, but physically and mentally distance yourself from the negative and toxic people in your life, which may or may not include cutting the person out of your life entirely.

Knowing what it means to “let go” of negative people, along with their personal demons and issues, allows you the strength and determination needed to live your life without the constant barrage of criticism that can easily erode your own self-esteem, health and well-being.

Dealing with family members and in-laws can be especially difficult and stressful. If there are family members or in-laws that treat you like their personal doormat, criticizing and ridiculing you for everything and anything, you may have to consider putting a strict limit on how often you associate with them, if at all.

Holidays and special occasions can quickly become a dread, where just the thought of being around toxic relatives or friends causes your blood pressure to rise to unhealthy levels. You have the right to decide who to associate with and who not to associate with, who is or isn’t invited or welcome to step foot into your home, including toxic family members.

Toxic people need years of in-depth therapy, not you, such as you might find at bipolar treatment centers locally. You can’t change their attitudes or behaviors, but you can change yourself. You have to decide for yourself how much pushing around you will or will not accept. Allow yourself the personal right to disengage, disassociate, and detach. Use your God-given backbone when dealing with toxic friends, co-workers, family members or in-laws etc, with the understanding that detachment is not a sign that you don’t care but that you are doing what is necessary to preserve your personal health and happiness.

Surround yourself with positive influences, people who genuinely care about you and are supportive of you. These loved ones are a great defense and support group against the negativity of all kinds of toxic relationships or toxic family members, allowing you to choose for yourself to no longer be a victim of their malicious and abusive behaviors.

See: People Pleasers and Doormats as well as Abused Men: Battered and Emotionally Abused Male Victims of Domestic Violence for more.

Are you dealing with problems and conflicts of being in a toxic relationship? Do you struggle with how to respond and react to ridicule and criticism from toxic family members? Share your personal story or even ask a question by leaving a comment below.

Related Posts:

A Sense of Entitlement
12 Rules for Raising Delinquent Children
Building Self-Confidence in Children with Self-Esteem Activities
The Sociopath Next Door – The Ruthless vs. Us
Characteristics of a Psychopath
Relationship Deal Breakers: Non-Negotiable Boundaries
Understanding Assertiveness: Getting the Respect You Deserve
What It Means to “Let Go”
How to Get Along With the In-Laws
How to Be a Good Mother-In-Law

Be Sociable, Share!

257 Responses to “Toxic Relationships – Toxic Family Members”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Melinda says:

    Where to start? It sounds like many of you have been through a lot with your families, too. I’ve encountered toxic people all my life…some were family, some weren’t. Anyway, I will tell you about a few toxic people in my family.

    My stepfather…verbally/emotionally/mentally abused me for years, since I was 13 years old.

    My aunt…verbal/emotional abuse and one incident of physical abuse. She was my favorite aunt as a child, but now I avoid her.

    One of my male cousins…severe bullying and abuse. However, I’m trying to forgive him because he has become a better person. I feel sorry for him because he has experienced a lot of hardships and he was taking it out on me.

    One of my female cousins…along with my aunt (not her mother), I will focus on her. She is very toxic and no one sees it but me. She is only a year older than me but we couldn’t be more different. I am a very shy, quiet person while she loves to be the center of attention. Her mother is narcissistic and manipulative, traits which my cousin inherited from her. Her mother threw her out of the home when she was 14 and since then, my cousin has been playing the victim her whole life. She is an expert at being manipulative and eliciting sympathy from people…it also doesn’t hurt that most people see her as being beautiful, so that gets her even more sympathy because no one wants to hurt a “pretty” girl, right?

    She is now 30 years old and still acts like a selfish, entitled princess. My mother takes pity on her and often says: “poor Sophia. She’s had such a tough life”. I agree that it is sad that she has a poor relationship with her mom, but other people have had it much worse. She is a professional victim who never takes responsibility for her actions. She was jealous of me when we were growing up because I was thinner, I was

  2. Melissa says:

    I don’t know if you, or anyone, reads the comments on this anymore but I’m going to post this anyway. Reading this was really eye opening. As I worked my way down the article I kept saying, “Yes… YES!! I know this person!!!” I have dealt with a lot of very toxic and sick people in my life but I am currently in the middle of dealing with the most toxic person I’ve ever dealt with. She is, unfortunately, my aunt. My partner and I moved to the other side of the country (no real reason, just to try something new while we’re young) and we picked a particular city because I have an aunt and uncle who lives here. We felt it was important to have at least one person we know in the area so we could feel a sense of connection. Well, it all turned out to be a big mistake. A monumental mistake, actually. We’ve been here for 8 months now and we are moving back at the end of June. My aunt has made me feel worthless and miserable. I am so stressed that my hair is falling out and I feel like I’ve aged a few years just being here. She has made me question the kind of person I am and my own self just doing the things she does. She is every single sign of a toxic person on every website I’ve read, and while it’s good to know that it really isn’t me, it still doesn’t help me feel any better. It stings more because she is family, but I have decided to cut her out of my life when I move back. It’s not worth feeling this bad just to please her. I feel somewhat guilty about cutting her out because she’s a MASTER at hitting my guilt button, but I know I need to do this.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for writing this article. It’s relieving to know other people have gone through what I’m going through.

  3. Anon says:

    this is somewhat like my situation . My mother has thyroid problems and has a hard time being one emotion at once . There will be times when she would say the utmost disrespectful , belittling things I’ve ever heard . My dad likes to say the reason she acts this way is because of the fact she has no thyroid . But I honestly don’t know if I can do it anymore. I have 2 sisters one is 21 , the other is 24 . My sister (age: 24) is selfish and makes me pay her for everything . If there is nothing going into her “pockets” or is beneficial to her she will not do anything for me & if I refuse she then blackmails me and leaves me with nothing but to do as she says . My other sister (age 21) has a mental disorder which resembles ass burgers but we don’t know whats wrong. It doesn’t take much to realize that my family and I are not compatible anymore and I don’t know what to do.

