Toxic Family Relationships: Meaning & Signs
As humans, we are created to be in relationships. However, not all relationships that we find ourselves in are of our making. In other words, some of our relationships are preset without any consideration to our preferences or choices.
Family ties can be very strong, and while it can be easy to have an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, the same is not possible with a family member. There is no such thing as ex-brother or ex-sister. No matter how toxic, bad, or stubborn a brother or sister is, they remain your brother and sister. The relationship is indissoluble and is for life.
Ideally, in a healthy family setting, siblings are supposed to look after the welfare of one another. Among other things, that includes ensuring that the emotional wellbeing of each member of the family is not compromised. However, that is not the case in all situations. Some siblings can be very toxic to their fellow siblings, and when that happens, the recipient of the hostility can be greatly hurt.
To set the record straight, we shall highlight some points below that show if your brother or sister is indeed toxic. This is necessary to determine, so you don't take a small argument between you and your sibling as them being toxic. Check the following signs that show your sibling is indeed toxic below.
1. Unhealthy Rivalry
One thing that sets family relationships apart is the absence of rivalry. A brother's success is welcomed with joy and gladness by his other brother or sister without resentment or undue rivalry. In fact, in a healthy family relationship, siblings do everything to lift one another up.
So, if you have a brother or sister who seems to be in a needless competition with you, you have good reason to believe they are toxic.
It is good to note that some degree of competition may exist among family members, but it is usually a healthy one. Family members that are non-toxic do not see the success of one another as a thing to be sad or bitter about.
2. Brother or Sister Abuses You
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If your sibling continually abuses you, whether verbally, physically, emotionally, or otherwise, they are toxic. Abuse is a symptom of a more significant character defect and to rationalize it is to excuse it.
If a brother or sister takes pleasure in talking you down or constantly inflicting pain and injury on you, they are definitely nothing but toxic.
Is your sibling always trying to make you act out their own script? You would not be wrong to conclude they may be toxic. Manipulation is a tool toxic people often employ to control victims and make their targets do their selfish biddings.
Some of the manipulative techniques you may want to watch out for in a toxic sibling include intimidation, gaslighting (making you doubt your ability or memory), projection (pointing fingers at you), playing the blame game, or unnecessarily flattering you. Any of these signs are enough to suspect your sibling is toxic.
4. No Empathy
It is bad when a sibling seems to not care about what becomes of you. Among other things, it shows that he or she has no filial connection with you and that could potentially lead to danger. A brother or sister that prefers to make jokes about your challenges or failures rather than empathizing is worth being suspicious about.
That aside, how often do they apologize when they discover they have hurt you? If a brother or sister does not bother to say sorry when they have wronged you, it's a sign that something isn't right. You need to consider how much of your time and trust you want to share with them.
5. Being Around Them Numbs You
Our body reacts a certain way when it comes across an offensive thing, character, or situation. A toxic sibling would more than often make you feel weak, tired, or exhausted while you are around them. That's because you can't relate to them freely; they are always very critical, or they are violent.
Being around such a family member would amount to having to endure an ordeal. And, of course, this is wrong. Your sibling should be your playmate, close friend, and confidant regardless of your differences.
6. They Soil Your Relationships With Others
This is one distinctive sign of a toxic person. As soon as they discover that they cannot control you, their next line of action would be to present you in a bad light to other family members. They would be quick to link anything that is not going on well around the house to you.
For reasons you cannot explain, you may discover that your toxic siblings are always at loggerheads with you. Their intention is to portray you in a bad light before your parents and other family members. The best thing to do is not to enter into arguments with them when you realize they are just stirring up trouble.
7. They Cannot Be Trusted
Siblings know more about one another than any other outsiders do about them. And so, if you find out that all your private matters are in the public eye because a brother or sister can't keep quiet, they are indeed toxic, and you need to be tactful in dealing with them. Being siblings with a person does not give them the authority to disclose your private life to anybody.
Here's How To Deal With Toxic Siblings
Now that you know your sibling is indeed toxic, the next thing, of course, is to devise a means of dealing with them. You can hardly walk away from them, in the same way you cannot suddenly sever your relationships too.
The advice below should help you manage your relationship with your toxic sibling, so you are not adversely affected.
1. Set A Boundary
Relationships without boundaries are toxic in themselves; they create an avenue for all kinds of abuse. Let your brother or sister know what their boundaries are and don't compromise it. When your sibling knows what you consider as a trespass, they would think twice before engaging in such.
Perhaps we should illustrate it this way: parents and their children are, of course, in an indissoluble relationship. Yet, there are some parental lines that children must not dare to cross if they want all to be well between them and their parents. These lines are the ones we call relationship boundaries.
If you don't have such a line, set one now. Set for yourself a standard for all of your daily activities and stick to each one of them. Be so religious about your commitment to those standards that your siblings can almost define you by them. This is one way to limit undue intrusion.
2. Toxic Relationships Are Toxic; Admit That
The family ties between you and your siblings can blind you to their toxic behavior or lead you even to excuse them. A toxic relationship, whether from a casual friend or from a sibling, is what it is. To excuse it is to make yourself a victim.
While it is good that you tread with care before labeling your siblings toxic, you should also not hesitate to put them in their rightful place especially when you have matched their behaviors with the signs we discussed earlier.
3. Don't Bottle Up
If a person keeps stepping on your toes and you stay mute, you are only empowering him or her to do more. If you don't take action, the individual may graduate to walking all over you.
