Cutting Toxic People Out of Your Life Is Hard But Worth It
Learn how to say, “This is your problem, not mine”
Opinions / January 31, 2020
I was playing Red Dead Redemption 2 when it happened. The phone rang, I picked it up, and a lowly voice answered.
“I’m tired. Can I speak with your mom?”
Not knowing what to expect, I put my mom on the phone and went back to my game. In the back of my mind, I kind of knew who the person calling was, even though there was no name that appeared on the phone’s display.
My mom has a history with this person — I’ll call her Sue. For decades, Sue has been calling my mom and telling her all about her problems, and while my mom has been tolerant of her rantings, it was only a matter of time before she snapped. This time, my mom was done.
Exhausted both physically and mentally, the suppression of her own feelings could be withstood no more. Not even five minutes after handing off the phone, I could hear my mom’s voice, loud and clear, in the living room. After a back-and-forth conversation, she cut off the exchange with a simple “good-bye” and hung up.
Although the conversation between that woman and my mom didn’t concern me, I could see the relief in her face after she hung up. Years of listening to Sue’s incessant babblings and ravings had taken their toll. Enough was enough. Life had to go on, and my mom had far more important things to focus on. After their conversation ended, she went right back to baking cookies with a satisfied look on her face.
My mother had been listening to Sue’s nonsense for too long. Sue lived an unnecessarily complicated life, did little to improve it, and still felt entitled to the emotional support and energy of people like my mom. Dealing with toxic friends like her is a recurring problem in many people’s lives. Some tolerate this behavior while others are less reluctant to hide their displeasure.
Cutting out toxic or bothersome people isn’t restricted to family, not by a long shot. It can happen in friendships as well.
Back during my first semester of university, I was saying some pretty mean things to my friends. After they exiled me for the summer of ’18, they let me back in after a period of separation.
Temporarily cutting contact with people is different from ridding them from your life forever, but putting some distance between them and yourself is key. Friends need time away from each other to think things through. Isolation was, in a way, needed in order for me to appreciate my friends’ company. That time I spent alone gave me room to mature, to recognize social cues, and to acknowledge what is acceptable to say and what isn’t.
Some people are ready and able to make changes to improve themselves and take control of their lives. For others, like Sue, it can be more difficult. It’s a sad reality, but when you’ve been dumped on for so long by someone who is merely using you as a passive listener without asking how you feel or giving you space to talk about your life, drop them like a bad habit. You’ll feel as if a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders.