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Just about all of us have had someone in our lives whom we’ve “tolerated” rather than appreciated.
Usually it’s a situation where a friendship or romantic relationship that started out wonderfully has soured, but neither party wants to admit that.
At other times, there’s a family member who’s been abusive for a lengthy period of time and we just can’t take it anymore.
In the situations above, there comes a time when all we want is for that person to not be in our lives any longer.
Many of us tolerate uncomfortable situations (and people’s company) far longer than we should out of a sense of obligation or compassion. But there comes a time when compassion for self means that we need to take more drastic action.
That’s when we need to seriously consider cutting this person (or these people) out of our lives.
When is cutting someone out of your life the right thing to do?
Many people are very quick on the draw when it comes to cutting others off. For example, those who have cluster-B personality disorders (like borderline personality disorders) can have very black-and-white thinking when it comes to those in their social circles.
As soon as another person behaves in a manner outside what they consider to be ideal, they’re suddenly the worst person who has ever lived and need to be cut out of their lives immediately.
For most other people, there are specific behaviors that – once accumulated – can be solid arguments for cutting someone out of their lives.
Most folks are inclined to give others several chances to change their behaviors and redeem themselves, especially if they sincerely care about these people. But if those causing them grief either show no remorse for their actions or continue their behavioral patterns despite being confronted about them many times, then an excision is often the best course of action.
Most importantly, you’ll know that cutting them off is the right thing to do if you feel that your personal safety – whether physical, emotional, or mental – is at risk because of them.
People may want to cut others out of their lives for a number of different reasons, but hesitate to do so because of social pressures. For example, someone might want to cut an abusive family member off because they’ve damaged them badly over the years, but their siblings and other relatives try to pressure them into staying in contact.
As a result, the person being abused might feel like they’re being spiteful for wanting to end the relationship, even though they know they’d feel so much healthier and happier after doing so.
So how can you know if you’re doing the “right thing” by cutting them off, rather than being cruel or vindictive? Well, there are a number of different situations that are solid clues telling you that yeah, you need to cut the cord for your own sake.
Those listed below are some of the main ones.
- This person is abusing you physically, emotionally, or mentally
- You’re being used financially
- They’ve betrayed your trust badly – so much so that trust can never be rebuilt
- You can’t be yourself around this person, but instead have to pretend to be someone/something you’re not to keep them happy, or keep them from mocking you
- The person is treating you like their personal therapist/emotional support animal
- Your relationship is entirely one-sided (you put in a ton of effort and they don’t reciprocate)
- They perpetually put you down (e.g. body shaming or insulting you)
- You don’t share the same values and morals anymore (that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends or partners with those who have different religious or political beliefs, but if they’re being hateful or extreme and acting as though your beliefs are “wrong,” that’s usually a sign to step away)
- Whenever you spend time with them, you feel drained, angry, or depressed
- Their actions don’t match their words: they might consistently say that they’re going to do things but not follow up, or apologize for hurtful actions but keep doing them
- You’re worried about upsetting them or saying the “wrong thing” because they’ll blow up at you for it – essentially, you’re walking on eggshells at all times
- They make you feel obligated to show them physical affection on demand (this could be a hug, a kiss, or sex), whether you want to or not
- You’re constantly called in to deal with their drama, mediate fights, or “save them”
- They make you feel anxious or afraid to be in their presence
- You honestly can’t stand this person at all and want absolutely nothing to do with them ever again
Determine whether this is a case of incompatibility.
It’s become very trendy to label any kind of behavior one doesn’t like as “toxic” and then use that as a valid reason for cutting someone off.
That doesn’t mean that the person is some horrible troll who’s crawled out from beneath a bridge just to torment you. Rather, it simply means that your personalities or energies just aren’t right for one another.
Much like food and medicine, what’s “toxic” to one person is often just right for another.
I’ll give you an example of this. Years ago, a fairly new friend of mine came to me with what she perceived as a crisis. I made some tea, sat with her at the table and listened to the issues she was laying out, and gave some suggestions on how this situation could be sorted out. She thanked me and left, and I thought all was well.
