Answer: I wouldn’t tell them they are toxic. That invites a discussion that will be toxic to you. So just focus on getting them out of your life. I would just say I need a 3 month break from them. Don’t give a reason. Don’t argue. Don’t answer questions. Send it as an email. Ignore their replies to your email. Don’t answer the phone, don’t reply to texts. Nothing.
The question is very interesting, because it is clear you are entangled in their lives. And you want an argument with them. That is normal for a toxic relationship. We want to either heal our parents or get revenge on our parents, but seldom to just walk away from our parents, which is the healthiest choice.
Having a discussion about wanting a break from your parents hinders you from getting what you want.
A toxic person I had kicked out of a singing quartet I direct, wanted to rejoin. He said that if I didn’t let him rejoin our quartet, he would have to tell our next gig that we were woefully under prepared, and not to rely on his good word that we were ready to perform. I wrote a lengthy email reply, but before I sent it, I showed it to some trusted friends.
My brother asked, “What is your goal?”
“To get him out of my life, but still be reasonably amicable so if I see him at a singing club we both attend, we can be polite.”
My brother said, “This email won’t get you that. Don’t reply.”
He was right. A lengthy email invites a discussion or an argument. Was I ever going to convince him he was toxic? No! One of my mentors used to advise: “Don’t feed the fire.”
If you encounter your parents at a family event, then just listen, and ask for more info. Don’t reply, don’t argue, don’t get drawn into a discussion. Half agree with everything they say. Soothe them.
- “I can see your point.”
- “I can understand you saying that.”
- “I will think about that.”
- “I can understand your point of view.”
This takes lots of practice. Practice with a friend who can imitate your parents. Your parents will say insulting things that are half true or completely untrue:
- “We raised you and now look how you repay us. You’re ungrateful.”
- “You’re just so dramatic! Nobody can deal with you!”
- “You think we are toxic? You’re the toxic one.”
- “You’re just bitter. You never forgive anyone.”
- “It’s always somebody else’s fault. Never your fault.”
Another way they will bait you is to send you messages through your relatives. The messages with have assumptions behind them that accuse you of untrue or half true things that they may have convinced your relatives of. This is bigger bait, and more toxic drama, than a face to face encounter. Again, stay out of it. Say, “Well, I can understand my parents’ viewpoint. That’s the kind of accusation I expect from them. You’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. You will feel much better if you stay out of it, and ask them to just communicate with me directly. Otherwise you’re going to get swept up into a painful conflict. Or I could avoid you, too. It’s your choice.”
Focus on older people who have breathed life into you. Focus on them instead of on your parents. This takes a long time. Don’t give up.