Skip To Content
  • Viral badge

“I Had Been Normalizing Their Behavior My Entire Life”: People Are Sharing The Exact Moment They Realized Their Family Was Toxic

"Something just clicked — and I realized my mom always picked fights with me right before a big moment in my life."

Note: This post discusses body dysmorphia, abuse, child loss, and depression.


We recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to share the exact moment they realized their family was toxic — and we received hundreds of responses in return.

Mom yelling at their daughter while she's working on the computer

Families — or certain family members — become toxic for a variety of reasons, which in turn, can become generational trauma. It can be hard to break the cycle, especially when there may not be the awareness to do so.

Shot of a man looking stressed while sitting on the sofa at home

Still, part of breaking that cycle is taking about it — and continuing to create awareness and the desire for change. Below, you'll find several of the responses we received.

1. "I had become really sick and was in so much excruciating pain that sometimes walking was almost impossible, and we didn’t know why at that time. My mother needed a ride to an out-of-town doctor's appointment, which my husband agreed to do; however, our child was at a summer day camp. I asked a mutual friend of my mom if he could pick up my child because I would have had to walk to get them and he agreed. My mother knew about this arrangement. My mom, however, called me the morning of and told me that her dog had to go to a vet appointment and that the mutual friend was going to do it now, and I would have to make new arrangements to get my child."

"I was devastated that my mom chose her dog over me. When I confronted her on it she was like, 'But what if Mikey died?' At this point, we didn’t know if I could have been dying. Any time her dog sneezes, she freaks out — but if her child gets sick, who cares?"

jennym13

2. "When my mother tried to convince me to take an ex back because 'he only hit me once' — after he punched me in the face. In my mom's words to me: 'You’re just a gardener and he’s a lawyer.'"

ednjune

3. "I visited my mom's house with my husband a few years ago for a holiday, and my sister-in-law, who I'd never met, seemed to hate us right away. The final straw was the night before I had to make the three-hour drive home, my allergies were flaring up, and I always struggle to relax before long drives, so I went to bed early while my husband stayed up watching TV. My SIL went into the living room and asked why my husband was watching TV alone. He explained that I needed to drive tomorrow and he didn't want to keep me up. She said that was unhealthy, and that it meant we had a bad relationship if we weren't joined at the hip 24/7. (Utter nonsense, BTW.)

"He got sick of her lecturing him about our relationship and retreated to my room to read until he was tired. I slept restlessly and felt like hell for the drive home, and then I guess my SIL fed my brother some bullshit and he messaged me on Facebook saying weird, hateful, dehumanizing stuff about my poor, innocent husband who was just bewildered by how his consideration for me turned into so much drama.

I messaged my mom, explained the situation, and asked her if she could talk with my brother about his hateful words and hurtful behavior. Instead, she went off on me about 'always running to [her] for help,' and wouldn't stand up for me or my husband.

This wasn't new, but what was new was realizing that my mom was not only refusing to help, but also my family's attacks were no longer limited to me but also to people around me. 

There were lots of things that made me reduce contact through the years, including this. I never again went to my mom's for the holidays, and I didn't see or speak to my brother again until my mom died. I'm still keeping him at a distance, and I hope he hasn't missed that my SIL is now his ex-wife, and I'm still married."

metm

Two people arguing sitting on the couch

4. "When I was a teenager, I went to the ER because I ingested too many laxatives to lose weight. I overheard the doctor talking to my mother in the hallway saying that I had an eating disorder and needed professional help. She responded that 'I was too heavy' to have that."

jessindeed

5. "I was not blessed with good siblings (total of 8). I once tolerated years of shunning, humiliation, and abuse since I was 10. I was told I was not part of the family and if I died, no one would care. I was to not participate in holidays and (as an adult) wouldn’t get invited to any family functions. Christmas was the worst. They would say I wasn’t worth being a part of their celebration, then exchange gifts between each other and my parents in front of me every year. One Christmas, I was pregnant and due early February. They began to insult, humiliate, and laugh at me. It even triggered me to go into early labor. I delivered a healthy baby boy, however, I lost the child years later. I contacted them all to notify them but was ghosted — so I mourned alone."

