Meygan and I both admit that there have been many times we’ve made excuses for our family’s toxic behavior because… well, they’re family.
We’ve minimized the inappropriate comments, we’ve made excuses for the constant gossip, and we’ve allowed certain family members to get away with extremely unhealthy behavior far too long. The wounds run deep in our hearts and we’ve worked hard at choosing forgiveness and implementing boundaries to protect our marriage.
We recognize that many of the issues with our family are our fault. We taught them that they could give us their opinion and we wouldn’t say anything. That they could talk bad about us, judge us, and even criticize our parenting and we wouldn’t make any drastic changes. We teach people how to treat us, right?
With that said, we need you to engrave this on your heart and mind:
There can be no divided loyalties. When you got married you started your own family and that’s where your primary loyalty needs to be.
Your marriage is and should always be your number one priority. The stronger and more connected you both become, the less of an impact your parents and other family members will have on your life. With that being said, I think it’s important to call out the bad behavior once and for all and stop minimizing, avoiding and making excuses. I’ve listed out several questions Meygan and I use when we coach couples and individuals about their family dynamics.
Lean in, do some soul searching, and start being honest about your family’s habits — the good and bad.
Yes, it might be painful to admit that certain family members are very unhealthy, but the sooner you recognize the toxic behavior, the quicker you can create boundaries and find healing. Are you ready? Go ahead and ask yourself these questions:
How would you rate your childhood growing up on a scale of 1 to 10? (10 = amazing, 1 = terrible) Why did you give it that score? What specific things stand out to you as you look back?
What are two negative habits you saw in your family growing up? How do you think these habits have impacted you as an adult?
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be and why?
How do your parents and family members express their love and acceptance for you?
Has anyone in your family been verbally, physically or sexually abusive to you or to other family members? Has anyone set boundaries with this person or have they ignored it, hoping it will go away?
Do any of your family members manipulate or make you feel guilty? If so, do you allow it? Why or why not?
When a family member says or does something that hurts your feelings, do they give a sincere apology and try to make things better?
Do any of your family members criticize you and make snarky comments either to your face or behind your back? If so, what steps have you taken to make sure that this does not continue?
When thinking of the family member who shows the most unhealthy behaviors, do you think that this person has the capacity and emotional intelligence to change their behavior? Why or why not?
Have you been minimizing, avoiding, or making excuses for any of your family members’ unhealthy behavior? Why do you think that is?
Written by Casey Caston
Casey Caston is the co-founder of Marriage365 and loves his wife, kids, and surfing – in that order. He’s passionate about teaching couples how to connect on a deeper level and works often with couples in crisis. He’s also officiated more than 600 weddings. His life long dream is to walk the Camino, surf in Indonesia, and publish a New York Times best seller.