If you’ve found yourself struggling to get along with a family member, you’re not alone.

Figures indicate that nearly 1 in 5 adult Australians has cut ties with a family member – usually a parent, a brother or a sister.

Handling Toxic RelationshipsUsually however, people tend to just put up with a toxic family member, even when it is having a detrimental effect on their wellbeing. This is usually due to the expectations of others in the family, and society in general, that you “should” maintain the relationship – because it’s family, after all!

There are times however when choosing to end the relationship with a difficult family member, while never easy, may in fact be the best decision for all concerned.

Choosing to Cease Contact

If you’ve noticed any of the two following signs of a toxic relationship, breaking off contact is vital for your own protection.

  1. Has the person been violent towards you, or threatened you in such a way that you’ve feared injury or even death?
  2. Is your relationship with this person mutually supportive and caring? If not, and if you believe that this is not likely to change – perhaps due to other problems such as mental illness, or substance abuse – then your own health and wellbeing is at risk.

Sometimes however, your decision is not as clear cut.

Continuing the Relationship

Should you decide to continue the relationship, you will need to take steps to keep things manageable. Be prepared to try out different ways of communicating; setting boundaries; and ways of reducing contact.

If a family member is continually causing you grief and distress, it’s important that you seek out support. A psychologist can help you sort through what is really going on in the relationship – and help you decide how you would like to handle it in the future.

Vivian Jarrett

Find a psychologist near you.

This article was written by Vivian Jarrett, a registered psychologist and the Director, Founder and Owner of two psychology practices on Brisbane’s southside: Vision Psychology at Mt Gravatt and M1 Psychology at Loganholme.

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