How to Cope With Toxic Family Relationships

You can’t change your family, but you can change how you deal with them. These tips on how to cope with toxic family relationships are inspired by a reader – and adult woman – who doesn’t want to talk to her mom anymore.

toxic family relationshipsOn my article about solving family relationship problems, a reader said she decided to completely cut ties with her mom. Her mother constantly criticized her and her boyfriend, tried to manipulate them into lending money, and called and texted at all hours of the night. My reader doesn’t know what to do anymore, she’s tired of it, and she doesn’t know how to cope with toxic family relationships. It’s been going on for four years, and she wants to cut her mother out of her life. But, she’s worried it’s not the right thing to do.

Toxic Parents: Overcoming Their Hurtful Legacy and Reclaiming Your Life by Susan Forward and Craig Buck is an excellent resource for coping with toxic family relationships. The most important thing to do is learn how to deal with toxic people in an objective, almost clinical way. If you can’t control your reactions, you won’t be able to cope with family members in healthy ways.

How to Cope With Toxic Family Relationships

Toxic family relationships don’t just make life difficult, they can negatively affect your physical and emotional health, harm your marriage or romantic relationship, and even affect your financial prosperity! Learning how to handle toxic family members will strengthen all your relationships and improve your mental and emotional health.

Choosing the right technique for coping with toxic family members depends on the type of person you’re dealing with. Some family members will respond well to direct confrontation, while others need the love and kindness technique. These three tips for coping with toxic family members are from Toxic People: 10 Ways Of Dealing With People Who Make Your Life Miserable by Lillian Glass.

The Direct Confrontation Technique. If your toxic family member is a psychological bully, he or she may need to be directly confronted. Bullies need victims, or they have nobody to bully! The more confident and calm you are when you confront a family member who bullies, the more he or she will respect you and back down. “…You may want to tell the person boldly how you feel about what he or she said or did,” writes Glass in Toxic People. “In directly confronting someone, it is essential that you project your voice so that you can be heard and speak in a well-modulated tone.” Directly confronting a toxic family member may simply mean saying, “I don’t like how you spoke to me at the dinner table. I felt criticized and undermined when you said I don’t know how to cut the roast properly.”

If you’re remarried, you might like to know How to Deal With Your Husband’s Toxic Ex-Wife.

toxic relatives

“How to Cope With Toxic Family Members” image via the

The “Give Them Hell and Yell” Technique. Knowing how to cope with toxic family relationships may mean giving as good as you get. If your family member is loud, brash, and offensive, then the best way to respond may be loudly, brashly, and offensively. “Sometimes you have to scream and yell, because this is the only way you can be heard,” writes Glass. She does not recommend regular use of this technique – it’s actually a sign of a toxic person! But, sometimes coping with toxic family members requires fighting fire with fire. The trick is to control your angry feelings, and not let your toxic family relationships get the best of you.

The “Give Them Love and Kindness” Technique. If the root of all toxicity is jealousy due to insecurity and a lack of self-esteem (as Glass suggests), then toxic people may need to be handled with love, compassion, and kindness. No matter how nasty, unkind, or negative your family member is, it’s important to stay calm and collected. It’s easier to stay cool if you remember that your toxic relative is in pain. She feels empty, unloved, and full of self-loathing – and that’s why she spreads toxicity around your family relationships. Receiving love and kindness may soften the toxic person’s tone, loosen her body language, and change her words from harsh to pleasant. Let her know you’re on her side, and she may respond with softness and gentleness.

These tips for handling toxic family members can help with everything from coping with controlling parents to helping an alcoholic brother or sister – whether they’re psychological bullies or gossips.

Remember that different types of toxic family members respond to different techniques in different ways. For instance, some difficult people won’t be affected by love and kindness – but they do respond to direct confrontation. To learn how to cope with toxic family relationships, use a combination of gut instinct and trial-and-error.

What do you think about these tips on coping with toxic family relationships? I welcome your comments. I can’t give advice, but writing can bring clarity and insight.

If your toxic relative is controlling, read How to Deal With a Control Freak at Home or Work.

We share ideas to encourage women over 40 to make positive changes and Blossom in a new season of life!

2 comments On How to Cope With Toxic Family Relationships

  • Avatar

    I have a very controlling mother (read psychological bully) and the technique you mentioned, does not work with piece of work mother. I think there has to be a base of respect, to some degree. If not, it will not matter what you do – they won’t take any notice of you or respect your wishes. They will tell people that there is “something wrong” with you instead, when you stand up for yourself. Long story short, if they are anything like my mother (and don’t respect you but respect authority figures) – you will have to get the police involved.

  • Avatar

    My relationship with my mother could be terrible in this regard – she would ostracise me if I stood up to her or did something she didn’t agree with, then if I could build the courage to ask what the problem was, she’d turn it all on me and say she had no problem, and that it was ‘clearly’ me with the problem.
    That all changed, though, when I had kids. She suddenly realised that I was in a much more powerful position, as I controlled whether she saw my kids or not. I never used that power against her and restricted her seeing them, but if we did have a disagreement, it never lasted longer than a day.
    Now, how to sort out the terribly critical and uninterested mother-in-law……..!

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.