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Family gatherings- continuous toxicity

white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

What is a toxic family member? My interpretation is- a family member that regularly applies direct or indirect hurt verbally with the intention to gain an adverse reaction for their own benefit be it revenge, to gain popularity or monetary gain or expression of jealousy.

We have all just had our xmas so there would be many members here that have not had a xmas they want to remember. Family gatherings I often say - is like Russian Roulette, taking a chance it will all go well without conflict. If you have a 50/50 chance of conflict at your xmas gathering based on past episodes, then why would you gamble again and again meeting up with toxic relatives? It isnt logical, are you living on hope? I have a friend that divides his xmas. My friend and wife visit his younger sister, BIL and kids on xmas eve, his elderly parents for xmas lunch and his adult daughter and husband on xmas dinner. All are estranged except for him and his wife. So, his wife and him are close to all of them. A couple of years ago he calmly told each group that they loved them all and wanted to be close and neutral with all of them and so talking about others wont be tolerated.

On Boxing day he holds a gathering of all his friends. Carefully chosen friends that have no social issues with his family. He often suggests to me that that gathering is his best xmas of all as they are chosen whereas his family isnt, more like obligation.

He has a point. We usually attend family xmas's because we are obligated. My family 40 years ago was similar in that I was often with service personnel on a mission so my "family" for xmas were other troops. There was never controversy but when my defence time ended there was always an argument at a family get together usually xmas. It seemed xmas wasnt complete for my mother unless it included a big uproar. I had the choice after many years and I ended up choosing to experience xmas without her on the basis of - that my xmas is under my control, I can risk it or guarantee to enjoy it. Every xmas since has been amazing including this one just gone.

They say "you cant choose your family"

I've proved otherwise. So think about it. Your stability of mental health and general happiness is paramount and is not worth the gamble Russian roulette gives. The odds aren't good enough.


3 Replies 3

Valued Contributor
Valued Contributor

Hi Tony,

I had a very relaxing Christmas this year thanks to being forced into quarantine for potential Covid exposure (negative thankfully). It’s funny, you know I had not known the weight, until I felt the relief that I didn’t need to make the trip. My mum had been “acting up” before Christmas, so I knew it was going to be one of those years. Im also not speaking to my partner’s family on account of their toxic behavior recently so it felt nice to have it taken out of my hands. I think people probably see their toxic families for two reasons, the first being a sense of duty and the second being a lack of any other options. It’s funny but toxic families can seem to almost suck up all of your time and energy and so it’s hard to escape their gravitational pull. Christmas is also traditionally a time for family so it can be hard to find friends who are free and willing to break with tradition, although I would welcome it. I like your philosophy to Christmas, sometimes you need to be the curator of your own life.

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello Tony, a good thread, and for me, I have always avoided family gatherings since the divorce, because two members keep asking me question after question before I have time to answer the previous one they've asked me, this annoyed me, it was exhausting and spoiled any celebration because all they want to know are details that I wasn't prepared to share as I was still struggling, my therapy had just begun and to disclose any information was only to satisfy them and not help me.

So I'm not asked anymore, except my twin always mentions it, and if I did decide to go, then I'd have to stay in Melbourne and now they don't expect me to go.

Toxic people pretend to be kind but all they want is to feed themselves with information that doesn't concern them.

Best wishes.


white knight
Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi Geoff,

Re: "Toxic people pretend to be kind but all they want is to feed themselves with information that doesn't concern them." That happens a lot. I'm also reminded by this sentence how hard it is to refuse to give such information. Some of us are not so forthcoming of our disapproval of questions about the side of our life that has proven less successful or ongoing of turmoil.

For me I have latched onto a saying in such circumstances "Gee you have a good memory! that was so long ago I dont go there". Other answers to questions or statements-

"Dont be so sensitive"

- "thats like asking you to shrink your height 150mm, how hard would that be"?

"Have you heard from (my ex)"

"No, have you"?

(usually a "no" answer.)

"well that makes both of us so we dont need to go there"


Good point that we often dont realise we are walking into a minefield. Sometimes I'm certain people rehearse their questions prior to xmas. As I build up easily with stress I find that a group of 8 or less people for xmas dinner or any gathering around xmas time is ok. Over that it becomes complex. We also have a limit of 3 people staying over maximum.

Thats the first time I've seen a positive for Covid.