There’s an expression that you get to choose your friends, but not your family members. Whether it’s a crude uncle, narcissistic stepmother or the black sheep who always gets in trouble, you don’t need to look far in anyone’s immediate family to find some drama. Here’s how to deal with toxic family members.
Don’t take the bait
Misery loves company. Oftentimes, when someone is depressed or unhappy, they subconsciously want everyone around them to feel as bad as they do and match their low vibration. Don’t fall for it––remember this is about them, not you. See if you can follow Michelle Obama’s advice; “When they go low, you go high.”
Set a clear boundary
If someone is treating you disrespectfully or inappropriately, it’s important to set a very firm boundary and make it clear that behavior is not permissible. If you have family members that continually ignore your boundaries, you may need to take firmer action and avoid them entirely (see below).
While many people (especially women) have a tendency to include everyone and feel guilty if they don’t follow the social norm, I recommend giving yourself permission to avoid toxic family members entirely. If you’re hosting, don’t include them. Or if they’re going to be somewhere and you can’t avoid them, give yourself permission to skip that event entirely. One year when drama in my family was at an all time high, my husband and I jetted off to Paris for a romantic getaway and skipped our family’s thanksgiving for the first time. It’s one of our happiest memories to this day!
Don’t enable them
If someone in your family is an alcoholic, and you keep drinking with them, you may be facilitating their behavior. Or, on a more subtle level, if your cousin always makes you feel horrible by insulting you when you go shopping, maybe it’s time to start shopping alone. Set the stage for how you want your interactions with these family members to go. If there are situations in which they behave worse, don’t provide them with that opportunity.
Remember that you have greater choices and more control than you think. Give yourself permission to say no to the people who bring you down or treat you inappropriately. Allow yourself to skip the gathering altogether––you won’t regret it.
Some of the points in this article are the opinion of the writer.