Letting go of Toxic Family was the best gift I could give myself

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8 months ago I said goodbye to my family, specifically my parents and my only sibling – my brother.

I don’t have a large family. My mother has a sister (my Aunt). She has a husband and two adult sons (my cousins) including 2 little grand-kids whom I haven’t yet met – We started traveling right before they were born. I don’t have a close relationship with any of them. My brother has a daughter, my niece, who I love very much and am still in contact with.

The only people I currently consider my family are my husband, our 3 kids, my niece and, a handful of amazing friends who we call Framily.

My family aren’t bad people. They are however bad, for me. Actually, they are toxic for me.

FOR ME!

That’s the key.

It took me 45 years to finally decide to stop trying to make relationships work that I had to either be; dishonest with my feelings and having to hide secrets from one another because I was told things about other family I wasn’t supposed to know; anxious when around them because we all have to tip-toe and not say what we really think so we keep things pleasant and; the bad guy. I’m always the jerk in their eyes and I was done allowing myself to be put in that position.

Also, when you are constantly told that you are the problem, it wears on you. I was so done being ‘the problem’.

The history and details of what went wrong don’t matter. You don’t need to know what pushed me over the edge as it’s nothing crazy dramatic but, it was the tipping point.

You don’t need to feel pity for me, Shawn or our kids – I’ve never been happier or more content and trust me – my kids are just fine with my decision.

You don’t have to understand why I did ‘this’ to my family – you don’t have to.

You don’t need to tell me that family is blood and nothing is stronger – that’s why I didn’t walk away a long time ago.

You don’t need to judge me – I don’t care what anyone else thinks of my decision.

It’s about Me. Not them. Not you (whomever is reading this).

What you do need to know is that I have zero regrets.

My husband and kids back me 100%. Their opinions of me are the only ones that matter in this specific situation.

How my decisions affect them are obviously important and are part of the reason why I didn’t walk away sooner.

I think it’s probably hard for my family to understand why I really chose to cut them out of my life.

That’s part of the problem.

I don’t think they ever understood, or even really knew, me (how I think) which is sad don’t you think? I mean…45 year’s of my life spent with them and they have no idea who I really am. Crazy right?

I believe they feel as if I gave up and am a quitter. If so, they are correct. I did quit. I was done. I had nothing else to offer these relationships. I tried and tried and what I had to offer was not good enough. We couldn’t make our relationships work in a way that I could continue to participate in them.

I can’t live my life on rinse and repeat with dirty water.

My daughter said that it’s hard to explain to people exactly what my family ‘did’. It’s not like they were physically or verbally abusive in the typical way you’d think. They didn’t steal from us and weren’t raging alcoholics. It wasn’t like we had constant knock-down-drag-out fights so explaining WHY I chose to leave our family has been challenging for her.

We had some really great memories as well as some pretty crappy ones. There’s a lot of history between all of us obviously. I’m sure that I’m mostly to blame as I’ve evolved and changed a lot over the years. If I hadn’t then I’m sure I’d still be deep in ‘It’ with them.

I’ve been thinking about the ‘how to explain it’ thing.

It’s like this.

If I have to act differently around my family (or anyone); Not being 100% authentically myself; Go along with family secrets and dishonesty so more drama isn’t created (which creates drama in itself); Not being able to speak my truth without being told I’m judgemental or to find some agreed-upon middle ground or path to move forward and past situations and hurts; Having surface relationships in order to maintain civility because we can’t be ‘real’ with one another; Not liking how they make me feel about who I am as a person… then what the hell am I doing in these relationships?

Should I continue on the hamster wheel because they are family? It’s just what I’m ‘supposed’ to do right?

I know so many people who put up with crazy family drama that is WAY worse than mine yet, they just keep struggling and pushing and fighting for the relationships. Year after year I see them dealing with the same crap and all I can think is that they either like the ride for some reason (like they get a payoff of some sort) or, it’s too hard to stop the pattern.

I had to get off the ride.

Over the past several years my relationships with them were making me physically sick. I had high anxiety and would have attacks from just knowing they were on the phone or even seeing them.

I know that they think we left Seattle because of them but they are wrong. We left for us. I had things I wanted to do in life. It was scary and intimidating to leave the safety net of my life long home and family.

Being away from all of them when we left Seattle to travel the world in 2016 gave me the space and clarity I needed though. I was able to see how toxic our relationships were for them and for me. I had no idea how much stress and anxiety I had because of them.

I know I made the right decision FOR ME because the moment I said “Goodbye,” I felt an instant sense of relief.

There was no guilt, sense of loss or regret.

The 2000 pound weight on my chest had been lifted.

I COULD BREATHE

And I had peace.

You may think this is harsh but – they are no longer my family. I have no feelings invested in these past relationships any longer. Once I decided I was done, I had no further emotional ties to them. I have no interest in ever trying to engage with my parents or brother again.

The rest of my extended family didn’t do anything wrong but we aren’t close and never really have been. It’s very superficial and I don’t work well with those types of relationships. To me, family shouldn’t be superficial.

I know that they have their truth and their own strong feelings about what transpired with me and between all of us. I am sure that they will find this post and be hurt or mad or whatever. That’s okay. They can have their feelings and I can have mine. I’m at peace with the path I’ve chosen.

