Face Off: Family Obligations

People often depend on their family for support, but our relationships with them may become strained. What should we do if these relationships take a toll on our mental health or our lives in general?

Cut ties: Samantha November

Throughout various stages of our lives, we gain new people and unfortunately, we lose some as well. How often does someone have the same friends in their twenties that they did when they were in preschool? Sometimes people change or grow, and the connection dissolves. Sometimes a relationship with a certain person is unhealthy for us: those who we let get the closest to us turn out to be our vices. I believe that if any type of relationship with someone is unhealthy for me, it is perfectly acceptable to cut ties with them— family members included. While I do agree with the saying “blood is thicker than water,” it must go both ways. Nobody should be allowed to take advantage of you and your vulnerabilities, make you feel less than or attack you as a person. If a family member treats you like water, you aren’t obligated to treat them like blood. A rule of thumb that I use to decide whether or not someone should be in my life is whether they lift me up or put me down. At the same time, cutting off family isn’t always permanent because people can make amends if they really want to, but it is a big decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Getting in a fight over something petty or even something important at the time isn’t a valid reason for cutting ties. People disagree and everyone has their own ways of handling conflict, whether it’s right or wrong. Usually, family resolves these issues with a simple “I’m sorry” or even just move on as if they never happened. As someone who has decided to cut ties with a part of my family, I am much happier and liberated because of it.  


Distance yourself: Rachel Larson

From the immediate start of our lives, our family is by our side literally and figuratively. They are the only group of people that have seen us at our absolute best — and worst. For that reason, it would be potentially detrimental to completely excommunicate family.  It’s true that some families are dysfunctional and not a support system for its members. But despite all of this, they’re still flesh and blood relatives, and blood is thicker than water. Cutting ties and refusing to communicate does not eviscerate the familial relations, it does not destroy the shared DNA: they will always be your relatives no matter what.  I think it is better to keep contact with family members, even if the relationship itself doesn’t add value to your life. Separating yourself from your family may place a lot of weight on your shoulders in the long-term because it may make you feel alone. I do think that there are extreme cases with very toxic people that make it difficult to keep them in your life without causing harm to yourself, and in that case, you may not have a choice but to cut ties. But you don’t have to ignore them completely.  By loving these family members from a distance, it might allow you closure without complete eviction. It is okay to step back from destructive family, but to cut them off completely and attempt to live a life separate is unrealistic. Ignoring the past doesn’t destroy its existence, and keeping a distant relationship is more beneficial than expelling family completely. Maintaining some form of relationship with your family is much better than nothing at all.

About Rachel Larson and Samantha November

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