Talk to an expert from Relationship Hero for personalized relationship advice

6 Steps To Take When Cutting Ties With Toxic Family

Disclosure: this page may contain affiliate links to select partners. We receive a commission should you choose to make a purchase after clicking on them. Read our affiliate disclosure.

A toxic family member can cause all kinds of problems with your mental health and overall well-being.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the family that we’re born into. What we do get to choose is the presence and role that these people have in our lives.

There’s nothing wrong with cutting ties with toxic family members that do not respect you or treat you as you wish to be treated. In fact, it may be necessary to preserve your own mental health and sense of self.

The act of cutting ties with a toxic family or family member can be challenging. There are things you need to consider and make sure you are okay with before you make a choice.

Once you do, those bonds will be forever changed, and you may not be able to get them back later. You want to be absolutely sure that this is the step you want to take before you take it.

But, if you are absolutely sure that cutting ties with your toxic family is the right thing to do, here are some important steps to take.

1. Is cutting ties necessary? Or do you just need distance?

Sometimes family members mix like oil and water. Personalities can clash hard, creating tension and discomfort within the family dynamic.

Sometimes those dynamics even out when you put some distance between you and your family member.

You may find that you get along great with those family members in small doses, with lots of time and space between you. It’s not unusual for a child to clash with their parents as they grow into a young adult and start trying to get their feet under them, for example.

The child may chafe under the restrictions they are living under or the personalities of their parents, but find that they get along much better once they get out on their own.

This may be a possibility if your family are generally good people, but don’t always make the best decisions or have been impacted by the harshness of life.

They may genuinely mean well, think they’re doing the right thing, try to be loving and supportive, but their own issues get in the way.

Try to ask yourself whether the different toxic traits they exhibit are part of who they are or whether they are a result of current circumstances.

2. Consider how your decision will impact other family members.

The decision to cut ties with toxic family is going to have some drastic repercussions that you will have to deal with.

You will have to deal with people taking sides, thinking you’re being unfair, or being angry and cutting you out of their lives. Consider the following scenario.

Your mom is a lovely person, but your dad is toxic. Your mom loves your dad, but you don’t want to allow your father to cause you any more harm than he already has. Now, you can cut your dad out of your life, but that will put your mother in a position where she must choose between you and her husband. And while you may think your mom should make the same decision you made, she may not be ready or willing to.

These kinds of repercussions will be felt all throughout your family, and you will have to be okay with losing more people than just those that you decided to cut out.

3. Consider potential blow-back from the decision.

Maybe your family are terrible people in general, and that’s why you want to get away from them. You will need to be prepared for any hostility or blow-back they throw at you because you decided to pull away.

Controlling or hostile people generally don’t like it when the target of their abuse tries to pull away. So you want to make sure that you are safely exiting so they can’t cause you any lasting harm.

If you are moving out, then get a change of address and mail forwarding set up, even if you have to use a post office box.

You can freeze your credit with the credit bureaus for free, so they aren’t able to try to take out new credit lines with your personal information.

Get your name off of any joint bank accounts and open your own if you don’t have one.

Make sure your personal information is updated with any institutions that might send mail or make phone calls to your family’s residence.

Make sure that you are creating space between you and your toxic family so they cannot harm you. Expect them to lie about the situation to anyone that will listen and consider how that can come back at you.

If you’re working and you think your family might come to your place of work or lodge false complaints against you to hurt you, make sure your boss is in the loop about the situation.

Abusers and toxic people can be nasty when they lose control.

4. Don’t get suckered back into drama or manipulated.

Expect lies. Expect your toxic family members to try to guilt you or sway you if you’re still in contact with them at all.

Your lovely mother, from the previous example, may not be trying to manipulate you at all when she tells you how much they miss you and want you back in their lives. That may be entirely true, but it doesn’t mean that your dad’s bad behavior is not destructive or harmful.

Stay away from the gossips who love drama in your family. Not only will they likely embellish the truth or outright lie, but they may also stir the pot just to see what happens. Don’t leave yourself vulnerable to these people by participating in gossip.

Remember, a person who will gossip with you will gossip about you. Avoid gossips if you want a peaceful life.

5. Decide how you will broach the subject ahead of time.

There are different scenarios where cutting ties with a toxic family member may be necessary. Some may be benign, some may be dangerous. Consider how, and if, you are going to let the family member know that you are pulling away from them.

It might be okay to have a face-to-face conversation with the person. It might be better to have the conversation over the phone if that makes you feel more comfortable.

Informing them via text or email may be a better choice if they have a habit of twisting your words or lying. You can save the conversation if you need evidence later to disprove a lie.

And lastly, maybe you don’t want to inform them at all because they are volatile and potentially violent. That’s okay, too. You don’t owe anyone anything. Always err on the side of your personal safety.

And if you aren’t sure, discuss the situation with a certified mental health professional before making any decisions or making moves.

If you are going to inform them, make a clear and direct statement. “I don’t feel our relationship is healthy, and I don’t want to talk to you anymore.” or “My mental health requires that we have more time apart and distance.”

6. Work to heal whatever harm you’ve experienced.

There’s a good chance that there is harm you will need to heal from the relationship. Abuse and bad behavior from a family member can leave lasting harm like self-esteem or other mental health issues in their wake.

These things don’t just go away on their own. They will need to be confronted and healed to make the most of the powerful change that you chose to better your life.

Do consider whether or not this is a step that you need to take with a therapist by your side so you can live a happier, healthier life.

You may also like:

About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.