Saying Goodbye Sucks Sometimes

Sometimes you have to cut ties and say good-bye to people. Relationships change, decisions are made, matters becomes intolerable with no hope for improvement. This can happen in your personal or professional life.

And sometimes it really sucks. It hurts to tell someone that you can’t be around them anymore, especially when you care about the relationship.

I had one of these conversations this week with a relationship that spanned decades, and it was extremely painful.

When It’s Time to Leave

Lisa Gerber wrote an insightful post on this topic a while back. It was a great post. She discussed when people undermine you and don’t live up to their promises that you have to make the break.

I’d add that when someone you know attacks, steals, or just becomes so downright mean to you (or someone you love) over an extended period of time that you may want to sever ties. There may be little choice. At that point it becomes a question of self-respect and welfare.

Sometimes people do things that are so obviously egregious you don’t have to say a thing. Instead you just walk away. It pays to say as little as possible. Volatile situations are never made better by harsh words.

One time, some people I know stole some ideas from me, and then used them. A close friend helped. Shame on me for opening my mouth and trusting these folks. Shame on them for violating that trust. All of them are no longer a part of my life, but perhaps everyone is better for it. Two of them got the ideas, and I learned the loose lips lesson.

In this case, I severed relationships by simply ending communications and social network ties. I could not see investing in the relationships again anytime in the forseeable future.

But when I really care, I communicate. Today, I try to do so in a factual manner, as gently as I can and with love, always focusing on the positive memories. Perhaps I express a little regret.

There have been many times when I let my emotions get the best of me, and expressed anger, but today I do my best to avoid outrage. Expressing as little anger as possible with the offending party leaves the door open.

Reunions and Forgiveness

This week also held a reunion with a prior friend, a business contact that I had a falling out with before I became an entrepreneur. It was good, we talked about it with the pain of yesterday behind us as a distant memory. There was an apology. When you walk away with as little bloodshed as possible, you leave open the chance that such moments can happen.

The reunion reminded me of Ben Affleck’s Argo acceptance speech. In it Affleck said, “You can’t hold grudges. It’s hard but you can’t hold grudges. And it doesn’t matter how you get knocked down in life because that’s going to happen. All that matters is you gotta get up.”

As I walked away from this reunion, I left pondering forgiveness and what it means. And I felt a need to embellish in a little gratitude.

More next week about these topics. What do you think about cutting ties?

Image by Vito Santoro.


  • Its a very hard thing to recover the relationship – glad you were able to do so.

  • Lovely post, Geoff.

    I know I’ve had some situations where I had to cut ties entirely. It was the only way for me to get back up and to stop hoping for something that wouldn’t have been to either of our ultimate benefit. I can see that looking back; at the time? It was an excruciating thing.

    • You know, that’s life? It’s the endings that make us appreciate how good some things are. When you tast disappointment, you value the good even more.

  • It’s important to know when to maintain, when to repair and when to walk away from relationships. Often, it can be painful or difficult. But when following the “this above all to thine own self be true” axiom, one can’t really ever go wrong. As the poem goes:
    “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.
    When you figure out which one it is,you will know what to do for each person.”
    Such a lovely, timely post. It made me both sad and happy. Cheers! Kaarina

  • This might sound cold and unfeeling but for me, it’s not so hard. Maybe it’s because I go through the mourning process first, then, the time just arrives one day in the form of any variety of signals or events. And you know you’re done. The word that comes to mind is liberating – because you’re making room for what’s right. and good. Not that it’s happened that much in my life, but I don’t feel the need to have a break-up conversation. (like you said in the post.) Sometimes that conversation just takes place in our head, and boom. we move on.
    Thank you for the very nice compliment. :)

    • I agree, though this week’s one was sudden, but absolutely necessitated by some incredulous acts. And I cared a lot about the person, but just can’t be a part of what’s appening or in anyway near it. Just sad, really.

    • Excellent way to put it, Lisa. I find it is the same. By the time it becomes obvious, I have already done my struggle, made my efforts. Over the past few years, I had to say goodbye to many relationships. And liberating is the exact word I use. So freeing!