I wish them all well. I wish them happiness and good health and strong, honest relationships with one another. Maybe me being out of their lives is just as good for them as it is for me. Perhaps I was the problem and now that I am gone they are all happier. I hope that’s the case.

I also hope I taught my kids some important lessons.

Don’t ever stay in toxic relationships – no matter who they are with. If they make you feel icky, dishonest or unhealthy then they aren’t good for you.

Choose yourself and your happiness. It’s okay. In fact, you can’t be your best for others if you aren’t happy yourself.

Self-care isn’t selfish.

Don’t ever make a decision because it’s what someone else wants. Do it because its what you truly want.

Do everything you can to work on your meaningful relationships. If you can fix one, do it. BUT also know that not all relationships can be repaired or salvaged. Some people are in your life for a reason or a season.

Our older kids can, and should, have any relationship they want, or don’t want, with their family. I support them fully with whatever they choose and want. They grew up with them in their lives. It’s complex. It’s messy. There’s history. Shawn and I did everything we could to keep them completely unaware of any family drama or turmoil most of their childhood. They have their own experiences with them now and can make up their own minds as to who they want in their lives.

What I want for our kids is whatever THEY want. Whatever makes them happy. Whatever keeps them mentally and physically sound.

What about Sebastian?

Well, he’s only 2. He’s met them a handful of times. He won’t know his extended family with the exception of his cousin (hopefully). He has lots of people in his life who love him. He is will be just fine without them. One day he will ask about them and we will tell him age-appropriate answers. If he wants to seek them out when he’s an adult then we will fully support him.

I am choosing to share this publicly because I have heard from people who have felt guilt and shame for even thinking of getting out of toxic family relationships much less actually doing it.

I felt shame the first time I wished I didn’t have to keep dealing with all them because of the drama, negative feelings and, the anxiety that had been building in me.

I thought I was a pretty shitty person to even be thinking these things. Like, what kind of person would have these thoughts much less actually disown their family?

That was my guilt and sense of obligation to my family talking. That was years and years of conditioning from them and myself. I love the idea of having a big family who I look forward to talking to, and seeing, any chance I get. That was not the reality of my life the past 4 years and if I’m really honest, for much longer than that.

Maybe someone reading this will connect with what I’ve shared and feel empowered to do what is best for them. Maybe I can help you choose YOU. Or, maybe you don’t like what I’ve done and will decide to fight to the death to keep your family members in your life no matter the cost to yourself.

You don’t get to choose the family you were born into. That’s true. I CAN however choose who I treat like family and who gets to be in my life.

My only regret is that is that I didn’t let go sooner and that I waited 45 years to choose ME.

Wendy

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4 thoughts on “Letting go of Toxic Family was the best gift I could give myself”

  1. Thank you so much Wendy for your bravery. I was Alex’s dance teacher for years. I read your post and burst into tears. My family life has been superficial my whole life. Although I don’t feel the need to cut them out of my life completely, I absolutely respect your courageous decision. I’m recently divorced and part of the reason was that I felt like a stranger in my own home with no real connection to my family. It was very lonely. My relationship with my sister is strong and with my mom it’s slightly better because she is making a better effort as am I. But with my Dad, he will die one day without ever truly knowing the real me simply because he is too afraid to ask and is superficial. I too hate superficial relationships and no family should be that way. I currently have no relationship with my step kids and not one with my ex husband either. So…I’m starting all over again. I hope and crave for a partner and family that isn’t afraid to be deep, loving, roll up their sleeves so to speak and get into it, never being afraid to get messy. Thank you and Id love to actually hang out one day if you are ever back. Alex is a remarkable young woman. She is always kind, helpful, honest, hard working. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She isn’t afraid to connect with people. She was the only person to offer to help me move when I had to move from Greenlake to further north. She will be just fine as I’m sure you know. You give me hope, strength, and courage in sharing your story. So, thank you. Pamela Turpen.

    1. Thanks Pam. Alex always spoke very highly of you. I remember she helped you move too. She’s a fantastic persona and I couldn’t be more proud to be her mom. The k you for your kind words. I’m so sorry that you are for f through so much but this much I do know. You will be in a good placs soon enough because things can’t stay crappy forever! You will find your happiness if you find happiness within yourself.

  2. This really hits home for me. I am absolutely done with my Mom. I felt like a nuisance to her my entire childhood. I was willing to set a lot of things aside when I had kids. Until she tried to shame my then 10 year old for age appropriate behavior. She made a dramatic show of her exit from my home that night and I haven’t seen her for 6 years. I will choose my child every time and I will show her that repeated shitty behavior is not acceptable solely because it’s family.

    I’m sure I’m being bad mouthed all over the place. I do not care anymore. It’s always in the back of my mind, but it’s not hanging over me like it used to. I used to always wonder what I ever did to be treated so poorly and have no support. I now see that I did not deserve it, it wasn’t normal, my feelings are justified, and it will not continue.

    Good luck to you! I really enjoy following along with you and your family’s adventures.

    1. You have to do what’s right for you. Every situation is different. If you feel like this is the healthiest option for you and you are a happier person then Yay!

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