Sometimes in life, distancing yourself from someone is necessary, even if we were once close to them. It’s not always easy, especially if the person from whom we need distance is a close friend or a romantic partner.
However, some relationships become unhealthy over time and require that we leave them or detach from them to keep our mental and emotional health and well-being in check.
In this article, we’ll discuss why and how you should distance yourself from someone if being around them is becoming an issue. Of course, every person and every relationship (friends, family, romantic) is different, and circumstances can be complicated at the best of times.
However, there are clear signs of the need for distance and emotional detachment that you should not ignore if you want to keep yourself happy and healthy. Read on to discover the signs that one of your relationships requires some distance, and learn how to create that distance safely and healthily.
Why is it important to distance yourself from some people?
It’s unfortunate to have to admit it, but those who we once thought were the ‘perfect person’ for us, someone we thought would always have our best interests at heart, or someone we wanted to spend all of our time with, can sometimes become a source of stress, negative influence, and emotional toxicity.
Some relationships come to a natural end, where both parties agree that they are not enjoying or benefiting from the relationship any longer and decide to go their separate ways.
However, in some cases, one party needs distance or detachment, but the other is not on the same page. In such a case, it is important to know what to do and how to do it compassionately and effectively to prevent a negative outcome or hurting someone’s feelings.
Distancing and emotionally detaching yourself from someone whose energy, behavior, or even proximity make you feel stressed, anxious, or bad about yourself is a healthy thing to do and is never something you should feel guilty about.
Sometimes, the person you wish to detach or create distance might be reluctant to accept and respect your wishes. They might try to persuade you to remain by their side, to continue hanging out, or even to depend on them for something by trying to manipulate your thoughts and emotions.
They may even try to convince you that you’re wrong for following your heart and your gut. It can be difficult to stand your ground with some people, especially if they’re skilled manipulators or guilt trippers, but remember that their lack of respect for your wishes is precisely why you should create some distance from them in the first place.
When is it important to distance yourself from someone?
Creating distance and emotional detachment with someone with whom you’ve spent a lot of time or with whom you’ve shared a lot of intimacy and vulnerability can be difficult. You might find yourself second-guessing your wishes and decisions because you’re stuck on the memories of the good times.
Remember that if you’re experiencing emotional or mental health issues or difficulties related to someone else, then it’s important to prioritize your well-being and do what needs to be done to keep yourself healthy and happy.
Signs you need to let go of someone
Fond memories may be difficult to let go of and may lead you to believe that it’s okay to have this person around, stay with them, and continue the relationship. However, don’t forget about the reasons why you wanted to create distance in the first place.
- Have they become disrespectful?
- Is there energy negative, and making you feel negative?
- Are they placing unreasonable expectations on you to be a certain way, or treat them in a certain manner that doesn’t feel comfortable for you?
- Have they become dependent or reliant on you for emotional satisfaction?
- Do they make you feel exhausted?
- Have they become physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you may need to create some distance between you and that person. Of course, each person’s circumstances are different, and what feels like a problem for one person may not seem as problematic to another.
The main thing to remember is that if someone’s behavior and energy are not serving your well-being, bringing you down and making you doubt your self-worth, or having a damaging impact on your physical or mental health, then it’s crucial to take a step back and consider it worth keeping this person in your life.
How to distance yourself from someone
Below we have outlined five key steps to creating the distance you need from that person in your life who’s bringing you down or tiring you out.
1. Identify the reason you need distance
The first and most obvious step in distancing yourself from a person that is close is to identify exactly why you want the distance in the first place. What is the main problem? What is it about the other person or your relationship with the other person that’s bothering you? What would you gain from creating distance or from emotionally detaching from that person? What would you lose, or what problem would you experience, if you didn’t detach or distance yourself?
There may be several reasons why you need space, all of which may be perfectly valid, but don’t get lost in the reasons. When the time comes for a confrontation and an honest expression of your feelings, you’ll need to stand your ground. You might even get flustered and get brain fog when you try to tell the other person what you want and need, so prepare what you want to say in advance.
Speak to a friend and practice what you will say, write in a journal, or make a voice or video recording. Anything you can do to help you achieve clarity and focus will help you feel assertive and confident.
Whichever reason you identify, remember it. The process of detaching from someone can be challenging, and you may be tempted to change your mind and reconnect with the person.
