‘Enough is enough’: (when it’s okay to cut family members out of your life)


‘Enough is enough’: when it’s okay to cut family members out of your life

Being the tribal creatures that we are, we crave acceptance and belonging. For most people since the dawn of our species, this has come primarily in the form of a family. The family is the fundamental social group, the bedrock upon which we build and base all of the relationships that we develop throughout our lives. Losing these relationships, be it through bereavement, arguments and feuds or through cutting people off, is extremely difficult for any of us. This means that when a relationship with a family member is unhealthy and toxic, it is one of the hardest things for us to do to sever the tie and go our separate ways in life.

Toxic relationships – it’s okay to let go

You should never keep toxic people or people with whom your relationship is toxic in your life. Focusing on growth and surrounding yourself with positive, like-minded people is the best way forward – not holding onto remnants of your past with people that do not lift you up and root for you, but instead bring you down. This includes family members. Abusive parents, narcissistic siblings, it doesn’t matter. If the relationship is toxic and there’s no room for compromise or any way they could change for the better, let them go. It’s the best thing you can do for yourself and the people who really care about you. It’s not pretty, but sometimes it has to be done.

How to know if a relationship with a family member is toxic – five red flags to watch out for

There are a few ways of identifying whether or not a particular relationship in your life is toxic.


  • They only speak to you when they need you


A healthy relationship with any person in life requires give and take. When someone in your close family only ever contacts you when they need you, whether it be to use your truck to help them move, or emotional support in times of crisis, but isn’t there for you in turn when the chips are down, it’s pretty clear that they don’t actually value your relationship too much. They’re using you when they need you and then distancing themselves afterwards.


  • They feed off of drama


People obsessed by, and thriving off of drama tend to nearly always be toxic influences in your life. They live for the rush of adrenalin, the gossip, the heated arguments. When these people are your family members, it means you’re always involved or dragged into it to some extent, even if just by association. Make no mistake, people that feed off of drama are hurtful to your life and your physical and mental wellbeing.


  • You can’t trust them


A horrible symptom of a toxic family member is an inability to trust them. Your family should love and respect you, and that includes having the presence of mind and integrity to keep your secrets and always look out for you and have your back. If you have a family member who you can’t trust, they’re a toxic influence on your life.


  • They’re quick to judge


Everyone makes mistakes, everyone needs (constructive) criticism. However, when the family member in question is quick to criticise with a constant stream of degrading comments and makes it all about how terrible you are and how bad you should feel, rather than how to learn from it and move on, they’re toxic.


  • They manipulate you


Manipulation is one of the bigger (and often harder to identify) signs that someone in your life or family is toxic. Manipulators will use a variety of tactics to keep you under their control, from gaslighting (making you doubt your own memory or sanity) and denial of something you have conclusive proof of to changing their behaviour from sweet to angry and unpredictable when something doesn’t go their way.

Cutting off toxic family members

Following through and cutting off a family member once you’ve identified them as being a toxic person is extremely difficult, but often necessary. Toxicity stems from immaturity, from a lack of self-awareness and knowledge of what is really important in life. As a result, this behaviour is difficult to correct. A person will only change on their own, of their own volition and in their own time. Some people never will. It’s not up to you to try to change their behaviour or personality. If they do so of their own accord, either after you’ve cut them off as a wake-up call or in the course of their own path in life, brilliant. The vast majority of the time, however, a toxic person at adulthood will be toxic for most of their life.

You owe it to yourself and the people that really care about you to surround yourself with positive people you can trust. Focus on doing this, and you’ll find it easier and easier to avoid toxic influences in your life and become a more fulfilled person.

Written by Maverick
Lessons Learned In Life Inc., Staff Writter

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  1. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done
    I had to cut all ties with my sons . It was hard to read about some toxic people don’t change. I feel that my sons won’t and I’ll never see or talk to them again . I can’t get passed this!

    1. Don’t give up, Tina. Just have faith that in time God will change hearts and minds and there might be a way forward for you and your sons. Don’t stop believing it’s a possibility!!