That is, until some mutual friends let me know that I had upset her horribly and she cried for several hours straight after getting home. Her expectation was that I would hug her and offer soothing words and let her vent, as opposed to being “cold” and telling her how to fix things. To her, my reaction was construed as “toxic.”
Meanwhile, if our roles had been reversed, I would have expected/hoped for a calm, reasoned response and advice. If someone had pulled me into a bear hug and gave me pacifying “there, there” soothings, I would have been incredibly uncomfortable. Even livid at being infantilized.
There was nothing “wrong” with her behavior, nor was there anything “wrong” with mine. They were simply wrong for one another’s needs.
Take this into account when you’re trying to decide how and when to cut a person like this out of your life.
Do you need to tell someone that you’re cutting them off?
Not necessarily. In fact, sometimes that can be the most counterproductive thing you can possibly do.
This is because most people want to both control what goes on in their lives and control the narratives around why they’re happening. For example, if you tell someone who’s betrayed your trust that you’re cutting them out of your life, they’ll usually panic and try to do everything in their power to “make things right.” Or, in other words, to make themselves feel less horrible about what they’ve done.
In contrast, just reducing communication with them to a minimum is often more effective. This is called going “low contact” (LC). Limit your communications to just a few words if you respond at all. Turn down their invitations to things. If they ask how things are going, give them no details. They’ll generally get the hint and will cut down on contacting you, until they disappear from your life.
You might still hear from them now and then, but it’ll likely be a simple text or email saying that they’re thinking of you, or asking how you’re doing. Don’t bother responding and they’ll get the hint.
Similarly, going “no contact” (NC) with a narcissist is often the best course of action. This is because when you’re dealing with narcissists, telling them that you’re cutting them out of your life almost always makes them ramp up their efforts exponentially. They have to “win” here, and you having the audacity to cut them off means that they have to do something severe to gain the upper hand again.
For example, if you tell a narcissistic partner that you’re cutting them off, they’ll likely go on a rampage. They’ll trash talk you to your entire social circle in an attempt to punish you. Furthermore, they’ll often show up at your home, your workplace, various social functions, etc. just to make it perfectly clear that they’re the ones in control. It’s an awful situation to contend with and will often cause far more damage in the long run.
As a result, simply disappearing from their lives without a lengthy explanation will usually have the result you’re looking for. Going “gray rock” gives them no energy to work with. They won’t be able to wind you up, nor can they feed on either your empathy or your upset.
When you cut off their supply, they’ll get bored and move on to the next target instead of trying to annihilate you for daring to get away from them.
How to approach cutting someone off.
When it comes to cutting someone out of your life, a lot depends on the circumstances. For example, you can endeavor to treat that person the way you’d want to be treated if your roles were reversed.
Let’s say you had a romantic fling with someone that left you feeling uncomfortable rather than elated. The other person might be really into you and keeps asking you to get together again soon, but you feel really awkward and would rather not see them again. In fact, you might not want to keep in contact with them at all.
Consider how you would feel if your roles were reversed.
Would you feel disrespected or used if someone you’d been intimate with just ghosted you with no explanation, rather than telling you why they were disappearing from your life? Or would you prefer that they told you that they’re uncomfortable with some aspects of your pairing and they don’t want to stay in further contact?
Feelings are going to be hurt either way, of course, but it tends to be easier to work through hurt when one knows the reasons behind it, rather than assuming everything under the sun with no solid answers.
Of course, sometimes the best thing you can do for the sake of your own well-being is to cut and run. If you feel threatened by this person, or if they’ve already been abusive towards you, then there is absolutely no shame in cutting and running.
10 Steps For Cutting Someone Out Of Your Life
1. Use the Gray Rock method.
If you’re going the gradual route and excising them bit by bit, then the first step is to become the friendly gray rock, which we touched upon a moment ago.
This is a common approach when dealing with narcissists and emotional vampires. It involves being polite and available enough, but not giving them any emotional energy. No arguments, no debates. Just go along with whatever they’re saying and let them get bored with talking to you.
