How to Cope with Toxic Family Members and Have a Happy Family Life

  How to Cope with Toxic Family Members and Have a Happy Family Life Did you know you can enjoy a happy family life, even if there is a toxic family member in the mix? Maybe you have a supercritical mother-in-law or a sibling who won’t let old things die. Perhaps you have a cousin who blows in and out of town and causes huge tumult in their wake. These toxic family members can be dealt with.  Toxic Mother-in-Law Example I had a male patient who accomplished quite a bit with his toxic mother-in-law. His mother in law wasn’t the stereotypical toxic mother-in-law, but that didn’t make her any less toxic. She was very much the victim; and played the role of not being able to do anything for herself, even though she was a very capable woman who had accomplished quite a bit in her life. His mother-in-law suddenly started playing the role of “I can’t do anything for myself, I can’t speak the language, I can’t make a phone call, I don’t know how to use a computer…” She had all of these excuses that were actually not true, which then elicited her daughter to feel very compelled to help her. My patient’s wife was spending a lot of time with her mother at the expense of my patient. The patient felt very guilty because he liked his mother-in-law and he felt that they had a good relationship. He felt guilty because he was frustrated with the amount of time she was consuming from his wife. Recognizing the Toxicity First, I helped him see that it was his wife deciding to spend all of that time with her mother. The discussion actually needed to be with his wife. His initial idea was he needed to criticize his wife for doing this, but instead, he was open with her and said, A. He was envious of her relationship with her mother because he did not have a good relationship with his mother. B. He opened up about how he missed her, and he missed their social life growing because of the time she was spending with her mother. How to Curb the Toxicity Much to his surprise (which happens a lot), his wife understood him. She was surprised and glad to hear it because she didn’t know he felt that way. She ended up making a lot of the …

Toxic Family Members, Now What?

    We’ve previously discussed how to tell toxic behavior from annoying behavior or mistakes.   Let’s say you do one of the tests previously discussed, and you find that the person IS toxic. The pink flag is indeed a red flag. Maybe, they weren’t able to apologize for their behavior, or they continued to engage in annoying or upsetting behavior despite you telling them or letting them know otherwise. This is red flag behavior, now what? Keep in mind; someone can only be toxic to you if you allow it. What are the ways you can not allow this? Boundaries Verbal Boundaries A verbal boundary would be saying something along the lines of, “No, as I said that topic is off-limits,” or “This doesn’t work for me.” Something quick and simple, I always recommend putting up a hand and keeping it personal.  Physical Boundaries A physical boundary would be spending less time with the person. This one may seem obvious, but so many people feel guilty about it. It is socially acceptable not to accept all invitations from toxic people, do not invite them to your home or events, especially if they’re long. Keep the visits short and sweet. The Setting What is the setting where you are seeing these people? A lot of toxic people do better in public settings because they know on some level that their behavior is toxic, and if other people are watching, they’re going to behave themselves better.  The third way of keeping the toxicity at bay is to choose a public setting. Maybe that’s the only place you’ll see them, such as at restaurants, parks, other people’s homes, large parties and gatherings where other people (especially non-family members) are. Communicate Beforehand Remember, have the discussion with your significant other about limits and what kind of boundaries you are going to set with the toxic family member’s beforehand. It helps if you have someone on board previously. A lot of people will set boundaries and be furious that the significant other didn’t know what was going on. When the significant other could not know whats going on, it doesn’t mean they don’t approve of whats going on. If you need a way out or need to say no to the toxic family members, and you’ve had the discussion and an agreed-upon saying on how to stop the toxic behavior with your significant other, …