Burning Bridges

“It seems that all my bridges have been burnt,
But you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works.
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive with the restart.”

– Mumford & Sons

How do you know when it’s time to let go?

This is a question I struggle with daily, because I am not someone who says goodbye easily.  All too often I am the only one left holding on after everyone else has walked away.

“And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.” – Kahled Hosseini

If you come to know me well enough, you will find that there’s almost nothing I wouldn’t do for those I am closest to.  Need help moving?  Lucky for you, I love to pack things.  Have no one to take you to the airport at 4am?  Sounds like an adventure!  It’s 2am and your whole world is falling apart?  Don’t worry, I’m there.  I’m always there.  I am the old-reliable of the group, and more often than not I’m one of the first calls made during an emergency (unless it’s a medical emergency, then I just freak out).  On more than one occasion I have found myself baffled by acquaintances, people I’ve barely had serious conversations with, who have turned to me in moments of strife.  I have long since wondered what it is about me that compels people, sometimes near strangers, to open up in such an honest and raw way.  I have become an unofficial secret keeper, of sorts (it’s amazing, really, what people can tell a stranger, but not each other).

For the most part, I consider this a huge honor, and it’s not one I take lightly.  This trust is not only a great privilege, but it’s also a fascinating way to learn more about the world, the people in it, and what makes them all tick.

The problem with being so whole-hearted with everyone is that…not everyone deserves your whole heart.

The other problem is that part of them does.

No one is entirely awful, and if – even just for a second – someone does get close enough that you really let them in, they can turn out to be a total asshole later and you’re still always going to love that one good part of them.

“Don’t burn your bridges behind you” – Proverb

In general, I am of the mind that you should forgive people.  So I do (although not always right away).  In fact, I don’t just give second chances, I give third chances, and forth chances, and I’m sure even 5ths and 6ths if they’re so required.

Because I love you, and I’m loyal, and I let you in.
(And yet, combined with this fierce sense of loyalty are streaks of stubbornness, pride, a sense of fairness and equality…and a hefty dose of Irish temper.)

“The only bad thing about burning your bridges behind you, is that the world is round.” – Labhesh Patel

Usually, that is exactly what I’m afraid of!

Only sometimes, some bridges do need to be burnt.  There are some people who will use every chance you give them, and you can spend your whole life paying the price for it.

I’ve had to cut very few people out of my life completely, but like the straw that broke the camel’s back, it’s usually pretty clear when it’s time to walk away – when it’s the only thing left you can do (see yesterday’s post).  The fact that it takes me longer than most people to give up just makes the fire burn that much hotter when it finally happens.

“When one burns one’s bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.” – Dylan Thomas

There is one person in my life right now, however, who’s got me completely torn.  The 10+ years we’ve known each other have been rocky – a relationship, a friendship, a…something-in-the-middleship.  Our timing has never been right, but our friendship has always been strong.  Because our up and downs have taken their toll, there have been several points in time where we’ve stopped talking altogether.  Yet even when we’re not speaking, I can still feel the pull of the ties that bind us together.   He’s my person.

And right now I’m on a precipice.  Perhaps one of the biggest ones I’ve faced.  Do I extend the olive branch, or do I light the match – for good this time?  Do I jump down the rabbit hole, and see where it leads – do I open this can of worms, to see if that is indeed what it still holds?  I want to say yes, but I’m afraid of another round in this battle, not just with him, but with my head and my heart as well.

“The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which to burn” – David Russell

Today’s question is from the movie The Mexican starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt:

“I have to ask you a question. It’s a good one so think about it. If two people love each other, but they just can’t seem to get it together, when do you get to that point of enough is enough?”

What Would Your Answer Be?


253 thoughts on “Burning Bridges

  1. Pingback: The Power of the Written Word « Adventures On the Road

  2. I have the exact same problem. See, I’m an anti-social person and I don’t tend to stick to people, but when I do make a friend, I would lay down my life. Utterly loyal. But you see, because of this I’m always the one left in the dirt still caring while the other person abandons and forgets. I wish I knew how people did this, because sometimes it would be helpful to be able to cut those ties.

    • I know what you mean – I’m not quite anti-social, but I am pretty picky about who I let into my “inner circle” of friends. For those people, I’d do ANYTHING, and it’s really difficult when they don’t do the same.

      It’s always confused me as to how people just walk away from someone they were really close to, without an explanation or anything – just gone. It really would be helpful to know how to do that sometimes…Like, say when someone does that to you! Alas, that’s just not who we are, apparently…I like to think that’s probably a good thing, in the end. (It makes it a little bit easier, anyways :P)

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. I’d like to have coffee with you after reading just one of your posts. Quite a gift you’ve got, to put such honesty on paper, and I’m glad I found your space on this big old world wide web!

  4. A beautifully written post, I wish I could connect my heart to paper as well as you do! The only real thing we control is to set our boundaries, which is never usually bought about until a boundary has been crossed, and its actually a little late.

    The challenge is, we assume too often, that as a very good friend, we have complete access, but we all have our lines in the sand, they are sometimes just a little blurry for friends to see.

    • I love everything that you said here! It’s not something we think about really, is it? In a way we take for granted the idea that those who know and love us will just intuitively figure these things out. But of course, that’s impossible – and you’re right, it’s usually a little too late/the boundary has already been crossed, by the time we find that out!

      Thank you for your insightful comment, and for taking the time to read :)

  5. So many of us can relate but to answer your question…I think it would be easy to overthink it and move before you are ready so…you will know when you know and it will feel peaceful.

