Staying in touch is still an option: Why “cutting people off” may be too extreme

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ‘21

Graphic by Natalie Kulak ‘21

BY MIMI HUCKINS ’21

It’s 2019 and we are all cutting toxic people out of our lives. We are saying goodbye to lousy friends, unfollowing people from high school and completely ghosting our exes. This mentality is plastered all over the internet as a sort of self-care and self-confidence mantra for the new year. Huffington Post recently published an article titled “6 toxic people you should kick to the curb in 2019.” The list included people labeled “the narcissist” and “the attention-seeker,” both apparently now toxic characteristics that should determine the end of a friendship. Other similar articles have been written to ring in the new year, such as an article recently published by Forbes titled, “5 types of people you need to cut out of your life.” The trend has been even more popular on social media platforms, especially Twitter, with tweets like, “no time for fake people in my life in 2019, let’s cut all those off,” (@sebtsb), and “Cutting people off who no longer serve you is not selfish, it’s self love. Preserving your energy for people that actually deserve pieces of you will save you chaos, and wasted time,” (@_cortneydoll).

Suddenly, because of the ‘self-care’ and ‘no bad vibes’ ideology, it has become okay to thoughtlessly destroy carefully constructed relationships. The mindset these tweets and articles are written from is, in itself, toxic. To spread the idea that people should identify any negativity in their lives and completely demolish it is risky and harmful. It provides no leeway for working to fix a relationship that is meaningful or for self-reflection and improvement.

Not too long ago, I went through a break up. My now ex-boyfriend and I did not have many problems, but for my own personal reasons I realized the relationship wasn’t right for me anymore. After we had broken up, we still texted fairly often, though many of my friends and coworkers discouraged me from doing so. Almost everyone I talked to about the situation advised me to stop talking to him.

I understand why people may think this is the best course of action because at one point, I thought so, too. I was in a fairly ‘toxic’ relationship in high school; throughout the relationship we fought often and made each other generally unhappy. I ‘solved’ the situation by cutting him off once we graduated, and that resulted in a lot of tension and lingering emotional distress. A year ago, we eventually attempted to remedy the situation by communicating and expressing what we both wanted, which ended up being a friendship. From then on, all the lingering pain I had felt was completely gone. Working to create a healthy relationship with my high school ex-boyfriend was one of the most transformative experiences I have ever had. I thoughtlessly dealt with the hurt I felt from our relationship by cutting him off and pushing down all the resulting feelings from the breakup instead of communicating with him about them, and that caused me a lot of unnecessary stress and resentment. So, no, I will not cut off my recent ex despite self-care blogs and friends telling me to do so.

It is also important to reflect on yourself and your own actions when a relationship becomes uncomfortable. We too often look at other people as being the problems in our lives instead of critiquing ourselves. No one is perfect, and chances are there are things you are doing and negative viewpoints you may have that could be harming your relationships. If we change the narrative from cutting off toxic people to identifying what you can do to create a more positive environment for yourself and others, we could improve more lives than just our own. I completely understand the importance of “putting yourself first,” but that mindset can’t always be applicable when it comes to relationships.

I acknowledge that everyone’s situation is different. Sometimes it is necessary to stop talking to a person who is particularly harmful to you. Each individual will have a better understanding of their own situation than a stranger on the internet will. No one else can know what is best for you. You are the best judge of that, and if needed, a close friend or a therapist will be better to consult than the internet. Everyone will tell you that communication is important in a relationship, but what most people won’t tell you is that communication is even more important when a relationship ends, whether it be a platonic or a romantic one. 2019 should be the year of being on good terms with your ex-partners or ex-friends, and working on yourself instead of always assuming that other people are the problem.

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