Lifestyle and ActivitiesWhen Family Relationships Are Toxic?


When Family Relationships Are Toxic?

Toxic is defined as poisonous, something which creates an unpleasant environment. And toxicity in relationships is the worst. Especially when dealing with family dynamics. Believe me, I have experienced toxicity from close and distant families over the years. There is nothing more I wanted to do but escape certain situations and just hide from everything and everyone.

When family relationships are toxic, you feel suffocated. You feel like you are not yourself and are pressured to act in certain ways to avoid the toxic person in your family. Sometimes, the situation turns into multiple people all being toxic. Family is supposed to be your support system, that helps you deal with your problems and encourage you to chase your goals. Throw one toxic person into the mix and what you know as family loses all meaning for you.

Are you in a toxic family relationship? Do you want help dealing with the family dynamics in a toxic family relationship? Or even, do you want to identify the signs of a toxic family relationship? Then you have come to the right place! Let’s try to understand when family relationships are toxic, and also try to go through it together. You are not alone and I shall lend you a helping hand in figuring out how to deal with it.

Family Dynamics and Toxicity

Family dynamics refer to the way a family interacts. Family dynamics determine how the relationship of a family is set out. Because of how important family dynamics are for children growing up in the family, it sets a standard for their behavior. Through these interactions, a child learns basic social skills such as respecting and communicating with others.

But sometimes, that interaction becomes toxic. There are a lot of reasons why this happens which we will discuss later, but sometimes the family dynamics promote toxic behavior. As children are easily influenced, they partake in this toxic behavior, and becomes how they behave throughout their lives. When they grow and have families of their own, this toxic trait remains and reflects on the family dynamics in their new environment. Therefore, family dynamics are a big reason why family relationships can become toxic.

Signs of Toxic Family Relationships

Signs of toxic family relationships

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t know that you were in a toxic relationship and figured out you were living with them? That’s how I was. Before, I didn’t have any idea what toxicity in a family relationship even looked like! I had been miserable for a long time and I knew it was because of my family. But because my family was my only outlook on the way the world works, I was clueless.

How can you see the signs of toxicity in a family relationship? Toxicity is a trait that makes you feel unpleasant and unwanted. You can be sure that you are in a toxic relationship when you experience:

  • Feeling unsupported
  • Feeling unloved
  • Exhausted
  • Lack of trust in your family
  • Constantly being manipulated and controlled through:
    • Gaslighting
    • Stonewalling
    • Silent treatment
    • Blackmailing
  • Violence and abuse
  • Lack of respect
  • Always fighting
  • Non-stop criticism

There are a lot more ways to identify a toxic family relationship! These are some key indicators of a toxic family. Now that we have seen how to identify signs of a toxic family, let’s move on to how to deal with it.

What to Do When Family Relationships Are Toxic?

What to do when family relationships are toxic

Now that we have identified some signs of toxic family relationships, it is time to deal with them. It is one of the hardest decisions you can undertake because dealing with family dynamics is complicated enough. So let’s look at some ways to deal with your toxic family.

Limiting interactions

It’s all about steeling yourself when you are interacting with your toxic family members. Setting up boundaries is all about respect during the interaction. That is why it is important to set up and limit your interactions. Make these be on your terms, not theirs. Limiting interaction is all about taking control away from the toxic person. They want nothing more than to control you. It may be hard at first because of the way you have been conditioned to behave and react to them. But it’s time to stand up to them and take back control by limiting your interaction with them.

Recognizing patterns

Toxic people have certain behavioral patterns that you need to know and recognize. When are they most likely to attack, what sets off their toxic behavior, etc. are some things you need to look out for. Once you recognize them, you can start avoiding toxic situations, and you take power away from the toxic person.

Talking with the toxic person

It might not be easy to discuss things with a toxic person, especially if they are abusive or avoid responsibility. But, opening up about your feelings with your family member is a good way to resolve toxicity in a family relationship. When family relationships are toxic, oftentimes it’s because families don’t talk about how they feel. Communication is key to resolving family issues.

