Family can be hard, and no family is perfect.
But for some people, family can reach the next level, becoming a source of deep toxicity and disempowerment.
Sadly, this can reach the point where you simply have to cut off all contact.
1) When they repeatedly offend and insult you
Like I said: no family is perfect.
Now and then you’re going to be insulted by things your family members do and say.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality.
But when this reaches the level that you’re routinely insulted and offended by the behavior of your family members it could be time to think about putting some distance between you.
Some people are just more insulting or politically incorrect than others: that’s fine.
At a certain point it becomes hard to believe they’re not bullying you on purpose.
2) When they trash talk you on social media
I’ve heard some horror stories of families breaking up online after rough arguments and insults.
It’s usually more extended family like uncles and aunts, but it can hit even closer to home than that.
The thing is that your family should do their best to respect you in public and vice versa.
If the mud starts getting slung online it can be very hard to walk back.
Plus, these days having your reputation sabotaged digitally can be very hard to recover from.
As Madeline Howard writes, common reasons to cut off family are when:
“They voice their negative opinion about you publicly or on social media,”
“When you’ve asked them to respect your beliefs, they decline.”
3) When they consistently disrespect your values and beliefs
It’s inevitable that families are going to have some clashes over values and beliefs.
Friends of mine have had serious family tension over different views on nutrition and diet!
The key thing is to agree to disagree.
When it reaches the next stage of active disrespect there’s a certain line that can get crossed that can’t really be walked back.
If your family has crossed that line more than once, you may have to seriously think about cutting off from them.
There’s no reason to take a lot of trash talk about what you believe.
The least we can ask from family is to have basic respect for where we’re coming from.
4) When they’re negatively impacting your mental health
Mental health is already enough of a challenge to maintain without your family making it even worse.
If family members are actively sending you into depression, anxiety, paranoia or anger problems then you might be best off taking some time away.
There can be situations where you have no choice left but to cut off from your family when they’re making you mentally ill or making your mental health struggles worse than they need to be.
As counselor Amy Morin writes:
“No matter the reason , maintaining a toxic relationship can have serious consequences on your well-being.
“In fact, cutting ties with someone might be a healthy response when you’re in an unhealthy circumstance.”
5) When they disempower and humiliate you
Family is where we all start off. Even those of us born into foster families or the care of the state.
Sadly, family can sometimes be a source of humiliation and disempowerment instead of support.
So what can you do to regain your power?
Begin with yourself. Stop searching for external fixes to sort out your life, deep down, you know this isn’t working.
And that’s because until you look within and unleash your personal power, you’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfillment you’re searching for.
I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. His life mission is to help people restore balance to their lives and unlock their creativity and potential. He has an incredible approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist.
In his excellent free video, Rudá explains effective methods to stop depending on others such as family members for your personal validation and self-esteem.
So if you want to build a better relationship with yourself, unlock your endless potential, and put passion at the heart of everything you do, start now by checking out his genuine advice.
Here’s a link to the free video again.
6) When they manipulate and abuse you
There’s a certain amount of unfortunate things that happen between all of us, even within families.
But when the manipulation and abuse becomes over the top it can be time to leave.
Examples include manipulating you into enabling a family member’s addiction or putting up with their anger, verbal or physical or sexual abuse and more.
These kinds of actions are completely unacceptable and are not something you should tolerate.
There is far too much manipulation and abuse already happening in our world.
If it’s happening in your own family you may feel it’s something you just have to tolerate or deal with and coexist with.
That’s not true: you should never accept being treated like dirt.
7) When they turn you against your siblings
If you have siblings then you know what a blessing – and a curse – that can be.
I love my sister, but I also know that not everyone is so lucky to have brothers and sisters they get along with.
We all fight and clash with our siblings at times.
But what turns this from a sad reality into a toxic disaster is when our parents or other siblings intentionally play us off against each other to gain leverage.
If this is happening to you then you might want to think about cutting off ties with the family member(s) who are playing this sick game – at least until they think better of their behavior.
8) When they use passive-aggressive behavior to harm and control you
You know what really sucks?
And you know what makes it suck twice as much?
When it’s coming from your own family.
