“Family is a life jacket in the stormy sea of life” – J.K.Rowling
“Blood is thicker than water”.
“Families are the compass that guides us”.
We have come across such quotes and sayings often. And these have played a huge role in shaping our attitude towards our family.
Your family is supposed to accept you as you are. They are not supposed to be biased or judgmental. We can continue to offer evidence that the family is the most important thing in the world.
If you are fortunate enough to have a family like that, all that can be said is “Lucky you!”. Many do not come under this category. Their families are anything but perfect. They are nowhere close to the description of families in the quotes and sayings.
Sometimes it is toxic family members. Or else, it is the general atmosphere in the family and how family members connect. Falling out with family can happen in many ways.
If you feel you are not given your due and are mistreated or taken advantage of by your family in general or a family member in particular, it is time to discard the age-old belief that you should be more tolerant towards family and be more accommodating.
You should not prioritize good relations with family members above your mental health and wellbeing. Sometimes, cutting family ties is the best choice for you.
This article explores this topic and helps you navigate the shark-infested waters of family relationships.
How to identify trouble in your relationship with family?
Breaking up with family is not something acceptable in society. People who do so are viewed as selfish and self-centered. And, this prevents people from taking the bold step.
Some discords and disagreements are common in all families. So, the question that you need to find the answer to is “how much is too much?”. How much disharmony and conflicts should you tolerate? And when you should say “enough is enough”.
This is a tricky question to answer. It is too personal and depends on you and your family. It is hard to generalize and come up with clear-cut guidelines for such instances.
Though excessive behavior is hard to categorize, its impact on you is easier to gauge. And this is how you should go about it.
Here are some signs to look out for to identify whether your family is toxic enough to cut ties. And when to take the bold step.
- Your family’s treatment is impacting you severely.
- You are gaining nothing from continuing the ties.
- You are being abused and you became aware of it.
- You feel that you are not being heard.
- You come to realize that family is not sacrosanct after all.
Try to assess how you feel to know whether you should take the step to move out. Even after realizing that you should not continue ties with your family for the sake of your wellbeing, it is still a difficult decision to make. Especially if it is with your parents or children. When to end a relationship with a parent is a dilemma that is not easy to figure out.
How to cut ties with your family?
Again, this is a personal decision and so there are no hard and fast rules for this.
As a first step, you can start by disconnecting from family. Avoiding contact with people who hurt or demean you may resolve the issue. This strategy may work in some cases but this is not a permanent solution.
When you maintain your distance from the family member, it will be similar to a cold war waging in your family. This is bound to affect the rest of the family members as well. It is definitely not a comfortable situation to be in.
On the flip side, this cold treatment may serve as a wake-up call for the abusive family member. They may realize their mistake and correct their behavior. If this happens, the strategy may be considered successful.
The sad truth is this step rarely succeeds.
Maybe they don’t realize how their behavior is impacting you. So, you can make them aware of it by talking to them. If you are not sure how the conversation will go, have a neutral person present during the talk. Or even choose a neutral or public venue. This will ensure that the person’s behavior will not get out of hand.
Prepare your case well in advance and present it without involving emotions. Keep your voice normal, even if the other person is raising their voice. Avoid accusatory tone. When you talk, talk about how their behavior makes you feel rather than whether their behavior is right or wrong.
If the scene gets too ugly, walk out.
If you are apprehensive about the behavior of the family member, you can use emails or letters for communication. It will give you a chance to have your say without being interrupted, mocked at, or talked down.
If none of the above strategies work, you will be left with no other option but to take the drastic step of walking away from the toxic person or even the entire family. Living in a toxic environment at home is not good for your mental well-being. Once you have exhausted all other options, don’t hesitate to take this step.
How will this impact you?
Society is not kind to those who deliberately walk away from their families. For no fault of yours, you will be looked down upon by your friends, co-workers, and the rest of the family members. Your relationship with them may turn bad because of this.
On top of losing the support of your family, you are in the dock for having taken such a harsh step. You will be viewed as abnormal and made to feel ashamed. In fact, you most probably will be pressured to get back in touch with your family.
When the estrangement happens between old parents and adult children, it induces more guilt. While parents are expected to be more forgiving, the children are expected to take care of their parents in their old age. Whether the breakup is initiated by the parents or children, it is bound to have a huge emotional impact on both.
How to move forward and build your life?
Moving on is hard in the initial stages. When the pressure is high to reunite with the family, you will feel stuck in the same place, unable to get past the harrowing experience. But then, time heals. As time passes, you will find it easier.
To help deal with the situation, you can talk about what happened to someone you trust. To ensure your mental health, practice self-care routines like meditation and affirmations. Doing activities to promote positive thinking is also good. Learn how to leave your past behind and move on.
If you change your mind about the breakup at a later date, don’t hesitate to take steps to reconcile with the person. If the other person is approaching you for reconciliation, don’t reject the proposal outright. Do give it some consideration. Go by how you feel about the whole thing. As long as you can accept the person back in your life, take the necessary steps.
People change, circumstances change. Always keep the option open for reconciliation.