Why You Should Be Unapologetic About Setting Boundaries With Toxic Family Members



I just decided to shoot a crack at the relatively new ABC show A Million Little Things. While I am the fence of daily tuning, I believe it was completely supposed to be that I was watching this particular episode. There was a woman who had just shared with her husband that her uncle had molested her when she was a preteen (then basically tried to buy her silence by financing her restaurant as an adult).



She found that he had literally died a few hours earlier when she went to the hospital to finally confront him about it. While, there was always a somewhat strained relationship between her and her aunt. Come and find out, part of it was because the same uncle, her mother's brother, had molested her mom and never said anything about it either.
Confessing — bringing things out into the open— makes recovery come along. Shoot, although you're not a believer in the Bible, there's NOTHING healthy, logical, or beneficial to a family member's enduring silent abuse. All it does is offer the victimizer the leverage over and over again to continue hurting you (and possibly others). (It also increases your chances of hurting others because "hurt people hurt people" sometimes).
I tell this with total and utter certainty because on all sides of my bloodline I have quite a few toxic family members. If you're not sure how to tell what that feels like, the "6 Symptoms You're working with a Toxic Man" clip will provide all kinds of moments of light bulb. The cliff notes are— people who are constantly playing the victim, being emotionally abusive, being pathological liars, being control freaks, not respecting boundaries, and being negative? We are known to be dangerous people whether we display some, most or all of these traits. Will you know such a relative?
Poisonous is poisonous and destroys toxins. That's why I don't believe anyone should feel bad about establishing simple, firm boundaries with toxic family members. Here's a more detailed explanation for why I'm doing this.
Although I hate saying it, some of the people who have caused the most damage in my life are relatives of the blood. Abuse of gender. Physical abuse. Misuse of the word. I had a whole part of my family who didn't want me to learn that they were linked to me while collaborating with another part of my family who co-signed to hold it on the hush. What about the world?! And what about my molester? When I finally said something about it, all I remember is a meeting to decide what's best for him, not me, when it came to dealing with it
I say that because it should be in the presence of our relatives if there is any place on the planet where we should feel safe. If that doesn't happen to you, it's worse than violating you by a friend or a complete stranger. The biggest oxymoron should be an abusive family member. Therefore, if your family isn't a safe place, don't feel the least guilty about doing what you need to do to create yourself a safe space. It's not "evil." It's very prudent to maintain yourself.
Have you ever seen a CRA-ZY person, but people automatically give them a pass because they are church-going citizens (maybe even in church leadership? The adults the behave as total maniacs, but as soon as a baby represents their actions, the adults refuse to accept any obligation or accountability? First, we decide to bring up the Bible. You know, something like "I don't care how badly I treat you or treat you in the past, the Bible says' Honor your parents '" like that's some kind of automatic trump card?
People are people. People are flawed. This means that in our family line, we all have things that are, to say the least, unhealthy. But if a parent takes their position seriously in the lives of their children, they want them to do better than they have done, not worse.
When I dated this one person, I remember, and my spiritual mentor asked me to tell him more about the guy. I said, "He's smart. He's sweet. His family is really unstable, but..." my mentor immediately said, "Oh, he's the crew's least crazy." I'll use a metaphor to explain his point differently. If you're with the flu regularly with men, avoiding getting it will be really difficult.
On both sides of my family, there are some things— controlling / manipulative women, sexual abuse, drug addiction, multiple divorces, ego off - the-charts, depression, always playing the victim— that I've seen basically passing from generation to generation. I don't want it to be passed on to someone else by me, and I took steps to make sure it didn't.
First of all, I've learned that when you're around a lot of mental / emotional / spiritual illness, it can begin to look healthy — or at least not as bad as it is. Sometimes you have to set boundaries so you can tell the difference between what's good for you and what's not. For your sake and the sake of those who are going to follow you.
I have a family member who used to come to the place where I've been paying my own rent and rearranging furniture, inviting people to my place without first asking me, trying to tell me literally when I needed to get home, questioning me about my relationships— it was crazy. I used to let other people (people who, in hindsight, I think were probably as unhealthy as the elder) tell me that I should let it all slide just because the individual was older than me.
As someone who is constantly healing from childhood PTSD, something I realized is when you grew up without modeling and giving you a lot of healthy boundaries, you have to start from scratch and learn them later in life. You begin to realize, as you do, that it's almost only abusers (neglect is, by the way, a form of abuse) who think "boundary" is a dirty word. Healthy relatives celebrate other family members with boundaries because that's what really helps us to thrive.


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