In simplest terms, you’re aiming to be as dull and boring as a gray lump of stone.
If they say or do anything that makes you feel like you want to react to it, remain passive. They’ll undoubtedly try to antagonize you so you get defensive or emotional, but don’t rise to the bait. Let their efforts fall flat, and just respond with things like “okay” and “uh huh.”
Humans are creatures of short memory and attention spans. Pretty soon, they’ll lose interest in communicating with you and move on elsewhere to get their emotional fix.
2. Have as little contact with them as possible.
This one might go without saying, but whether you’re taking time to remove someone from your life, or cutting them off all in one go, it’s important to not have contact with them unless absolutely necessary.
For example, don’t pick up the phone if and when they call, and don’t reply to their texts. If you’re in the process of cutting off a narcissistic parent or sibling and you absolutely have to be in contact because of extenuating circumstances, then keep contact absolutely minimal. One-word answers, no emotional exchanges.
Decline invitations to any social functions where they’ll be in attendance, block their number if you can, and ensure that their emails all go into your spam or garbage folders.
3. Restrict them from your social media feeds.
Depending on the person, taking steps to block them on social media may inflame the situation. As we mentioned with narcissists, attempting to show them that you’re cutting them off can make them go into overdrive.
Instead, you can keep them as a follower, but simply restrict your posts. This way, they’ll just assume that you aren’t posting to social media anymore. While you’re at it, you can also mute theirs so you’re not subjected to whatever it is they’re babbling about.
Alternatively, you can let those accounts go dormant, and start new, private ones that are accessible solely to those closest to you, by invitation only.
4. Confide in those you trust.
If you have close friends or family members who know what you’ve been through with this person and are supportive towards you, then enlist their help with going no contact. Let them know that you’re cutting this person out of your life and ask them not to share any information about you if asked.
If and when the person you’re cutting off goes to them for intel, they’ll know to keep details to themselves. Furthermore, they can help deflect inquiries elsewhere if they arise.
What’s more, you will likely benefit from or even need the help of a therapist in order to get this person out of your life and deal with the harm that their presence has caused you.
This is especially true if there is any sort of abuse involved – physical, mental, or emotional. A therapist can not only help you to heal from all that, but they can assist you in making plans to leave the abusive relationship in the first place. Put your safety first and prepare for all eventualities with the assistance of someone who has experienced handling these sorts of situations.
You might like to consider online therapy such as that offered by BetterHelp.com. You can get the help you need from wherever you are and can choose a safe place to have those sessions rather than needing to visit a physical treatment setting.
Click here for more information.
5. If necessary, get the law involved.
You may have to turn to some legal assistance when it comes to cutting someone out of your life. For example, if someone has been harassing you or threatening you and isn’t respecting the fact that you’re ending contact with them.
If possible, document everything that they do to you. Save their texts and emails, and install cameras around your home to record if and when they show up and either harass you or damage your property.
Then get yourself a lawyer. If there’s sufficient evidence, you should be able to get a restraining order against this person. Then, if they break the parameters of that order, they can be arrested.
6. Get actual physical distance, if possible.
In extreme cases, you can always pick up and move somewhere else. This is one of the best ways to cut people out of your life, because you’ll literally be in a completely different place from where they are.
Have you ever moved far away from home before? If so, you’ve probably noticed that precious few people will keep in contact with those who have left their immediate social circles. It’s very much an “out of sight, out of mind” situation. If staying in contact with you requires real effort, then very few people will make the effort to do so.
Unless you’re stuck where you are because of familial obligations (like shared child custody or elderly parents who need your help), consider moving elsewhere. You’re not a tree, and you can put down roots somewhere else. This type of move would be an excellent opportunity to cut ties with unwanted contacts and forge a new set of friendships and relationships.
Don’t leave any nasty parting comments: just change your number, get a new email address, and disappear.
7. Avoid the desire to seek closure.
When cutting someone off, many people seek to have some kind of official closure. They often feel that it’ll make them feel better or stronger, especially after having endured long-term abuse or mistreatment.
The problem with this is that they’ll never get the closure they seek.