This good cop-bad cop routine is truly exhausting on an emotional and even an intellectual level, as you try to keep up with whatever the latest game is that’s going on with a family member.
“This can include guilt trips and backhanded compliments … along with nonverbal communication such as rolled eyes and sighs.”
9) When they try to force beliefs on you
It’s natural that our family raises us in their traditions and culture.
But at a certain age – usually young adulthood – you should have the ability to choose for yourself what you believe and why.
Even strict religions like the Latter-day Saints give a choice to kids about what they believe and whether they choose to be baptized when they become older.
This makes sense if you think about it.
After all, what’s the point in believing something only because you have to, and how sincere would that be?
If your family is forcing you to believe something it could be time to demand a time out.
10) When they financially exploit and mistreat you
If I had an emergency and needed money from my family members I’d like to think they’d come through (any potential kidnappers and human traffickers please disregard this sentence).
The point is that knowing your family will be there for you in a crisis is a good thing.
But letting family members financially exploit and take advantage of you is something else entirely.
It can become so bad that you simply have to say: enough! And then walk away…
11) When they undermine your goals and dreams
In the best case scenario, our family members are our biggest cheerleaders.
They encourage our hopes and dreams, brightening up the future and making everything look more doable.
Far too often, however, family members can become like that negative voice inside your head.
They seem to constantly echo your worst doubts and fall silent when they could be cheering you on.
It can get so awful that you simply need to find some peace and quiet.
12) When they try to control your work plans
Family input on your work life can be helpful.
But it can also directly get in the way of what you’re trying to achieve in your job and your future plans for training or certification.
If your ability to make a living, get a promotion or survive at work is being threatened and undermined by family members, then you may have to cut them off.
There’s only so much disrespect and interference that can be tolerated, even from family.
If you’re about to lose your job because your dad has been coming drunk to work and threatening your boss you may have to sit down and tell him to knock it off or else you’re gone…
13) When they interfere and disrupt your love life
Your love life is exactly that: your love life.
Your family may have all sorts of opinions and judgments on it, but they don’t have the right to control and direct it.
If you’re suffering breakups, fights, drama and jealousy because family members are inserting themselves into your love life then you are probably feeling very angry.
I don’t blame you.
This can be a situation where you need to sever ties until family members get the message that they are not allowed to control your intimate life.
14) When they actively undermine your self-esteem
Far too many people are walking around emotionally crippled because of the way their family treats them.
Early childhood wounds can last a long time.
That’s especially true when the hurtful and critical behavior from family continues into adulthood.
If your family is sabotaging and harming your self-esteem you may want to think about limiting the time you spend with them.
This is one of the most important signs you should cut off from your family.
15) When they spread bad rumors behind your back
Earlier I talked about family who trash talks you on social media.
It can be just as hurtful when they spread rumors and bad things about you behind your back personally.
It hurts to get nasty looks and not know why.
And if you’re around family events and social gatherings noticing that people seem to have a problem with you it can seem like a betrayal to find out it’s because your own relatives spread poison about you.
Nobody would blame you at this point for cutting these folks off.
And frankly I’d say you’d be justified…
This is one of the clearest signs you should cut off from your family.
16) When they lie to you and constantly gaslight you
If you can’t trust family, who can you trust?
One of two incidences of dishonesty is one thing, but if family members are spinning false tales every time you talk and taking advantage of you then it’s crossed the line.
You need to eventually decide how much you’re willing to put up with.
Gaslighting, where someone makes you think their hurtful action is your fault or only in your imagination is even more damaging.
If you have family members who consistently gaslight you then you may need to decouple from them just for the sake of your own sanity and survival.
17) When your family denies and covers up past abuse you suffered
If you suffered abuse as a child then you know the horrible feeling of people not believing you or gaslighting you.
Sadly, many families do this as some form of denial, particularly if the abuse occurred by another family member.
If this is happening to you and it still hasn’t changed decades later then you may need to eventually bring it up in a make-or-break moment.
If family won’t be honest about the past how are you supposed to pretend everything is normal and “fine” now?
“If you were raised in a family like that, it’s difficult to even recognise that you were abused.
“Often people are well into their forties or fifties before they realize that their treatment was unacceptable,” notes Claire Jack.
