How to confront that toxic family member

There are some disagreements in this life that are too great to ignore. No matter how hard we might try to make them go away, or appear smaller than they are, the pain and discomfort grows and grows until there’s a sudden eruption and explosive conflict. Some disagreements require this conflict, and some situations are made better by the chaos that confrontation can provide. This can be especially true when it comes to family and establishing the boundaries you need to remain happy and secure.

Toxic people are dangerous, and that’s especially true when they are family. Poisonous and abusive family ties are dangerous to our inner peace and they’re dangerous to our self-esteem. If you’re someone with a number of toxic family relationships, then a major part of your growing up requires learning how to cut these ties and manage the ievitable conflict that such a separation entails. All ini the hopes that — one day — you can be more truly aligned to your hope and happiness.

When family turns toxic.

We love our families. We trust them. We listen to them. We keep their secrets and hold them in our hearts even when it kills us a little each and every day. We accept the baggage our family throws at us with wide-eyed innocence because we still believe in the childhood lies that blood-family trumps everything. Sometimes we wake up to those lies, however, and realize that some of those around us are dealing with less than our best intentions at heart.

Families are complex and dynamic and, just like our closest friendships and relationships, they can become toxic and self-defeating or contain people who just flat-out don’t like us. Part of growing up is learning how to spot these toxic relationships, even within our own families, and remove them from our lives so that we can be happy again.

Though we might mistake loyalty for submission (a fact which keepss us stuck in the relationships that no longer serve us) in order to become adults capable of controlling our own destinies, we have to stop answering to the people who wound us. This is especially true when those people are a part of our family. The pressure to stay loyal to family is immense, but love and loyalty are not the same thing. Often, the only thing that can be done to deal with a problematic loved one is to confront them, and let them know where the lines of our boundaries lie.

How you know it’s time to confront them.

There are a number of major signs that it’s time to confront the negative person in your family. Though we don’t always like to acknowledge it, family that drains our energy, or loved ones that cause us to revert to fear and insecurity, are people that is harmful to our mental and emotional wellbeing. Being related doesn’t make toxic behavior any less damaging. If anything, the opposite is true. It’s not always easy to spot these behaviors, however, so it’s important to be radically honest when assessing any relationships intimately.

Serious avoidance

An unpleasant family member can cause serious breakdowns in our relationships with other family members. Often, we get so caught up avoiding the toxic person, that we can find ourselves shutting down and missing out on other opportunities to create memories with the people we love. Our brains send us powerful signals when something’s amiss or something isn’t good for us, and this includes interactions with our closest family members. If someone gives you an “icky” feeling, embrace that feeling and analyze it for what it is.

Draining away

Spending a lot of time with anyone can leave you feeling like you need to recharge, but toxic family members will leave you feeling especially zapped. Feelings of dread, or absolute mental and emotional exhaustion, are indications that something toxic is stirring between you and the other party. These feelings can be especially magnified if you’re an introvert or someone who is struggling with their mental and emotional health.

Nothing changes

If you’ve addressed issues with a problematic family member before, but they insist on behaving in a way that violates your boundaries or other wishes you’ve expressed to them — they’re toxic. Toxic people may not know that they’re toxic, but they do know when they’re in the wrong. Individuals that refuse to change, or refuse to respect our wishes, are bad news and people that will never add to our lives (more than they detract).


When a family member becomes dangerous, either mentally or physically, it’s time to create space or cut them out of your life entirely. Though we all have pain in our pasts, inflicting pain on others is a conscious choice. Family members with explosive anger issues, as well as family that continues to maliciously backbite, undermine or otherwise seek to destroy your happiness — is family that is dangerous to your safety and authentic sense of self.

Fake, fake, fake

Those who feel lost, or feel as though they are out-of-touch with who they really are, can often find themselves lashing out at those that do. If you’re facing a family member who intimidates you or makes it hard for you to be yourself, it can lead to a certain shutting down and inability to stay true in the face of your bully. it’s important that you don’t feel cornered into pretending you’re someone you’re not. This includes engaging in behaviors and activities that go against your personal values, or taking on beliefs or mannerisms that aren’t like you.

Zero responsibility

We all make mistakes in life, and though they can be painful the true secret to overcoming them is learning how to take responsibility for them, adjust and move on. A toxic family member is someone who is incapable of doing this. They take no responsibility for the part they’re playing in all the chaos they cause, and they often rely on the game of blaming others in order to avoid the responsibility they themselves should bear. It’s always someone else’s fault to the toxic family member…