Is It Ever Okay To Leave The Toxic Relationship Of Family Or Friends?

When we begin the foster or adoptive journey, we need support. Often, we find it through family and close friendships. But sometimes, we don’t. What do you do when you realize it’s time to walk away from those relationships?

I’ve heard a lot of stories through the years about drama and pain caused by friends and family. There are many reasons this happens in adoptive families. And some, including me, have struggled with the decision to walk away from others and chosen the health of our children over the toxic relationship.

As an international adoptive parent, I’ve learned that generational beliefs of “bad blood” due to taboo beginnings and breaking the blood line causes grief and misguided prejudice in the cultural acceptance of adopted children in families. Just because something is cultural acceptable or unacceptable, doesn’t make it right. Slavery was culturally acceptable at one time, but certainly not right. And we are still living with these devastating consequences today.

Some family members can only give conditional love. Or hold the belief that love is a feeling and not an action. Some believe that non-biological children are not worth fighting for because, they’re not “their own.” Seems like an absurd belief. And yet, reality for some families.

Sometimes multi-racial families face racism. Sometimes blatant. Sometimes disguised in the form of joking. Sometimes others refuse to learn and grow with the adoptive family about what trauma does to a child. Insisting that all children behave badly and just need better parenting. They refuse to accept that behavior is not just that. It’s a survival skill and a call for help. A simple conversation may curb both of these and help to bring more understanding and awareness. But maybe not.

And then there’s the misunderstandings that arise when adoption causes us to live our lives differently now. Birthday parties, church, large family gatherings are all just too much for our sensory-deprived and anxious children. Our sudden change in lifestyle causes the other end to take it personally as they expect us to keep up with the same pace of life. But the truth is, we can’t. Our children can’t. Not physically, mentally or emotionally. We are spent.

Some of these I’ve heard about. Some of them I’ve experienced. So I chose to walk away.

It was a process. Not something we acted on impulsively in a rage. There was no screaming or calling of names (although there was on the couch with my husband). It was a time-honored, prayer-filled, gut-wrenching decision to let the other person know that our family was in crisis and needed space and time to heal.

We didn’t go into a lot of detail with them. I knew they wouldn’t get it. All the energy I would spend in trying to get them to “get it,” would just be too much on me emotionally. So we quietly slipped away.

I realize this approach may not work for everyone. You might have to confront the friend or family head-on. Walking away may be for a season only. Or permanently. For me, I think in this particular circumstance, it’s the latter. Years have passed now. And I can honestly say, we made the right choice. Healing has happened. Both in our family and my feelings toward the other party. But I’m also confident in keeping that relationship in the past.

I’ve come to realize, unless someone has lived it, they are never going to get it. That’s ok for them. But it’s not ok for me or my children. I have to be my best for my kids. And if I can’t be because of the inner turmoil someone else is creating in our family, I have to eliminate whatever is causing it. So I’ve chosen to surround our family with those who are safe. I don’t have the time or the energy to dedicate to the emotional instability of someone else. My children, my immediate family, those currently in my home, are my priority.

The one thing I’ve struggled with the most regarding this separation was this: If both of us are believers, how can we think so differently and have all this turmoil between us?

In the Bible, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement over Mark. Apparently Barnabas had more grace for Mark. Paul didn’t. So they went their separate ways. And guess what? It seemed like God was okay with this. He knew they were both imperfectly human. They both went on to continue their work separately.

Our mission is big. Bigger than 1 relationship. And there’s work to be done in the hearts of our children and our immediate families. Do your part to keep the peace in all relationships, but know there is much freedom in the way we choose to live our lives. If this is something you need to do, move forward knowing it’s certainly okay to do what’s right for the stability of your family regardless of the reason.

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