Years ago, I ended a relationship with someone who was a big influence and major presence in my life.
From time to time, I think of a happy memory of them, and I feel a tinge of sadness. I even think to myself: maybe I could rekindle our relationship—reach out, make amends.
But then, of course, a flood of unhappy memories come back to me too, and I remember why I needed to say goodbye.
People will either give us life or suck it out of us—and life’s too short to spend it surrounded by the latter. (And I’m not talking about when a friend makes a mistake, or you have a disagreement. We need to give those in our lives the space and grace to mess up and grow.)
I miss the good times, and I regret that we’re not in touch anymore. But even though there were more good times than bad, the relationship was just so toxic when it was bad.
For my own well-being and self-worth, I had to cut ties.
Letting go of someone is easier said than done, especially if it’s someone with whom you’ve spent decades together. And even then, you’re never quite sure: can we fix this, or is it time to let you go?
For me, especially, this question is tough because when I’m super angry and emotional, I will immediately write anyone off for good. I’m quick to “door slam,” perhaps before it’s truly warranted.
Sometimes, it takes a lot of heartbreak, broken boundaries, and tears before we can finally cross that threshold. But eventually, we get to a point where we just know: yes, it really is time to cut ties.
I recently asked our readers what signs told them it was finally time to cut ties with someone, and these were the best responses.
- When, no matter the activity or amount of time spent together, you feel drained after having been with them. Being with them feels like work.
- When the energy you put into the relationship is unreciprocated. (You’re always the one reaching out, checking in, texting, making plans, and they almost never do.)
- Their morals and actions (gossiping, cheating, manipulation) don’t align with the kind of person you’d like in your life.
- When you see them in the market, and your first gut reaction is to hide behind the fruit display so they don’t see you.
- When you need mental recovery time after hanging out with them.
- They need you to drop everything for them, and you often do, but when the tables are turned, all they can offer are “thoughts and prayers.” The relationship is one-sided.
- You’re monitoring what you’re saying and how you’re saying it to avoid upsets.
- Your body reacts physically: panic attacks, upset stomach, anxiety, headaches.
- When you realize that you’re actually just as bad for them as they are for you—oil and water.
- They deliberately don’t respect your boundaries (and you’ve made those boundaries clear).
- You feel a sense of dread at upcoming plans together.
- When they’ve repeatedly lied and betrayed your trust. And you’ve given them second, third, and tenth chances to redeem themselves.
- They’re overly critical of you and “correcting” or negatively judging you at every turn. (We all have judgements, but in this case, it’s overboard and often in a shaming sense.)
- When you start to dislike the person you are when you’re together.
- When they make it all about them, no matter what it is.
- You’ve simply outgrown them—you no longer have anything in common, but you feel obligated to keep the relationship going.
- When you observe them constantly speaking ill of others—whether to you directly or to other people.
- You’ve stopped laughing, having fun, and engaging in meaningful conversations.
- When they drag you down instead of lifting you up.
- When you’re asking yourself this question.
Some of the things on this list are forgivable, some aren’t, and some depend on the frequency. But if you’re nodding your head to much of this list, it’s probably time to cut ties.
The next question is: how?