Cutting People Off: When and How to Cut Someone Off

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A huge part of self care requires setting boundaries about who you let into your life and surrounding yourself with people who are a positive part of your growth. 

This means that sometimes it’s necessary to cut people off who are detrimental to your growth or even your health. Sometimes we need to put ourselves first and make a decision to let these people go for good.

Cutting people off isn’t always an easy decision, though. And knowing how to cut someone off (and when you should) can be confusing and bring up a lot of different feelings.

Most of us have unfortunately been in one of those relationships where we know deep down the person is no good for us, yet we just can’t seem to let go…

Something keeps us clinging on and we find ourselves trapped by the fear of being without them, even if we’re not happy in the present moment.

Or maybe we simply feel guilty about our need to release them from our lives and we don’t know how to cut them off without hurting their feelings or causing ourselves more distress in the process.

So cutting people off isn’t always easy, nor is it always black or white, but with a few tips you can become aware of when it’s the right time to let go and how to do so effectively. 

In this post I’ll be sharing with you some insights about cutting people off that I’ve learnt from my own experience of challenging relationships, and many talks I’ve had in therapy!

So if you want to know how to cut people off once and for all, or you’re unsure about whether you should, you’re in the right place.

how to cut someone off for good and when cutting people off is the right thing to do

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The Benefits of Cutting People Out of Your Life

When it’s the right time to do so, cutting people out of your life for good can have many benefits.

Speaking from experience, finally cutting the cord on negative relationships is an incredibly empowering process that allows you to finally leave people in the past so you can keep moving towards your future.

Here are some of the benefits that I personally experienced from finally releasing the wrong people from my life:

  • Less negative feelings about myself: the wrong people will have you feeling bad about yourself ALL THE TIME. When I cut these people out of my life I realised just how often they were triggering me into self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness!
  • Less anxiety and worry: the wrong people will make you feel so insecure and constantly worried about what’s going to happen next. Leaving means way less anxiety and treading on eggshells.
  • More time to focus on myself: when I finally stopped investing so much time in trying to make the wrong people happy, I suddenly had all that time to focus on myself and my goals. The right people in your life will support you doing this.
  • More empowerment: finally leaving toxicity in the past made me feel so much more empowered, in contrast to how powerless I felt when I was with the wrong people.
  • Healthier relationships: investing in the wrong relationships and friendships meant I was blocking my opportunity for real love and connection. As soon as I released those inauthentic relationships, I started to make authentic connections with new people and strengthen the relationships that were serving me!
  • The opportunity to heal trauma and my wounds: healing from trauma caused by people you’re still interacting with is near impossible. Once I cut people out of my life who had hurt me I was finally able to start working on healing those wounds.

While the actual process of cutting people off was a very difficult period in my life, as you can see it led to huge amounts of transformation.

The truth is, some people are meant to stay in your past and not make it into your future. And once you accept that you can start to truly bloom.

pink flower blooming on black background

How do you know when it’s right to cut someone off?

So as you’re hopefully starting to understand, cutting people off has serious potential to help you up-level in your life. But that doesn’t mean you should just cut people off willy-nilly.

We need connection in our life, and we don’t want our fears to lead us to cutting people off who we actually have the potential to have a positive relationship with.

So how do you know when it’s right to cut someone off?

Well, knowing when it’s the right time to cut someone off is almost an art that comes with time.

It comes with actively practicing healthy relationships and communication yourself, so that you can then recognise when people aren’t doing the same.

As a general rule of thumb I’d recommend first communicating your feelings with someone who isn’t making you feel good and attempting to set a boundary.

This is because not everybody is set out to hurt you, and somebody who doesn’t realise they’re having a negative impact on you has no opportunity to change. You might be surprised at how receptive someone is when you communicate your needs with them.

But if you’ve already tried this and somebody is repeatedly disrespecting your boundaries or leaving you feeling less than adequate then it may be time to end the relationship and cut contact.

It’s also worth mentioning that it may take some time to recognise that it’s time to cut someone off and that’s okay. Often we need time to actually process and grieve a relationship before we finally see our worth and cut the cord.

Here are some signs to look out for that someone may need to be cut off from your life: 

  • You feel like you can’t be your true self around this person or express your feelings openly due to their reactions towards you
  • You feel stagnant around this person and like the relationship has no fulfilling purpose
  • You feel like you’re the worst version of yourself around this person and like they trigger all of your negative qualities
  • This person has betrayed your trust and continues to do so
  • This person ignores or disrespects your boundaries
  • This person neglects you and you feel like your needs are not being met
  • You feel sad or depressed in the company of this person

Disclaimer: some more obvious signs for cutting someone off are the presence of emotional, physical or sexual abuse. 

However, in such cases the advice in this post may not be right for you. If you fear for your own safety if you leave a relationship then please seek advice from the police and/or a domestic abuse charity.

woman holding ripped paper that reads goodbye

Why it’s not always right to cut negativity out of your life

Before we get onto how to cut someone off, something I do want to discuss is that cutting people off isn’t always the right course of action.

