They say, “don’t burn bridges.” But some relationships are better ended. Understanding when and why to burn a bridge is not the only key to your well-being but fulfilling your potential.
Cutting off people is one of the most difficult things to do. Saying “no” is already hard enough especially for me (this article may help).
I have repeatedly run into the wrong crowd because I did not have the gumption to just turn them down. Likewise, I ended up in bad relationships that left me with nothing but painful lessons.
Most recently, I met an amazing person through the Tinder dating app. We had fun that night and I asked for her number and we continued to text.
She wanted me to visit her before she left for overseas and I was unsure mainly because I did not want to start anything that I knew would have to be cut eventually. I was already in that situation before.
The tension reached a boiling point when I made a scathing tweet about a lady at a gym and she blew up on me.
It came out of nowhere, but I interpreted this as her venting due to her disappointment with my fickleness.
I enjoyed the few moments we spent but this was an example of a bridge that needed to be burned.
The Three Questions Everyone Needs to Ask Before Burning Bridges
My short-lived relationship with my Tinder encounter isn’t exactly the typical type of relationship that needed ending. It’s a bit more complex sometimes and is almost like cutting off your ex-flames.
I usually ask myself three questions to determine if my relationship with someone is worth keeping:
Do we make each other happy?
Do we help each other grow?
Does spending time together lead to something beneficial for both of you?
If the answer is “yes” to all three, this is the type of relationship that shouldn’t just be kept but cherished. Keep strengthening it. Fight for it. These are the friends we need.
If the answer is “yes” to two of the three, the relationship is worth keeping but also needs work. There are likely areas that are stagnating between the friendship. With a little work, we can make each other even better.
If the answer is “yes” to one of three, the relationship is stagnating. Spending time with these “friends” may start incurring just as many costs as benefits. I might be getting tired or missing the point of why we even hang out. These relationships need plenty of work or they will fall to the next category.
If the answer is “yes” to NONE, then this is the relationship that needs to be cut. Pronto.
This is the bridge that gets burned. Hell, in some cases, the bridge needs to be bombed. Obliterated.
Breaking it down this way makes it seem easy to determine which friends are worth keeping and which aren’t. But often I just go on living my life and being an ENFP, I have a high tolerance for people’s bullsh*t.
This list helps me determine who to spend time with and who to start avoiding.
Ex-flames tend to be wild cards because there are a lot of personal feelings that skew the questions. That is the one exception here.
But with everyone else, these questions must be asked.
As I get older, my tolerance for crap gets lower. And I assume it’s the same for almost everyone.
The closer we get to our inevitable demise, the more valuable our time becomes. That’s why it’s best to get rid of “friends” and people whose relationships may only be hurting more than helping.
If you have people in your network and they only cover one of the questions, they could fall into one of the following categories of people.
Enablers & Bad Influencers
These are friends who make us happy but don’t help us grow and spending time with them doesn’t always lead to anything beneficial outside cheap thrills.
Popular examples of these types of people are drinking and smoking friends or any friend you hang out with mainly because of a vice or a trivial activity.
While they aren’t necessarily bad people, spending too much time with them can be counterproductive and won’t lead to much growth or positive outcomes.
Why You Should Burn the Bridge: because most of the time you spend with these “friends” is spent on vices, the friendship will lack any real value. Continuously hanging out with them will also worsen bad habits and be detrimental to your overall health.
How to Grow the Relationship: find other things to do with them outside of boozing or doing drugs, if possible; you may already have other things in common like a hobby. Start here and develop a relationship that goes beyond simple vices.
Secret Manipulators & Fake Friends
These types of “friends” are difficult to. Hanging out with these people may lead to something beneficial on the surface but isn’t helping you grow and you don’t feel that deep sense of happiness.
People who fit this category may be secretly using you for their own ends. If you have “friends” who you don’t know on a personal level despite how long you’ve been together, that is a red flag.
They aren’t completely fake because they like something about you whether it’s your status or wealth or abilities. But the moment you lose that which they want, they will disappear.
These people may be “social climbers” or people who ride on others’ coattails. They are likely not new at this game. They will make themselves useful, so it will be hard for you dispose of them.
Maybe they’ll offer their own services or introduce you to other people. They will offer something back in return.
Why You Should Burn the Bridge: because these people care more about themselves than they do about you. The moment things go sour, they are likely to vanish. They are the type to love you when times are going well but ignore you once it isn’t. You deserve better treatment than this.
How to Grow the Relationship: this is a difficult relationship to grow because it comes from something superficial; maybe these people don’t really care about you and are just using you. But if they have some shred of decency within them, you may be able to appeal to their human side.
Get to know them personally. Make sure they open up to you and share their own vulnerabilities and personal stories. Once you learn this part, you may develop a genuine relationship.
Controllers and Judgers.
These friends are the ones who you don’t always get along with, but feel is still out for your best interest.
We all have that friend who thinks they know what’s best for us. They can’t help it.
Maybe they see you as a little sibling and constantly undermine you. They make decisions for you, ignore your ideas, and always judge you and your choices.
These friends are invaluable because they are the most likely to give us different viewpoints and challenge our lifestyle. They can also do what’s best for us when we don’t know it.
They are opposite to the fake friends and enablers because they care about you (even if they aren’t fully aware of it). What can make a relationship with them troublesome is the stress they bring.
Why You Should Burn the Bridge: because they kill the joy out of everything. They don’t respect you and continuing the relationship will be bad for your self-esteem and mental health.
How to Grow the Relationship: stand your ground and assert yourself but do it without appearing too belligerent. Have faith that these friends really do care about you but need to be shown the way. Find out what they need help with and help them. The sooner they can see you as an equal, the better.
Toxic People: Burn these Bridges ASAP
Now for the people in your life who don’t make you happy, don’t help you grow, and don’t lead to anything beneficial, cut them out immediately.
While none of us wants to be that friend who abandons a friend, it’s unhealthy for both parties if you continued.
There are many types of people like this but the most obnoxious is the Negative Nigel/Nancy. They are constantly critical, angry, and are the biggest buzz-kills.
If you are forced to deal with them (because of work or unavoidable circumstances), there are strategies for that. But if you don't, cut them out.
Just a few days earlier, a Facebook friend and former co-worker unfriended me because I told him off on my page.
This guy was the prototypical “Angry Atheist” and a complete Nazi towards religion. He only shows up, coincidentally, when I make a post about religion.
It could be something light-hearted like an interesting tidbit about Bible history.
In comes Angry Atheist shutting it down essentially saying “why bother talking about it? It’s religion. It shouldn’t exist. Don’t encourage discussions about make believe sh*t.”
And get this: he accuses me of being close-minded and not wanting to talk with people who have opposing views.
I enjoy listening to other people’s views unless they are shouting it in my face or they have already made up their mind and are just listening so they can say something back.
Do not bother reasoning with these types of people. You’ll have better luck achieving world peace.
It is never easy to end relationships, but it is necessary.
Doing so not only frees you from people who hold you back but also allows you to spend more time with the people who help you become better.