Long-time friends who cut you off for no reason: Exploring the psychology behind their actions.
Have you had a long-time friend cut you out of their lives totally?
If you have had that unfortunate experience, you will know how painful it really is.
You’d never know what really happened. Your friendship was here today, gone tomorrow.
I had one. We knew each other from when we were 7. Had rows (like all normal friends do). But she saw it necessary to not only cut me off totally but chose not to invite me to her wedding. Other friends who weren’t as close were invited though.
So the friendship ended, just like that, at 24.
When something like that happens, it always leaves you wondering why it happened and how could you not have seen it coming.
In this post, I touch on why people who do the cutting off do this.
What does it mean to cut off someone?
First things first.
I see some people confusing this with friends who naturally drift apart. But they aren’t the same at all.
When people drift apart:
- It’s usually gradual (ie: contact steadily reduces over time or becomes relatively more sporadic)
- It’s natural (ie: someone moves away, has kids, you guys no longer like the same things that used to bond you etc)
- It usually happens both ways. Meaning both of you could have sensed it coming — and let it happen
- The friendship takes on a different form, friendship may still be good but on a less intense level
- There may be less intense emotions involved. No anger, blaming, jealousy and all of that
Being cut off
- It’s done suddenly and abruptly without warning, usually with no reason/explanation given
- There was no prior communication or sign that this was going to happen
- It’s always, ALWAYS one-sided, leaving the other quite blind-sided
- The damage usually cannot be reversed, and both parties rarely become friends again
- Emotions involved are always complex and intense, involving confusion, guilt, anger, sadness are commonly experienced.
As you can see, both are very different things, involving different contexts, reasons and eliciting different intensities of emotion.
Here, I’m talking about cutting off a person whom you’ve been really close to and have shared a huge part of your life together.
I’m not referring to the rude guy/girl you went on 3 coffee dates with and subsequently blocked on WhatsApp or a colleague you’ve known for 2 months who recently started ignoring you.
I’m also not talking about the rude, negative, toxic and hostile personalities that warrant you cutting them out of your lives.
I’m talking about the close, intimate relationships which were fine one day and gone the next.
The nature of friendships…
One of the most crucial things about being cut off by someone is that if you had looked closely, you might have actually seen it coming.
Unless you were unnecessarily rude, inhumane or really toxic in some way, most of the “victims” of being cut off are usually close people who done nothing that wrong to warrant this sort of treatment.
In friendships and relationships, disagreements and rows are common, depending on your dynamics.
There are always ups and downs.
People who have a healthy sense of self and know what a healthy relationship looks like won’t let a row or disagreement affect their opinion of you or your friendship.
They (both of you) deal with it, apologise if you need to, talk through the issues and move on.
If the friendship had a real solid base, with open communication, things usually can heal with time. Cliched but true.
So why do long-time friends cut you off?
There are many reasons and whilst it sometimes is due to something we have intentionally (or unintentionally) done to hurt them, it sometimes has got nothing to do with you. Let’s explore some reasons here:
1. They keep score
People who initiate the sudden cut-off have a sort of mental credit/withdraw system approach to friendship. When the going is good => credit in! When things aren’t going well => withdraw!
And the worse thing about this whole setup is their behaviours change according to how they think they are being treated. They can be great friends one minute and a complete stranger the next.
They might have internal rules and tests for friendships. Rules and tests you never know about until you cross the line one day.
And that might actually be too late.
They might also unpredictably moody around you, making you feel like you are
Question is, do you want to be around someone who sees you as a kind of financial transaction?
2. They are emotionally unavailable, can’t communicate and/or handle conflict
They refuse to tell you what about you is bothering them and probably never will.
It’s the fear of being vulnerable, or the incapability of being vulnerable.
They are unable to handle conflicts in an assertive manner and are usually passive-aggressive.
Another sign of this emotional unavailability is them resorting to the silent treatment or the cold shoulder. Leaving the other party constantly wondering what went wrong.
The way we handle our relationships as we grow up have a lot to do with how we were taught to handle relationships with our family when we were younger.
People who develop emotionally unavailability or an inability to communicate effectively during a conflict probably picked up similar habits from their relationships with their family.
They might have a parent or sibling that treats them in the same way. We tend to model our relationship patterns from the one we’ve experienced in childhood.
So, that is what they are probably used to and in their eyes, is what is seen as normal and healthy.
3. They are users
Some people are just incapable of forming healthy relationships and see all relations in terms of what can you do for them or what use do they have for you?
Once that is attained or accomplished, you are no longer needed and are tossed aside.
I used to know “friends” who would declare you their BFFs when you guys shared classes (and they had no one else).
But once they were assigned a new class in a new school term or whatever and had other friends, they’d bump into you in the streets and totally blank you.
It’s an extremely unpleasant feeling to know that they probably didn’t see the “friendship” in the same way that you did.
But, just like a lot of things in this list, it’s not something that you have very much control over, unfortunately.
4. They want to punish you
Sound harsh? Perhaps. But when they think you have “wronged” them in whatever manner, they want you to pay for it.
This is someone who has a quite warped sense of what justice or fairness means. And take it to quite an extreme in personal relationships.
I mention some people setting silent tests for their new friends above, but people in this group take it one step further.
They take revenge.
And they can do that by resorting to some vicious methods like spreading malicious gossip about you, cut you off from your social group or be just plain mean and intimidating.
Also, if you see someone behaving like this to a friend of theirs, and you might be thinking you are safe?
The individual I mentioned at the beginning of this post did all of the above and more when she found out her best friend was dating someone she didn’t like.
The “best friend” was cut off before you could even bat an eyelid.
I thought that was really scary and lo and behold, I was the next victim.
If someone can do this to another, they probably could do it to anyone, including you. It really doesn’t matter how close you guys once were.
5. They want to be in control
There are people who feel like they should be the one calling the shots in all their friendships.
They want to dictate and make all the decisions — what to do, where to hang out, what their friend should wear or do. How the friendship should play out.
And if you are no longer behaving in a way that pleases them?
Then you no longer need to be friends, pal.
I’ve only met one such person in my life — fortunately — who treated her friends this way. One of the most domineering, condescending and well, controlling person ever.
She straight up decided one day that another member of the group needn’t hang out with us anymore, cause she wasn’t as cool or as funny. Which was what she wanted the group to be seen as.
I think what was particularly uncomfortable about the whole situation was how ruthless it came across.
But people who always need to be in control don’t really see it that way.
6. They are protecting themselves
Sometimes the reasons aren’t as dark as the ones listed above.
Sometimes, people initiate the cut-off because they feel some sort of way about your friendship. And have been for awhile.
Maybe they’ve been feeling neglected, maybe you’ve been really overbearing (and didn’t know this), maybe you were really insensitive (and weren’t aware of this). Etc.
Maybe, just maybe. You might have been the cause of the cutoff.
I know sometimes that is a hard pill to swallow, but when we’ve been friends with someone for so long, it’s easy to take their friendship for granted. It’s also easy to assume that you can do whatever the heck you want and the other party is supposed to be a-okay with it.
Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be up to talking about their feelings/issues about you, with you. For whatever reason they might just feel it’s easier to just run away.
That’s the fight-or-flight response and sometimes people choose to protect themselves by just removing themselves from the situation, and in this case, the friendship.
What about you? Have you had someone cut you off before? Do you think they fit some of the characteristics listed above? Or were other factors at play too?
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Originally published at abstractedcollective.com on December 19, 2018.