I feel like as people have begun to discuss the importance of self care more it has become a sort of trend to cut off anybody and everybody who doesn’t make you feel good.

While in some cases (like discussed above) it is necessary to cut someone off, sometimes it is simply a sign of your own avoidance. We don’t like the negative feelings a person can trigger for us so we avoid them all together.

As I mentioned previously, communicating your needs and setting boundaries with a person is often a necessary first step before you decide to cut them off completely.

And the tendency to go straight to cutting people off before doing this may suggest that you’re avoiding difficult conversations (which are actually necessary to healthy relationships).

It’s also important to note that if a person triggers certain emotions, this isn’t always a sign that they’re toxic but instead might be a reflection of our own insecurities and areas for growth.

For example, maybe you have some unresolved trauma or repressed emotions that come to surface in the presence of a certain individual, even though they’re not actively doing or saying anything to inflict harm.

By cutting this person off we’re not facilitating our growth but instead hindering it. Because triggers can be pathways to our biggest breakthroughs.

Unfortunately we cannot avoid all negativity in our lives, nor should we want to. Relationships aren’t about being easy breezy all the time and challenges are what help us to grow. 

If we cut someone off the second they make us feel challenged then we’re doing ourselves and that relationship a disservice.

Think about it: where might you end up if you used this challenging relationship as a tool for growth and connection, rather than throwing in the towel as soon as things get tough?

Obviously this doesn’t apply to all challenging relationships, and only you can decide when enough is enough. But bear this in mind if you’re somebody who gravitates towards ending relationships at the first sign of discomfort.

typewriter with paper with the words "cancel culture" written on it

How to distance yourself from people

With that being said, what do you do if the relationship in question causes you distress, and cutting said person off isn’t the appropriate action?

Well, in cases like this distancing yourself would be a necessary move to make instead.

This means making some changes to the relationship so that you are only engaging on your terms.

This can ensure that the relationship has less of a negative impact on you, because there are necessary measures in place to “cushion” those effects.

Some ways that you can distance yourself from a person who is hindering your wellbeing are:

  • Vocalise to this person that you need some space for your own wellbeing and that you need to prioritise your own needs (ie. set necessary boundaries!)
  • Only engage with this person when you feel like you’re in a stable mindset
  • Gradually stop agreeing to as many engagements with this person 
  • Begin seeing other people who make you feel uplifted more regularly
  • Take someone else with you when seeing this person
  • Engage in self care activities to ensure you own cup is full before seeing them
  • Use protection affirmations to help you feel energetically shielded when you see this person
  • Seek support from a psychotherapist or counsellor to help you manage your feelings around this person

Only you can decide if these measures are enough for you to continue a relationship with someone. If it feels like cutting off is the more appropriate option then let’s look at how to do that…

couple holding hands looking in opposite directions

How To Cut Someone Off

I hope that by now you have a deeper understanding of when cutting someone off is the right course of action.

And maybe you’ve even already identified someone in your life that’s got to go and you’re ready to take action.

So let’s dig into how to cut someone off in an ideal way, before covering some specific scenarios where you may want to change this approach a little…

1. Identify the need to cut someone off and get clear on why

Use the guidance in this post to identify that you have a need to cut someone off.

In an ideal scenario that means that you’ve already communicated your needs and boundaries with the person but they haven’t respected them.

But it may also just be that you believe someone has crossed the line and you’re not willing to give them another chance and that’s okay.

Whatever the reason, get really clear on your decision to cut them off.

Not only will this help when communicating it to them (which I would generally recommend), but it will also help you to stand strong in your decision and minimise your chances of continuing the relationship at your expense if questioned.

hand holding pink paper heart set on fire

2. Communicate the need to cut someone off and why

For the most part, cutting people off can be done respectfully, even if you’ve lost respect for the person.

While in some situations you may feel like you don’t owe the person any explanation (which is entirely your call), treating others as you wish to be treated is generally how I go about living my life.

Having been on the receiving end of ghosting or being cut off with no explanation, I know how painful it is for a relationship or friendship to seemingly end out of the blue with no closure. And truth be told, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Even in relationships where I’ve been completely disrespected I have taken the time to communicate my reasons for moving on. With the thought that actually this may also give this person an opportunity to reflect on their own behaviour and approach future relationships differently going forward.

And not only this, but often letting the person know of your decision to end the relationship actually ensures that it happens. Simply telling yourself you’re “done” in your head is all too reversible.

Of course there are exceptions to this rule however.

If you feel like communicating your decision with this person could put you in danger then you absolutely shouldn’t (and you should contact the police and/or a domestic abuse charity as mentioned earlier).

Or if you feel like the person you’re engaging with is highly manipulative and likely to make you question your decision by gaslighting you, then that’s your call to make.

Something I would suggest doing in all situations is at least communicating to other people who love and care for you about the decision you’ve made.

