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Toxic family member - how to set boundaries


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Hi all hope your all well,

Its a long one sorry


To start off with the toxic family member is my mother's sister. My mother is the eldest out of 5 siblings and is like the most successful and head of the family. She could never really be a mother to me growing up as she was always looking after her parents and siblings. Me and my mother have had a really ugly relationship and only in the past 2 years have we found common ground and building a healthy relationship.

This toxic family member is my aunty who is the 2nd eldest. She was always the argumentative one, the one who doesn't know how to behave in public, try and bully a family member, just cause a fight every time she's over but then twist it that everyone else is crazy. She's very loud, hyper and petty. She never got married or had kids and claims she couldn't get married because 'she had to be there for the family'. She hasn't contributed in anyway.

She use to work for my mother and was earning a lot of money, but she would always make out she was over qualified (she was a hairdresser and receptionist) she would constantly put my mother down and cause a lot of fights. After that she moved abroad to live with my other aunty as she had just met the love of her life and got married and pregnant, So my toxic aunty wanted to move in with her and hoping she would meet someone. Instead she never went out, she never got a job for 4years ( lived off my aunty looked after the baby and this became another excuse why she's scacrified for the family - my grandmother was already there and they had a live in housekeeper so my aunty wasn't needed), she would cause arguments between her sister and husband. So my aunties husband threatened his wife and said if she doesn't leave he's divorcing her.

Toxic aunty moves back home in with me while I'm at university in the family house (which my mother brought off my grandparents) My mother gutted the house and re did all of it.

Toxic aunty has her own property but doesn't want to loose her rental income. So she's living with me causing so many problems with me and mother, she would take my car knowing I had classes, she wasn't paying rent but told me how I needed to know the value of money and pay rent, she convinced my mother I was in debt (which I have never been in debt) that my mother cut me off completely which was just 100pound a month which was the food and maintenance of the house really. So I had to get a job which my aunty said I was sleeping around and bringing men over (this never ever happened) She lied a lot. She then got given 50k from my other aunty she lived with and 50 k from my mother to invest in her to open a business to get her on her feet.

This of course rubbed me up the wrong way as I only saw my mother on the weekends and it would just be arguments of lies my aunty had said. She had no clue what to do with the money so I helped her set up a hair laser clinic in the house. Put her on the training courses, helped purchasing machines etc. I got no recognition for what I did and she pretended I did nothing. After I graduated I left the country and never spoke to her or my mother, she would always say to me 'your nothing to this family, this is my family first. Your mum is my sister first.' My dad left my mother so she would always say 'you aren't technically part of this family'


My mother retired and they were now living together - she was living rent free, she doesn't pay for food. She's the type that she's 'temporary' living there even though its been 7 years. She'll get drunk off 2 glasses of wine (my mother doesn't drink) then start talking about how she was abused as a child and make up really messed up stories. If we had guests she would bring this topic of conversation up. She only watches films with violence or abuse which is really traumatising to watch but she finds it very interesting.

She thinks everyone needs counciling but her, does 2 day NPL courses online and thinks she's a life coach. She of course has no friends and people cut her out very easily which again is another thing she tries to get sympathy for is she's not married and has no friends.


Because she had a business at the house my mother started getting a bit fed up, she couldn't walk around the house, she had to fork out the bills, I wasn't speaking to her or never came back to visit. (I had visited but every time I would go there would be some drama where my aunty would make me out to be selfish so I stopped going)

Toxic aunty was telling everyone how she was looking after my mother as she's all alone, has no husband and can't live alone. My mother came on holiday to visit me and apologised for everything. We had a long conversation and she said she wants my aunty to move out she's very depressed.

My aunty has a tendency to be very critical and just be a bully. Like 'whats wrong with your makeup? you look so ugly? no wonder people laugh at you'


My grandfather was very sick and my mother moved him into the house my aunty everyday kept fighting with her father and one day made him cry and told him to get out. My mother responded its not your house, my dad can stay you get out. After that my granddad felt so uncomfortable he left. My mother was of course very guilty this was strike 1. Then my aunty rented a shop and was also working from home. My mother had said to her you should move closer to your shop as my aunty didn't want to buy a car (because she wants someone to gift her like a Bentley) so she would make my mother drop her 40mins down the road - sit in the car and then take her back home. Because she wouldn't get on a bus or taxi. She'll make out that she's broke, or scared, or a victim.


My grandmother got very sick and needed a operation, the salon in the house was actually a studio flat my mother had built for my grandfather or grandmother when they get old as it as disabled facilities. My mother said can you move your salon into the next room - aunty said no how my grandmother should have a bed in our dining room and if my grandmother moves into the house she'll kill herself and move out. This caused a huge stir in the family. Everyone was on a plane back home and said this is ridiculous. You have a shop you don't need to work from home, she would only have 2 clients a week from home anyway. So I flew back, I helped/forced her to buy a car. My other aunty flew back and helped her find a place to live (beautiful 1 bed apartment) she doesn't want to live in her 5 bedroom house because its not a fancy area.


Now the tune is, I live all by myself, I have no family I feel sucidial, I have no friends. She would come back to my mothers house and slag my mother off to my grandmother, say how she was kicked out. She doesn't eat anything because she's got no one to cook for. She would then just crash out on the sofa and stay for 3 days straight (no clothes no overnight bag) just completely overstay her welcome.


My other aunty has sent her children to live with my mother so that's another excuse on why my aunty comes over a lot. which is fine. But she never calls. She just shows up, so my mother will be on the way to take them to drama, or karate and she'll act as if she's driven all the way over and no one wants to spend time with her. She'll show up unannouced for dinner (always empty handed) so its more pressure on my mother as she's cooking for children and and my grandmother. Her behaviour is also of a guest. So she will come over but not help at all, want to be catered for, given full attention. If she doesn't get it she will storm out the house making everyone feel guilty.


She caused a huge drama saying how she feels unwelcomed, caused my grandmother to cry everyday worried about her. So I explained how the problem isn't her coming over, its the way she does it. Everyone calls before they go around someones house. The amount of times she's shown up at the house and then flipped out because they went supermarket, then calling every 2 minutes 'how long are you going to be?'

Her reason is 'why should I call when its my family house'

Trying to explain, this is where we'll avoid not being home, the kids would be at home and not at a club, dinner will be there for you too. Still she doesn't want to do it. Think its a victim thing. She'll call the children up and full on say she's going to kill herself because she's all alone and has nothing to eat.


She is not poor by the way she makes a lot of money. When she moved out she left all her stuff everywhere she used up 3 bedrooms with all her stuff. When my other aunty came to visit her children we had made a plan to put her things in storage or throw them away. So we cleaned up the house she came over and puts on a face like she's going to cry - kept saying I live in a box (her house is not a box its huge and if she wants a bigger place she can afford it)

All her stuff she left was actually rubbish she didn't want it - jackets that were falling apart.

She comes to visit for a day but will end up staying the whole week (her house is 10mins away) this is tough on everyone as her energy is very aggressive and she just ends up getting drunk and upsetting people, If you try to go to bed say at 10pm she will start crying how the family don't love her, she has no family.

I flew back to visit my mother and so did my aunty to visit her kids. Toxic aunty came over and ended up staying at the house for 2 weeks. My aunty said to her - Ive come here to see my children, Ive spent 3 days with you, I can't do anymore. My mother had indirectly said 'don't you have any clients' she would cancel her clients for 2 weeks 'to spend time with family'

But what that is, is us driving her around, us cooking, buying stuff, staying up till 2 am watching movies. This just unrealistic. She commented how I'm at the house so why can't she be over. To my mum replied saying 'Thats my daughter' - she'll then say she's over to see her mother which she doesn't say 2 words too and always ends up verbally attacking my grandmother (she's deaf so can't hear) then my grandmother will end up crying and it will cause a huge fight. You'd think she would then leave and go home. But she then stays for a week (so you can imagine the tension)


My grandad's wife passed and he's nearly 80 so I flew back help move him closer to my mothers house and put his property on rent. I needed help to go through his things and pack. So I took toxic aunty with me as she said she had no work. I just needed someone to help me pack. No one is in the country and my mother has the two kids.

the whole week it was so ugly, she would say nasty things to me, complete useless at packaging. Just making more work. It was like a 3year old child. My grandfather has a 4 bedroom property and moving into a 1 bedroom retirement property so he doesn't need a lot of furniture. Every 1 hour was a battle on what we should take and not take. Lockdown was approaching so I said lets just move him out if we need to come back we will I can't rent the house yet anyway.

When we moved my grandfather in she caused a lot of commotion with the movers behind my back - they ended up just dumping furniture everywhere, the flat was unliveable, where I had a solid plan. She knew she messed up and I was tired and angry. I took my grandad back to our house for 1 night and the next day I had to take my mother to sort the house out (my mother was absolutely fuming - my aunty had told the movers when I wasn't around to put extra furniture in the van so there just wasn't any space)

From 10 am my aunty kept calling my phone, my mums, and my grandads. 'hey what are you doin? Im bored'

In my head I'm like we just spent 1 week together fighting (she said ugly things to me like how everyone hates me in the family) she knows my grandads house in not liveable - lockdown is happening. The beds not made up but she said he should sleep on the couch. Just stupid and selfish. So me and my mother where there for hours unpacking, putting furniture together etc. getting kitchen ready for etc. She called me about 15 times, then call my grandad then my mother. Obviously we were like 'whats going on? like you know were busy.' She'd just say "im all alone Im bored'


When we went home, she had called the house phone over 20 times wondering where we are.

I texted her saying can I just have a break? Like we spent all 1 week together I literally just got home and chilling (like give it 2 days) She then made a huge fuss how she wanted to be here during lockdown.

My mother refused - she was like there's already 5 of us here its too much, schools out so getting the kids to study is hard enough - if she comes over its just going to be disruptive.

For the past 6 weeks she has been saying how we haven't gone to drop food off to her, she's too scared to go out shopping, how she's gone to visit my grandad which is a barefaced lie. She's going crazy in her box of a house, she's bored, can't work out because house is too small etc.

I need to still go back to clear my granddads house out to put on rent and waiting for lockdown to end. So I had just spoke to my mother that me and her go up and maybe toxic aunty comes over here for 1 week.

My mother was like but she won't leave after so were still trying to come up with a plan. My 10 year old cousin heard this and stupidly mentioned it to my aunty. So now she wants to come over - said she's not been out why can't she come and stay. How and what to do in this situation? We've told her you can't keep overstaying your welcome. But she just doesn't get it. My mother is very overwhelmed and said she can't deal with this guilt trip anymore. Everyone has always brushed her behaviour under the carpet as we've all just had a life and like ' that's just the way she is' but its more full on now. I've said to her you have no responsibilities why aren't you living your best life? But she just likes causing conflict. My grandmother and grandfather have always let her get away with being silly like 'poor girl she never got married' I have now in response said 'im not married and I don't behave this way' - she made my cousin really upset that 'she wasn't eating as she had no food' I took her shopping before lockdown and she stocked up on a lot of food. Also supermarkets are still open (we go every 2weeks) lots of people live by themselves and buy and cook food. She'll make out like basic day to day life is hard. She constantly sends me 'how to improve your life, or self help book links' but she doesn't read or put any of it in action for her.


If you read this far you are a trooper. I have to say I feel soooo much better now getting it off my chest.

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Sorry I didn't make it clear. I don't live at home - I live abroad I was visiting to help my grandfather move - now my flights been cancelled due to pandemic. So I'm only here temporary. But it's more for advice for my mother. She thinks because I'm at home (with my mother) she should be over too.

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Look I know this might be not what you want to hear, but as an adult I think the only person you should be worrying about is yourself. All your relatives, including your mother, actually CHOSE to let this toxic relative behave the way she did. They were all adults and they did have power over the situation, but yet they chose to let things go on as they did. I understand you are angry and rightfully so. But I think unfortunately you actually can't really do anything about these situations. Your main goal I life should be to focus on yourself and building your own life.


I'm very sorry to hear that you're suicidal and have no friends. I know that the gaslighting and manipulations from yoir aunt may have contributed to some psychological scarring. But now you can't really blame your Aunt that you have no friends and things like that. Since you live abroad, she's not there and she has no power over you and can't control your life. This is your chance to build the life you actually want. I would recommend therapy to discuss all these issues. And trying various ways to meet friends such as Meetup..com, hobby classes, courses, online, etc. If you're suicidal I think it's very important you speak to a counsellor right away. Or maybe even call a suicide hotline.

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Your family has allowed this toxic aunt to run the show, nobody has ever actually told her to STOP IT. The more they cater to her, give in, let her get her way, the more she'll continue to do it. You teach people how to treat you. Toxic aunt knows exactly what she's doing. She whines and carries on because it works! Unless and until your family members put their collective feet down and stand up to her, this will continue.


I dont know where everyone lives, but how can toxic aunt come and stay at your place during the pandemic? You sure cant do that where I live in Canada. Tell her NO.


Some grocery stores deliver, she can get food that way. Or every two wks someone buys her two wks worth of food.


Please wake up and see that toxic aunt is running the show and it's past time for this to end.

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People need to be firmer with their boundaries. But you can make them stand their ground you can only control how you react and one thing that stuck out for me is when this aunt calls you when you’re busy. Tell her you’re busy and you’ll get in touch later (if you actually want to get in touch later, otherwise just tell her you’re busy). And then turn your phone off. Don’t ask for a break, take it.


There’s a very awesome advice columnist called Captain Awkward, she has many letter responses for how to lay down boundaries with pushy family and friends, might be worth a peruse.


And I’m sorry your mum couldn’t shut down this circus better, I’m glad you got away even if you’re having to dip toes back in now

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Your mom can evict her when she wants to. And she should change the locks and not give her a key. The cousins can have food delivered to their mother if they want. I would not visit as long as the aunt is there. I would tell anyone who calls about your aunt "I had enough of her behavior and i do want to talk to you but if its about her, i am going to change the subject". Mom is a grown woman and will put her foot down when she is ready - if she is never ready - don't get involved.

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Ok. Your mother and aunt's drama has been going on long before you were born. Just stay out of it. The more you try to change their dynamic or either of them the more you'll stress yourself out. It's an exercise in futility. Neither your mother nor your aunt need or want your advice.


They have been siblings for decades and decades before you came along. The entire family dynamic is what it is. The less you play social worker the more harmony there will be... at least for you.

Sorry I didn't make it clear. I don't live at home - I live abroad I was visiting to help my grandfather move She thinks because I'm at home (with my mother) she should be over too.
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  • 3 weeks later...

When you have toxic family members, the only thing you can control is how you respond to them. Think of it like "grey rock" - little to no reaction, no response no matter how much they try to provoke you.


Learn little phrases like your aunt goes "you are acting funny, why are you being weird, why don't you participate in conversation?" Instead of getting provoked, just say "sorry you feel that way aunty." and go straight back to minding your own business. Every time she tries to provoke you, turn it back on her - sorry you see it that way, sorry you feel that way, I hear you and you are right, I'm weird. It will shut her up fast because you are making it about her or you are dismissing her by acknowledging her bs as truth instead of fighting against it, denying her desire to create a fight.


Lots of resources on google and youtube on how to deal, respond, not respond and shut down people like that. Look it up and start learning how not to respond or get goaded into an argument. As for your mom, yeah, they've known each other longer than you've existed. Leave them to their own dynamic and also learn how to keep out of it. You don't have to leave the room, you have to learn how to respond in a way that shuts down the provocation that's directed to you.

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