However, there may have been a very important reason you needed to detach, such as your mental health and well-being, so keep the reason(s) in mind as you move through the coming weeks and months.
2. Be patient with yourself
It may be hard to completely distance or detach from someone at first. If you’ve been involved with the person romantically for an extended period, the breakaway period can be a slow process and may take some time. If you’ve been friends with this person for years, the same applies.
Some people try to detach from others cold turkey, but this can cause a lot of emotional pain, so it is best reserved for extreme cases, such as when the other person is abusive or poses a danger to your well-being.
Begin the process of detaching by giving yourself some time to think about what you want. Reflect on the reason why you want space or full no-contact. Next, think about which areas of your life they are most heavily involved in. Consider how those areas of your life change without the other person around.
Be patient with yourself. You may have tried to reduce contact and increase distance in the past but regressed and continue to allow the person in your life. When we try to make a change in our lives, but we fail, we tend to berate ourselves. We place immense pressure ourselves to do things perfectly and get everything right the first time around.
Creating distance between and someone you were once close to is not easy. It can be complicated at the best of times, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you execute your plan perfectly the first time.
3. Communicate honestly and effectively
Before you take the space you need, let the other person know what’s happening. Again, there may be some circumstances in which you feel the need to cut contact completely and immediately, such as in cases when the other person is toxic or aggressive.
Still, it’s best to communicate what’s going on in your heart and mind with the other person in most cases. Let them know how you’ve been feeling lately and why you think space or distance might be a good idea.
In communication, it’s important to be assertive. If you have a shy inclination, you might phrase your feelings and your plan as though they are a question.
However, asking a question is not effective in this context since the other person may take that as an implication that you want them to convince you otherwise. You may be very important to that person, so they’ll likely be reluctant to accept your plan.
Once you’ve expressed your feeling, your reason for seeking space, and have asserted your plan. The next step is to follow and actually create that space.
You may be tempted to keep checking in on them, but since you’re the one that wants space, it’s important that you take it. Otherwise, you risk keeping the person trailing along and leaving them confused, frustrated, and uncertain about what you really meant.
4. Focus on the future
There may be times during your break or disconnection from that person that you feel regret, doubt, and uncertainty about your decision. These feelings are completely natural and are to be expected when you remove someone from your life.
There is no perfect decision, no right answer, and no certain way of doing things when it comes to crafting our unique lives. Life is messy, and it takes some courage and resilience to get through it.
If you find yourself focusing on the past, feeling nostalgic, and remembering that person with a rose-colored memory, try to catch yourself. Remember that there was a reason you needed space, so shift your attention away from the past and forward to the future you envisioned when you made your decision.
How will your life be different without that person? Do you expect to have more energy? More time to do things you enjoy? More space in your head and heart for other people? Will you meet new people who align more with your values and beliefs?
Keep your mind on the positive aspects of creating distance or detaching from that person. You focus your attention on what you will manifest, so be mindful of what you allow yourself to think.
5. Seek support
Nobody expects to go through this significant change in your life alone. We’re social creatures, so we’re programmed to support and be supported by others.
In the process of distancing yourself or completely detaching yourself from someone, make sure you reach out to friends and family for support. They may be able to advise you, listen to your worries and concerns, and even hold you accountable for your decision and help you remain consistent.
Reach out to those who you love and who love you back. It may not be a family member or a random friend – the person to whom you reach out should be someone you know you can rely upon for compassionate emotional support, so maybe a best friend or someone else with whom you have an emotional bond.
Unfortunately, there are many cases in which one person needs distance from another because the other person has been aggressive and abusive. These relationships can be difficult to leave, as the person who wants to leave may feel lost, confused, and even frightened for their safety and well-being. Understanding that abuse is not always just physical – emotional abuse is a major problem in relationships and can happen to anyone.
When one partner or friend emotionally abuses someone, they might guilt trip the person into hanging around or doing what they want. They might threaten the person with dire consequences, such as self-harm or suicide, or might claim that the person’s action will make them depressed or cause them other issues regarding their mental health.
Emotional abuse can be hard to spot, but it’s important to recognize it and do as much as you can to distance yourself from it as soon as possible. If you have experienced any kind of abuse, consider reaching out to a therapist for support and if you are concerned for your safety get law enforcement involved.
A therapist can help you process your experiences in a way that helps you move forward with your life safely and effectively and can help you develop the tools and skills necessary to remove that person from your life.