    2. Tina, I agree with what Vivian said!! Not only do I agree, I went through it with my on son David. Though I don’t know the details of your situation, GOD does!!!!! GOD IS FAITHFUL AND WILL FINISH THE GOOD WORK HE STARTED!!! My son and I have had a rocky relationship for the past five years. Then when his father passed in May of 2017, it just unraveled. The last straw was the day after Valentine Day of this year. He exploded his anger at me, stormed out of our house, and I didn’t hear from him til 3 days after Mother’s Day, 2018. But….. before his re-entrance in my life occurred, I did some intense praying!!! My former husband and I raised our 4 children in a Christian home. We prayed for them daily; so praying for a particular situation was not unusual. I did, however, increase the intensity. On Mother’s Day, that Sunday at church, I went to the altar, with my son’s picture and letters he wrote me when he was in the Navy. I CRIED OUT TO Y HEAVENLY FATHER, LITERALLY, IMPLORING FOR ANSWERS TO MY PRAYERS AND PETITIONS!! Three days later, my son called me. Now, we’re in a good place, getting close and loving each other like we used to. As I said, I don’t know the particulars of your situation,but GOD does. Put this into HIS CAPABLE HANDS!!! HE’S GOT THIS!!!!! GOD BLESS 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

  2. Spot on! So many people I encounter don’t understand this. We are hard wired to from the womb to say “family first” but I know first hand how many hours, days, years of my life I put into “family first” only to one day, (not that long ago) realize, ‘those’ family members, have NO clue about the concept. Once I accepted I can choose the people to call family and it has nothing to do with blood.

  3. Sounds good…. but too simplistic when dealing with a family member with mental health problems…. believe me, I’ve been there and thought of doing what you suggest…. but it’s just not credible given some of the struggles people face to just get through another day. So I would say to people…… don’t give up on your family, on those you love, on those who love you ( even if it may not be obvious)…. you do not know the day or the hour that love will be needed

  4. I got a mother who have a habit of swearing at her own children when we were very young.Whatever she had sworn have come true.An older sister whose husband are involve in black magic and never provide enough money to spend for my sister and beat her quite often when he get mad.Now they are trying to shoo me away from the house that i am currently living with my mom with the use of whitchraft.A cursed older brother whose in and out of prison for theft and illegal drug usage plus he is never employed thanks to my mom who likes to compare him to my useless uncle who seldom goes to work and often ask for money from my grandma.Haha wtf im going crazy living like shit for more than a decade.Ohh God plz help!!!

  5. Maybe someone could give me advice.my 14 year old grandson wrote me a letter saying for years he’s hated me and he went on to call me names.and he wants me to know he’s a atheist. Now I’ve never wrote back .but I did tell my son how his son talked to me.my son says aww teenagers.i wish I could tell you folks there’s big hidden secrets but no.ive always loved this child very much.but I have othergrandkids who live closer to me that I do see all the time.so yes I believe there is some jealousy there.but do I just disown this grandchild? Or act as all is well? I do believe he’s being fed a lot from his mother who I thought was my friend ,

    1. I usually never offer my opion but I would like to say to you I’m really sorry this is happening to you, to both of you. Please do no such thing as disown this grandchild of yours. Never give up on him. Even if he doesn’t want to see you now, Love him from afar. When you do communicate with him, tell him you love him, and ” I will always be here for you if you need me”. Don’t argue with him. He has a lot of life and growing up to do. You never know what is going to happen in 5- 10 years from now when his life and mind belong to him.He will always remember your loving words and say to himself, my grandma always said she loved me no matter how awful I was to her. She is pretty awesome. Some day he will reach out to you. If not, (worse case scenario) at least you will know, in your own heart, you did the best you could and you extended out your love.

  6. I consider myself too loyal. I go above and beyond not to prove anything because I genuinely want to help people. My family doesn’t seem to admire this about me. I’m called names, told I think I’m too good. I don’t think I’m in a healthy space, Im often disconnected from family and others. People are constantly looking for me to be different, or suggest I’m just not someone they want to be around. Even my Mom and I had an argument, I think she gives me more grief than my sibling who’s always doing the wrong thing. It’s confusing and gaslighting. I didn’t want to completely cut ties but I have to. As this says they’re quick to judge and feed off drama. All I want is a peaceful, happy coexistence. Thanks for posting.

  7. This is toxic in itself!!! People are fickle and some people feel it is their right to judge others whether family or not and many people just lie to suit themselves and make others look stupid. The toxicity is perpetuated and should be dealt with in an open conversation. Your statements are way to simplistic and don’t help. There is too much university taught pyschiatry here and not enough common sense. How is it that things like this get published by 22 year olds fresh out of university with no real family experience.

  8. My siblings always call me only to ask for money, never once called to ask about my well being. By the way in the eldest of 5 , 2 brothers and 2 si sisters. I cut all relations with all of them they live overseas in Europe.

  9. I was happy to read this post as I have been fighting the need to cut certain people off. My daughter hasn’t talked to me in 4yrs she can’t tell me what it is but it’s extremely hard and makes me ill to not have her in my life. My inland are controlling and dictate everything the do build on drama and it’s toxic. My husband already has it set in his mind that they need to be cut off but I always says it’s family and family first but then I realize how it makes me feel and realize he is right. How can I stop blaming myself for everything and stop feeling guilty?

  10. I have a daughter in law who has always been very manipulative. My son and her and their three children live about 2.5 hrs away so not just a quick trip to see them when have to go through Chicago. They would only come to see us when our son could talk into it. Well, now they are divorcing, our son says he just cannot take it anymore. He has provided very well for them, she has been a stay at home mom, so now she is bitter and angry and taking some of that out on us. She will not allow our son to bring the grandkids to see us, so the courts will have to get involved. It is a mess, even though I would prefer to cut her out of our lives to reduce the stress, we cannot or we will never see our grandkids.

  11. You will find that people who constantly cut people out of their lives are very self-centered always concerned about their own agendas. That becomes their answer for dealing with awkward situations. There are conditions where it may be necessary but how would you like some to cut you off ? Put yourself in their place.

    1. Don’t be so quick to judge, most of us are not self centered, most of us have good caring hearts, we just get tired of being blamed for others mistakes. We all as humans should be able to trust our families the most, but when family continuously deflects their bad behavior towards us so we look like the black sheep of our entire family, we feel maybe it’s best to cut ties instead of dealing with the constant denial of their bad deeds. Here is my question for you. Do you go to church? I’m asking this because it’s been my experience those who go to church are the ones who are the most quick to judge others. I can only imagine how you would feel being born into a toxic environment… STAY BLESSED!!

  12. A year ago I decided that I needed to avoid my 22 year old daughter who had moved out. I wouldn’t say I cut her off but I really did avoid her and stop reaching out to her. I felt that she was abusive to me both verbally and physically. Six months later, she called me desperate, rock bottom and needed my help. I dropped everything and helped her. She truly had no one else. Not even a friend to sleep on a couch for a night. I brought her home and our fighting pattern flared up again. However, I couldn’t cut her off, she needed me. I started to realize that it was me triggering the fights and my derogatory comments that made her feel useless and helpless. I decided to be the one to change. Nothing but encouragement, praise and patience was given to her and most of all LOVE. It was difficult at first but I see now, 8 months later, our relationship has changed. She expresses love and gratitude every day. Even her face has changed – she seems happy and smiley and she is working so hard at getting her life in order. I am so proud of her and I love having her around. I am so glad that she felt that she could call me for help. We’ve been given a second chance.

  13. Barb, Tonight my 34-year old daughter is staying at my house with her children who are 4 and 14. She left the kids several months ago. She is homeless and has been on drugs for at least a year. She has really destroyed our family with a lot of stealing and lies I am a widow. When I read your text it touched me. I am praying for strength to be able to not react to her as I have in the past. I am so angry for the things she has done but that doesn’t help. I believe in the power of love. I know that she has been in some terrible situations in the last year. She is terribly depressed but won’t get help. Just hoping this time will be different.

  14. It is sad to think s out ending it with your family when they know what the truth is then deny the other family members toxic ugly behavior. It is sad and hurts a lot.NOTHING you can do till they realize they are in denial when the ugly starts happening again. Sad but totally true.

  15. Cindy, I didn’t see your reply until now. I’m sure you’ve had ups and downs this past month. I know it isn’t easy. We still struggle. But I’m hanging on. Hope you have peace and if you’re not able to help your daughter, I pray for you and her children. Xo

  16. It all comes down to boundaries . When someone , related or not, abuses or uses you , they have crossed the line . I have had to do this many times , and I’m never sorry . I was always sorry if I let them back in again .

  17. I was born into a toxic marriage, all I ever seen was physical & mental abuse. My father mad at my mother for over charging on credit cards, cutting up those cards with a meat clever, then the physical abuse, along with the emotional, and mental abuse. I never seen my parents hug or kiss, the word love, I never heard from either parent until the day my father left I was 11, he told me he loved me as he was leaving. Unfortunately for me the damage was done, I seen way to much violence in our home growing up, I did my best to try and keep my two younger siblings from seeing it, my sister is still in denial, but my younger brother with CP did see some of the abuse. All that abuse and violence I seen turned me into a very angry person, I became the environment I grew up in, my mother blamed me for my father leaving, that made me more angry. As a young boy my happy place was the baseball field, I excelled in baseball, and fighting. I blamed myself for way to long for my parents divorce, that little boy who had dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, because that little boy got his first card from the Minnesota Twins scout at 13, by 15 years old I had 4 teams scouting me, Twins, Texas Rangers, Phillies, and Reds, they asked my parents to bring me to Fresno California for an instructional league, of course they couldn’t afford it, so I got a job working for a company making furniture it’s where my mother worked, I made $122.00 a week, I saved $60.00 a week, gave my mother $40.00 to help with the household, and kept $22.00 for the week, in those days you needed a parent or guardian to sign to open a savings account, I trusted my mother to help me get my savings open, believe me or not I’ll never forget it. When it was time for me to go to Fresno I asked my mother to take me to get my $627.00 out so I could pay my way, she had already taken my money, needless to say I have had trust issues since then. Many many years of counseling to become the GOOD person I am today, I’ve never been to war, but have been diagnosed with PTSD by several professionals, I asked them how in the hell can that be I’ve never been to war, their response was you were born into a war. I’ve since forgiven my parents, and I’ve tried my damnest to forget a lot my childhood, but those demons just don’t seem to want to go away. I have two older brothers from my mother previous marriage, and two younger siblings from my parents, I miss and love them, but I do not believe there has ever been the love siblings should have for each other. I have thought way to many times about ending my life, more than any human being should think it. Me and my siblings really don’t have relationships, I’m trying to put this all behind, and move on with my life, but it’s been a rocky road at best. I know I’ll be judged for writing this, but unless you walked in my shoes you will never know the daily struggles… STAY BLESSED!!

  18. Don’t give up…. don’t give in…. you are so strong to have come through so much. Pray to be given the strength to keep going…. pray for those who have done harm to you( it’s the best thing for you,
    to keep you sane and healthy). God bless and keep you xx

  19. My Older sister is a Narcisst. I have a lovely family otherwise. I am trying to cut her out of my life completely. I know what she is and I never want to see her again. The problem is my vulnerable scared mum hasn’t been able to yet, which makes it hard as I keep getting pulled into things. How can I protect a vulnerable aging mother, from her daughter?

  20. This is a hard decision if you are a sensitive person. I tried for years to have a loving relationship with my mom. We would go long stretches sometimes getting along well. But then I would do something to hurt her feelings, offend her, make her mad etc. And things could get ugly. Not really from me, but she would say, do, threaten, awful things. After my childhood and many adult years, at the age of 47 I wrote to her, after one of her especially hurtful outbursts, that I loved her, was always here for her, wished her well. But I had to cut ties as she was causing me too much trauma. This was hard for me. I felt it was right, but I didn’t like it.
    As a warning to everyone, my mother, who was a good woman but had too many issues of her own. For some reason she targeted me.. But anyway, a couple years later, my mom has cancer.. I’m scared. She has disowned me, I try to stay informed, she’s responded to treatment.. In the meantime, I had reached out to family for help also but they seemed convinced that I was terrible and wouldn’t speak to me. This whole thing has me in shock. I write to her again, no reply. I assume she is “ok” but I worry. A couple months later, due to one of those small world things.. A friend contacts me and says he heard my mom is in the hospital and has less than a week to live. I’m not allowed near her or the police will be called. I spend the next four days in the worst total hell on earth imaginable. I was desperate to see my mom. Hold her hand, kiss her forehead. Tell her I loved her. I couldn’t stand my mom dying thinking her daughter didn’t care about her.. It was eating me alive. I screamed when I found out she was gone. It would always be too late now.
    It’s been over a year and I’m having a very hard time wishing I had done things different. Lots of things..

    1. Dear Claire, I am so sorry for the hurt you have in your heart. Know that I how you feel. I too had unresolved issues with my grandmother who had raised me and she is gone too. One thing I can tell you with total certainty is that your mother knows now that you love her very much and that you feel this way. Where she is now is beautiful, where there is no more pain and no more tears. Only happiness and total understanding. She knows! She forgives. She loves. Know it in your heart. When my grandmother was near death, and my best friend too (she died of breast cancer) they both pushed me away. I hear it has a lot of with them not wanting to face their own pain, their truth and yours. It stems from the anger accepting death. Don’t take it personally, sometimes it can for reasons of pride or vanity mixed in too — she may not want you to experience her as the weak, sick, frail one. It’s not becausee she did not love you. ON the contrary, she love you very much. Some people have a very difficult time showing it and it stems from their own upbringing or because they have deep issues from their past. Write her a long letter, get your feelings out, then burn it while you say to yourself, “Im letting all this hurt and anger go” (You deserve your happiness!!! Go live and have a wonderful life. It’s yours and yours alone. Don’t let anything or anyone hold you back) xox

  21. when you come to this point of your life it is really hard to do it..specially when that person is really close to your heart,it is truly indeed so heart braking to cut that tie.But when we learn to trust God with all of our heart.it is so powerful to Trust God!
    All your heart aches,pains,worried,all your burdens in your life will be gone it’s like a magic..Your life will be at Peace.🙏🏻🙌🏼😇☝🏼 God is watching us,never leave us,or forsake us..💞🙏🏻🙌🏼😇👼🏻🙏🏻

  22. I have brain cancer. my parents bought this mobile for me with clear statement that it is mine, although it is in their name. I receive SSI due to my inability to be a responsible employee right now. Two days ago, two of my sisters and my mom and dad offered for me to buy the mobile home or I need to be out by November 31st. I have six days to decide.

  23. I am the type of person who is a pleaser so I put up with a LOT from family members, even friends. Never even occurred to me I could use the word “NO” for family and friends, not growing up, not as an adult. It was never part of my vocabulary until a few years ago. I put up with a lot of negative words, actions from family and friends, UNTIL it hit home and affected my DD. DH’s parents were rude and hateful to our only daughter, their only granddaughter. Each one did something different at different times. We told them what they did/said, hurt DD and they needed to apologize. They refused and their response, “she’s just a kid, we don’t have to apologize.” Cut out of our lives=no question! In their hate and anger, they turned the rest of the family against us. Their loss. They were told what needed to happen IF they ever want a relationship with any of us. It’s been almost ten years. You’d think a couple of life threats, almost death, may soften their hard hearts, nope. still the same angry, hateful folks (we hear that from friends and strangers!)who will die alone and lonely! That is on them! No regrets cutting out toxic family… at least not the IL’s.

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