Family is an integral part of anyone’s life for sure, but more so here in the Philippines where tradition has ingrained in us the value of keeping a close tie with our family. In fact, most Filipino families are so close that when we use that word, we rarely mean just our immediate family—our moms, dads, and siblings—we mean it to include our relatives, too. The whole clan.
And while growing up in a Filipino family is more often than not a fun experience—the weekend salu-salo, playing with your cousins, the karaoke sessions with your titos and titas—it usually doesn’t come without its fair share of drama. We’re not saying this happens to every family, but it happens.
And while quarrels and misunderstandings within the family are normal, what if it’s something else? What if someone in your family is, unfortunately, toxic?
You know the kind we mean. There are many ways someone can be toxic, but ultimately, it all boils down to these things—if they hurt you, bring you down, or make you feel bad about yourself, especially if they do it habitually, they’re probably toxic. They’re not good for you.
And this is a big challenge when it happens with a family member. After all, they’re not just like friends that you can stop hanging out with when things get bad; it’s so much more complicated than that. With family, other factors come into play—obligation, guilt, history, the close circle you both are in, the respect that we are taught should always be there. There will be family gatherings, holidays, and even special celebrations. You will see them, whether you like it or not. Plus, here’s another thing. If you’re celebrating an important milestone in your life, should you be obligated to invite that relative that hasn’t always been good to you just because they’re family? You might feel pressured to, even when you already know you’ll dread seeing them. And that sucks because no one should ever feel that way. Especially not on your special day.
And if it keeps happening again and again, and the situation doesn’t get better, and you just can’t let things slide anymore, maybe it is okay to do something about it. Maybe we can’t just always excuse this kind of bad behavior with “but we’re family”.
Image: Four Sisters and a Wedding / Star Cinema
So what would you do? What can we do? Should we just put on a brave face and try our best to be civil? Or do we get an option to burn that bridge despite the “close family ties”? After all, here in the Philippines, we are taught that family is the most important thing. To some extent they are, but…what if they’re hurting you?
Here’s what we do know, though. It’s not a crime to ever put yourself first as long as you’re not intentionally hurting anyone. So whether you decide to stick around for this family member or you decide to fully pull away, no one should ever have to make you feel guilty about it. Don’t let them.
What do you think? Should Filipinos be able to cut off toxic family members despite our culture being family-oriented? Tell us what you think in the comments.