  • A post that I’ve written about before, too, Geoff, and think about a lot. I’ve had some similar experiences as you – ending communications by no longer responding or connecting on social media if I don’t feel I want them to be in my life; by coming out and saying that things need to change or we need to move on, etc. I was also the “cut off” out of nowhere by a childhood friend about five years ago, in a really devastating and hurtful way. But I refused to respond to her email that cut me off, and made my way with other friends and my life. Just a few months ago, she emailed me, apologizing and saying she hoped we could start over, but that she understood if I didn’t want to. I responded, but said I was ready. For some of us… letting go can be really hard, no matter the time that has passed. Thanks for sharing some of your experiences.

    • Yeah, I have been cut off, too, and sometimes deservedly so (walk of shame in the comments). To be honest, I would not have learned if I had not been cut off.

      I like your openness and the fact that you were able to recover. This is really healthy, and I think admirable, too.

  • Timely post for me, ask I’ve been dealing with this even the last few weeks. There are times and people that it is easy as well as hard-not sure what all of that is about but, I’m looking into it!

    Thanks for the honesty!

    • Me, too. I think it has to do with investment and cause. Emotional investment is hard to get over, friend or whatever. Cause can reallymake it quite easy to get over the investment, especially if it is severe.

  • Fabulous post, Geoff. Yes- saying goodbye can be really challenging. I really like your line about self-respect. That is SO true. I have given up the notion that I can possibly control the actions of others, so when things start to go sideways, I look at myself. Am I still happy with my responses, how I am acting? Am I being true to myself? If the response is no, I move on. The other party owes me no explanation- they are as free to choose their path as I am mine. Thank you for this- very timely for me!

    • If you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will!

      And I totally agree with the control component. There is no control, and even if there was, who wants to control other people? There is no fun, joy or growth in that. You have to accept people at face value, good and bad. Sometimes accepting means acknowledging they ar enot healthy to be around. For us, that is.

  • Good one dude.

  • I’m going through this with a friend I’ve had since I was 2 years old. The dynamics are different, but it feels like a piece of my history and even identity is gone. What helps me is remembering to turn around (e.g., stop looking backwards in time and look instead at where I am and where I am headed). When I look ahead I feel such dynamic energy in my relationships. I also believe that no matter what happens, there will always enough to sustain each of us.

    • Yeah, this one was family related, ugly, ugly. Much harder in some ways, especially given the time of year, but had to happen in my book.

  • I’ve been through this so many times that it’s hard for me now to give people the benefit of the doubt first. My trust level is at negative 345 or around there right now. I have learned though that not everyone is bad and there are some folks I can trust and let into my circle of trust. Unfortunately, it hasn’t just been on a professional level, but also the personal and friendship levels.

    In all of this, I have learned that you can’t do anything about the past, but you can live in the present and do something about the future. I’ve had situations where I’ve had to have the conversation for my peace of mind and I’ve also been able to just walk away and be done with it. The people that are in my past are there for a reason. Hang in there, brother, look ahead and go squeeze that adorable little girl of yours. Give me a shout if you wanna vent.

    • I kind of have a rule about this. I am willing to give people a chance, and then when they disappoint me or do something crazy, I weigh their positives over the negatives. The second chance or misnomer is on me, because I made a consience decision to accept them for who they are in my life. No one is perfect, right?

  • Boy can I relate. I experienced bloodshed time as the person I had issue with made it public and then tried to play victim. I had to hold my breath and wait for two years while they did the same thing to enough people that folks saw the light and walked away from them too.

    Does it make up for me having to give up my baby I created – my community, not sure to this day.

    What I do know is I sleep better and I am grateful to have folks in my world who support and care for me instead of pull the rug out from under me.

    Walk away with your head held high doing what is right for you and your family.

    • I feel the same way about some brands that I have created in the past. But I think you and I made a choice not to fight to the end, we yielded in the name of piece, albeit without all the parts, so to speak. And knowing that the people in our lives are generally reliable makes a great difference.

  • Pingback:Wipe the Ledger Clean to Forgive | Geoff Livingston's Blog

    […] post about walking away from relationships generated some great comments. In one response, I stated a willingness to give anyone a chance, and […]

  • A friend ones said that if people don’t wish you well they wish you ill.

    I’ve had relationships falter or get severed over the years, including two “friends” when I first started my business who somehow decided I had to be a trust-fund baby sitting around all day eating bonbons. As If. We evolve, and our personal and professional relationships either change to reflect who we are now or they have no where to go.

    • LOL, I wish that didn’t sound familiar. And you are right, as we evolve (or devolve) so do the people around us.

Comments are closed