Identifying toxic relationships can be surprisingly difficult, particularly when they are within your own family. No one wants to admit there is a problem, yet the negative feelings persist. The cycle of abuse does not always leave visible marks, but the verbal and emotional manipulation can be just as damaging and sometimes harder to heal. Discover Healing can help you identify the issues and learn how to address them with the family members involved.

Toxic Family Patterns

One of the reasons it may be difficult to recognize toxic family relationships is that so many people find themselves in them, thus normalizing the behaviors — and you may be battling ancestral patterns that have been culminating for generations. Review these family patterns and determine if you have experienced them in your life, or if perhaps you are repeating them with your own children. Through your developing years, you may have experienced:

  • Lack of emotional support
  • Lack of adequate  basic care
  • Intolerance of actions, words, and emotions
  • Exposure to family members with addictive personalities
  • Abuse, real or threatened
  • Rigidity (or zero flexibility)
  • Not being allowed to change
  • Isolation from important people in your life
  • Being forced to take sides
  • Being forced to fulfill the needs, both emotional and physical, of the parent(s)

Results of the Cycle of Abuse

The individual results of toxic family relationships are multitudinous and varied and can include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Inability to commit
  • Addictive/obsessive personality traits
  • Personality disorders

The one result that pervades all victims of the cycle of abuse is the destruction of trust.

Communication is Key to Breaking Toxic Patterns

The answer to altering these toxic family patterns most often comes down to communication. That does not mean that the task of communication will be easy, but if you keep these actions in mind, it may grease the wheels that turn a cycle of abuse into a cycle of love and understanding.

  1. Identify what hurts. What are your painful memories and the triggers for those memories?
  2. What do you want to change? Make a list and pick the one you think may be the easiest to work on and resolve, and then start with that.
  3. Set up a time, date, and location to discuss the issue with your family member(s). Let them know up front what the meeting is about. An ambush will put them in battle mode and be unproductive.
  4. Practice the conversation ahead of time. Get a friend or partner you trust to role-play the part of the family member and ask them to play devil’s advocate. This will better prepare you to handle curveballs in a calm manner.
  5. Take time to think before responding, and let them think too. Do not fill the silent pauses with useless words—pauses are productive.
  6. Do not play the blame game. This is not about getting someone to admit to mistakes of the past, as you are working on a better relationship for the future.

You will not change the family patterns in one meeting; remember, baby steps. Be ready to take one step forward and two steps back. Just try to control your feelings—don’t let yourself be controlled by them. With time and communication, you will be on your way to breaking the generational toxic family patterns.