Confronting an abuser or a narcissist will never go the way they want it to. Abusive, self-centered people will never have magical epiphanies about their crap behavior simply because someone else has raised a mirror for them.
They won’t look at miles of text or super-long emails and realize that they’ve been the baddies all along! In fact, they’ll likely either laugh at what they consider to be the other person’s mental illness at interpreting their actions that way, or use all of that as fuel for incendiary retaliation.
The only closure you’ll be able to get is the closure you choose.
8. Don’t trash-talk the person you’ve cut off.
When you cut someone out of your life, imagine that they no longer exist in your world. Don’t badmouth them to other people: don’t even acknowledge that they exist.
If anyone asks you why you don’t talk to this person anymore, simply say that your relationship with them had run its course and leave it at that. Or let them know that whatever went down was between the two of you: end of.
When we trash-talk people we’ve cut out of our lives, it makes others question our motivations, and puts us in a very negative light.
9. Once you cut someone out of your life, keep them out of your life.
It can be incredibly tempting to get back in touch with people after they’ve been out of your life for a while. This is especially true if there was a strong emotional bond between you, such as between parent and child, or between lovers.
At times like this, it’s important to go back and remember what their behavior was like towards you. Remember their patterns, and how they’d alternate between love bombing you and treating you like crap. Or waking you up in the middle of the night to help them with a drama crisis, but then leaving you high and dry when you needed help and support.
Don’t look them up online to see what they’re up to, and avoid asking any mutual friends how these people are doing.
Instead, envision your prior connection with them as a ship that has long sailed. Sure, you can have a few fond memories of whatever you shared with them, but pay far more attention to the detritus they left in their wake.
10. Be gentle with yourself about this decision.
Very few people choose to cut others out of their lives just for the fun of it. In fact, most of the people who end up going no contact are those who have been pushed to do so because of other people’s horrible behavior towards them.
Cutting someone off is an act of radical self-love. It shows that you care about and respect yourself enough to put your own well-being ahead of someone else’s wants.
You’ll likely need to be strong in that self-care during this process as you’ll undoubtedly come across some nasty negative push-back from other people. Narcissists will often employ the help of “flying monkeys” in the form of mutual friends, acquaintances, and family members in an attempt to get you back into contact with them.
They may try to lie to you or otherwise shock you to force you to get back in touch with them. It’s not uncommon for narcissists and those with borderline personality disorder to come up with stories about mutual loved ones being hurt or dying just to make a person call or text them. To them, that kind of behavior is totally excusable if it means getting what they want out of the situation.
Make your own psychological, emotional, and physical well-being the top priority here.
A final note.
There’s never an obligation to stay in contact with a person. That includes family members – biological or adopted – as well as friends and former romantic partners. We keep people in our lives who enhance our lives, and we remove those who do us harm.
Whatever we’re not changing, we’re choosing. As a result, if you choose not to cut this person out of your life, then you’re choosing their abuse. Choose healthy relationships and self-care, and you’ll be a lot happier in the long run.
Remember that keeping this person in your life would be detrimental to you on countless levels. If you’re a sentimental sort and you find yourself often focusing on the good times rather than the horror show, then get yourself a notebook and fill it with all the times this person treated you like crap.
Be detailed about each instance, including whatever it was they did, how you felt about it, and how they treated you if and when you tried to stop them from mistreating you. Anytime you feel a pang of remorse for cutting them off, or you feel like getting back in contact with them, re-read those journal entries. Chances are high that those pangs will dissipate rather quickly when you remind yourself of how badly they treated you.
Treat yourself the way you wish others would treat you and cut poisonous people out of your life ASAP.
Still not sure how to cut someone out of your life? Speak to a therapist today who can hold your hand through the process and keep you safe. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
You may also like:
- 6 Steps To Leaving A Toxic Relationship And Ending It For Good
- 6 Steps To Take When Cutting Ties With Toxic Family
- 21 Signs Your Family Doesn’t Care About You (+ How To Cope)
- Family Scapegoating: Signs, Dealing With, And Healing From