While those little irritating actions from loved ones may seem normal, maybe they’re not. You might just be dealing with toxic family relationships.

Toxicity is one of the hardest things to recognize. That’s because layers of seeming goodwill are often enveloped between heinous motivations. This is especially true among family members – you may be surprised to find out. Yes, your family can sometimes be your worst enemies. I bet you’ve heard that one before, haven’t you?

How to recognize toxic family relationships?

Before delving into the details of toxic relationships, I think we should all get an understanding of what the word, ‘toxic’ means. While the word has a literal meaning, it also has a meaning that explains the mental turmoil we sometimes go through.

Toxic is something poisonous, bad, or harmful that can make you sick, physically or mentally. Something or someone who spreads unpleasant, malicious, or controlling feelings.

Yes, this definition encompasses anything that can make us ill or even eventually cause death. Because, if you cannot get away from the toxic influence, and you cannot deal with it properly, it will drain your life.

If you’re not sure whether members of your family are toxic, there are some signs that differentiate what is normal from what is not. Let me make sure you understand that these signs are far from ordinary.

1. Bringing up the past

While it might seem like a common occurrence in the family dynamic, bringing up the past to justify a present wrong is just, well, wrong. For instance, let’s say your brother let you down two years ago, and now he’s made you mad, this doesn’t mean his past mistakes are weapons.

When there are toxic relationships within the family, you will see this happen often. You cannot get mad now and then bring up something else about a given person to justify the present wrong. This is toxic, not normal.

2. Buying love

Whether it concerns intimate relationships or any other family structure, buying love is toxic. When you try to buy love and peace in a family relationship, your goal is to make your loved ones forget, or make them like you again.

Some people even try to make turbulent fights go away by giving gifts or taking loved ones to an expensive restaurant. But the disagreements and insults do not go away.

Neither do the hurt feelings. When you purchase material things for your loved ones to serve as a bandaid, the real issues get swept under the rug, but they’re still there.

3. Comparisons

One sign you may not notice in toxic family relationships is the comparison between you and another loved one. It’s not healthy to tell one child, for example, that they are better at something than the other.

It’s not right, as a parent, to compare your children. It is unhealthy and unfair. These comparisons can cause a sense of low self-worth to set in.

4. Passive aggression

In toxic family relationships, there’s a poisonous habit called passive aggression. This is where you refuse to be upfront about what’s bothering you. Rather, you drop hints and act rude to the person you feel that slighted you.

With passive aggression, there is no communication, which is toxic in itself. There are only heightened emotions that usually build into a huge fight. This silent type of aggression is often repeated because it’s a form of control.

5. Keeping score

I think many of us fall into this nasty habit every once in a while. However, it is toxic and it should be a habit that’s broken. Keeping score during relationship squabbles ultimately kills the love in any family.

You can be dealing with a toxic situation between you and your mother, your father, your mate, or even a sibling, keeping a score of every time you seem to win an argument. What a noxious life to life, huh? While you might not write numbers down on a scorecard, you will always remember who came out on top and when.

6. Guilt trips

In toxic family relationships, you will have one or two loved ones who give the ‘guilt trip’. They will talk about how terrible they are, and how cruel they must be, and how you must hate them. While you may want to reassure them that they aren’t those things, it’s best to ignore the bait.

You see, family members trying to make you feel guilty, especially for establishing boundaries, is sometimes overlooked as a toxic trait. Sometimes it seems as if they’re really admitting wrong. They’re not. They’re trying to get sympathy because no other tactic is working.

7. Gaslighting

Yes, you’ve heard of it, and probably many times. Believe it or not, gaslighting can be subtle, and before you know it, someone in your family will have you looking crazy. The truth remains that this family member is using advanced toxic and narcissistic weapons to get their way.

The sad part is, some are so good at this that you won’t know you’ve been hit until you are crying, admitting guilt, or admitting to some sort of mental disturbance, hence the ‘looking crazy’ part.

8. No accountability

Within a toxic family dynamic, there is little accountability. One or more people refuse to admit responsibility for anything that goes wrong. To a toxic individual, it’s always someone else’s fault, or if it’s their fault, you pushed them to do it.

You may try to show proof, and this will just make them angry. Generally, when the proof is shown, you are then told that you don’t trust them. One way or the other, a toxic family member will always shirk responsibility.

Tolerating poisonous relationships

Toxic family relationships are more common than you think. In fact, it’s so difficult sometimes to recognize the signs of such an unhealthy way of life. If you were raised in a toxic family, you probably think it’s normal to fight all the time and blame each other.

But I’m telling you the truth, it’s not. Maybe you won’t have to cut off your family completely in these situations, but it will be healthier to create some distance if no one is willing to listen to reason. However, I do wish you the best if this is your family.

Take care.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com
  2. https://www.brown.edu

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