Family is beautiful but toxic siblings can spoil a lot of things. Depending upon the level of toxicity, it can be hard to engage with the rest of your family, or even friends that have been there for some time. It can also put stress on you while you try to suppress your feelings for the sake of keeping things civil between the two of you.
There are myriad of reasons we should keep toxic siblings at arms length, but what can we do once we’ve identified the issue? Here are a few ways to deal with it.
1. Don’t Always Rationalize
Do not rationalize the toxic sibling’s behavior, it will only perpetuate the harmful cycle you are more than likely already trapped in. When someone habitually treats you badly or say something hurtful, they are doing it on purpose and there is no amount of internal monologue that will change that fact. If it feels like they are intentionally hurting you, and it sits within their pattern of behavior, then chances are it was done in a calculated way to get at you. However, not showing that you are upset will also take some of the fun out of what your sibling is doing. If you aren’t taking the bait, then they won’t put as much of it out there. Your feelings and intuitions are there for a reason, use them.
2. Speak Up
Do not let them think that what they do or say that is toxic is in any way alright. Make sure that they know that what they did or said was wrong. In most cases your sibling will try to diminish your feelings or brush the entire thing under the rug, don’t let them. Make it a point to address these issues regardless of what they have to say about what they’ve done.
Take hold of an opportunity and ask for clarity. If they brush you off, then it may very well have been intentional and you will need to address that with them when you are ready. If they give you an offhand comment or attempt to push it back on you then again, it is something that you need to take note of for a conversation later on down the line. Remember, no one has the right to tell you how you feel. If you feel that something is wrong then trust that and look into it, just to be sure.
3. Seek Professional Input
Coaching, Therapy or Counseling can be a great way for you to get your feelings off your chest in a safe and secure environment. If you aren’t sure of how you want to confront your sibling, you can ask for advice and role play some scenarios to better plan for upcoming conversations that you might be having with them. If you’ve already spoken to your sibling and they are receptive to what you’ve said to them then family counseling could be the next step in mending your relationship. Having an unbiased mediator there will boost your confidence as well as add protection in case your sibling starts to become angry or frustrated with the direction of the conversation.
4. Trust Change Not Apology
If you have spoken to your sibling and they appear genuinely remorseful, then you should at least try to trust them. Trust might be something that you have a hard time with given the track record of your relationship, but it is something that you should attempt. Don’t fall for an apology that lacks feeling, go with your gut on that one, but giving them the benefit of the doubt may be a much needed olive branch. You should continue to have boundaries and guard yourself when you feel most vulnerable around them but in the long run they may surprise you and change their ways. If they say they will try to change yet continue to do the exact things they apologized for then trusting them probably isn’t something that you need to visit at that time.
5. Have The Courage To Cut Ties
It is always hard to cut family out of your life but if all of your other efforts at reconciliation have failed then cutting ties completely might be your only option. Don’t do this lightheartedly, it is important that you put effort into the situations as well, but we all know that there are some things that can’t be salvaged no matter how hard we try. If you do decide that saying goodbye is what needs to happen you’ll want to get your reasoning out in the open.
Use this as an opportunity to speak your peace, let your sibling know what they have done and why you have come to this decision. You don’t want to leave yourself with stones unturned so make sure that you get all of your feelings out there before you stop taking their calls. In the end, wishing them the best of luck and closing that door may be your key to freedom and better mental health.