Lots of online articles give advice on this topic. Some say tread carefully, others say “burn away!”
I fall into into the “tread carefully” category. Throughout my life I have learned that cutting ties carries a lot of risk. On one hand you can stay in a very abusive situation too long out of fear of ending things. On the other hand you could be cutting out someone just because they questioned you.
These days I see a lot of younger people burning bridges over the slightest infractions. They don’t even try to work it out or tell the other side their feelings. They just label anyone who doesn’t support them 100% as “toxic”. I think many will regret later in life what they have done, but spend years in denial. Or they might never wake from that denial.
I agree with burning bridges AFTER you have done your best to work things out. That means you have explained your feelings to the person and tried to work out your disagreements first. That doesn’t mean “imply” and then act like they’re a bad person because they weren’t able to read your mind. I mean you explained clearly.
If they erupt at you or delegitimize your feeling or just act like you’re the jerk, it might be time to consider distancing yourself from them. If distancing won’t work and they won’t listen, then it’s time to consider ending things.
I had a friend that I’ll call Betty. Betty was dating a guy who would never apologize for anything. One day he cancels their arrangements thirty minutes before they were too meet just because he wants to sleep in. This hadn’t been the first time he had pulled this, but Betty was set on making sure it was the last.
When he calls her the next day, she explains that she is upset and that what he did was not fair to her. He starts to play down her feelings and say, “Don’t you think you’re overreacting?”
The thing about Betty is that she doesn’t really overreact. She almost never gets angry. She gets annoyed, but does not lose her temper. And he won’t apologize at all. He starts to turn it on her and point out her “faults”. That was the last straw.
Betty gave him a very calm reply, said goodbye, and hung up.
It was a good move.
Now there is another example of who I call Polly. Polly is in her 20s. She is fragile, sensitive, believes in “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings”, and can’t stand criticism. Her greatest fear is people thinking bad of her. She can’t say “no” and blames people for asking her to go to coffee.
She posts constantly about how “nobody understands her”, but seldom takes the time to understand anyone else. Polly can’t bear to even see counter-viewpoints. They scare her.
If she considers you a friend, you are a hero. You are the coolest things since sliced bread. However, if you she doesn’t like you, you are the enemy. You are evil. You might as well call yourself Darth Vader.
While your “friends” with her, she expects you to idolize her and understand her. She tells you of all the “toxic” people she cut ties with you, but don’t worry she’d never do that to you. You’re amazing.
Until you’re not.
Your infractions? She has a list that she numbers, pointing out everything she’s been hating about your for months. All those times she praised you, actually she hated you. You see, you hurt her feelings and didn’t even realize it.
You’re not a hero anymore, your a toxic person and you need to go. Polly won’t call you, won’t talk to you. She won’t even if you a chance to work it out. She’ll just block you out of the blue and turns on you, telling all her friends the “horrors” you committed. Polly won’t just burn bridges, she’s out to drag your reputation through the mud in an attempt to prove how right it was to cast you from her friendship circle.
I’ve seen so many Polly’s in the past few years. I’d like to say that story is made up, but a lot of it is true and comes from various incidents I both witnessed and bore the brunt of.
It seems a lot of people no longer no how to work things out. They just want to burn bridges whenever anything gets hard. I think their rash “bridge burning” is going to lead to a lot of regrets later in life. Regrets they’ll try to bury.
Betty made the right decision. She was angry, but she did not come to her decision rashly. She attempted to give the other party a chance to work things out and they chose poorly.
Whereas Polly cuts ties and blindsides her victims without giving them a chance to clear up things. Polly is emotionally unable to handle rejection and so tries to be the one who rejects. She is scared of giving the other side a chance, so just burns bridges when they aren’t able to “get” her. She doesn’t try to understand their side. Polly dispenses the label “toxic” like candy.
So that’s my feelings on burning bridges. I feel it’s not something to do lightly, or you’ll be left with regrets.
Am I alone in this view?