Cutting people off: It’s not something any of us want to do, but sometimes it’s necessary. Whether it’s a toxic family member, a friend you know you just can’t have in your life anymore, or a former romantic partner who is stopping you from moving on, eliminating toxic relationships is important for mental wellbeing.
But cutting toxic people out of our lives is easier said than done, especially when it’s a family member. And this concept isn’t black and white, either: There’s always the option to cut someone out of your life for a little while, with the intention of allowing them back in at a later point. Or maybe you know you should let go of a relationship, but it isn’t the right time yet because of what the other person is going through.
However, if you’re considering ending a difficult relationship, there are some telltale signs that it’s time. Here’s how to know, and how to go about it gracefully.
Signs that it’s time to cut someone off
Here are some of the signs that it’s time to cut someone off:
You feel sad, depressed, or tired around this person
Maybe this person is an “energy vampire,” or someone who seems to suck up all the energy in a space. Or maybe it feels more personal, and you just feel sad or not quite yourself when you’re around them or after spending time with them. While feeling sad or down around someone once in a while doesn’t necessarily mean you need to end the relationship, if you notice you have this feeling every single time, it may be worth thinking about cutting them off.
This person is stopping you from moving on
This point applies most often to a former romantic relationship. Often when people end a relationship, if the breakup is amicable, a couple will attempt to remain friends.But keeping a former romantic partner around can make moving on difficult, both when it comes to getting over them and dating other people. If you notice that keeping a former romantic partner in your life is making it so that you can’t move on, cutting them off — at least temporarily — might be a good option for you.
This person doesn’t respect your boundaries
If you have put clear boundaries in place and this person consistently violates them, cutting them off might be the best possible option for you. After all, if you’ve already communicated your boundaries and this person is not respecting them, you’ve done all you can do and have to take the appropriate next steps for your own wellbeing.
This person doesn’t put in any effort
It never feels good to be the only one putting effort into a relationship. If you find that you’re constantly reaching out and this person doesn’t do the same, it may be in your best interest to walk away. Similarly, if you find that this person is a “taker” — they just want you to listen to them vent and never ask any questions about your life or check in on you — that could be another sign that cutting ties is the best decision.
Cutting people off isn't easy, but sometimes it's the right thing to do.
How to cut someone off
Knowing it’s time to cut someone off and actually doing it are two very different things, and chances are that even if you don’t want someone in your life anymore, you still don’t want to hurt them. Here are the best ways to go about cutting someone off.
Clearly explain how you feel
Honesty can be uncomfortable, but it can also be the best way to get your point across — and it can also feel really cathartic. Saying something like, “I’ve noticed that I’m always the one reaching out to you to talk or see each other, and it doesn’t make me feel good,” is a fair, clear reason for choosing to end a relationship. Alternatively, it may lead to this person promising to put in more effort, which can be a very positive outcome — as long as they follow through.
Let them know you need to end the relationship, and leave it at that
“Ghosting” — or simply ceasing all communication out of the blue — is never OK. However, you also don’t owe the person you’re cutting out of your life a lengthy explanation if you don’t want to give it. Sending a text or having a conversation where you explain that this relationship is not working for you right now is more than fine, as long as you don’t just disappear on them.
Cut this person out of your digital life, too
Even when it’s the right thing to do, cutting someone out of your life can be really painful. To avoid constantly being reminded of the relationship, clear out your social media feeds. You can unfriend, block, unfollow, or simply mute this person easily enough, which will stop you from constantly being reminded of their existence and knowing what they’re up to.
As difficult as cutting people off can be, sometimes it’s what you need to do for yourself. And remember, you can always leave the option open for letting them back in at a later point, as long as it’s something you can both agree to.
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