Vera Eck, MFT, an Imago relationship therapist based in Los Angeles, says that the key to cutting someone out of your life in a healthy way is about how you end things: whether you tell them directly that things aren't working out or you just drop the ball on your relationship.
To be fair, there are certain circumstances where it's totally warranted for you to end things cold turkey, without communicating how you feel.
"I think cutting someone off is warranted in extreme circumstances, safety being the first one," Eck says. "So if there is any kind of abuse, physical, emotional, or even financial, and that’s being addressed and it’s not being respected, then absolutely — there’s no discussion, that person needs to leave the abuser as soon as possible."
But beyond that, Eck says, if you feel like a relationship (whether it's a friendship, romantic relationship, or otherwise) has run its course, you should step up and tell the person. It's one thing if the both of you have naturally drifted apart, but if someone is still hanging on to you, not addressing the issue isn't great manners. Sure, it might be awkward, but Eck says that it's the kinder, more mature thing to do.
You don’t owe anyone anything, but it’s not about that. It’s about treating others how you want to be treated.
Vera Eck, MFT
"You don’t owe anyone anything, but it’s not about that," she says. "It’s about treating others how you want to be treated."
In other words, it's about having respect for someone as a person. Plus, part of self-care is addressing your feelings and dealing with relationship problems in a healthy way.
"If there’s something that you don’t like in the relationship that makes you want to leave and you decide not to address it by ghosting someone, then you’re just not going to grow as a human being," she says. "You’re not going to improve your communication skills, you’re not going to improve your relationship skills."
If you want to end a relationship, it might be helpful to sit down, before you even talk to the person, and think about what you expect to happen. For example, if you're already going into this conversation with no intention of fixing the relationship you have, be straightforward.
"Address it with the person, and find the courage to state your truth," Eck says.
"You may not want to hurt someone, but that's just part of the human experience," Eck says. "You have to have the courage to risk hurting someone and to tolerate those uncomfortable feelings."
Having to end a relationship isn't a bad thing, and sometimes, it's essential. We all deserve to live our best lives without anything weighing us down — but preferably without a trail of broken people in our wake.
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