Kin No More
Written by Dr. Sherrie Campbell
Cutting ties with family members is one of the hardest decisions we may face in life because we are conditioned to believe that to terminate relationships with family is morally and inherently wrong. The fact is that family members are sometimes people we’d never allow in our lives if it weren’t for the blood tie.
Under the ideal of family some spend years sacrificing mental and emotional health in abusive relationships under the notion that they “have to” because the people are family.
Claire Jack, PhD says, “Cutting your family off is also seen as a taboo. People who do so are often labelled as “bad” or selfish and to many outsiders, the emotional abuse is so hidden within the family that friends and other relations just can’t see why you would need to distance yourself in this way.”
Valid Reasons to Terminate Relationships with Family
1. ABUSE — When the relationship is based in any type of abuse mentally, physically, sexually, verbally or emotionally. When the relationship is based in manipulation, overt or covert, you can be sure you are being used and abused. When you are living in constant anxiety never knowing or being able to predict how any engagement is going to turn out, it is time to love yourself enough to let go.
2. NEGATIVITY — When the only contact you have with them is negative. When the contact you have with them serves to bring you down, put you down and/or make you feel you are not good enough, or you haven’t done enough for them, it may be time to part ways.
3. STRESS — When the relationship creates so much stress that it impacts the important areas of your life at work and/or at home. When your emotions are totally caught up in trying to defend or explain yourself, and the chaos of your relationships with these people is all you talk about, it is time to let go.
4. NEEDINESS — When the relationship is only about borrowing or needing money.
Most people know intuitively when it’s time to cut ties. Sadly, many carry this knowing a long time before making the choice. Jack says, “If you choose to cut ties, you can expect to feel guilty. Don’t forget: You’ve been subjected to years of your family communicating that they were right and there was something wrong with you. Because of the taboo around cutting ties with your family, you can also expect to feel guilty because what you have done is seen as “wrong” and extreme. Surely, people will tell you, it’s better to just get on with it: “You’ve only got one family, even if they’re not perfect.”
Jack continues, “And you’ll also feel sad. When you cut ties in this way, you’ll grieve for the family you have lost. The sadness, grief, and guilt are, however, often accompanied by a sense of relief and a wonder at how life can be when you’re no longer caught up in the spider’s web of a toxic family. It can take a while to find your feet and know how to deal with this newfound freedom, but, over time, you’ll learn how to live this new life.”
According to psychcentral.com, “We can all agree that no one deserves to be abused. So, why do we give our family members a free pass? Why do we think we should tolerate such hurtful behavior from them?”
- We don’t see their behavior as abusive.
- Family loyalty.
Family relationships are full of expectations were supposed to take care of our aging parents, get along with our siblings, spend the holidays together, respect our elders, keep the peace, sacrifice ourselves to make others happy, and so forth. So, if you break from any of these expectations (cutting off contact with your family being the biggest wrongdoing in their book), youre likely to feel guilty or like youre doing something wrong. Its essential that you realize that these expectations only make sense if you have a healthy family. Theyre unfair, unrealistic, and harmful if you have toxic family members. It is not wrong, mean, or selfish to protect your wellbeing and sometimes the only way to do this is by distancing yourself from toxic people.You were probably primed to feel guilty by being taught that family loyalty is a virtue that you should be unequivocally committed to your family no matter what. Healthy closeness includes mutual respect and care; it respects individuality and your right to think and feel differently than your family. But loyalty is often used to try to control family members who are exerting their independence and speaking out against abuse.
Families without problems don’t exist. Selfishness, gossip and unkindness are sure to be part of every family’s struggle, and you yourself have probably been the source of at least some negativity. Cutting ties with family should always be preceded by open communication, forgiveness and an attempt to reconcile differences.
Sherrie Campbell, PhD is a veteran, licensed Psychologist with two decades of clinical training and experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of the new book Loving Yourself : The Mastery of Being Your Own Person, which is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores.