Toxic Family Members and How to Recognize Them

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Toxic Family Members: The words make my stomach turn. Let me help you recognize these people and improve your relationship with them.

First off, It’s hard to talk about something that has impacted my life with such fierce control.

This is especially true if you’re still dealing with said toxic family members. Oftentimes I’d rather talk about something else to keep from becoming overwhelmed with indecision. But I can’t run anymore.

I get it, I do. I see toxic family members on a regular basis and it takes all my strength to endure their presence. And it doesn’t matter if I’m quiet or I speak out, they will get a rise out of me one way or the other. I cringe in their presence, I do, and I walk on eggshells.

I guess I sound cruel, but until you’ve lived through this, you cannot understand the magnitude of their negative influence.

It’s not so easy to recognize them either. Unless you’ve been educated on what toxic people are, you will suffer in many unimaginable ways and live in constant self-criticism. So, it’s imperative that you remove the veil of what you thought they were, and see the truth for yourself.


Across the board, one of the most commonly known characteristics of toxic family members is their desire to control everything. Of course there are some things in the universe they cannot control, but believe me, many of them will try to convince you otherwise. Toxic people try to control the conversation, all outcomes and even how you feel about yourself.

They generally use manipulation in order to gain this control. You see it often in unhealthy relationships, where toxic partners strive to control every aspect of the union. And it’s not usually blatant control either, it’s subtle and derives from the aftermath of their partner’s destroyed self-esteem, which is also their doing.


Most toxic family members are liars. This trait is so deeply woven that they believe their own lies, well most of them. The objective of a toxic individual is to tell whatever lie is necessary in order to keep themselves on top. Also, their lack of empathy prevents them from feeling bad about lying. It’s like second nature to a toxic human being.


I’ve watched the arrogant beast strut back and forth in my kitchen many times, and proclaim how successful he is. Just kidding, it was just one of several toxic family members. These guys love to talk about their accomplishments and they need fan clubs as well. Toxic people thrive off being in the spotlight, all while criticizing everyone else.

And they hate debates, arguments or heated conversations where it looks like they will be proven wrong. Even calm conversations where differing opinions are present seem to upset them. This is because, inside the mind of the toxic person, there is no other logical solution but their own. Everyone else’s ideas are secondary or not important at all. You cannot communicate with a toxic person either, this will be seen as argumentative behavior.


Many toxic family members are also addicts, either to drugs, alcohol or other substances. When you are an addict, negative behaviors will also be amplified. I’ve known many addicts, was married to one and even had a family member murdered for twenty dollars in the “dope game”.  Addictions are shattering lives everywhere, and it’s no wonder that many addicts are toxic.

Alcoholics, for instance, will stop at nothing for a drink, and then want to get behind the wheel of an automobile. Some already have DUI convictions and still, they choose to drink and drive regardless. The addiction is stronger than common sense. The anger during alcohol rampages is a nerve-wracking part of the toxic person’s behavior as well. I learned so much, in my life, that I can sense toxic alcoholic rants as soon as someone opens their mouth. I have default protocol to protect myself from the onslaught.

They are Never Wrong

Let me share a short conversation to help you get the full effect of this.

  • “The way I see it is, It’s my property, and my yard, so if I want to shoot my gun, that should be no one’s business. Am I not right?”
  • “Well, actually, you have to be considerate of other people’s feelings, dear.”
  • “Hey, it’s my property, I have a right to do what makes me happy. You know I’m right and you would do the same thing.”
  • “No, I would be considerate.”
  • “You always have to make things complicated. Why do you have to be so argumentative? Just forget it. I can’t talk to you about anything.”

Ahem, I just wonder if you got the point of that conversation above, which was a real conversation between me and a family member, who, I might add, was also under the influence of alcohol. This conversation is one of many in which I am persuaded to agree with the topic, no matter how ridiculous.

When the conversation is not clearly in their favor, or they fear losing out to good points in an argument, they generally get angry. Toxic people, sometimes with narcissistic behaviors, do not believe that they are ever wrong and they are offended by opposite opinions, just as this example states.

So, I want to help you learn to deal with toxic family members and in the process, continue my own battle with mine.

1. Stay strong.

Always try to persevere through their threat tactics. “I’m going to leave you.”, “I will never do this or that again because this is what I have to endure”, or “You’re crazy. You love to cause an argument over everything.” When you hear these words, they will frighten you. They are designed to frighten you, in order for the toxic person to continue to win! Be strong and let these words roll over your back. Usually, they are testing you, and if they are not, then let them have their way somewhere else. They are not worth your time.

2. Never ever lose sight of your self-worth.

A toxic person will try to whittle you down until you are like a servant to them, a fan club and a devoted follower. You are not meant to walk in anyone’s shadow. Stand out and away from the darkness of a toxic person. Keep telling yourself that you are worth it, and deserve to be happy. They are the ones with the problem.

3. Don’t fall for their traps.

Many times toxic family members will try to start an argument with you and then place you as the blame for this same confrontation. It’s all a way of bringing you down while lifting them up. Here’s a little secret: A toxic person actually has low self-esteem and he hides it with a bloated ego. Walk away from arguments and ignore their drama. They may get mad for a while, but eventually, they will understand that you aren’t willing to play the game anymore.

4. And finally, look within.

Make sure that you aren’t carrying any toxic traits either. Being a toxic person is a waste of time, and is so hurtful toward others. Changed behavior is the only way to live a healthy life.

I don’t want you to hate toxic family members, that’s not the reason for this article. But until they change, however, you may have to stay away from them. If you can’t stay away, then be strong and do what you have to do in order to stay sane. Most importantly of all,  take care of yourself.  I wish you luck and hope that you find peace in the midst of adversity.

By Sherrie H.


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  1. Vasia Loncey March 30, 2017 at 5:04 am - Reply

    nice article tnx !! <3

    • Sherrie H. July 8, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      Thank you for reading! Thank you so much!

  2. Andrea September 25, 2017 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Great read. Is there really a chance they might change?

  3. Adrian Howley September 26, 2017 at 6:13 am - Reply

    This was a very well-written, empathetic and informative piece. I recognized a couple of very toxic family members after reading it and now have a better idea of what to do to keep myself and other family members safe from their poison. Thank you so much. I wish you peace and happiness. You deserve it!

  4. Aaron Wells November 1, 2017 at 9:51 am - Reply

    I have toxic family members. But unlike you, I let one in, and it made me toxic as well. Now I am trying to stay strong, because I will have no other choice but to live with this toxic person. Thanks for the advice!

  5. Cheryl February 8, 2018 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Toxic family never change

  6. Carolina June 1, 2018 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    LOVE your article!. My entire family is toxic, always trying to blame me for their disgrace. They don’t want to see a therapist, told them to go all the family but they are ashame to other people see what”s going on in this “perfect family”. I’m strong and I can deal with it, 25 years may not seem a lot but I grow up with this toxicity around me and the last year FINALLY I broke that cycle. I realized that if I didn”t stop it the story will repeats over and over again and nothing will changes like before. If you don’t stopped it they would never gonna do it because they love to be in the cycle of toxicity, they feel comfort, they live for it, just to feel they worth something in this world or maybe let you feel what they couldn’t get and why maybe YOU get it beside them.

    I have beeing reading a lot of this types of articles and is funny how they describes on point my family. They aren’t blinded of what they are doing, they are mean and they like it. Even if I speak properly with them, they don’t care and don’t change they think I’m the problem not them because they are more and I’m just one. They think is better to change 1 person than 4 (in my case).
    Uff I could write a book of all the things they made and still doing to me… I don’t feel with hope of revenge, just want them to leave me cause they dont wanna change and Im not gonna waste my time anymore with them trying to solve this. They make a hole in my “family, childhood, university, lover relationship memories” that even the recovery of this problem will heal it. This time will never coming back and those memories are hard to erase, and of course maybe making new ones will help but it will never gonna be the same.
    I don’t hate them, just dissapointed. Being the youngest of the family and just the one that want to change what we see.

    Hope you (the one who’s reading this) found the strenght to keep moving till you can solve what you want to do with your toxic relationship. ( btw sorry for my grammar)

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