When it comes to a toxic relationship, no matter what, the decision is about what’s best for you. Sticking around in a toxic relationship will just keep you in a perpetual state of mental and emotional harm. While the statement of leaving seems like a no brainier, there seems to be one aspect that tries to smooth over it…family.

One saying is blood is thicker than water, your family should be with you through thick and thin. However, too many have experienced having to come through in a bad situation because of family. You have to tolerate a toxic situations because it’s family and you’re supposed to cover for them. This dangerous culture built in to family is the type of thing that has caused terrible situations to be ignored. I have family members that have been abused by other family members but nothing was done about it because they’re family.

I have a sect of family that operates under the principle of family is the most important thing. Growing up you don’t know any better and I even was scolded for wanting to spend time with friends. I remember being told once ‘Your friends are temporary but family is forever.’ Being a teen when I heard that I naturally revolted against that but it really sowed the seeds of trying to dive deeper in to that and decide for myself what was actually important.

The saying I landed on was ‘You can chose your friends but you can’t chose your family.’ I think it’s a more Millennial way of thinking to reject the notions of old institutions and to examine things for yourself at face value as you deal with them. Being related by blood is not the end all be all because that’s not how relationships work on any other level.

A relationship is about building trust and compatibility. That’s not to say that you’re going to be best friends with every family member, but that leaves a distance some times. My issue has been being sorting through the frustration of ‘family is family’ while trying to manage relationships. Seeing family members be excommunicated and talked about badly only to come back and do the exact same thing to another member of the family just warps the ‘love’ that exists. How long until you do something and find yourself on the outside looking in.

It’s never an easy solution either. No one wants to cut people off and maybe you’re even willing to tolerate more than you think you should because you care, but ultimately you have to look out for your well being. Even in the worst situations it’s still going to be tough and painful because you probably fought and tried for so long to find a solution and hope they saw the light, but it just isn’t meant to be. As selfish or as mean as it can sound sometimes the best option to hopefully show them the problem is to walk away.

Even if that’s the best situation that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stick with you. Because of my experiences with family I find it very difficult to trust most people and have just a select group of people that are extremely close to me, and it’s very difficult for anyone to get in. They have become my family and are the way I feel I measure all other serious relationships and friendships against.

However, even that has a down side because it really has become difficult for anyone else to be more than an acquaintance without serious effort on their side. That is a result because that is how people prove they want to be in my life and ultimately it’s probably unfair of me, but it has just become a way to insulate myself. I’ve been burned and watched what ‘family’ has been like in my life and has left me on my guard.

If I’m being completely honest about myself because of my shortcomings when it comes to trusting people there have definitely people that have been left out due to no fault of their own. I’m guarded and would rather just not be around so family that I do want in my life I struggle to find a way to do so and kick myself for it because I’m hurting people who don’t deserve it. Ironically, I’m probably contributing to them feeling in a similar way to myself.

Something I’ve come to realize recently as well is cutting off people because of toxic situations leaves you as a ticking time bomb. I’m not callous enough to not still care even as I’ve tried to protect myself and deal with it there is still pain left behind and it can go off. There are triggers that can still make all those emotions and pain flare up again and cause me spiral. I’d like to think, at least somewhat positively, it means I still care and truly hope things can be fixed but it also means I haven’t dealt with it.

Growing up one family member who had their own fair share of problems with family used to say ‘Family should mean there aren’t expectations.’ They said it because if you truly are family and care about people then you should do things without expecting anything back. Of course it should reciprocated either way, and I wish I could say I haven’t seen this warped, but too many times it seems like people have done things and expecting a return. Doing a good deed while expecting something in return for it belittles the meaning of the good deed.

I’ve seen family that always has something attached to the things they do. Obviously if you borrow something you should return it, pay it back, but when you get hit up about ‘owing them one’ it starts to change how you feel about the help and about even asking for help. In the age of social media a big thing that has contributed to my view of toxic family is the opportunity for a photo op. If there’s a way to be lauded for it then they jump but if not then they won’t even bother. You should want to help because you care, not because you want a reward or applause.

When the VFX Morning Show took the personality test I made the joke that I’m an optimist parading as a cynic and McCall immediately responded “That’s how you protect yourself.” and she’s totally right. If I can make jokes about it then it doesn’t let on how much it may truly bother me while feigning control of the situation. It’s self-defense to put off the persona that it’s whatever but it really isn’t. It’s just a cloak to cover myself while also trying to convince myself it isn’t a big deal.

It needs to be said that even the people I’ve caught off are far from some of the worst people in the world and far from some of the worst family in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that I couldn’t have them in my life because it was harming me. I make big use of out of sight out of mine but that’s not really dealing with anything, it’s just a coping mechanism that pushes it to the back and that’s why those triggers still exist.

Ultimately, I don’t know what the right solution is. It would be a real shame if you were to get to the point that you didn’t care at all, if the relationship was destroyed to the point you were uncaring. Instead I find myself feeling more numb and disconnected. That leaves those chances for flare ups but perhaps an outside hope that a solution could be reached in future. That itself is probably toxic in its own right but I still choose to see it as a positive that it isn’t too far gone.

The bottom line is no one wants to see anyone be left to rocket to rock bottom but if you don’t eject then it’ll take you down with it. Maybe it’s not so bad for those to that stick around and want to be family and try and help, but that is also a fine line with placating those people to continue to be toxic. I think the mature thing is try an understand the love those trying to stick it out for the people causing pain, and even bigger to acknowledge the toxic people have things they’re dealing with.

I think all anyone can do is to surround themselves with good people that support them and lift them up and find productive and positive ways to work through it all. It will hurt and even linger but you have to be able to cope and ultimately work through it. I try to channel it in my show, blog pieces and may probably have to go back to therapy as it becomes so overwhelming. I’m also not opposed to having vices to cope but make sure they aren’t self-destructive.

Toxic is toxic and no matter who tries to guilt you or shame you it is ultimately your well being you have to look out for. Don’t let it bring you down and find the appropriate ways to work through it. And I hope for all our sake’s no one has completely end something and see the relationship completely die.