Every family has an occasional argument. But if you’ve always felt like you become your worst self when you’re back at home, your family could be treading on the toxic territory.
“Toxic people are draining; encounters leave you emotionally wiped out,” says Abigail Brenner, M.D. “Time with them is about taking care of their business, which will leave you feeling frustrated and unfulfilled, if not angry. Don’t allow yourself to become depleted as a result of giving and giving and getting nothing in return.” Sound familiar? Here are nine ways to find out if you have a toxic family and how to deal with it
1. They get jealous or try to compete with you. Your mom dreamed of being a dancer, but she became a travel agent. Then when you were cast as a dancer at age 12, your mom spent hours showing you videos of her old ballet performances and ended up getting a headache on the night of your big debut. While it might seem ridiculous that a grown adult would be jealous of a 12-year-old, it’s a dynamic that people in toxic families know all too well.
2. They overreact. OK, your dad was justifiably mad when you were running around the house at age nine and broke an heirloom vase. But if he is still regularly flying off the handle for completely reasonable things you do as an adult (like getting stuck in traffic and arriving 15 minutes late to his barbecue), this relationship has “toxic” written all over it.
3. They compare you. You and your older sister are two completely different people. But because she’s a doctor with three kids and you’re a single receptionist at a doctor’s office, your brother loves to try to put the two of you against each other. Your sister takes the high road, but your brother’s presents constant teasing still makes you feel insecure and attacked.
4. They act like victims. Sometimes, parents can’t help but guilt-trip their kids. (“What do you mean, you aren’t coming home for Thanksgiving?”) But there’s a difference between expressing disappointment and creating a toxic environment by blaming everyone else for their feelings. If your mom refuses to talk to you for a week because you decided to spend a holiday or festive period with friends this year, you could be in the toxic territory.
5. They don’t respect your boundaries. You love your sister, but she’s always been impulsive. She’s made a habit of showing up at your family’s house, unannounced, expecting to be able to crash on the couch for a couple of days. Because you love her, you give in, but even after asking her to stop popping in without calling, she continues to do it.
6. They’re always right. Your parents have hated every person you’ve ever dated, and it’s starting to feel like no one is going to be good enough. They have similar opinions about your career goals, friends and pretty much everything else. If you’ve articulated that you’re happy with your life and the people in it and they still won’t stay out of your business, then your relationship with your parents could be verging on (if not already) toxic.
7. They give ultimatums. A parent’s love is supposed to be unconditional, right? But your mother is constantly setting conditions that feel suspiciously like threats. In fact, you’ve heard the words, “if you don’t *fill-in-the-blank,* Do what i suggest, you’re not my daughter anymore,” i will just die for you to be happy, more than once. Toxic behaviour? Yep.
8. Conversations are always about them. You just got off a 45-minute phone call with your sister, brother, parents, only to realize that they didn’t ask you a single question about your life or how you’re doing. If they were dealing with a personal crisis or had some exciting news, then that’s one thing. But if this happens pretty much every time you talk with them, then this relationship could be toxic. (Particularly if they accuse you of not caring about them if you try to shift the conversation to yourself.)
9. They drain your energy. Do you feel totally exhausted every time you interact with a particular family member? We’re not talking about feeling like you need to be by yourself for a little while, something that can happen even with people we love being around (introverts, in particular, can find interactions draining). Interacting with a toxic person can leave you feeling defeated since their dramatic, needy and high-maintenance tendencies can suck the energy right out of you.
10, They are the centre of cynosure, life is all about them, everything about you does not matter, to them you are okay, strong and can take care of yourself, you are strong don’t have a need, they are the only human with needs that should be attended to if your emotional needs are not important you are in a toxic family.