Do you ever wish that you could cut a family member(s) out of your life because of the way they treat you or maybe the way they are as individuals? Truth is, you’re not the only one. Some have succeeded, some are trying to, and some are thinking about it.

It’s not an easy thing to admit, even to yourself, because it sure makes you feel like a bad person and blood is thicker than water, right?! But I believe that everyone can be completely justified in choosing themselves over others in circumstances where their health is in danger.

But first, what is a toxic person?

A toxic person is someone who always brings you down no matter what. They are unsupportive of you and can also be emotionally abusive towards you. Toxic people never care about how they make you feel.

How do you know that a person is toxic?

While each person has the right to identify what toxic means to them, there are common traits that will tell you that a person is toxic. These traits or behaviour can be so subtle that you don’t realise that the person is toxic, things like a person who always talks over you or interrupts you every time you’re having a conversation with them or within a group. A toxic person can also make you feel stupid or like your input is not valuable.

If you’re already associating the above with someone in your family, chances are they are toxic, and you just didn’t know exactly how to describe their behaviour. Think of it this way, say you have an upcoming family gathering, or something as casual as the Heritage Day celebrations with your family and you’re dreading it because there’s this one family member that always has something negative to say about your weight, or your parenting skills, or your lifestyle. This means they’re toxic. Or it could just be a family member that makes you uncomfortable because of the things they do or say to or about someone else (for example, fat-shaming, slut-shaming, xenophobic or homophobic comments etc.) – this is a good indicator that this person is toxic.

Family gatherings are not the only places where toxic behaviour is out on display. It can show itself during general daily operations. An example of this is a family member who only reaches out to you when they need something from you, or a family member that always tells other people things you shared with them in confidence. Or a family member that always tries to control and manipulate everything and everyone in the family.

It can also be a family member who takes care of you but always makes it a point to use that against you to justify their mistreatment. For example, an aunt who provides a roof, food and even money but they always insult you, be it to your face or when talking to other people. It can be a member who always coerces you to “let things be” or “let it go” because they don’t want to bring shame to the family by revealing that a certain uncle is a molester or a rapist. This is usually because the perpetrator is the breadwinner and is buying silence with his money. In this case, the person forcing you to be silent is toxic because they’re teaching you to tolerate disgusting behaviour from a person who is committing a crime.

Toxic family members can make you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually sick. Toxic means poisonous and, the use of the metaphor is for a reason – just as poison can make you feel dreadful, and be bad for your survival in the world, so these toxic family members can make you feel poisoned in your mind. And the best way to solve this is by removing the poison. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and no one should feel guilty for removing poison from their lives – even if that poison is in the form of a family member.

We’re always made to believe that family bond is sufficient to sustain the relationships with the members of our families. But, “We’re related,” isn’t enough at all. There are other factors that play vital roles in relationships – things like open communication, respect, care, honesty, kindness, support, and more.

It’s alright if you’re not close with everyone in your family. It would be unrealistic to think we can be close and get along with every family member, and most – if not all – families live with this to some extent. Of course there will be disagreements, and hurts.

But that is not what I’m describing here. I’m describing someone whose behaviour constantly affects you in a negative way, and who does not have your best interests at heart. Whether they know that they’re toxic is beside the point. You could try and talk to them, if you want the relationship to work, and if the opportunity for an honest and safe dialogue with them is available. However, if nothing works or changes, it’s okay to distance yourself from them or cut them out indefinitely without feeling guilty, because you shouldn’t tolerate toxicity and compromise your health.

In a world that’s already full of hate and ill-treatment, the presence of family should make you feel safe and comfortable. It should be a place where you let your guard down and reconnect with your happy self.


Tell us: have you ever had to cut out a toxic family member?