Family is the definition and representation of unconditional love and support. Family to different people means different things, but with time you grow to learn that family does not necessarily mean the people you grew up with, who raised you, or that are blood-related. A true family really just means the people that understand, love, respect, and support you. Many Arab household families can consist of parents, siblings, grandparents, sometimes it can be a busy household with large families living together.
But regardless, this is just one of the examples of what an Arab household can look like, but there can be small ones too, with just parents and siblings.
One thing we can all agree on is no one is raised in a perfect environment or it’s very rare to find someone who is raised in a perfect household, with the perfect family and the right teachings.
On the bright side, you don’t have to stay with family members that you feel you don’t get along with. The definition of toxic family members is different for everyone, and there is no actual real way to assess what toxic means for you, it could mean different things for different people.
A toxic family is one where your family members don’t respect your boundaries, and they create an unhealthy family living situation. They build stressful interpersonal relationships and cause mental and emotional distress.
Major signs of toxic family members
The constant controlling
There’s a difference between controlling in terms of parenting, and being excessively controlling where it creates fear for the child/adult.
Any family member and parents need to know what personal space means and to show respect. When it comes to controlling people they lack power in their other personal relationships so they usually project it on their children. Controlling can also mean excessive forcing to do something, and they think that is persuading.
Any wrongdoing that happens in the Arab household, they try to blame you, even if it’s their fault. In toxic family relationships, one family member may blame the other for their problems, rather than taking responsibility for his/her own actions that may have contributed to the problem.
While there are times that some people don’t realize they’ve made a mistake if this is something that happens on a recurring basis it needs to be discussed.
Critical towards you
A toxic family member seems as if they can never be satisfied with you or the changes that are happening in your life. No matter what accomplishments other members of the family achieve or how well adjusted the other areas of life are, the toxic person will always find a way to criticize and undermine the other person’s character.
Being criticized over and over again and never making your family happy can be very damaging to one’s growth.
Neglecting your feelings
Toxic family members do not care about your feelings and do not want to know when you are sad, happy, or upset. They do not want to see you laugh or cry, they don’t want anything to do with your feelings.
Close family members that are smart will want to encourage each other, and hear each other out.
Creating sibling rivalry
Any family that has more than one child is likely to see sibling rivalry from time to time. In fact, sibling rivalry can help foster healthy competition and drive to succeed.
But, when this happens repeatedly and becomes extreme then it is considered toxic and should be watched out for.
Here are a few ways to deal with toxic family members
It can be tough but find a way to leave
So many times in the Arab world our parents refuse to let us leave because they are attached to us, and want us to continue to live in the unhealthy cycle that they have created in the house.
The best advice anyone can give someone living in a toxic Arab household is to leave, it will be the best thing you can ever do for your mental health.
Set boundaries with your family
After talking with one another about concerns, it’s time to set healthy boundaries for what behavior is acceptable within the family and what is not. All family members should have clear instructions about what is expected of them and why.
The other family members should express gratitude, not criticism of one another. Be assertive when setting and enforcing boundaries.
Find the root cause of toxic behavior
For some, toxic behavior has become a way of life because no one has ever set standards of acceptable behavior within the family. At other times, there may be underlying conditions, such as mental illness, that may cause behavioral disturbances.
Try to figure out and understand where your family lies and where the toxicity comes from. This can be hard, but worthwhile in the end.
Don’t be afraid to be independent
Breaking free and finding yourself, and your independence is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and it is also the most rewarding in the end.
The definition of independence can have different meanings for everyone so it is important for you to first establish what you think needs to be done. Independence helps with growth too.
Dealing with toxic family dynamics can be difficult, and put you in different situations. For some, it can be hard to speak up, set boundaries, and break the tie.
If that is something that you feel is difficult for you, it is totally okay to reach out to a professional health representative and seek help from them.