Whether they’re a criticiser, jealous, or just plain moody – we’ve all got family members that we would love to spend less time with.
But how do you cope when you have to interact with these people who seem hell bent on making your life difficult?
Unlike friends and partners, we can’t as easily remove these people from our life. If anything, we’re almost hard-wired to make the relationship work with family, as we know they’re not going anywhere.
This is how to deal with some of the more common toxic behaviours of family members.
1. If they’re jealous
If sibling rivalry is still rearing its ugly head 40 years later, it can be exhausting to live with. Constant one-upmanship can see everyone regressing to their 13-year-old self, complete with slamming doors and the silent treatment. Combat this behaviour by not rising to the occasion. Whatever the jealous person says, just smile and say that you are happy for them. Don’t try to outdo them as it will only escalate the situation. This is a battle you can’t win, so it’s best not to be a contender.
2. If they’re critical
Often a relative criticises us when they see us making decisions that go against their personal beliefs. Perhaps they feel that you aren’t saving enough for retirement, or that your job has no future. But instead of giving you helpful advice, they say things like ‘you spend money like water!’ or ‘have you left that dead-end job yet?’ It’s hard not to take it as a personal attack, but remember that the criticism often comes from a nice place (though it’s delivered in a negative way). Try to let the comments slide by saying things like ‘I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment thanks.’ If you don’t go down to their level they will often lose interest in the discussion and move on to someone else.
3. If they’re bitter
If someone’s life isn’t going as well as they’d hoped, they may feel as though your successes are shining a light on their failures. This could see them reacting angrily to your good news (‘oh you’re going to become a grandmother, have fun looking after the kid 5 days a week!’) or casting a negative shadow over something that you had been excited about (‘you’re going on a cruise? Aren’t they meant to be a breeding ground for gastro?’). Once again the best solution is to remain upbeat and positive and allow their negativity to fall on deaf ears.
4. If they’re moody
Someone that’s a bit hot and cold can be hard to manage – you don’t know which personality you’re likely to get on each occasion. A good tip here is to find some common ground (such as a shared love of a TV show or band) or bring up a memory from a happier time, like ‘remember when we went camping near the beach before the kids were born?’ Try to keep the mood light and this can help thwart any attempts to bring you along to their pity party.
5. If they’re selfish
When something happens (good or bad) it’s only common that you would want to share that with your family. But if you’ve got a selfish relative in your line of sight, that can be tricky. These are the people who are so self-absorbed that they either don’t even ask you how the new job is going, or they appear not to listen when you try to tell them anyway, changing the subject back to themselves as quickly as possible. A good way to deal with these people is to appeal to their sense of self by asking their advice or opinion on something that you are interested in talking about. For instance you might say ‘I know you’re into buying and selling property, what are the hot suburbs at the moment?’ This might buy you some time from hearing about their latest romantic escapades or how much money they’re making.
Can you relate to any of these toxic family members? We would love to hear how you handle them, in the comments section.