How to Cut Ties with a Harmful Person

The purpose of this article is to explain how to cut a person from you life who is doing ongoing harm to you. The key thing is to realize that this is not an easy decision to make. And in many cases, the person you're trying to cut out of your life is probably going to try to make it harder for you because he or she is invested in you in some way, whether it's a family relationship, a friendship or a business situation. However, if there is nothing but stress, abuse and ongoing unhappiness involved in being in contact with this person, your own well-being is dependent on cutting ties.


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    Decide that this person isn't worth the time and effort of staying in touch with them. This is an enormous decision, especially if it is someone close to you or a family member. It is recommended that you read the Warnings with respect to not labeling people as negative as an easy-out for discarding people you don't feel you have the energy or time for in your life––there are more constructive ways of dealing with people at that level, such as telling them you need time out for a bit. On the other hand, sometimes cutting ties with a difficult person is the only safe and protective thing left to do if you've tried everything else and this person is still making your life a misery. When determining whether to cut this person off for good or for a long time, consider the following:
    • Does this person harass, verbally abuse or demean you all the time? Does this person abuse you physically, sexually, emotionally or mentally?[1]
    • Does this person drag you into dysfunctional relating all of the time? Namely, does your relationship feel any or all of the following: manipulative, surreal, on tenterhooks, unhappy, exhausting, dredged in misery, suffocating. Good relationships should be reasonably comfortable, supportive and enjoyable.
    • Is this person using "toxic" behaviors on you constantly? Namely, do they suck the energy out of you, demand that you always see or do things their way, lack empathy, cause you to feel less than a person, etc.?
    • Do you feel frightened, anxious, deeply unhappy, incompetent around this person? Do you feel as if all you do is defend yourself around this person?[1]
    • Do you have a gut feeling that you would be free or happier or able to piece your life back together again without this person in it?
    • Do you find yourself the butt of gossip and know that the only source can have been this person?[1]
    • Is the relationship one of nasty games, such as refusing to talk to you (the "silent treatment"), blaming you for everything, putting you down all the time or just wanting money/things/services from you?[1]
    Any or a combination of the above factors can point to you being better off not having contact with the person in your life, at least not until you've had sufficient time apart to learn coping skills that enable you to be around the person without losing your sense of self or being able to stand up for yourself. In many cases, the cutting of ties may need to be permanent.
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    Seek assistance to boost your own morale. Whether you've decided to leave and cut ties or you want to keep trying with this person, it is recommended that you seek advice through a therapist, counselor, doctor or someone else qualified in helping you. Having support is a key part of not giving in to continuing with a difficult situation that you feel overwhelmed by.
    • Also seek the support of family you trust and friends you trust.
    • Be wary about those persons who still support the person you're cutting ties with. Either reach a mutual agreement to not discuss the person in question or consider cutting ties with these people too. Yes, this has many layers and ongoing consequences, and touches other people too, but if you're serious about removing yourself from this person's sphere of influence, you'll need to be ruthless in protecting your own well-being.
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    Decide how you will eliminate the toxic or abusive relationship from your life. If you've decided that this person is to be removed from your life, you will need to cut all ports of contact with them. This includes family, where relevant. Remember those tentacles spread everywhere and if this person is toxic, they'll have done a good job on other people to keep supporting them at your expense. Be strong and be prepared for that.
    • Don't give the person your phone number, your social network names, etc.
    • Remove them from your friend lists online. Go private if need be.
    • Tell friends that you don't want your name, details or anything related to you to be shared with this person. Get them to be supportive of your decision to cut ties with this person.
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    Eradicate. Make it clear you don't want anything to do with this person. Be awkward. Don't speak to them at all. Do not meet or greet them. Avoid them at all costs.
    • Send back their belongings, their money, their recommendations, anything related to them that you no longer want a part of. Equally, take back what is yours before you never see it again.
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    Obliterate mental connection with this person completely. Now you have cut all ports of contacts with this enemy physically you must do so mentally. Move on. Don't ever ponder or wonder what they are doing. Delete them from your mind. Now you can live a happy life one that's surrounded by positive energy.Thanks for reading
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    Be ready for backlash. Realize that this person may well keep trying to get back into your life, even years after cutting them out. It all depends on how determined, obsessed or single-minded they are and how they perceive the relationship. Some things you can do include:
    • Steeling yourself against giving in to any overtures to be in any sort of relationship with this person again.
    • Changing your social media and email accounts to make it harder for this person to contact you. If an email or message does get through, the best thing you can do for yourself is simple––do not read it. Simply delete it without a single thought. The words you haven't read cannot stir up your emotions. Vent but don't read.
    • Having friends and family shield you and refuse to be cooperative with this person.
    • If the person was violent: Keep the local police station in your smartphone and on speed dial. This means the front desk number or the number of a person you trust in the station, not just the emergency number. Have someone who knows what is going on that you can reach quickly and get assistance, advice and immediate response.
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    Move on with your life. Do what you need to do to get back on track after leaving this person behind. There is no miracle formula you can click into and follow––you have to work at finding the pathway that works best for you and that ensures your own recovery from being harmed by this person. Realize that you most likely won't forget them but time heals somewhat and gives you perspective.
    • Be realistic. There may well be times in which you feel yourself ready to give in and restart a relationship with this person, especially if you were intimate with them or they are family. Realize that this is only natural but that you cannot act on it. Remind yourself of what this person did to you, how poorly you related with one another and that you cannot "fix" them.
    • Treat yourself when you feel down about the process of removing yourself from this person. Do things that you enjoy, such as a walk through town, going to the movies, working on your favorite pastime or catching up with a trusted friend.


  • Remain steadfast in your resolution to cut ties with this challenging human being. He or she needs help but you're not in a position to give that, so forgive yourself and let go. Any saving that is going to be done needs to be initiated by the person who caused the problems, because it's their problems and only they can agree to fix them.
  • Test the waters with people who annoy rather than harm you. If your friend keeps telling you how depressed/sad/lonely, etc. he or she is, and you really just can't take it another moment, then explain to them that you really feel for them but right now, you don't have the ability to be as supportive as you'd like because you're not feeling so great yourself and need some time out to get through your own issues. Offer them some suggestions about whom they might feel better talking to, such as a mutual friend who has agreed to this, a counselor or a family member.


  • Be aware that it's not a good idea to label someone as negative in order to cut them from your life. That's too easy a solution for handling life's everyday conflicts. It is the ongoing, persistent and debilitating nature of a person's actions toward you that make the case for cutting ties, not the occasional and often lesson-learning conflicts we have with others around us.
  • Be careful not to confuse a person's negativity caused by depression, sadness, melancholy or life's hardships with not being supportive or caring toward you. In some cases, the negativity is a passing phase and in other cases, it's likely that you can actually do a whole world of good for that person. There is a difference between being annoyed by someone's negativity and being manipulated, mistreated, blamed and abused. Realize that cutting ties with someone who is needy rather than abusive can harm them; we all go through phases in life, ups and downs. The trick is to know whether or not the behavior of the other person causes dysfunction, helplessness and/or fear in you and prevents your own ability to live life fully. If it does, then the person is not healthy to keep persevering with. On the other hand, if the once-happy and trusted person has fallen on tough times, try to be a source of support and avoid labeling them as permanently difficult.

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Categories: Handling Rejection