Dealing with a toxic person close to you is traumatic, draining, and upsetting. My older sister is a toxic person, and I endured her behavior for over 40 years. I recommend making a clean break from a toxic person around the holidays and birthdays when their behavior is at its worst. You may blame yourself for tolerating the behavior for so long. For the longest time, I blamed myself for making so many excuses for her, two of my favorites being: “But she’s family” and “Our dad put her through so much.” Such excuses keep you feeling guilty as you cling on to an unhealthy relationship that’s bad for your self-esteem until the toxic person goes too far, and you become fed up. Only then, will you be able to finally break it off. Until then, here are some ways to mitigate a toxic person’s bad behavior and start putting the ball back in your court.
Stop bending over backwards to try to please them: Toxic people are overly critical and judgmental of others. Therefore, you may want to hold off on getting that eyebrow wax; you’ll be criticized for something else. I promise they’ll find something to criticize, whether it’s the cat hair on your coat or your dry hair.
Don’t rely on them unless it’s absolutely necessary and all other options have been exhausted: Toxic people are bullies who love to kick others when they’re down. It was my shift off from being our mom’s primary caregiver and my sister was on. What a big mistake that was. Not even an hour had gone by. Yet she had managed to make it very clear to our terminally ill mom just how much she was inconveniencing her by taking time away from her that she could’ve been spending with her friends. It got pretty ugly. From then on, our mom and I did our best to avoid any kind of a situation like that with my sister ever again.
Don’t engage in emotional blackmail with them: I lost my apartment because I could no longer afford it, so I moved in with my sister. With a four-year gap in my resume due to being my mom’s primary caregiver, finding a job was challenging. My sister threatened me with homelessness if I didn’t bring in money somehow. On top of her unmanageably high bills, she had a nasty spending habit. Although I didn’t want to be homeless, I didn’t want to resort to the sketchy things I ended up doing to make money. I now have PTSD over those choices. I swear my skin crawled and my blood turned cold simultaneously the day she thanked and congratulated me for doing what I needed to do to bring in the money. Looking back, I should’ve just gone to a shelter. Even homelessness would’ve been better than what I endured living with her.
Stop helping them financially: Although I was finally bringing in enough money to get my sister to stop threatening me with homelessness when I was living with her, it still wasn’t enough because nothing is ever enough for a toxic person. Feeling like a boxer being pummeled into a corner, my survival instinct finally kicked in. I told her she was an awful person who was incapable of getting along with anyone close to her to the point where they were so elated to finally get away from her and the abuse that they left skid marks. She really didn’t like that, and it rendered her nearly speechless. To this day, not only do I find it hilarious, but I’m also glad that it happened and am not the least bit sorry about it.
Stop letting them ruin the things you love just because they hate them: If you love something they hate, they will take it personally and make it miserable for you because nothing’s more important than their hatred for it. It overshadows everything positive you feel about it. By not partaking in what they’re complaining about, you take away their ammunition, and they’ll have less to complain about until they have nothing left. It’ll start to get very lonely for the toxic person. You may also want to discard all those family photos of them frowning and/or sarcastically smiling because they weren’t having a good time for whatever reason and tried to ruin it or succeeded in ruining it for everyone else.
Stop celebrating their birthday with them in person: Toxic people love pitting people who already don’t get along against one another. Although my sister is fully aware that my niece and I really don’t get along, she still sent pictures of her and our niece celebrating her birthday and of our niece’s birthday gift to her the day after I celebrated my sister’s birthday with her for about 10 hours and spent about $130 on her. Now I mail my sister her birthday gift and card, and my niece is left with no one to compete with. This process saves me quite a bit of heartache, as well as time and money that I don’t have and are, therefore, put to better use.
Hopefully, my article has resonated with you enough to the point where you’d like to start moving out of and past your relationship with a toxic person. My goal was to give myself and you plenty of reasons as to why you should start doing so. Beginning to do so will make you feel lighter and brighter and help you get on the path to receiving the much-needed healing you so richly deserve. And while you’re on that path, please don’t be afraid to accelerate your pace to the point where you’re eventually comfortable enough to leave skid marks.
Bethany Silverman is a writer.