“When you realize this, and particularly if you’re gaslighted when you try and confront an abuser, it may be time for you to distance yourself.”
18) When they threaten your physical safety
It should go without saying that one of the strongest signs you should cut off from your family is if they’re threatening your physical safety.
I have friends who have been physically threatened by family members and even stalked by estranged family members.
If this is going on in your life then you’re obviously going through a horrible time.
Make sure to put your own physical safety first.
19) When their behavior is ruining your personal and professional life
Your family can’t always be the way you want it to, but they can at least have a decent level of respect.
When they’re actively sabotaging your relationships and work then it can be time to cut them off.
One of the top signs you should cut off from your family is that your work life and personal life is noticeably suffering and being sabotaged by them.
When work and your personal life is being impacted it can be a sign that it’s time to cut a family member off.
20) When they don’t let you make any of your own decisions in life
Part of becoming your own person and progressing in life is learning to make your own decisions and take responsibility for your own decisions.
If your family is stepping in the way of your decisions and getting in the way of your choices, it’s time to think hard about what’s going on.
Unless you want to stay dependent and controlled for life, you may have to put your foot down.
That may not involve cutting them off completely, but it could involve some tough choices.
21) When they make you feel the need for approval
Many of us who have the highest need for approval were influenced in this way by a lack of attention as kids.
If your family makes you feel like a lifelong kid starving for attention, this can be very disempowering.
There may be times when you need to find your personal power and cut off from family who makes you feel very emotionally fragile and dependent.
For your good and theirs!
“When the relationship becomes one-sided and you find yourself giving and giving, it’s unfortunately time to stop.
“Your efforts — no matter how big or small — should always be good enough. You should never have to feel you need to earn their love and approval.”
22) When they ruin your relationship with friends and children
If you have kids then you would hope your family members would be a positive part of their life.
The same goes for your friends.
But when your family starts actively harming these relationships and being rude or inappropriate to your kids, you have to start making hard decisions.
Exposing your kids to bad influences, poor morals or other things which you feel are harmful could be the final straw.
After all, sometimes the family you’re raising has to come before the family who raised you.
23) When they stifle any chance for you to grow
We all need our space.
As young kids we’re basically dependent on parents and siblings to provide for our needs.
But as we grow that evolves and lessons, at least on the physical level.
If your family is stifling you and never giving you space, then you may need to carve out more room for yourself to grow.
“Parents who were highly involved in your life and didn’t allow room for growth may have also failed to meet your basic needs by preventing this development.
“Personal space, both physical and emotional, helps children develop. Eventually, you need independence and the chance to form a sense of self.”
24) When they never support you in any situation
As we grow and mature there are more and more situations where we have to go it alone and take the initiative.
That’s perfectly fine. It can even be healthy.
But if your family never supports you in any way, it can become very hurtful.
This is when nobody can really blame you for cutting off and going your own way.
Especially when you’ve been very supportive and helpful from your side but it’s never reciprocated.
25) When cutting them off will cause less damage than keeping the connection
Sadly, there are family situations which arise in which it’s less harm to cut off from your family than to stay in touch.
Whatever drama has happened, there are some cases where you simply need to walk away.
Staying and rubbing salt in the wound is only going to hurt everyone.
Whether this situation is eventually reconciled in the future is hopefully an option.
But either way, there are definitely times when a moment comes that cutting off is going to hurt less than staying in contact.
“While going about the process of cutting someone off may seem overwhelming or scary, there are healthy ways to do it (and no, ghosting is not one of those ways, as it can cause miscommunication and often make it seem as if the door is still open for contact) that may even help you gain closure on the situation.”
Can family be replaced?
We don’t choose our family, but we can choose those we call family.
The question of whether family can be replaced is a controversial one.
But what I will say is that some of us have the opportunity to build a new family by having children of our own.
Others have the chance to build a new family in the friendships and relationships we form along life’s path.
Cutting off family is a difficult and sad process, but sometimes it’s the only way forward.
The positives and negatives of the family we were born into will always be a part of our history and what shaped us.
We must acknowledge and validate those experiences, even those which tore us apart.
But we also have the power to blaze our own trail heading forward.