How to deal with toxic family members when planning a wedding

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In theory, your engagement and wedding planning period should be a fun time. You can book a room, try on dresses, taste different wedding cakes. What’s not to like? But planning a wedding can be stressful, especially when family members are involved. Some give unsolicited opinions; others might put pressure on you to do things a certain way. It can be hard to tell when there is normal wedding planning anxiety on the part of family members or when someone is really mean and toxic. And if it’s the latter, what do you do?

For help, we turned to Landis Bejar, a New York State licensed mental health counselor and owner of AisleTalk. She told us how to determine if a family member is toxic, as well as strategies to remedy the situation. With this advice, you can eliminate much of the negative and focus on your happy moment.

Meet the expert

Landis Bejar is the founder of AlleyTalk, a company that provides therapy and counseling services specifically to brides and their families.

Signs of toxic family members

There’s a difference between an annoying or obnoxious and toxic family member, says Bejar. “A person or a relationship is toxic when they cause you serious harm or emotional pain on a regular or recurring basis. It’s usually not that the person is toxic, but rather the relationship between you is toxic. Or their behavior. is. Or both. ”

If your interactions with someone always make you feel worse than better, you could be dealing with a toxic relationship, Bejar explains. “You may notice that you have strong negative emotional reactions to their behavior or conversations with them, whether you feel small, belittled or insignificant,” she offers. “You might feel like you’re always walking on eggshells or feeling manipulated.” If this person makes you doubt your own reality or your own opinions, that is not a good sign either.

Another key indication that a relationship is toxic is if you’ve told the person you’re uncomfortable with their behavior and that they can’t change. “We all have ups and downs with people we’re close to, but you know it’s out of the ordinary if it’s happened multiple times and / or the person is unwilling or unable to change their behavior when you’ve tried to express how they make you feel, ”she says.

If someone is in a bad mood (you never know what you’re going to have with them), disrespectful of your limits, or determined to control you and your decisions, these are all warning signs.

How to react to toxic family members

Address them

The first step is to discuss the abuse with the person directly. “Think about the feelings and experiences you had as a result of their specific behavior and discuss them with them,” shares Bejar. This may be an easy solution. Some people have no idea what impact they are having on others, and reporting things can solve the problem. “The first step in healing the relationship can be giving them the benefit of the doubt. If they know how much they hurt you and if they care, they will apologize and change.”

Set hard limits

Unfortunately, solving a problem doesn’t always work. “If they downplay your experience, become defensive about their behavior, or manipulate the conversation to change the subject or ‘play the victim’, this is the result of (more) toxic behavior,” Bejar explains. . “This is an indicator that you should set firmer limits.”

Setting limits doesn’t necessarily mean excluding them from your life or excluding them altogether. “The main goal is to create distance,” she says.

Some ways to create distance include not answering all calls or texts; decrease your time with them; stick to topics or activities that don’t trigger you; only spend time with them with someone else who can act as a buffer; and block them on social networks.

Do not engage

Bejar also reminds us that you don’t have to engage with a toxic family member if you don’t want to. “You don’t have to argue with them when you know it won’t get anywhere,” she says. “You also don’t have to commit if they yell at you or hurt you. You can say ‘I can’t talk to you when you yell like that.’” She recommends having a script ready. in your head to use it whenever you are close to that family member so that you are well prepared and never be caught off guard.

When to cut ties with a toxic family member

If you’ve tried the above strategies and they haven’t worked, it might be time to cut a family member off, admits Bejar. “If you still feel the same level of stress, anxiety, and emotional disruption after talking directly with them, pulling yourself away from them and setting firmer boundaries, you may need to cut them off altogether,” she says.

There are different ways to cut ties with someone. One of Bejar’s favorite strategies is to write a letter or email to that family member so that you can clearly explain the reasons why you no longer want to be with them. “Point out the specific behaviors that caused the pain,” she says. “Talk to the specific feelings you felt as a result. ”

You can also explain why you need to take a break and say things like “I need to make my sanity and the positive relationships in my life a priority right now.” In the letter, include the steps you have taken to improve the situation in the past before moving on to this more drastic option. “State that it is difficult for you to make a decision, but you are sure it is the only option at this point.”

It’s important to stick to your decision even if the other person is trying to convince you to change your mind. Remember, you tried to make this relationship work, but now is the time to do what’s best for you, not someone else.

Where to get help when dealing with a toxic family member

Dealing with a toxic family member can be emotionally and physically draining, and it’s important to find ways to get support during this time. Remember that you are also planning a wedding in addition to dealing with this family member.

Bejar recommends relying on family members and friends who understand you. “Surround yourself with people who know how difficult it has been for you and who will bring you supportive and unconditional love and understanding.

If you’re overwhelmed, it’s never a bad idea to seek professional help. “I’m a fan of reaching out to a professional when you feel any distress, not just when you are at rock bottom,” Bejar offers. “Through your therapeutic work, you may acquire knowledge and skills that can help you discern whether it is a toxic relationship or just a relationship that would benefit from better communication or other skills. relational. ”


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