    • I’m amazed at how many people can relate! It doesn’t actually fix anything, but it sure feels a lot better to know there are others out there in the same place. And I think you’re right, there are so many variables it’s SO easy to over think this kind of thing. The key really is to wait until you feel some peace…Life really wants us to learn this whole “patience” thing, doesn’t it?

  6. I had a friend like that long ago. Very close, we did so much together, including travel, which we both loved. Sometimes lovers, always friends. Stormy sometimes, didn’t speak for long periods of time sometimes, but always came back. Loved each other “that way” but sadly not at the same time. Eventually I moved half a country away, and that eventually eroded and killed it.

    I’ve usually found forgiving easy, but I don’t forget. And some things are unforgivable. There are no guidelines or rules, you just have to decide is another chance is worth the possible cost, and only you can make that decision. All of life is a gamble… if you died next year, would you look back and regret not taking the chance? That’s kind of my way of looking at it. What are you most likely to regret? Trying and feeling pain yet again, or not taking the risk.

    I almost never gamble with money, but when it comes to life I tend to be an “all in” sort of person. Pain can be lived through and healed. Not trying can lead to regrets that last a lifetime.

  7. Excellent post. Making the decision to call it quits is one of the toughest decisions we as humans have to make. Unfortunately, I was the one who had to make that decision every time. And every time, it was my heart that was broken. The other person had already left. So, I guess my answer would be not to take it to the point of rock bottom, because the other person may already have left a while ago, just like mine did. Often times, you know in your mind it’s already over long before your heart does. Trust your mind in this matter, however hard it may be. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can get to healing.

    • This is excellent advice! I have definitely let a few relationships hit rock bottom – boy can that get messy…I think that’s why I feel it’s so important to DO something about this. But it’s so hard to know which direction is the right one to choose. Like you, I hate being the person to make this decision, but there have been a few times I’ve had to. It’s really never easy, you’re right, you just have to know it’s the right thing to do. Everyone has been so helpful, really – it’s oddly comforting to know that other people have been in similar places – and I feel like I’m getting closer to knowing what to do every day, as I sit down to respond to these comments! Thank you for reading and responding :)

  8. OK,

    I went back and re-read what your wrote. Can I relate to much of what you wrote?


    But, you wrote this:

    “I have to ask you a question. It’s a good one so think about it. If two people love each other, but they just can’t seem to get it together, when do you get to that point of enough is enough?”

    Not I.

    I thoughtfully responded. Then I responded to your queries.

    I apologize, since my responses offended you.



    • I’m sorry if it seemed like I was offended by what you said – I’m not. I just don’t happen to agree with it, and explained my reasons why.

      In the end, however, I felt as though the points that you originally brought up were not particularly relevant to the discussion at hand, and the conversation was going in a direction that I was not interested in. Although it can be good to debate such topics, I don’t feel like this post was the proper time or place for a talk about politics.

  9. Your post is awesome! I tried so many times to have honest and open relationships (beside my beloved husband and daughter)…It seems to me harder and harder find this kind of people; everything is so superficial. I don’t know what to say; may be I myself is the real problem. I know I’m not perfect, but who is? I find myself being open and honest about my history only to see the other person getting away with a little but very important part of my life…and we never see each other again!
    I must admit that early in my life I made some very good friends (few, but good). And even when I married and moved to another place; and after so many years of zero communication, we located each other and the three of us restarted as if we had been seeing each other all this years! I pray we can reunite today in some place and have a conversation seeing each other face and laughing and crying together about the stories of our life!
    Thanks for your posting! I known that the bridges with my two really friends have not been burned!

    • I’ve found some of my best and truest friends were those when I met when I was younger as well! I’m so glad you were able to reconnect with such a great group. I hope you all are able to get together face to face sometime soon, what a fun reunion that would be :) Thank you for reading, and for sharing your story!!

  10. It’s enough when the good moments don’t weigh up to the bad ones anymore :) Easier said than done though. I’m in a similar situation right now and I’m not making any good decisions ;)

    • “I’m in a similar situation right now and I’m not making any good decisions ;)”

      Hahaha you sound just like me, when I give advice!

      But you’re right, it really does come down to the fact that the joy needs to outweigh the bad stuff. If only acting on that were easier!

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  11. I’ve definitely experienced such a dilemma. There’s one person I’ve had to sever contact with–as you say, to stop giving the olive branch. I hated to do it, I still despise doing it. But it’s funny how at one point a person can seem to fit snugly into one’s life…then the next you do not know how to make them fit anymore because they’ve changed completely.
    Just as you are the ever reliable person, it’s okay to say “no” once I awhile—hopefully saying “no” to including someone in our lives doesn’t happen often.

    • “then the next you do not know how to make them fit anymore because they’ve changed completely.”

      Oh, I just hate it when that happens. It really doesn’t ever get easier, does it? You’ll always have the person they used to be wrapped up in a few good memories, anyways, and that’s difficult to learn how to let go of!

      But you’re right, it really is okay to say “no” once in a while. I think more people would be happier if they remembered that!

      I could really relate to what you said here, thanks for commenting :)

  12. Pingback: Burning Bridges | Parrots, Prose, and Peanuts

  13. Please don’t keep us in suspense. What did you decide? There is one relationship in my life very similar to this one, although with much less emotional attachement on the other side. I try to leave it behind, but I can’t, not entirely.

    • I promise to update you all sometime this week or early next! :) I’ve made a decision…sort of, and we’ll see what happens on his part.

      It really does seem like some people just work their way into our lives, and whether we like it or not, we can’t ever fully let go of them, doesn’t it? It can be frustrating, but I like to think that’s a good thing because it means we’re compassionate people.

      Thank you for stopping by!

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