"My parents enabled the abusive treatments but now regret not correcting each of their behaviors. Today, marks 10 years that I LET THEM GO! I have my career, live far away from them, and I am living my best years with my wonderful husband, adult children, and in-laws."

mrsbenefiel2019

6. "I was laid off from a my favorite job, which also included touring with a band. My identity, my road family, and the fans were my entire world — and I was totally lost. I went to visit my family in another state, because I needed to get out of town and regroup. The day that I arrived, my sister picked me up with her 10-year-old daughter in the car. They left me in the backseat and basically talked crap about everyone in our family. I had a full-blown panic attack in the middle of the grocery store. I couldn't stop crying. However, my sister decided that she couldn't deal with me. So she called our dad who lived in a neighboring town (which was 40 minutes away) and told him to meet her at a place that was halfway. She dumped me on the curb in the snow and drove off. She does something like this (or worse) every time I visit. Our dad died, and I have no reason to visit that town or her ever again."

suewood

Two people fighting in their home

7. "When my mom told me that between being gay or dead, she’d prefer that I died."

mrzaf

8. "I realized when I spent Christmas by myself due to COVID, and how much I loved being away. My anxiety was gone, I could watch the Christmas movies I loved without anyone telling me they were stupid, and I ate what I wanted without anyone reminding me that women don't need carbs or asking if I was going to eat 'all of that.' I just realized how much I didn't look forward to being with my family and spending time by myself without anyone criticizing made me feel happier than I have in a long time."

madds2016

9. "My mother only loved and cared about my older sister. Before I was born, she was broke and living in a small studio. She got with my father — who never wanted children and was older — because he had decent money and a house. She told me all my life: I was just an anchor baby, only born so my sister could have better. Then when my mother's family came into money, my parents divorced, my dad took off, and my mother would literally pay me to not be seen or heard from. Now I have bipolar disorder and intense feelings of abandonment. I left the day I turned 18 and haven't spoken to my mother or sister since, but I still struggle with feeling like my life has no purpose, and I was only ever meant to give my mother and sister financial security."

thegeekl

Mom and daughter talking inside a home

10. "It may sound minor, but the first time I came home from college after being away for three months, my mother greeted me with: 'You know, you should wear makeup. It makes your face look so much better.' Then my sister greeted me with a disappointed: 'Oh, you're home. When are you going back?' That's when I realized I wasn't thought of as part of the family unit, just an outsider looking in."

ladicair

11. "My paternal grandmother was awful to my mother. She was passive-aggressive toward her looks, her job, the way she parented my brother and me, and about her marriage to my dad. My dad was an alcoholic and pretty abusive. Things came to a head when I was 16, and he was arrested. Grandma asked us, 'What did you do to provoke him?'"

"When I was starting to develop, grandma would comment on my weight all the time. I remember the summer after I turned 12, my boobs went up two cup sizes and suddenly, I had hips and a butt. My grandma asked me if I wanted to do Weight Watchers and offered to pay. She has dementia now and lives in a home. Apparently, she’s the 'sweetest old lady' now. I don’t care. I refuse to go see her."

annem4e39bbc9d

12. "My mother would call or text me during work hours and would be upset when I wouldn't respond right away. When I explained (multiple times) that she could call once I was off work at 4:30 p.m., and I would answer, she called me a spoiled and ungrateful child. As a grown woman who had a college education, career, and lived with her husband, this was the last straw to be called a child because I was not constantly available to her. I then realized that my mother had always been like this, always needed me to do something for her or to be around, and me being an independent adult did not sit well with her."

"I have not spoken to my mother in about six years, and she has not met my children. At a funeral, she asked me for pictures, and I told her that we needed to talk about our past and she needed to hear me out on my feelings because she would never let me before. It has been two years since, and she has not even tried. She has made the rest of her side of the family see me as the bad guy and her as the victim, so I don't see or talk to them either. Losing a whole side of my family was hard, but my mental health is so much better for it."

hswart626

Woman sitting on a sofa and looking at mobile phone screen at home.

13. "When I arranged a birthday lunch for my mom, everyone drove more than an hour to be there. She showed up late even though she lived nearby. Didn’t greet me or anyone at the table other than the two family members she sat next to, and after she was done eating and opening up her gifts, she left the table while everyone was still eating and celebrating without saying any goodbyes or thank yous. I was so used to her behavior and shrugged it off, but my boyfriend at the time pulled me aside and said that that was the rudest thing he had ever witnessed."

"I then realized that I had been normalizing her behavior my entire life rather than calling it out for what it is."

dbleo7

14. "I've been blamed for any misfortune that happened in my family. One time it was when my dad cheated on my mom — not once, not twice, but more than three times. I also got blamed for being such a difficult child by BOTH of my parents, and was told that's why he cheated on her."

franciscakos

15. "My parents and I had always had problems. The earliest I remember was them pretending to run over my imaginary friend with the car when I was really little — and they laughed at me while I cried. It got worse as I got older. My dad used to wake me up at 5 a.m. before school and make me go running while he and his friend ran behind me yelling fat jokes. My mom slapped me across the face and told me I ruined the family Christmas picture because I dyed my hair. She changed the entire theme of my wedding reception behind my back, and I didn't find out until the day of when it was too late to change it. The final wake-up call though was when she took me to NYC for a vacation to bond and fix our relationship, and then over cocktails, told me that she and my dad were having problems in their marriage and it was all my fault. I realized in that moment that no mom who truly loves her daughter would ever say that, and something shattered."

"I was never able to trust her after that and any love I had left for her evaporated. I started seeing both of my parents for the selfish, hateful people they are. Two years later, I finally found the strength to block their numbers and move to the other side of the world. That was nine months ago, and I'm finally healing and becoming my own person."

smrtblonde77

Times Square with people cross the street

16. "My mother-in-law pretends I don’t exist because I’m not comfortable being around her other son who went online and brought home an Asian woman to meet his parents less than two months after meeting me. (I’m Asian.) He used a long list of Asian stereotypes for the reason why he started dating this woman. She soon broke up with him, saying he was 'emotionally unstable and controlling.' He then found another Asian woman."

"And then shortly after that, another Asian woman. He continued to use racist generalizations to describe the families of these women.

His mother believes I’m the problem and that I’m only offended by their racist beliefs and inappropriate behaviors because I’m a millennial. She says I’m 'difficult' and wished I was 'easy' (aka, submissive and controllable) like other Asian women. Toxic family through and through."

ebnm2021

17. "For me, it was when I had to skip Thanksgiving for having panic attacks about entering an eating disorder program the following week. The story was I was being 'selfish and wanted to stay home and smoke pot.' Boundaries are always a struggle, and that’s actually EXACTLY what I was doing, but on doctor's orders."

af729264

18. "I realized when my mom picked a fight with me before my college graduation. I was 32 and it was a huge deal for me — then something clicked: I realized she always picked fights with me right before a big moment in my life so she could use it as an excuse to ignore me for months. Now I love it when she ignores me. My anxiety came down, I’m happier, and I love my life."

trickyminx

Graduation cap and diploma with a stack of books on a wood background

19. "When I was visiting home and my grandma asked me to go to church with her. I had just earned my MBA and had started work at a major bank. She asked me to lie and tell everyone that I was a lawyer because working in finance with an MBA wasn’t impressive enough to her. When my sister visited (who was working on her master's), she asked her to tell her church friends she was in med school. I look back now and realize all the times my grandma belittled our accomplishments just for the hell of it."

crystalc425

20. "I grew up with brothers who often made it their goal to make fun of me, put me down, or tease me about some airhead thing I did. They've never sat down with me to get to know me. Usually they'd hear from the grapevine about some dumb mistake I make. So when we saw each other, they'd make fun of me and let me have it. When I was a kid, and we were closer, I dealt with it better, but then when they disappeared from my life, it stopped being okay. Last year, my mom died unexpectedly. She hadn't been gone more than a week when we held her celebration of life. Two of my brothers showed up, sat at their table the whole time. And to make things even harder on me, they started making fun of me as I was grieving the loss of my amazing mom. I don't really speak to those brothers now. It's for the best."

brookeaprilrain

The bouquet of yellow roses on the window. Natural flowers background.

21. "I had started a new job and my aunt was asking me about it. I was excited to tell her about it when my stepgrandpa said, 'Nobody cares about your stupid job so shut up.' I immediately walked out without a word. I refuse to be around him but keep being put on guilt trips for not being around."

emilyp40ce33bc7

22. "When I snapped and informed my sibling that their manipulative behavior had left me feeling suicidal, and their response was to post a photo of them in the garden, with sunlight on their face and a caption about how great they felt, and how things just weren't their problem."

constanvee

Did you grow up in a toxic family? If yes, when did you realize it? Tell us in the comments below.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. Other international suicide helplines can be found at befrienders.org.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is 1-888-950-6264 (NAMI) and provides information and referral services; GoodTherapy.org is an association of mental health professionals from more than 25 countries who support efforts to reduce harm in therapy.