Living with a verbally abusive person can lead to depression, hostility and even substance abuse, according to R. Douglas Fields, Ph.D., author of “The Other Brain.” If you are fed up with the toxic sludge coming from your sibling’s mouth, you can choose to sever those unhealthy ties with a few careful steps.
When to Cut Ties
Cutting ties with a sibling shouldn't be your first step unless there are threats to your safety or your sibling has refused to stop verbally abusing you or those you love. Talking directly to your sibling might help resolve some issues and family counseling could also provide some resolution to the toxicity. If the situation is too emotionally volatile, you could write a letter to express your concerns and feelings. When all peaceful methods are rebuffed, met with violence or vitriolic spew, cutting ties can be your only healthy option.
Let your adult sibling know that you want no further contact from him, including no emails, texts, letters or phone calls, if he refuses to stop verbally abusing you or your loved ones. Explain that his verbal abuse is a toxic influence and that you must distance yourself from such behavior. You might extend a small olive branch by saying that if he abides by your boundaries, you may reconsider allowing him in your life at some point in the future. But it isn’t necessary to say that, even if you believe that reconciliation might be possible some day.
Sharing Your Decision
Your sibling could try to communicate with you through family or attempt to turn your decision into family drama, but let him and others know that you will not be part of that. Let your family know that you don’t want any contact with your sibling based on his verbal abuse, and let them know that they should not facilitate contact by giving out your contact information. You can block your sibling's email address and phone number and change social-media settings to prevent him from violating your boundaries if he refuses to respect them.
Refuse to respond to any method your sibling is using to contact you. If friends or family try to pass on information or messages, explain that you have no desire to receive the information. Return letters, packages and other items delivered to your home, office or family members. If you don’t want to write “Return to Sender,” disregard the packages. Remind yourself that anything your sibling has to say may be negative and hurtful.
If your sibling is your only family, or if you’re also ending contact with other abusive family members, establish a support system for yourself that includes positive, loving people who affirm your value and right to be happy and healthy, suggests life coach Chinh Pham. Embrace sources of positive support. Mark Sichel, Clinical Social Worker and the author of “Healing from Family Rifts,” writes that the pain from the estrangement will lessen with time and with your commitment to healing.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.