This can ensure that you’re not accidentally put in any unfortunate situations with the individual you’ve decided to cut ties with, and they can help you keep yourself accountable should you waver in your decision.

two women having a conversation

3. Move on and stay strong in your decision

And on that note, perhaps the most important step is staying strong in your decision to cut this person off.

Cutting people out of your life isn’t always a smooth process, and you’re likely to question yourself at times.

You may even be tempted to re-enter a toxic relationship if they offer promise that they’ve changed or if so much time has passed that you’ve simply forgotten quite how bad it was.

I can’t tell you how many times I re-engaged with friendships that made me feel awful, despite how many times I’d been hurt and mistreated by them. Because distancing myself in my head wasn’t enough to cut ties and I hadn’t truly got clear on my reason to leave.

That’s why the first two steps of this process are absolutely crucial in my mind.

Once I got clear on my reasons for ending these friendships, and I communicated them with the individuals and other people who cared about me, I was finally able to let them go.

It wasn’t until I took this action that I was able to release myself and experience all the benefits of cutting people off that I mentioned earlier in this post.

graffiti on wall that reads "stay strong"

How to cut someone off nicely

The above steps are generally good practice to follow when cutting people off, but how do you cut someone off and not hurt their feelings?

Sometimes we can have people in our lives who are really no good for us, but we know that they’re not necessarily bad people. 

In these cases, it can still be necessary to cut them off if they’re really making us unhappy and this is a last resort.

I’ve experienced a situation like this myself, whereby a relationship was truly toxic and the person made me extremely unhappy, but I knew deep down that it wasn’t their intention to cause me pain.

Distancing myself wasn’t an option in this case because the person had such a negative affect on me, so I knew the best course of action was to cut them off.

Despite this, I didn’t want there to be any resentful feelings and it didn’t feel appropriate to just “ghost” this person either (for the reasons I mentioned earlier). So I made the decision to consciously cut all ties and I informed the person of this decision.

Something to bear in mind is if the person truly cares about you then they’ll understand and respect your decision to cut ties.

In my case I sent this person a message telling them my reasons for doing so and they accepted and respected my choice.

But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt their feelings.

Unfortunately something to consider is that cutting people off is more often than not going to result in hurt feelings, for both parties.

So it’s worth noting that you can only be so nice when cutting someone off. While you may not want to hurt this person, you still have to assert your boundaries and this is always going to trigger their ego.

As a general rule of thumb stay neutral in your language. And focus on your needs and feelings, rather than the other person’s behaviour.

And as long as your intentions are pure and you try to go about it in a respectful way then you have no reason to feel guilty about your decision.

But if the person isn’t respectful of your decision then you may need to take extra measures…

pink paper heart torn in two

How to cut someone out of your life forever

Of course everything we’ve discussed up until now is based on an ideal scenario – being that you communicate your decision to cut someone off and they respect said decision.

But of course, this isn’t always how it goes.

If this is a truly toxic person who likes to have control, it’s unlikely that they’ll listen to any requests not to talk to you. They want things on their terms, after all.

If you’ve tried the polite way and the other person isn’t cooperating, the easiest way to prevent your boundaries getting crossed again is to block all contact.

In the age of digital technology this means blocking their number and all of their social media accounts to ensure they have no means of contacting you.

Take as many precautions as necessary to ensure that there is nowhere they can slip in (yes, I’ve even had exes message me on clothes selling websites).

If this person does find a way to contact you then don’t feel like you have an obligation to reply. Simply ignore the message and block them – you have already asserted your wish for them to not contact you and it is their responsibility to respect that.

If this person lives locally or is a family member, know that there is some possibility that you may run into each other in the street or at certain events.

Again, it is okay to ignore them if they attempt contact. You have already communicated your needs.

If you do feel it is appropriate to respond then try to avoid arguing but instead simply reinstate your boundaries.

And in extreme cases when somebody is going out of their way to repeatedly make contact in a way that is making you feel harassed or threatened, please read through advice on stalking and consult with the police.

woman smiling holding scissors

So as we’ve gathered, sometimes cutting people off is a necessary part of our growth and wellbeing.

However, in other cases, distancing ourselves may be the better route to take.

Don’t fall into the trap of getting “scissor-happy” and cutting off anybody who makes you feel slightly uncomfortable.

Instead, really evaluate your relationships and look at how they can serve your growth before you make any hasty decisions. And ensure that you are willing to communicate your needs and set healthy boundaries to enhance your existing relationships.

Let me know your thoughts about this and if you’ve ever had to cut someone from your life for good!

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Esther is the founder of Through the Phases, a wellbeing and healthy lifestyle blog dedicated to sharing mind/body/soul practices for self-exploration, healing, and fulfilment. She has a degree in Psychology, is yoga teacher trained (200hr), and is currently pursuing a Neuroscience MSc to further study the mind-body connection. Read more about her story here.

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