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Unfriending: When to cut ties in your offline life

Janelle Vreeland

What steps should you take when friendships turn sour?

We’ve all thought about it from time to time in our online lives. But few of us will actually admit to it, and even fewer of us will do it in real life. I’m referring, of course, to ‘unfriending’ – cutting ties with a friend, acquaintance or ex.

Sure, we don’t unfriend people just out of the blue. But unfriending can be a difficult to do to someone with whom you were once so close. And it can be even harder when you are forced to do it in your offline life, where you are required to do more than simply just click a button.

As much as we hate to think about it, sometimes relationships – whether they are friendships, acquaintances or something more romantically inclined – must come to an end. If one or both of you would be happier and healthier by cutting ties, then it’s high time for some unfriending. Pay special attention to the following guidelines for cutting ties.

You avoid them at all costs.

Perhaps this is a bit obvious but if you find yourself rejecting phone calls left and right and ducking behind fixtures at the supermarket just to avoid someone – especially a former flame – you should probably go ahead and take the big step of unfriending them.

You might be tempted stay acquaintances to prevent bad blood and hurt feelings. But by being honest and admitting that your life, career and interests are leading you down a different path will definitely ease your mind and silence your cell phone.

They only talk to you when they want something.

Moochers are everywhere, and exes can be some of the worst offenders. I helped a crush get through a bad break-up once when he mysteriously started avoiding me. He constantly ignored my emails, and whenever I tried to catch up with him on IM he would quickly logout. The only time he tried to talk to me was when he needed a reference for a job.

It can be hard to come to terms with the fact that someone is using you–something I clearly know from experience. But if you notice that certain someone starts ignoring your emails, calls and texts only to contact you when they have a favor to ask, you should take the initiative and call it quits.

You might think that you are just being a good friend, but if the recipient isn’t appreciative or returning the favor it’s time for them to learn how to get by on their own.

They haven’t sent you a friend request.

Though it may seem childish, if your friend has a social networking account and hasn’t befriended you or followed you, that should raise a few red flags. Obviously, if this person isn’t online much, or has lost interest in the aforementioned account, then you should use your own discretion.

If, however, they are an active member and have yet to acknowledge you or befriend you, it generally means they have something to hide and are trying to keep their distance. If they don’t want you to see the things that they allow their online friends to see, maybe you should take the unfriending to the next level.

Their behavior is out of control.

I once had an ex who led a self-destructive lifestyle, and loved to try to get me involved in it. I had to step back and evaluate where I wanted to be and how I wanted others to perceive me in order to find the courage to unfriend him. I’ve never regretted my decision. When a relationship reaches the point where a friend’s actions are actually hurting you – be it psychologically, physically or emotionally – an unfriending is definitely in order.

“I still want to be friends” isn’t working out.

Ending a relationship with your significant other is difficult to begin with, so it’s not uncommon for former couples to try the “let’s stay friends” approach. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work out.

It usually goes wrong in one of two ways. One scenario involves the couple finding themselves in an odd relationship somewhere between ‘just friends’ and ‘couple.’ If a relationship ends, but leaves the possibility of it being rekindled open, it can hurt and confuse those involved.

It’s difficult to suppress feelings and being in a complicated state like this doesn’t help the healing process. If you can’t find ‘just friends’ territory with your ex it might be a good idea to walk away from them all together.

The other option is the polar opposite of the previous scenario.

Instead of being too flirty and friendly with one another, the former couple seems bent on being better than one another. They remain on pretty good speaking terms, but they do all they can to passive-aggressively get back at the other.

You see this most often online when someone – usually a teenage girl – quotes or references specific lyrics or a specific movie quote that indirectly insults their ex, or when one tries outdoing the other by uploading an unusually large number of flirty and risqué photos involving basically anyone who is of the opposite sex.

Each is hell-bent on convincing the other they that are fine just being ‘friends’, but their actions suggest otherwise. Not only is this competitive attitude annoying, it’s also unhealthy. If you’re being belittled by your ‘friendly’ ex it’s time for some closure.

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