Yes, those toxic family members you've successfully avoided all year are going to be sitting right next to you at the table. How are you going to handle them?
Dealing with negative energy from relatives can be more complicated than that from acquaintances and friends. Often there are feelings of guilt involved, especially if you have known them for much of your life, or they have helped you out over the years. You may also feel a since of obligation to maintain a relationship, because "family always takes care of family." Finally, you may be forced to be around them during family gatherings. Nevertheless, the way you feel when interacting with these relatives is unbearable. They can wreak havoc on your self-esteem, and leave you feeling drained and miserable. However, you have several options moving forward.
These choices will require a great deal of intestinal fortitude and courage. On another note, some of them may not be practical based on your situation. You may be living with a toxic family member, or running a business together. The family member may be your caretaker, or have control over your inheritance. Find the solution that works best for you and is most feasible given your life circumstances.
When you do make a decision, you must stand firm and not allow yourself to be swayed by the remarks of your toxic family members, or other family members who will always have something to say. In the end, your mental health is of primary importance here, and you must preserve it at all costs. You should also address the issue so you can begin to heal from the damage caused.
Cut Them Off
Refuse to communicate with the person in question: no telephone calls, emails, letters, or texts. Do not attend any events where you know your relative will make an appearance. On a positive note, the toxic family member will be out of your life forever. Conversely, you may be missing out on opportunities to see family members you actually want to be around, and risk alienating them because they do not support your decision. Special occasions may pass without you being there to experience them. This is the hardest of the options for these reasons. However, depending on how severe the toxicity is and how it impacts you, it may be worth it or even necessary to maintain your sanity and peace of mind. Further, if you are in constant state of discomfort during these times, you will likely not enjoy yourself anyway. Give it some thought.
Don't Speak to Them When You See Them
With this option, you continue to interact with your family, however you ignore the specific person causing you problems. When the relative speaks to you, do not respond, and do not initiate conversations. This may lead to awkward moments when others invariably notice what's going on. When someone asks why you aren't talking to So-and-So, you can respond, "I don't like the way So-and-So behaves towards me, so I have nothing to say." If the toxic relative asks you why you are not speaking, you can state, "I don't want to deal with your negativity." Then walk away.
Speak, But Change the Subject
Here, you are engaging with your toxic family member directly, but as soon as the tone of the conversation changes, you redirect it. For example, if the family member becomes critical towards you, then you ask the individual something about him or herself. Keep doing this. Either your relative will take the bait, or eventually figure out what's going on and ask you why you keep changing the subject. To which you can reply, "When you talk about me, you usually say something negative. I don't want to hear that."
Toxic family members may react to your changes in several ways. They may become offended and get angry because they are no longer allowed to treat you the way they did before. They may act shocked and downplay the situation by saying that you are overreacting. Or, they may play dumb and act like they don't know what you're talking about. Either way, it is not your job to make them feel comfortable, and you must demand respect. Your feelings are valid, so do not apologize for them, or your actions.
This is a tough area, true. Nevertheless, gather your courage and stand up for yourself, making it known that there are certain things you simply will not tolerate.
And then, as you walk away from the whole mess (either forever, or until next time), you can say to yourself, "Yea, me!"
The best feeling in the world.
~ Shelby Fizer
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