*Warning – this post may be offensive to those that have yet to be inundated*
*Final warning – if you get offended easily then please turn away now!*
Still there? Good. For a lot of us, it’s normal to ignore the warning signs. You get wrapped up emotionally in something and then BAM! Something happens that causes you to wonder why you were ever involved in the first place. It’s cool though, you’ll give them a second chance. You trust them, and trust that they’ll do the right thing. After all they’re family, right? We all know that family won’t ever do us harm, right? Right, guys? Guys?
Every relationship, regardless of its nature, should be approached with an objective lens, and this is doubly true for family relationships. We tend to give family members the benefit of the doubt, and although most times this is not harmful, it can lead to unintended consequences and an unstable family dynamic. Familial piety can cloud your judgment and disrupt your life if you allow it free reign over your decision making. Just because someone is family, it does not mean that they have your best interests in mind.
That’s not to say that you can’t trust your family. Instinctively, we gravitate towards family members, and this is especially true in times of crisis. After all, our families are who we’re comfortable with and who we normally depend on. As a dedicated family man myself, I cannot possibly overstate the importance of these bonds. The focus of this argument is the outliers, i.e. the relatives that don’t reciprocate the good will and, even more so, those that actively work against or even harm you. Diplomacy is virtuous and helps to quell unintentional harm, but there may come a time when you need to cut contact with the more nefarious members of your kin.
When is Enough, Enough?
Everyone has a different tolerance level for BS. It may vary from person to person, or in different situations, but there is maximum to what one person can bear. When you finally come to the determination that a family member is toxic, and does not serve you or your family’s goals and values, then it may be time to cut them off. The quicker this gets done, the less hassle it will be and faster you will realize that you made the right move. Initially, there will be doubt and self-disgust, as you will question your decision and replay the moment in the back of your mind. Severing any long-term relationship will take its toll on your psyche. Initially, you will probably feel bad about the situation, but when you start to realize that the benefits outweigh the costs, you’ll know that you made the right move.
Weigh the pros and cons of severing ties and determine if its beneficial for you to do. Several years ago, I was faced with this very dilemma. I had a family member who had actively worked against me for decades. This person would downplay anything positive in my life, mocked my lineage, and attempted to damage all my relationships within the family. When addressing my children, they would be openly hostile in any disciplinary issues, yet they would never discipline their child, even after their child assaulted one of mine. When I objectively considered the issues concerning the drama in my family, I could deduce this person was the root cause of each incident. There’s a lot more to this, but I’m opting for brevity and poise in this post.
I had a decision to make: continue wallowing in my own self-pity and allow this person to affect my life and the lives of my children, or remove the infection and go on with my life. After careful consultation with my wife, we came to a mutual decision that breaking ties was in our family’s best interests, especially when considering the safety and stability of our children’s lives.
I caught a lot of flak from extended family members, who couldn’t believe that I would sever ties with someone who I’ve known so long. They couldn’t understand how I could be so callous, and how I wouldn’t try to work things out. What they didn’t understand, however, was that after decades of one-sided attempts trying to make things work, I was emotionally drained and there was nothing meaningful left to salvage. Eventually they started to come around and see what I saw, but it was a draining and painstaking process to experience.
What does it all mean?
You might be wondering about the outcome of my decision. Life, for myself and my family, has been nothing but harmonious, as we have been freer to focus on our children and their development instead of dealing with nonsense. We are free from family drama and negativity, and we haven’t had contact with that person for over four years. We use this incident as a teaching point for our children to better help them understand how a family is supposed to function and to teach them about relationships in general.
Please don’t take this post as advocating for the dissolution of family bonds. What I had to do was an option of last resort that I do not recommend unless absolutely necessary. Reconciliation is possible under most circumstances, but sometimes a person is so negative to your life that they become toxic and dangerous to your family dynamic. The choice may be viewed as being cruel or callous to outsiders, but these casual observers are not the ones living your life.
Ultimately, you are responsible for your decisions and maintenance of your familial relationships. Family obligations are a poor excuse for tolerating another’s toxic personality and misdeeds. If you truly want a stable environment and to secure the future for your children, then you need to make the best possible choices that allow them to thrive in the most positive and successful surroundings that you can provide. Don’t be afraid of acting on tough decisions, especially if they affect your family.
Like the old adage goes: “If you want to make an omelette, you have to break some eggs.”