Family members, unlike friends, are not people you can choose rather they are a group you are born into. You don’t really get a choice in who your parents, siblings or relatives are and sometimes you can get into some serious arguments or altercations with them. But what is the limit and when do you know it’s time to cut off toxic family members? Here are several tips and cues from psychologists, scientists, and studies that indicate it’s time to cut off certain ties.
Sherrie Campbell, a licensed California psychologist and author of the book Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person, said one of the first signs to cutting off a family member is if it becomes abusive. She said: ‘when the relationship is based on any kind of abuse, mentally, physically, sexually, verbally or emotionally. When the relationship is based on manipulation, overt or covert, you can be sure you are being used and abused. When you are living in constant anxiety never knowing or being able to predict how any engagement is going to turn out, it is time to love yourself enough to let go.’
Jamye Waxman, who has a Masters in Education and is the author of How to Break Up With Anyone: Letting Go of Friends, Family, and Everyone In-Between, said that keeping an ongoing relationship with a toxic family member can be detrimental to one’s health. ‘Stressful relationships, including those with relatives, can increase the risk of high blood pressure, weaken your immune system, cause headaches and stomachaches, lead to sleep problems, lower your self-esteem, and cause depression and anxiety. So ditching that toxic family member can be good for your health.’
Sherrie Campbell also said that a toxic relationship that impacts other essential areas of your life is a clear sign that it is time to cut them off. She said that when the stress from the relationship impacts other areas of your life such as at work and at home then it’s time to cut things off.
Mark Goulston, MD, a clinical psychiatrist as well as the author of Talking to Crazy: How to Deal with the Irrational and Impossible People in Your Life said that if the person constantly creates a negative feeling just upon mention then it is time to get rid of them. ‘The person makes you sick. If just the mention of the relative’s name, or a text message, e-mail, or voicemail from the person puts a huge knot in your stomach, that’s a clue the relationship has become unhealthy.’
Steven J. Hanley, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, said that if a relationship is negatively impacting your immediate family such as your kids and spouse then it is time to reconsider if that relationship is really worth it. ‘If maintaining the relationship is harmful to your spouse or children—for instance, your mom clearly favors one of your children while neglecting the others—you may need to take a step back for your family’s sake.’
Sherrie also added that if the relationship is one-sided then it might be time to leave. If the relationship is constantly about one person whether they be feelings, decisions or money then it might be time to leave. For instance, if a family member is always borrowing money or is constantly needing money then it might be time to cut them off. A Huffington Post article said: ‘when the relationship is completely all about the other person and there is no real reason why the other person cannot make any effort towards the health and maintenance of the relationship with you.’