In some cases, a person's attitude may be toxic and the individual is simply not aware. And other times, they may be intentionally hostile to make life terrible for you. Whichever way it is, keeping quiet is never the right decision to take with a toxic sibling. Speak with them as a brother or sister and let them see how their actions hurt you.
4. Report To Your Parents
This is an addendum to point 3 above. In the event that your siblings refuse to change, you should not hesitate to make your plight known to your parents. The reason for this is simple; being a higher authority, they can mediate effectively between you and your sibling and then give some clear-cut orders on how you should both proceed.
Getting your parents involved is also necessary because of the manipulative tendency of your toxic sibling. If you aren't quick in making the first move, they may have misrepresented you before your parents in a way which may make your parents dismiss your complaints.
5. Overcome Toxicity By Dealing With Yourself
One bad way to deal with a toxic brother or sister is to want to pay them back; however, that approach won't work. Since they are toxic and an expert in making life difficult for others, you are less likely to outsmart them at this. The best thing to do is keep surprising them by responding in a manner they least expect from you.
It is not going to be easy, and you'll need a lot of patience to successfully deal with a toxic sibling. Sometimes, they would be so annoying that you would feel like doing something nasty to them. The best thing to do during those moments is to walk away. You need to train yourself to not be moved by what someone else does or says, or at least not at the slightest provocation.
Don't let your toxic brother or sister get the feeling that they are achieving success or gaining control over you by moving around the house dejected and bitter. Look good and go about your daily chores without appearing affected by their toxic behavior. Of course, this would take you working on yourself too.
6. Minimize Contact With A Toxic Brother Or Sister
This step depends on your sibling's level of toxicity to you. If a sibling has demonstrated no willingness to make life comfortable for you, it would be best to keep a safe distance from them. They are your sibling, and you cannot completely avoid them, but you can limit your closeness with them, if only for a while.
For instance, it won't be ideal to keep talking to a sibling who always spills your secrets to everyone you know. It won't be out of place if you excuse yourself whenever you want to do anything that you deem private and confidential. Similarly, for an unrepentant critical sibling, you may have to minimize your discussions with them too.
7. Go For Counseling
A counselor may be a better fit to advise you on specific things to do with your toxic sibling. He or she can ask some personal but relevant questions which would inform the advice he or she would give you.
A mediator like this is necessary when other efforts you have taken don't seem to work. The advice and guided reconciliation from an expert can be a lasting solution to the friction between you and your sibling.
8. Take A Leave For A While
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Of course, this would depend on your age and the availability of where to go. But suppose you have an aunt, uncle, or friend you can stay with for a week or more - that would be a perfect step to take when the tension is becoming too much for you in the house.
Your sibling's toxic acts can only be effective when you are around them. Once away, they would have to look for another person to torture.
9. Build Relationships With Others
In dealing with a toxic brother or sister, it would be smart to build good relationships with other members of your family and even people outside of your immediate family.
When everyone knows you to be a peaceful, loving, and friendly person, it would be hard for your toxic sibling to blackmail you before them. Again, your good behaviors can speak volumes about you and also reveal your sibling's attitude for what it is - toxic.
10. Show Love To A Toxic Brother Or Sister
Being your sibling, your ultimate goal should be to restore love and peace and not to build a wall of separation between the two of you. Demonstrate that you love, care, and respect them despite their toxic behavior against you.
It's not impossible that your non-vindictive attitude will win them over to your side. A lot can be achieved through love that cannot be achieved through other means.
11.Pray For Your Toxic Brother Or Sister
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Why not try to commit your toxic siblings into the hands of God through prayer? Of course, prayer still works. Ask God to take charge of the situation and help you know how best to relate to your toxic sibling. The result can be very amazing.
Sometimes, the change you desire in your sibling may have to begin with you and your prayers. You shouldn't pray with the aim of instructing God on what to do. Rather, allow Him to guard and guide you on the right step to take.
12. Refuse Intimidation
The more you succumb to intimidation, the more toxic your sibling is likely to become. When a toxic brother or sister threatens you, rather than becoming fidgety, stand up to them and let them know you aren't afraid of their threats.
However, as you dismiss their threats, you should make provisions for self-defense just in case they stay true to their threats.
13. Be Calm
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Truth be told, it can be very challenging to be gentle under provocation. But then, there is nowhere in the world where two wrongs have made a right. If at any time you feel like resorting to violence, one way to do so is to remain calm. This virtue is like a huge bullet to toxic individuals. An eye for an eye is not the way to go.
14. Reconsider Your Position
In your discussion with your toxic sibling, you could get a clue as to why they relate to you the way they do. Where conceding to their demands would not remove anything from you or significantly affect you, reaching some level of compromise with them may help. In other words, you can consider a partial surrender.
15. Break Off From The Relationship
This should be a last resort, after all efforts made to make peace between you and your sibling have failed. You cannot decide for anyone and sometimes, despite all our good intentions and efforts, some people may not respond favorably to us.
In such situations, breaking off from a toxic sibling would not be a wrong decision. Having said that, you should be ready to forgive them should they become remorseful in the future and seek reconciliation.
Your sibling is your sibling, and the relationship cannot be undone, either by a decree or an oath. However, when you discover their actions to you are toxic, it's good to know why they are who they are.
The advice given in this piece is not meant to sever a family relationship but to help you learn some possible steps you can take if things become messy between you and a sibling. We hope you found it helpful.