Why does family get a free pass?
We've all heard of toxic friends and toxic relationships.
But what about toxic family? What are you supposed to do when the very people who are supposed to be your biggest supporters truly make your life lousy every time you see them?
There are a fair number of people in my family who I can say with 100% certainty that if I was not related to them, I would not want to be associated with them.
Now, just to be clear, I am not talking about my parents or my sisters or a select few others who really are good, genuine, caring people.
I'm talking about some other family members that never have a kind word to say.
We can go months without seeing each other and still, the first words out of some of their mouths are venomous and full of hate.
If these people were my friends or were someone I was dating, I would be told by all of my close friends and nuclear family to disassociate myself from them.
Why is it that just because they are family that they get carte blanche to say whatever they want and get away with it because "Oh, they're family. They don't mean any harm!"
As I have grown up and (mercifully) left my early 20's behind me, I have left behind some seriously toxic friendships and relationships.
A lot of advice columns and self-help books tell us that forgiveness is a virtue and that it takes a real person to forgive someone if they cause you emotional damage.
To hell with that “conventional wisdom!"
Why forgive someone who repeatedly hurts you? After a while, it becomes your fault that you keep letting this person treat you badly.
It takes strength and courage to cut people out of your life. Even then you know those people are bad for your self esteem and self worth. It is ALWAYS hard to make the decision to part ways with someone even when you know they are bad for you.
The fact that someone who is bad for you might be a family member makes it even harder.
I am certain that I am not the only one who has that mean, old aunt that judges you for your wardrobe choices and tells you to your face that you're unattractive. Or that crabby grandmother who openly criticizes your partner. And career choice. And house. And sister. And mother. And dog. (Need I go on?)
Stay away from these people. Even if you're related to them. Exchange pleasantries at family functions.
Wave "hi!" to them from across the room.
And, then position yourself next to that truly lovely favorite cousin you see once every blue moon.
Or better yet, if there is a family function you need to go to but just can't bear the thought of another character attack by someone that shares your blood line, call the local caterer and have them send over a delicious appetizer or decadent dessert for everyone to enjoy.
Be the classier one. Be the bigger person.
There is a scene in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird when Atticus Finch tells Scout, "You just hold your head high and keep those fists down. No matter what anybody says to you, don't you let 'em get your goat."
That's good advice.
And, when all else fails, completely remove yourself from the situation that is going to add toxicity to your life.
Just because they're your relatives doesn't mean they can eschew all of the social decorum that keeps daily life peaceful and get away with it.
Trust me, I get it. I get that what I'm saying here is uncomfortable but if no one ever tries to prove that families are always healthy for the people in it.
But, everyone tries to prove that "family" is this magical bond that should never be questioned.
Question it. If someone in your family, extended or otherwise, acts like the person in that terrible relationship you just had to put an end to that one time, don't put up with it.
Instead, go spend time with that nice friend who doesn't care that your shirt is wrinkled, doesn't think your ass is fat and sure as hell doesn't prejudge every man or woman you introduce her to.
Life is too short for toxic people of any kind.
Breathe more positivity into your live... one skipped family function at a time.
Sally Turkovich is a regular contributor to twoday magazine and also pens a blog for CBS Local. Find her on Facebook and tell her your ways to deal with toxic family..