There are two types of people in the world – those who burn bridges, and those who rebuild them.
In a professional sense, ending a relationship on a sour note, or completely cutting all ties and sense of responsibility, is frowned upon, often because you never know when you might need to call on an old employer or colleague to help you out in the future.
But when it comes to relationships – romantic, familial or otherwise – it can be difficult to know which path to take.
For me, cutting people off is usually a last resort, and never something I do by choice.
I grasp at straws in an attempt to hold onto friendships that have run their course or, ultimately, weren’t good for me – it’s a curse of sentimentality.
Other people are much more cutthroat when it comes to ending friendships, and seemingly cut people out of their lives without a second thought.
Ellie, 25, from Manchester, is one of these people.
‘The finality that comes with blocking or cutting someone off brings me peace,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘It’s as though the person has become an afterthought and all thoughts and emotions relating to that person become repressed and eventually forgotten about.
‘I’m a very visual person, so the act of physically removing someone from my social media or phone contacts allows me to put a mental block between myself and that person.’
Ellie also says that cutting people off is part of her healing process: ‘If I can see someone constantly popping up on my socials and reminding me of our fall out, it’s going to eat away at me – whereas if I cut someone off completely, I can almost pretend as if they never existed in the first place,’ she says.
While this may seem extreme, Ellie says that axing someone out of her life is always a last resort.
‘Normally, when it comes to cutting someone off, I’ve exhausted every other option in trying to salvage the relationship or friendship and I’ve found closure on the matter,’ she says.
‘By the time it gets to this point, I’m not interested in continuing communication with the person as I can’t see any potential resolution.’
Why do some find it easier to burn bridges?
According to Dr Elena Touroni, a consultant psychologist and co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, cutting people off is often a form of self-protection.
While it can be healthy in cases like Ellie’s, when someone repeatedly violates our boundaries and all solutions have been exhausted, it can also become an unhealthy coping mechanism.
‘Someone may have been hurt very badly in the past, for example, and out of the fear of it happening again, cut all ties at the first sign of difficulty,’ Dr Elena tells Metro.co.uk.
‘In these cases, it can sometimes turn into a form of self-sabotage.’
This is something that Ellie has experienced in the past.
‘It got to a point where I was cutting off to an extreme, particularly when dating, where someone would just have to irritate me once and I’d phase them out,’ she says.
‘I realised then that I would carry unresolved issues from that relationship onto the next one, and I’d find myself more susceptible to getting upset because I’d started off on the wrong foot.
‘Now I make sure I get closure before cutting anybody off.’
The ability to cut people off with ease might also be a symptom of being non-confrontational.
‘Someone may have grown up in an environment where problems were swept under the carpet,’ Dr Elena adds.
‘They might not have been modelled the idea that problems can be talked about and worked through so instead they might find that they bottle things up which can lead to resentment and then more drastic steps like cutting someone out.’
Is it an unhealthy coping mechanism?
On whether cutting all ties is the healthiest way to deal with conflict, Dr Elena says it generally isn’t.
‘We will all be triggered and run into stumbling blocks in our friendships and relationships at some point, but it’s how we manage conflict that counts,’ she says.
However, she says, there are some instances where cutting someone out is the best option for your own safety and happiness: ‘If, for example, you have tried talking things through and given someone multiple chances and they continue to ignore your requests and boundaries, it may be the only option.’
And Ellie isn’t planning to switch methods any time soon.
She says: ‘Some might argue that thoroughly talking things out and tackling emotions head on would be more beneficial in the long run but this technique has always worked for me.
‘In my eyes, I have reached a point where I have nothing else to say to this person and therefore I don’t want them bothering me anymore.
‘I feel like life is too short for me to dwell on people who I no longer deem fit to be in my life.’
How to cut off a toxic relationship
Rip the plaster off
‘Some people need closure, so the best option for them may be to arrange to meet the person in a public place where you can talk to them and explain why you don’t want to continue with the friendship.
‘This can benefit both parties in the long run. It’s ok to tell someone how their behaviour has affected you and then move on.
‘They may make promises to change but ultimately that is up to them – you can’t control how other people behave.’
Slowly phase out the friendship
‘If you don’t feel comfortable meeting with the other person, you could phase out the friendship slowly by cutting down on the amount of times you see them and don’t respond as much to their calls and texts.
‘This could give you time to acknowledge the pitfalls of the friendship while still keeping space for it in your life.
‘If you’re lucky, you might even see that, overtime, the toxicity begins to fade and you can continue your friendship as before.’
Stick to your boundaries
‘Finally, it’s important to remember that you are not to blame in these situations and to leave any feelings of guilt behind.
‘Some friendships leave you heavily reliant on that person…and you may find it hard to let go.
‘Make sure you put in boundaries and stick to them.’
Rebecca Eggleton, relationships expert
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