Being ghosted by a friend: Why it happens, and how to cope
Being ghosted is a situation that many people find themselves in. What is it? Generally, a friend or partner will just stop contacting you with no explanation given. This can happen suddenly or continue over a long period. Where they give you a drip effect, minimise responses, and eventually just stop responding altogether. In this article, I am focusing on friends being ghosted.
Expectations of the friendship can be different for each friend. These expectations can be built up over many years. Being a bridesmaid can elevate a friendship. Nicknames such as bestie or BFF can also cement a commitment to each other in your mind. Being there for a friend when no one else was there for them can build a view that you will be there for each other no matter what.
However, gradually you may find your friend no longer responds to your call or text. You may excuse them and believe they are just busy. You may find out they are prioritising others over you. Missing your significant life events starts to impact you negatively. For example, if you have a significant death and would have relied on this friend for support, the impact of not having them there is destabilising. Your security in the world has shifted.
The realisation that your friend is no longer a part of your life is painful. Many people are reluctant to give up on the friendship and continue to persevere. However, this is detrimental to the person as each non-response raises feelings of rejection.
Why does this happen?
Many people are scared of confrontation - they don’t want to hurt you. Communication is a skill which many people lack. Confrontation can expose vulnerabilities which your friend may not be willing to share.
Some people do not have the tools to express their feelings or reasons for ending the relationship. They may feel taken advantage of. For example, using their friend to babysit for them with no reciprocity.
Some people believe the person being ghosted knows, the reason they are no longer in contact. They may think the person knows they upset them, disrespected or took advantage of them. Other people have life events which they choose to focus on and can no longer accommodate the friendship.
After a long friendship ends, there is a period of grieving. Denial can play a part and some may find themselves stuck where they keep reaching out and being ignored. This cycle is fuelled by the hope their friend may respond. And, if given a drip effect response, can refuel the hope they are still open to a friendship. This prolongs the inevitable end of the friendship.
How to cope
- Allow yourself time to mourn the relationship. Be compassionate to yourself and be your own best friend. You will need to mourn the person you were when you were with this person.
- Stop reaching out to your friend. This will prevent feelings of rejection when they don’t respond or false hope when they give minimal responses.
- Avoid looking at any of your friend's social media posts. Seeing them enjoying their life without you may be upsetting.
- Speak to others to gain a different perspective on your friendship.
- You and your friend had different expectations from your friendship. Accepting this will help you to move on with your life.
- The saying ‘friendships are for a reason season or a lifetime’ may hold some comfort.
- For a non-judgmental view, speak to a counsellor.