real life

10 years ago, I ghosted and blocked my best friend. Then we came face to face.

I’m face to face with my estranged best friend of 10 years, failing to resuscitate the mood stretched out like a corpse on the table between us.

“So…ummm, like…how have you been?” While we perform verbal pirouettes in a politically correct tango, my internal monologue sighs, “Babe, hang up your dancing shoes.”

Two years later, my ex-boyfriend and I, post-breakup, discuss plans. It’s clear but unspoken that our paths will not intersect in the future.

Unfortunately, the irony is not lost on me that we make our final farewell under a romantic full moon.

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Aside from being utterly devastating, these relationship breakdowns shared another common thread. I reacted the same way afterwards: I cut contact. When relationships are reproduced virtually, this not only meant avoiding occasions and deleting contacts but included the social media ‘unfriend, unfollow’ shebang.

Petty? Uncool? I get it. Our teachers have drilled reconciliation into us. I plead my case: Adult relationships are not as simple as our sandpit disputes. When the word “sorry” either doesn’t come or cut it, repairing a relationship so you can ‘maturely’ coexist, can mean staying broken.

But if the failed relationships of my twenties have taught me anything, it’s that the line between helping and hurting yourself is perilously thin when it comes to cutting contact.

I hope the next hundred words or so can help you squint through the emotional rubble of a relationship in ruins and decide how you should rebuild your life without that person.

Ask yourself, what kind of terms am I cutting contact on? Do you dissolve into fiery fits of rage at the mere mention of their name? Did your last interaction feature high-frequency yelling or passive-aggressive karate? In this case, cutting contact is likely a means of inflicting revenge.

Grudges are energy-sapping and a colossal waste of time (I should know, I’ve held a few of them), but as the satisfaction of “getting a bit of your own back” inevitably fades, you will probably feel like a piece of garbage. Why? All the unresolved feelings are still there and now you’ve probably made it a little bit worse.

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Moreover, you are likely to carry the emotional baggage of this split into your next relationship.

Don’t believe me? Here’s smarter people who say the same. The Bowen Family Systems Theory describes the impact of an emotional cut off: on one hand, tensions are reduced, but there is a risk of making new relationships too important or playing out unresolved issues in present relationships.

I cut my friend off on social media to feel more powerful – waiting to be friends again felt humiliating and I wanted her to feel as discarded as I did.

I met my now ex-boyfriend at the time I lost my friend. Low and behold, after reading the Bowen Family Theory, I recalled all the times I asserted that he was my best friend.

However, cutting contact with my ex happened thoughtfully. We talked things through after our emotions calmed. I gave him notice that I would have to stop contact in order to close the door on us, and prevent the embarrassing and inconvenient occurrence of bursting into tears every time I saw an Instagram story of his lunch.

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Having a resolution meant I didn’t feel the need to cram someone into the hole left in my life and I could avoid collateral damage to some of the connections I made with his friends and family over the course of our relationship.

Cutting contact in a mindful way, for your own wellbeing, can lead to a reconnection.

I’ve never been able to reach out to my old friend because I burned the bridge. It’s something I still feel sad about and regret. Whereas, after a period of no contact, my ex and I were able to heal a raw wound and decide we still wanted to be in each other’s lives as friends.

The people we love hurt us. Sometimes it can be fixed and sometimes it can’t.

But perhaps the pre-k teachers had something right when they made you try and resolve things, because even if you never built a sandcastle with your ex-pal again, at least you give yourself a shot at finding some other sand-pit buddies.

Cutting contact can help you move on, prevent persistent and unhelpful relationship patterns reoccurring and establish clear boundaries. Although the tightrope is tenuous, the key is to do it for yourself, not to spite someone else.

Natasha is a student at the University of Sydney. She is stumbling through her early twenties and is delighted to bring anyone who will listen along for the ride. Between her affinity of classical literature, obsession with  Winston Churchill and indulgence in #kompelling Kardashian content, she has come to terms with being a walking contradiction. 

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