Musings on re-examining and severing relationships
Early last year, I found myself embroiled in a situation between two erstwhile friends. Before that time, I was unaware that the two friends had not spoken to themselves in a long while. As far as I was concerned, they were still friends and for the record, they were also my friends.
Without providing too much detail, even though I know both of these people would know this story is about them if they read it, I will attempt a summary devoid of as much specific information as I can withhold. Hopefully, the story remains clear enough for you to understand. Let’s call these people Red and Blue. Pay attention so you can clearly remember which friend is which. A third person, Yellow, makes a brief appearance somewhere along the line.
I had ordered two items for myself and Blue for an event and I was supposed to receive them through Red. Both Red and Blue were also billed to be at this event. At the time of ordering the items, Blue had requested that I should not let Red know I was ordering for them as well. It was at this point that I realised Blue had an issue with Red. Blue explained the background of the issue but I didn’t think much about it as I didn’t think it was that serious.
Now let’s introduce Yellow, not a material part of the story though, think of them as a “waka pass”. Yellow also knows Red and Blue. I wasn’t going to be able to meet up with Red to pick up the items so I asked that they give both items for Blue and myself to Yellow who was also going to receive the same item from Red. I didn’t think to mention to Yellow that they were not to disclose Blue’s identity to Red (as per Blue’s initial request) but somehow, Blue’s name came up as Yellow was discussing the collection of the item with Red.
Red refused to pick up Blue’s item immediately after they found out that the other item was for Blue. Red stated that they knew Blue had an issue with them but Blue had refused to communicate what the issue was. Both Red and Blue had told me that Blue had unfriended Red on all social media platforms and refused to respond to any calls or messages from Red. This had left Red confused because they hadn’t realised that there was an issue and since Blue was refusing to communicate, it made it much worse for Red.
To cut a long story short, I had to endure listening to both people ranting at each other through me in separate conversations since they weren’t on talking terms. I couldn’t continue this after a while as I did not want to be a channel for a conversation that both persons would not have face-to-face. Blue also held me responsible for not getting their item as its status became a bit unclear during the period. Sad to say that their issues remain unresolved as Red still doesn’t know what made Blue cut them off.
As surprising as it may sound, that experience was probably the first time I noticed this “cutting off” phenomenon. At the beginning of every year (and sometimes throughout the year), many people boldly declare that they are starting things off on a clean slate. The implication sometimes is that they would be limiting or ending their relationship with certain people, most likely without their knowledge. Cutting people off has never been a thing I have consciously done. I may have had friendships that fizzled out due to a lack of communication for example but I do not recall taking a deliberate decision to close all communication channels with someone. Even when I may have had cogent reasons to end some friendships, I have never gone that route; it has never been my style.
The question for me is not really why people cut off some relationships. I can imagine that they would have valid reasons to do so, at least from their perspective. Maybe the person was a bad influence that encouraged them to continue on a path they had resolved not to continue. Maybe the person hurt them and they needed time to heal. Maybe they no longer see any value in the relationship. Or, plot twist, maybe that person is their voice of reason and they feel like they are being judged whenever they relate with them.
The question for me is why people have to announce so gleefully that they are cutting people off. They most likely never inform the person so why the need to broadcast this? I guess the next thought is whether there is a need to inform the culled party that one would no longer associate with them. If I told a friend that I was no longer interested in relating with them, what would their reaction be? I can imagine that it would be too awkward to have that conversation when you can just ghost them. And there is the eventual confusion that arises when the person realises that they are being deliberately avoided and they don’t know why. Just the same way Red in my initial story felt.
On the flip side, like a friend asked, I wonder if some of the people who go about announcing their severance project should not be the ones other people are cutting off. I mean, there is such a thing as not seeing one’s blind spots. Maybe the issues lie within and not without. Some of the people who were cut off could be grateful they weren’t the ones who initiated the break-off. Good riddance to bad rubbish?
I am of the “omo buruku l’ojo tie” school of thought. This Yoruba expression means “every bad person has their day of being good” and I believe in this as well. People will show their true colours, sometimes more often than not, but should we permanently end such relationships? You be the judge. By all means, re-evaluate your relationships, focus on the healthy ones, try and revive the weak ones if you believe they are valuable, and if you feel the need to cut people off, follow your heart. This is the way I see things today.