I Cut Ties With A Toxic Family Member And I’m Better Off Without Them

image - Flickr / Carmen Jost
image – Flickr / Carmen Jost

Organically growing apart from someone and needing to completely cut ties with a toxic person in your life are two very different calls to action. This person may be putting you in harm’s way – stealing from you, leading you down a wrong path, spreading lies about you or a slew of other vindictive things because, clinically explainable or not, they want to hurt you – maybe not physically, but almost always mentally. People cut ties with one another all the time to save themselves. Relationships end, friendships dissolve. No one really blinks an eye as long as all the evidence points to the fact that this person started poisoning your well-being and mental state.   Did you make an honest effort to maintain order in the relationship? Did you explore all avenues of mending said relationship? Have you given this toxic person numerous opportunities to “do the right thing?” If so, people will commend you on making the difficult, yet necessary decision, to cut loose from this person.

Not everything is black and white when it comes to severing a long-standing relationship with someone. Especially if the person you desperately need to break away from – completely cease communication with – is a member of your own family. Your own blood.

I cut ties with a toxic family member, and I am better for it. To me, the term “broken family” is an oxymoron. You are either a family, or you are not a family. And before anyone says anything, I am not saying you have to be happily married with kids in order to fit the definition of “family”– you can be divorced, single, you don’t have to be related at all, and still be part of a family – as long as you consistently make the effort to be kind and supportive. Family is more a way of life, than sharing a family tree.

Making the decision to separate from a family member, be it a parent, aunt, uncle, cousin, husband, wife, sibling, or child is painstakingly difficult. It will hurt your mind and heart. It will exhaust you. I did not make my decision to never speak to this family member ever again over night. It took years of watching this person abuse our loving family’s generosity. It took years of watching this person never visit or call any sick relatives, yet show up the day of the memorial services delivering a crying jag worthy of an Oscar nomination. It took years of huge blowouts at the dinner table during the holidays. It took years of watching this person lie, cheat, and steal. It took years to see this person’s true colors.

I had to tell myself that this person, though we shared a bloodline, would not help me up if I were drowning in a puddle. I had to tell myself that if this were any other person in the world, I would have walked away years ago, might have even sought legal action. I had to tell myself that I exhausted every effort to save this relationship – to no avail. I had to tell myself that I was not turning my back on them, that they had turned their back on me. And then I had to wash my hands of this person, and go on with my life, as if they were never a part of it to begin with.

Every situation is different; mine was a united decision, after many discussions, between members of my family to cut ties with this one person. So, luckily, I was not alone in this difficult decision. It was not a witch hunt. We did not attack this person. We just took a deep breath, and separated ourselves. We are not weak. We have moved on as a family, actually becoming stronger and more appreciative of one another because of all of this. Holidays are no longer tense. There is no more “he said/she said” rumors being spread in hopes to create distance between family members. We have celebrated weddings and birthdays with true joy in our hearts without an egocentric person around to try to sabotage the day or make it about them.

I hope that if you are in a similar situation, that things end better – that your relationship is mended. Unfortunately, I had to choose to let this person go. Yet, I have come to realize that sharing genes does not a family make. And what really makes up a family are the people who stick by you, through thick and thin, who want nothing but the best for you, and who would help you up if you were drowning in that puddle. Everyone needs a support system, and if someone wants nothing more than to disrupt your support system in hopes that it malfunctions – family or not – you need to address the problem, no matter how challenging.   In my case, and there will be some who disagree, creating a “broken family” actually brought our real family closer together.

As you grow and experience adult life, you learn the hard truth about things…about people. People can be inherently self-seeking. Not all people are virtuous, even if you are related to them. Not all people want what’s best for you. The saying “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose family,” is fundamentally true, but you CAN choose if you allow certain family to be privy to the daily happenings in your world. I say with no regrets, that our world is a better place now. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Alicia Cook

Alicia Cook is a writer and award-winning activist living in Newark, New Jersey.

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