Is your family simply annoying… or are they actually toxic?
While some conflict is normal and unavoidable, if you’re dealing with toxic family members, simply talking about or avoiding the behavior may not help.
Whatever your situation today, there is hope. Here are 6 proven strategies for dealing with toxic family members, whether it’s your spouse, parents, in-laws, children, or siblings.
1. Assess the Situation Honestly
Toxic family members are annoying. So it only makes sense that you might get worked up when your friends and family members start showing the many warning signs of a toxic relationship.
Before you get too worked up, though, take a step back and assess the situation honestly:
- Is the other person actually toxic, or simply annoying, thoughtless, etc?
- Is the problem serious enough to warrant action, or can you simply overlook it for the sake of family unity?
- Are you sure the other person’s actions are intentional, not simply perceived?
- What type of effect is the behavior having on you and your family?
- What have you done to remedy the situation in the past, if anything?
- Have you actually told the other person how you are feeling and what you’d like to change?
- Are things getting better, staying the same, or getting worse?
2. Accept Responsibility for Any Wrongdoing on Your Part
Next, let’s take a minute to look at yourself and any part you may have played in the issue: Have you done anything to make the situation worse? Or failed to do something to make the situation better?
While the situation may not ultimately be “your fault” (especially in cases of outright abuse), once we reach adulthood, each of us is responsible for and accountable for our own actions.
And this is good news! Because it means that you have the power and ability to choose different actions and to improve your situation.
It’s time to get honest with yourself.
- Have you said or done anything hurtful to the other person? (even unintentionally!)
- Have you ever failed to treat them as kindly or as respectfully as you should have?
- Have you ever been selfish, self-centered, or mean-spirited?
Again, I’m not saying the mistreatment is your fault. But if you have done (or continue to do) things that hurt the other party, they may be acting out of that hurt. And a heartfelt apology for any wrongdoings on your part may be just what the other person needs to heal.
You aren’t responsible for them, but you are responsible and accountable for YOU — no matter what they’ve done to “deserve it.”
3. Set Healthy, Biblical Boundaries
Next, once you’ve gotten honest about the situation and the role you may have played in it, it’s time to set some boundaries with family members and friends who may need them.
What behaviors will you accept? Which behaviors will you not accept? Where is the boundary?
Do you need to limit visits or restrict your visits to a certain format? (For example, maybe you are happy to call on the phone, but you can no longer visit in person.)
Do you need to set the boundary that you can only visit X times a year, that you can only give X dollars a month, or that you will only continue to be around them only as long as the conversation remains healthy and polite?
Seek wise counsel from friends and family you trust to make sure your boundaries are reasonable, let the other party know what your boundaries are, and then stick to them.
4. Stick to Your Boundaries
Once you’ve set your boundaries and told your friends and family members where they are — this is the hard part. You have to stick to the boundaries you’ve set!
I know that learning how to deal with toxic family members isn’t easy. It takes time and practice, and you won’t get it all right the first time, but stick with it.
Because if you’re continually “bending the rules,” your family will just learn that your “rules” aren’t really rules at all.
Ask trustworthy advice from friends and family (and/or a qualified therapist), determine where your boundaries should be, and then stick to them!
Now, I know you may feel very angry or resentful towards the toxic family members and friends who have hurt you and ruined your familial relationships, but the Bible is clear: We have to forgive, even when we don’t feel like it.
We see this in Mark 11:25, which says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Please understand, though: Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did is okay or that they shouldn’t receive any consequences for their action.
You can still set boundaries and you should turn an abuser in to the authorities if the situation calls for it.
But we have a responsibility to forgive others (even and especially our enemies) if we want God to forgive us as well.
6. Walk Away
If you have done all of the above to the best of your ability, then it may be time for you to ask the last question: “Is it time to cut this person out of my life?”
The truth is: While it would be awesome if we could all get along, the truth is that we do have free will, and some people choose to use theirs in a way that isn’t healthy or productive. And when this happens, we don’t have to stay stuck in toxic, abusive relationships.
Yes, God opens doors, but we often forget that he closes them, too.
Sometimes, as unfortunate as it is, when there is nothing more we can do, we need to just step back and let GOD deal with it in a way that only He can. And that’s okay.
There are plenty of people in the world we can enjoy close, healthy relationships with. It doesn’t always have to be with our toxic family members.
What Does The Bible Say About Toxic Family Members?
While the Bible does say that we should turn the other cheek, forgive, and love our enemies, it’s important to understand these Scripture verses in context. The Bible does not say that we should allow toxic family members to continually abuse, mistreat, or walk all over us (or our families).
In fact, there are times when the most loving, Christian response is to set boundaries or cut ties with toxic family members in order to protect ourselves and our families and/or so we don’t continue to enable our toxic family members’ selfish, sinful behavior.
While the Bible never uses the exact phrase “toxic family members,” Scripture has a lot to say about how we should treat those who mistreat us, and there’s a lot of (understandably) a lot of nuance to the discussion.
Yes, Christians Should Judge. Here’s Why
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Do not, lest ye be judged.” Unfortunately, this one small phrase is often misunderstood.
Turns out, the Bible has a LOT to say on the topic of judging others… and it’s probably not at all what you think.
How to Start Prayer Journaling
Want to spend more time in prayer, but not sure where to start (or how to stay consistent)? Prayer journaling is a fun practice to help you regularly talk to God — and see how He answers your prayers in return!
Here’s how to start prayer journaling — plus 20 journaling prompts perfect for Christian women!
Four Things Every Christian Needs to Know About Forgiveness
Have you ever thought or said the phrase “I know I should forgive, but I just can’t…”
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean that what they did was okay, that you have to pretend that nothing’s wrong, or that you have to maintain a close relationship with them. Rather, forgiveness is a way for YOU to find peace and healing.