Not giving them attention

The worst thing you can do for a toxic family member is to give them attention. When they are on their usual toxic behavior, that is when they want to feel empowered. By not giving them attention, you limit their toxicity. And over time, what you also do is condition them to stop bothering you as well. By not giving them attention, you also make them feel less important.

Reaching out

The fact that you have searched about toxic family relationships already means that you have taken a step in the right direction. You are not alone, and you should not have to deal with toxic family issues alone either. Reach out to your close friends and other family members and come up with ways to deal with it together as a family.

Seeking professional help

Sometimes, the task of dealing with family relationships that are toxic needs professional help. There may be underlying and unresolved issues between partners, siblings, and relatives that need the guidance of a certified therapist who is capable of dealing with such situations. That is why I will advise seeking professional help. The stigma around seeing a therapist should not stop you from seeking help when necessary.

Cutting ties

When a toxic family member is still trying to be a bother and you have exhausted all the options, maybe it is time to cut them out of your life. This is probably the most difficult thing to do, especially if you are a minor or financially dependent on a toxic family member. But taking the right steps to become independent is the key to dealing with when family relationships are toxic. Once you are independent, cutting ties becomes easier.

But remember, this is one of the final steps you would want to take. At the end of the day, you are a family even though they may be toxic. Working out your issues together is what makes you a family and it is important to be there for family no matter what.

Reasons for Toxic Family Relationships

Reasons for Toxic Family Relationships

Why do family relationships become toxic? There are a lot of reasons why this might be the case. This is mostly due to how someone is raised as they grow up. Other times it’s due to a traumatic situation that leads a family member to become toxic. Let’s look at some.

Power imbalance

This is the case when one feels superior to another. This gives a toxic person the power to act however they want because they know they will not face any consequences. A lot of cases of abuse come from power imbalance between family members.


A toxic person is not someone who is only those who are abusive. Neglect is a big factor in why someone can become toxic in such a way that someone becomes clingy and needy. Due to fear of abandonment, a person holds on to another family member. This can even lead to the toxic person making threats of self-harm just to be able to get what they want in extreme cases.


Often, someone’s traumatic experience enables a toxic person to take advantage of them. Trauma can make someone feel low self-esteem and vulnerable. This allows toxic behavior to thrive. Family members experiencing trauma together might lead to a toxic environment of victim blaming. This is because a toxic person can justify their trauma by projecting their feelings on others.

Emotional immaturity

A family member who doesn’t know how to show their emotions healthily often becomes toxic. This is especially the case when this emotional immaturity remains unchecked and normalized. These types of toxic people become unable to change their mindset as they grow up and become even more toxic as a result.


  1. How to know if I am a toxic person in a family relationship?
    If are someone who might take advantage of others, avoid taking responsibility, belittle others, etc. then you might be the toxic person in a family relationship. The best way to know is to ask other members of the family about your behaviors.
  2. Will a professional therapist help in dealing with toxicity in a family relationship?
    Yes, a professional will be able to help a lot! They know much more and can give a deeper insight into how to best deal with toxicity in family relationships.
  3. Can a toxic person change?
    It depends. If the person is willing to change then they can of course change. But changing to be a better person takes time and effort.

Final Thoughts

Overall, there are a lot of ways to identify a toxic family relationship and ways to deal with toxic family members. However, keep in mind that you are family and there’s always room for improvement in family relationships. You could ignore or cut ties but that’s not what families are about. Families stick together, for better or worse. That is why it is important that if you are in a toxic family, you take the necessary steps to figure it out as a family. Seeking personal or professional help is always welcome. You are not alone, and there will always be people available to help you. You just have to reach out first to let them know you need help.

Next Attraction: How to Balance Work and Family?

Maria W. Corley is a family psychology expert dedicated to helping families thrive. With a passion for improving relationships, Maria shares practical advice on Merge Family. Her goal is to make your family feel closer than ever by addressing communication issues and fostering understanding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *