Toxic Family: Are You Obligated To Help?

I’ve been dealing with some heavy shit the past few weeks and it’s been hard.

I have an older family member who has been asking/expecting financial help to live because for years, he and his wife did nothing to prepare for their retirement and lived at a level that was well above their income. Not to mention, they were less than stellar family members and did little to help others voluntarily throughout the years.

Should you help everyone in your family just because they are family?

I keep hearing because they are my family as the reason why I should ‘do the right thing’ and pitch in but thinking about that brings up more questions for me…

  • Where is this rule written?
  • Why did they not have to follow it when others needed help?
  • Am I a bad person if I choose to not help?
  • Do I have to help because others in my family will be burdened and I should share the burden?

What I think bothers me more as my family starts to figure out how to offer help together is the lack of any sort of real understanding or care about the impact their ask has. It affects our ability to pay down our own debts, save for our children’s college and put away for when our retirement comes.  All things they never did as they lived a high stylin’ life.  When you don’t have any extra money, you have to change your standard of living – you can’t shop at high end stores or get fancy cars with a high monthly payments.  It’s been their problem all along –they don’t grasp the concept of having to lower their standard of living.

You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.

The worst part of having to figure out how to help them is the bubbling up of old buried family issues. Maybe we need to celebrate Festivus – and air our grievances! Things that you thought were way behind you come to the surface with each back and forth.  Their apparent lack of understanding or taking responsibility for their situation and their combative responses to any sort of inquiry into what’s really going on with them financially and physically literally brings me back to my teens and early 20’s when I was dealing with them more regularly. It’s a huge reason why I keep them at a far distance from my every day life – they are not healthy people.

Is there a way I can help, whereas it does not play into their unhealthy lifestyle but also does not cause me to revisit old family crap? That’s the question really – I try to focus on being kind to everyone but I am not willing to do it to the point where it burns me. No way…

Every family has stuff to deal with — good and bad. I am certainly not the first person out there who has had to deal with mooching family members. It’s causing me to turn in emotionally and I am finding it hard to be inspired and motivated to share like I used to. It’s a very sad situation and while I certainly want to help if I can – I’m not sure I can without causing myself inner turmoil.

When Parents Are Too Toxic to Tolerate

Toxic parents. How to know when it’s time to let go.



3 thoughts on “Toxic Family: Are You Obligated To Help?”

  • It’s hard to cope with aging family members or even just ill family! I thought I would share this reference that everyone in my faith studied last year on this topic. It is aimed specifically towards the nuclear family but the principles listed might be helpful. You really hit the nail on the head, strong communication is really needed to successfully meet the needs of aging ones. Big hugs 🙂
    http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2014207?q=aging+family&p=par

  • There’s the old saying about ones results, “I have what I have because I am who I am.” Their results are because of who they are. The only time someone has what they have because of you is when they’re your child. Another one is “Don’t be upset with the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do.” Work is a form of sacrifice. It sounds like you’ve sacrificed when others were being reckless and it’s simply time for them to REALLY sacrifice. They need to downgrade to a place that is half the rent. No cable. One phone. No car payments. Sell everything. If it helps you to not look like a bad guy list all of your expenses showing how you don’t have any room for more expenses. I’ve told family members that I’ve never had a car payment(chose to sacrifice) so I sure can’t go and cover their defaulted one. For you, you would basically be repaying them their wasted car payments. You have to do what gives you total peace. Know that once you start their needs will be endless. We used to have a “friend” come around who would always ask to borrow $20. I finally started saying ‘oh wow I was just about to ask if you could loan me $100.’ They vanished forever after the second time.

    • Thanks Vic. A lot has happened since I wrote this post that just further bolsters my decision to back away because you are right – it is an endless request with a sense of entitlement behind it. I refuse to enable it anymore…

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