Perhaps one of the most significant relationships in our lives is the one we build with our parents. They are our first contact with unconditional love, kindness and honesty.

From there, we grow to be our own people and based on the principles instilled in us as younglings by our parents, we go on to build meaningful relationships with friends, and ultimately with our significant others. Even in our adulthood we still turn to our parents when life kicks us in intimate places and makes us call it boss. In these stressful times, they remind us that we breathe fire. They serve as anchors that keep us grounded and prevent us from floating into oblivion. But what happens when the relationship with those that gave us life is causing us more harm than good?

This is something that has been nibbling at my soul for as long as I can remember.

While I love my parents with every inch of my being, my relationship with them has never been lollipops and daises. For starters, my father, although he was there in person, emotionally and financially he had better places to be. He sowed his seed wherever he went and his purse was controlled by whichever woman he found himself on her bed that night. As a child, I tried to get his attention in every way possible. I forced my hugs on him, forced him to look at my report, forced him to play with me. I failed, every single time! With time I realised I will never matter to him, so I gradually started letting go. It’s a painful process to love someone who doesn’t care if you live or die.

My mother on the other side decided she would be there, through thick and thin, basically in every way a parent is supposed to be for their child. And for that I am grateful. Even so, my mother is a very angry woman. I still haven’t figured out how one individual can be so loving, caring and full of warmth, yet turn ice cold within a blink of an eye. In a nutshell, my relationship with my mother, up until this day, has been quite trying. Growing up, she shouted at me for basically everything under the sun. If I answered back, I had a big mouth, which warranted a hot klap. If I didn’t answer back, I was cheeky, which also warranted a backhand. Around my mother, I mastered the art of walking on eggshells.

My relationship with my mother has always been a painful one, peppered with a lot of beatings. And now in my adulthood, it’s filled with tons of arguments that often morph into a Cold War that lasts for months on end. Relatives are always dragged in to mediate. The blame is always placed squarely on my shoulders because in my culture adults are never wrong and kids always are. So, we walk around with scars inflicted by our parents because “they’ve sacrificed so much for us”, and the least we can do is to carry their load and be grateful to them for raising us.

I know there are plenty of young people just like me, who’ve been hurt over and over by their folks but are not allowed to stop and lick their wounds because how do you turn your back on your family? So, we ignore the injuries and keep walking. The question I want to pose now is: when is it OK to break ties with the toxic people in your life before it starts affecting your future relationships?

I love my parents, and I have forgiven them for many shortcomings. I’ve gone back to them time and time again after they’ve betrayed my trust, after they’ve called me names, after they’ve blamed me for all that is not right with their lives. I keep going back. But now this behaviour is starting to rear its ugly head in the relationships I’m trying to build. One friend, out of the blue, told me I’ve got suppressed anger – I may have snapped when he said something. I’m told I do, and sadly I’m never aware of these instances. This friend likened me to a boiling pot of water: “You will burn the person who tries to remove the lid,” he had told me.

While cutting off friends is easy, the same cannot be said about family. After all, blood is thicker than water, don’t they say? So, I ask again, when is alright to put an end to relationships that destroy rather than build us?

Tell Us: Do you think it is alright to cut off family if your relationship has become toxic? If you were in this situation what would you do?