We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t pick your family,” right? While some people experience nurturing family bonds, some people can’t wait to be out on their own. Constantly being exposed to large amounts of negative energy can be draining and cause a rift in certain relationships. No matter how much love people may have for their family, toxic relationships and behaviors need to be addressed for their long-lasting effects.
Here are five signs of a toxic family:
1. They Gossip About You/Each Other
Talking and gossiping in the family is a very thin line. Psychologist Claire Jack, Ph.D., says the difference is that a loving family discusses your situation to try and see how they can help. A toxic one, however, says nasty things aimed at bringing you, your siblings, or other loved ones down. This may promote ill feelings from other family members which could later affect the relationships. “Being nasty about family members to other family members is at the heart of many toxic families,” Jack says.
2. They Won’t Allow You to Grow
Toxic families are restrictive in nature and often pick on your weaknesses. They know what makes you feel bad about yourself and will use those vulnerabilities to embarrass you in front of other people. According to Dr. Jack, toxic families might not understand that your values when you were a teen aren’t the same values you hold as you grow older.
3. Abusive Behaviors Are Never Addressed
Abuse doesn’t just mean physical abuse. It can be emotional, physical, or sexual. Within a toxic family dynamic, Jack states, abuse is not called out for what it is and abusers are often protected. They have a way of making you feel as if you deserved it somehow. It’s always about how you reacted but never about what caused you to react. You might be encouraged to keep quiet, which enables the abuser to continue using their newfound power against you.
4. They Place the Family Reputation Over Your Feelings
“Toxic family members create narratives which support their needs—even if it means masking over unacceptable behavior in the past,” Dr. Jack stated. They are made to believe in a certain family “reputation” and if your feelings don’t fit within that narrative it can feel as if you don’t have a voice. Jack also discloses that family members might try to downgrade your feelings by claiming you weren’t treated as bad as you feel you were or that you’re embellishing the truth.
5. Your Relationships are Unpredictable
As explained by Dr. Jack, toxic families are often held together by weak connections. Manipulation is often present in some of your relationships and it feels as if you can’t relax around certain family members because you never know when they’ll stab you in the back. “These weak foundations make the toxic family a volatile and unstable environment,” Jack said. Either way, you never know who to trust. If not addressed correctly, you end up feeling like a stranger in your own family.