We’ve all heard the saying “don’t burn bridges.” It refers to the idea that we should avoid permanently damaging relationships or opportunities, even difficult ones, because we never know when they may become useful again. However, sometimes burning bridges is necessary for our personal growth and to create healthy boundaries.
I recently came across a thought-provoking idea: burning bridges isn’t always a bad thing if it prevents you from going back to a place you should not have been in the first place. This got me thinking about times when it may be justified to completely cut ties and “burn bridges” with certain people or situations.
Now, I’m not advocating being intentionally hurtful or damaging your reputation. That kind of behavior is never acceptable. However, I do believe firmly closing some doors and ending damaging relationships is essential for living your best life. Holding onto unhealthy associations out of comfort, complacency or guilt helps no one in the long run.
Here are some signs it may be time to permanently cut ties:
1. When someone constantly demeans you or sabotages your success.
If a person in your life, whether a friend, family member or partner, regularly puts you down, criticizes you or deliberately throws obstacles in your path, it is time to cut ties. Surrounding yourself with negativity and meanness chips away at your self-esteem and prevents you from reaching your full potential. You deserve people who build you up and want the best for you.
2. When a relationship is extremely one-sided.
Healthy relationships are reciprocal, with both people giving and taking. If you are constantly compromising your needs and wants to please someone else, you will grow resentful. It is better to be alone than with someone who takes advantage of your kindness. Free yourself to find more mutual partnerships.
3. When you are losing your sense of self.
Sometimes relationships turn unhealthy slowly over time. You may realize one day that you no longer recognize yourself and have abandoned your own interests or values. End these connections, even if long-term, to regain your independence and sense of identity.
4. When past trauma or patterns repeat themselves.
We all have baggage from our past, like bullying or dysfunctional family dynamics. If you find yourself in relationships that echo old wounds, it is time to walk away no matter how difficult. Healing comes from breaking destructive cycles for good.
5. When your mental health suffers.
Our emotional well-being and stability should be the top priority. If a job, relationship or lifestyle routinely causes distress, anxiety or depression, remove yourself from it. You come first, always.
How to Move On Healthily After You Burn Bridges
Ending relationships, even necessary ones, often involves grief and pain. Here are some tips for moving forward in a positive way:
- Reflect on lessons learned to grow from the experience. What will you do differently going forward?
- Be kind to yourself. Allow time to heal without judgment.
- Seek support. Turn to other positive relationships in your life or a counselor.
- Express emotions in a healthy way through journaling, art or exercise.
- Focus your energy on personal goals that enrich your life.
- Forgive yourself and the other person. Anger will only hurt you, not them.
- Visualize your fresh start. What new doors will open for you?
The Rewards of Removing Toxic Relationships
While burning bridges is often sad, the long-term benefits to your wellbeing make it worthwhile. Here are just some of the positive changes you may experience:
- Improved self-esteem and confidence
- Relief from anxiety or depression
- More energy to devote to healthy relationships
- A greater sense of independence and personal power
- Freedom to pursue your passions and interests
- Overall increased happiness and life satisfaction
Trust your instincts. If a relationship leaves you feeling drained, stressed or bad about yourself more often than not, it is time to cut ties. Do not cling to harmful associations out of habit or perceived obligation. You deserve people who bring out your best self. While burning bridges is rarely easy, it clears the way for building new, healthy connections. The personal growth and fulfillment are worth it.
Have you had to permanently end a relationship that wasn’t serving you? How did you grow from it? Share your experiences in the comments.
Michelle D. Garrett is the founder of Divas With A Purpose.
She focuses on sharing resources for being purposely productive; setting personal and professional goals and achieving them through daily action; and successfully running a business while focusing on your mental health. Michelle is a full-time entrepreneur who specializes in teaching female entrepreneurs how to show up consistently in their business – online and off.