  4. shattered says:

    My sister in law has been a toxic family member for years-she has periodically viciously verbally attacked my husband and myself without regard for our feelings for years. She has screamed at me on the phone, attacked my husband and tried to stab him with a fork at the dinner table, screamed at us and verbally berated us because our 7 year old daughter accidentally cut her foot at her house and got some small blood spots on her carpet which we cleaned and told her husband about ( when we got home the phone rang and it was crazy woman who viciously berated my husband), verbally attacked and swore at a nun at our daughter’s first communion-humiliating us. She has never apologized for her actions and we have broken with her before but my husbands parents are desperate to see the family close together. They make excuses for her behavior and accept it. I’ve been married to my husband for 16 years. My father in law was recently diagnosed w/ terminal cancer & he asked me to take him to a medical procedure and to call his doctor & leave a msg asking the doctor to call him. I was happy to do & w/ mu husband’s permission I sent an e-mail to my sister in law, her husband, & my brother in law- letting them know how he was doing. I live only about 3 miles from my FIL, my crazy SIL lives about an hour away, and my BIL lives in Florida. I gave up a vacation day to take my FIL to the procedure & stay with him & make sure he was ok. My SIL sent me a nasty e-mail back (copied to everyone) telling me to but out and that She, my husband, and BIL would take care of their father from now on. Then I had to see her at a family function only days later- I was so hurt and upset but I didn’t say anything to her- she saw tht I appeared upset and came up to me and began to verbally attack me- I tried to walk away and she followed me then physically pinned me to a sofa and began screaming at me. I refused to fight with her or speak to her other than to tell her to get her hands off me. She told me if I didn’t talk to her she would never speak to me again, and I tol her that she had ruined our relationship and I walked away. She screamed at me to get out of her parents house in front of my daughter and my husband and humiliated me. I knew this might happen and my husband & I had planned what to do- I took the car keys and left. After I left my husband said she attacked her parents and said she had never forgiven them for supporting he ex-husband, etc… This was several days ago. I am so torn-I want so much to be there for my FIL at this awful time, I feel like she has- I know this discord is deeply upsetting to them but I have really reached my limit. I feel like the volatility of the ensuing family tragedy is amplifying her already bad behaviors. I honestly don’t want to reconcile & I don’t think she would want to- she made it very clear that she never wants to see me again- my anger has mostly melted away-I have remaining sadness because I didn’t want this for my FIL and my husband. I feel like if we do somehow manage to reconcile she will just flip out on us again. I just can’t take any more- for my sake and my daughters. I’m praying to God for help for us all to get through each day. I’m also feeling guilty at times and wondering if this was my fault for feeling upset and angry at her over her nasty e-mail and showing it. It is a horrible, painful situation. I do think I’m an understanding person-if it was just the stress of the family situation that would be one thing but there has been a pattern of utter disrespect and lack of regard for my husband, my daughter, and I. I am wondering if anyone has gone through something similar and if they could share any advice/insights. I would greatly appreciate it.

  5. ladylove says:

    I’m sorry to read about your situation. It sounds extremely stressful. I’ve had to deal with my share of toxic people. Of course it’s hardest when the toxic person is someone close to you or a family member.

    The best advice I can give you is to set boundaries for your SIL and stick to them. You’ll most likely have to come to an agreement with your husband first. If he doesn’t agree, then you have a problem. One I’ve been in and it’s not pretty.

    My standpoint is that people are programmed early on about how they SHOULD feel about and treat family members. In a healthy scenario, that would probably be for the best. But when it is at the expense of you and YOUR immediate family’s mental, physical or emotional health then I think that is where people should draw the line.

    You can’t change others. You can just say hey, I do not appreciate and won’t tolerate you doing ______ and if you continue to do it I/we will not be around you (or other appropriate boundary). It’s difficult if you don’t have the support of your in laws.

    It’s hard. Besides boundaries I think it’s all about your perception. This is something I’ve had a hard time with. But you really just need to see her for who she is and realize that IT’S NOT YOU, IT’S HER PROBLEM. This doesn’t mean excusing her actions but it will probably make it easier for YOU to deal with. Like the email…you could just ignore it and treat it likes “she’s crazy” in a way, instead of taking it personally.

    Thanks for the post. You really helped me clear my head as well. :)

    Good luck.

  6. Lizette says:

    To Shattered: It really sounds lile your sister in law has some deep set, PERSONAL issues. When people act in such a destructive, violent manner, there is something going on that is a lot more serious than having a bad attitude or being mean. Have you had a heart to heart with your husband as to why she behaves that way? She is obviously a very unhappy person who may have had severe trauma of some kind (perhaps her childhood). This being said, you can have empathy for this person, but she does not have the right to treat you badly when you did nothing to her. Sister in law or not, it’s not your responsibility to save–and she won’t change unless she makes the conscious decision to get help and want to change. You don’t want that negativity and destructive behavior around your daughter. I wish you luck in dealing with this situation; thank you for sharing.

  7. Kelly says:

    I’m sorry to hear you’re going through so much with your family, but know you’re not alone. I have a sister who attacks me every chance she get when she never get her way. I have a mom who take money from me knowing I have three kids to care for. It’s sad because family should be the very least who hurt you. I have two drug addict brothers and one of them lives with my mom. she calls me when he don’t have a ride or he need bus fair. My dad died a year ago from heart failure. Before he died I watched him go through the exact same thing i did. I refuse to allow this to happen to me.

Trackbacks