Family BondingHow to Set Boundaries With Family?


How to Set Boundaries With Family?

Families are the people with whom we grow up from childhood to adult age. Family behaviors vary from one family to another. They can be the most amazing and supportive members of your life or an absolute nightmare. We need to respect and value our family but if they cross their limits we must take the issues into our hands and set some boundaries.

As a kid, we ignore a lot of unacceptable behavior from our family members. When we grow up, we start to understand family dynamics, issues, and trauma. As we said every family is different from one another, and their issues are also different. Each healthy family has the same behavioral pattern but each unhealthy family’s issues differ from each other which is why it is difficult to identify. When we get to know that our family member crosses certain boundaries, we need to fix the matter as early as we can.

Family Boundaries

We cannot go a single day without our family. This is why a toxic family is harmful to our mental health. If you grew up in a household where negative behavior is common, then a major part of your childhood required cutting ties and trying to survive. You need to ask yourself if this is what you deserve. If the answer is no, you should focus on setting boundaries. There are two types of family boundaries.

1. Healthy Family Boundaries

2. Toxic Family Boundaries

Healthy Family Boundaries

We all more or less know what toxic households look like. But it is rare to know a healthy family. Healthy boundaries are necessary for any of your situations, it could be family, friends, or co-workers.  Any behavior that puts you in a situation where you feel appreciated, and happy and does not affect your mental and physical health is considered a healthy behavior. We spend most of our lives with our family, so it is important to practice a healthy relationship with each other.

Signs of Healthy Boundaries:

  • Say NO without feeling guilty.
  • Able to openly talk about issues you are facing.
  • Won’t tolerate abuse or control.
  • Admit your mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
  • Not getting offended about others’ boundaries.
  • Comfortable enough to share information at the appropriate time.
  • Always getting appreciated even for your smallest achievements.
  • Encouraged or supported for personal growth.
  • Asking for help without any fear.
Healthy boundaries

Toxic Family Boundaries

Most of us are familiar with toxic family behavior. Any behavior that makes you feel worthless, upset, and feels questioned about your purpose is considered toxic behavior. Toxicity can be temporary or it can be permanent. If a toxic behavior is happening from the start without stopping, it can only mean one thing, that person is portraying their insecurities on you.  Here are common some signs of toxic boundaries.

Signs of Toxic Boundaries:

  • Find it really difficult to say NO.
  • Finding it difficult to open up about your feelings.
  • Tolerate abuse and control.
  • Deny your mistake.
  • Overshare personal information.
  • Scared to ask for help.
  • Manipulate you to make you feel guilty.
  • Deny taking responsibility for their harmful behavior.
  • Leaving you feeling exhausted by draining your energy.
  • Compromising personal value and need for the sake of others.
Toxic boundaries

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10 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries with Toxic Family

Toxic behavior should not be permitted in any family.  You may be able to control other family members’ actions, but for your sanity, you can take responsibility for your actions. We need to set a boundary before things can get worse. Here are 10 easy ideas to set boundaries with your toxic family.

1. Putting your feelings first

You need to respect other people’s opinions and feelings but that does not mean your feelings do not matter. If someone disrespects you or hurts you in any way, you should not excuse their behavior. People often show who they are through their behavior. If you put yourself first, they will not be able to manipulate you.

First, you need to figure out what your expectations are from this person and if can they fully satisfy your expectations. People who deal with toxic family members often ignore their needs and feelings. This is why they always feel stuck and drained. When you stop addressing your needs and feelings you will feel disconnected from reality and find it difficult to be yourself. You always need to remember that you only have yourself. Prioritizing your needs and feelings is the first step in setting boundaries with your family.

Putting your feelings first

2. Do not tolerate disrespect

If you do not stop people from disrespecting you, they may take you for granted and ignore your boundaries. A healthy relationship’s core is mutual respect. Without respect you have nothing. Sometimes it will be hard for you to analyze disrespectful behavior. At first, it may be subtle, but it can become violent over time. It can also lead to emotional abuse.

Disrespectful behavior can cause self-doubt, irritation, shame, anger, and uncertainty. You start to feel unsure about your thoughts and face obstacles at every step. It becomes very difficult to achieve your goals when you are filled with these negative thoughts.

If you ever encounter disrespectful behavior, you need to analyze the reason behind it and acknowledge the disrespect. If you see that the disrespectful behavior was not then you should take necessary action because you do not deserve to be disrespected in any way. If your action is wrong, they should talk to you about it. They should acknowledge you as a respectful family member.

Do not tolerate disrespect

3. Confront Them

Confronting a toxic family member is never easy. You need to be prepared for their reactions. All you need is a little encouragement and confidence. There is some disagreement that you cannot ignore. If you ignore them long enough it can be the biggest problem in your life. A toxic person will always gaslight you by saying that their actions meant no harm, you are overreacting or denying causing you harm. The more you tolerate this behavior the more they will take you for granted.

As soon as you realize they were intentionally causing you harm, you must confront them. You should express your feelings and emotions. You need to make sure they know that they are being disrespectful. Some confrontations can cause chaos but in the end, they can make the situation better.

The majority of the time we get so caught up in avoiding a toxic person, we forget to take care of ourselves. As a result, we started to become distant, unhappy, and depressed. I someone makes you feel uncomfortable, you need to embrace the feeling and analyze it for what it is.

Confront them

4. Realistic expectation

You always need to set realistic expectations. You can expect a toxic person to understand your feelings and try to change himself at that moment. Dealing with a toxic family member can be draining and irritating. Have realistic expectations while confronting them.

Suppose you feel that they are overstepping your boundaries and fail to acknowledge you. You should decide if they are worth having or not. If their behavior largely impacts your mood throughout the day you know what you should do.

You cannot cut off ties with your toxic family member. Some people can change when they realize their mistakes. Everybody deserves a second chance. You should provide them an opportunity to explain themselves. If you notice them doing the same hurtful behavior, you should cut them off for your mental and emotional well-being.

Realistic expectation

5. Learn to say NO

We often feel guilty saying NO even though we are the one who is getting hurt. You must practice saying NO whenever you feel discomfort about certain behavior.  A toxic family member will always try to push their opinion on you. If you get them off guard by saying NO, they will feel completely baffled and will not find any courage to control you. This is especially the case for people who find pleasure in your discomfort.

At first, you will face many difficulties, but it will be easy over time. You can feel pressured to say yes when you want to say NO, this type of situation can affect your self-esteem and mental health. When a toxic person realizes that you are standing up for yourself, they will think twice before trying to approach you.

Learn to say no

6. Choose your path

You should live your life in your own way. Nobody should stop you from chasing your dream. A toxic person will always find a new way to make you feel worthless and belittle you. You should stand up for yourself if no one is supporting you. Sometimes setting boundaries and confronting them is not enough. You can stand up for yourself but a toxic person will always find a way to make you upset.

You need to practice and have patience. You may have to confront them over and over. This is a horrible situation to be in but you cannot give up hope. If you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.  You need to force yourself to believe that no one can control you and affect your mood. You are in charge only you will decide what your fate will be.

Choose your path

7. Value your time

You cannot spend your whole life trying to sacrifice your happiness to make others feel better. You need to believe that you matter, your time is precious like others. You cannot permit others to waste your time. If you make people a priority, you will always ignore your true feelings.

If you feel that a toxic family member does not give you proper respect and wastes your time by making the same mistake. You should walk away from them. There are no ways to mend things with them if they are not trying. At first, it would be difficult and painful that they fail to value you. Always remember it can save you from future chaos and trauma if you value your time.

Value your time

8. Look for a better relationship

You cannot stuck in a place where you do not feel appreciated. You should try making friends or meet family members who can value you. For example, if your dad continuously hurts you, you can walk away from him. Walking from him can make your life easier and more positive. It might be difficult to do at first, but learning to let go of toxic relationships is for the better.

Everyone deserves a better relationship with their family. You can be a part of a healthy family by eliminating the toxic person. Sacrificing your sanity for a toxic family can never bring you happiness. That’s why you should get out of your comfort zone and try to look for better family members.

Look for better relationship

9. Recognize your trigger

You should know which type of behavior triggers you. It could be your dad calling you useless, your sister saying bad things about you behind your back or your mom not acknowledging your feelings and denying them. You let a toxic member in your head and yell in frustration. They will find a way to put you down if you react.

You need to know your triggers, what is causing them, and how to deal with them. If you can take control of your mind, it will fail to trigger you. You should always keep in mind that a toxic individual will always try to get a reaction from you.

Recognize your trigger

10. Avert family gossip

We are all familiar with family gossip. It is a way toxic family members belittle other people and spread false rumors. Nothing good can come from it. It also affects your mental and emotional health.

You should try avoiding family gossip for your well-being.  You can block or remove these types of people from your life. They can never tolerate seeing other people happy. If they cannot feel happy about others’ achievements, imagine what they can feel towards you.

Avert family gossip

Lack of Boundaries

Lack of boundaries

You can identify a healthy behavior by focusing on the actions, characteristics, and behaviors that are making you feel at peace. If their action towards you is negative and makes you question your worth, then you can count it as toxic behavior. You cannot permit toxic behavior in your life. If you do not set boundaries you will face these issues. You will all the time feel drained and exhausted. It will affect your studies and work. You will feel this way because they deny their actions and blame you for everything.

Your relationship with that toxic family member tends to be dramatic. You will feel bad for setting boundaries. You overthink at that point where you can never say no to them. You always are worried about letting people down. If you grow up in a toxic household where you let them treat you any way they desire, you will find it difficult to believe in yourself. You will always think that if your own people never trusted you, you will always be wrong. When you lack a safe space from family, in your adult life you will find it difficult to trust others.

Toxic people tend to take advantage of you in an obvious or subtle way. You will feel overlooked and blamed at work, in your family, or in any social gatherings. Anytime you face chaos, you will isolate yourself and try to run away from your issues.

Professional Help

Professional help

Sometimes close people fail to provide the help you need. You may find yourself in a situation where you question everything you have done and what is your purpose. Toxic families can affect our minds and health in a way we cannot function like normal human beings. You started to lose all your hope and are ready to give up.

If you ever find yourself in this situation you can reach out to any professional. You can join in family therapy. They will help you find the main issues and how to solve them. If you are struggling with setting boundaries and where to start, professional support can help you get on track.


  1. Why do I struggle to set boundaries?
    You will be hesitant to set boundaries because you are people’s pleasure. You find it difficult to upset others because you prioritize their needs.
  2. Am I controlling or setting boundaries?
    Controlling behavior is when you make people do what you want regardless of their opinion but boundaries help us to be ourselves.
  3. What are emotional boundaries?
    Emotional boundaries help to protect your mental health, and your right to express your thoughts and not have to take care of other people’s feelings.
  4. Why family boundaries are important?
    Family boundaries help young people to develop self-confidence, teach them about responsibility, and make them a part of society.

Final Thoughts

Healthy family members help each other to grow, appreciate your efforts, and show support during tough times. They are supposed to make you feel loved, welcomed, and worthy. Here are some healthy boundaries to help you figure out. On the other hand, a toxic family discards your feelings and tries to manipulate and control your life for their own gain. For this reason, setting boundaries with a family is necessary.

Just because they are family, it is not acceptable to tolerate their hurtful behavior. You can figure out the pattern of behavior and then take action by setting boundaries. You can live a healthy and peaceful life by prioritizing yourself and keeping yourself away from these types of people.

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Maria W. Corley is a family psychology expert dedicated to helping families thrive. With a passion for improving relationships, Maria shares practical advice on Merge Family. Her goal is to make your family feel closer than ever by addressing communication issues and fostering understanding.

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