In this world, relationships are everything. At work, at home, with friends, with lovers, with clients, with bosses, with the person who pulls your morning shot of espresso, everything comes down to relationships. Maneuvering through life is a matter of managing them all. Even when you fail, you get up and try again.
Not all relationships are equal. Some are better, some are worse, and some are toxic. The usual advice is to change the ones you can and walk away from those that are bad without burning bridges.
And yet, there may come a time when you have a Rodney Dangerfield moment: "I don't get no respect at all." Even then, it usually makes sense to walk away and chalk it up to learning. For the times it doesn't, you need to burn a bridge.
It means to take a course of action and eliminate any escape route. This is an inherently desperate measure because it reduces any chance for compromise and change. People who constantly burn bridges over time rather than building on existing relationships find their way in life ever more difficult.
Still, you may face extreme times when lighting a torch is the only way to oppose that which you simply cannot support. Here are some of the signs that you may need to cross a bridge and take it down after you.
People are repeatedly and seriously lying to you
Everyone lies to some degree, whether to spare you or themselves minor pain. When the lying is habitual and damaging, you have to consider whether a continued relationship is wise. I remember a client some colleagues and I had in common. The person lied about payments, plans, communications, and everything under the sun. It got to a point where we would refer to him as "Brendan, you piece of excrement." Or something a little less polite. Eventually, we all cut off the company and said why. Life is too short to help someone gaslight you on every possible occasion.
Someone cheats you
You know the feeling of rage, when someone has used the terms of a written agreement or unwritten understanding (you did make sure you both had the same understanding, right?) to screw you over. Some people will treat you abominably as a true mistake and may change. Others are willing to sacrifice anyone to their expediency. For the latter, cross the bridge with a flame thrower.
The give-and-take relationship is you give, they take
Again, this assumes that someone or some organization is willful, not simply ignorant or inattentive, and hasn't changed even though you've insisted on it. Even when you write out monthly bills you're getting something for the payments. If you never get anything return, march on and don't look back.
You're asked to do something unethical or illegal
Someone who wants you to break the law or your conscience is badly using you. This sort of request can leave you in a position where it is difficult to see yourself in the mirror. Don't keep such a relationship. Who needs to get a knock on the door from the police very early in the morning?
You're being abused
You've demanded change. The person or company has proven that nothing will. No one deserves to be a human punching bag. Let yourself get angry, walk across the bridge, and leave not a girder for rebuilding.
You see others being abused
To maintain self-respect requires that you resist in the mistreatment of others. If you overlook the regular abuse of others for the sake of a relationship with the abuser, you're aiding and abetting those actions. Time to give it, and the relationship, up.