SOCIETY TALK

When to cut off toxic family

Some family members make telenovela villains look saintly

In Summary

• People who choose to be wicked throughout their lives should have no space in yours

A family during a meal
A family during a meal
Image: PEXELS

Have you ever wondered why humans are the only species addicted to drama? We binge-watch television dramas and explosive reality shows to quench the thirst for much-needed drama in our ‘boring’ lives.

The truth of the matter is that our own lives are plagued with toxic relationships, with family members who make telenovela villains look saintly. While the TV dramas might seem farfetched at times, the reality is that family conflicts are far worse!

In every family, there is at least one troubled character who causes mayhem and is often at the centre of every dispute. Within each family, there are people with the following characteristics: the kleptomaniac, the insurgent, the debtor, the narcissist, the flirt, the fighter, and on goes the list. More often than not, the people with these characteristics are at the root of every family disagreement.

As I grow older, I find myself having a low tolerance for crap. If you are a fighter, then I do not want you in my space. If you are a narcissist, I’d rather watch paint dry than listen to you. Or if you are known to have sticky hands, then you are not welcome in my home. I have no problem whatsoever cutting out scoundrels who cause mayhem in the Zen world I am trying to create for myself.

You might find this way of living is very individualistic or anti-cultural, but I have come to realise that in life, we pick the battles that matter. I am naturally a non-confrontational person, and I would rather stay away from a person who is a possible threat to my sanity or peace of mind. I have, therefore, concluded that I would rather cut off family members who have a tendency to cause problems anywhere they go.

The Internet is not short of stories of people who have cut off ties with toxic family members. There is a young woman who created an entire YouTube video on how her mother-in-law ruined her wedding day. The mother-in-law wore a white dress with a similar cut to the bride’s own dress. She proceeded to cut off the first dance between the bride and groom by requesting her mother-son dance to be next. The wedding was just the beginning of a snowball effect of problems between the newlyweds and the mother-in-law, ultimately causing the newlyweds to cut off the mother-in-law completely.

A former colleague confessed to me how they had cut off their father’s side of the family after their father died. According to him, their father had spent so much of his adult life educating, financing and even tolerating his demanding family by giving them what they wanted every single time. When their father died, the children sent money to their uncles to attend the funeral. None of the father’s family members showed up for the service. It was then that they decided as a collective that they were going to cut off that side of the family for good.

Closely related to my article on why black tax is the enemy of progress, I find that family members who use you as their own personal ATM to be very toxic. These people care less about your struggles as long as you are providing for them.

There are various types of toxic relationships within families, even if we do not consider them toxic yet and characterise them as “that is just how he or she is”. The sooner we realise that toxic relationships are like a parasitic plant that will grow around the host plant, eventually squeezing the life out of the host, the better. The people who choose to be wicked throughout their lives should have no space in yours. If they refuse to change and grow, pick up the shears and prune that tree.