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

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This guest post is written by an adoptive mom and colleague of ours. She tackles a subject we know many foster and adoptive parents face. 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. They may 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 our child’s behavior isn’t “bad” 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. We have to change our lifestyle in order to support our children well. Sometimes our sudden change in lifestyle causes others to take it personally as they expect us to keep up with the same pace of life.

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. It was a time-honored, prayer-filled, gut-wrenching decision to let the other person know that our family 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.  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 can be freedom too in walking away from those who do not have your family’s or child’s best interest in mind.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.