Okay, so in this situation, I’m going to assume that you are close with your friends, that you have multiple sources of contact with your friends, and that you are not aware of what’s happened – they just suddenly seem to have disappeared (I’ll do a separate one on when you’ve done something wrong another week).
Also, while I know that this series has been incredibly popular among some, I will be drawing it to an end very soon, so if you do have a question you’d like answered before then please drop a comment below or contact me.
Okay, so in this situation, I’m imaging it being something that happened with me.
I want you to know that, while it’s hard to judge every situation, it can sometimes be very difficult to know when a friendship is ending if the other person isn’t clear about it. However, regardless of whether or not you ever find answers, and trust me when I say that I know how painful it can be not knowing (usually even more so), you will need to respect that person’s decision, even if it is cruel.
Some of the things I’ll give in my advice are things that are sometimes things I’ve done, and sometimes things I haven’t done. I’ll try and be clear when using me as an example.
When my first friend start ghosting me, like I’ve said repetitively, I didn’t know. Now, she honestly could have been dropping a lot of clues, but I asked mutual friends, and no one said that they knew of anything (other than suggesting that maybe it was just a lot going on in her life, which I already knew) and that everything was fine – which made it far more confusing. Very near our blow up – I would estimate maybe a week before – she had thanked me for a gift arranged for her and said that she’d generally ‘asked everyone to give her her space’. This was something I thought I understood (her request, I mean; I didn’t think she was asking me to never speak to her again, I just thought it was more of a reassurance), as I knew (because she’d told me) that she was going through a difficult time, but what I didn’t realise was that this was a blow-off.
Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t suspect that she didn’t like me, because otherwise I wouldn’t have asked my friends, nor would I have asked her, so when I ask you to consider: Did you know that they didn’t (or, at the very least, might not) want contact with you?, it was something I also had to consider.
This is really important, because you cannot harass someone into liking you. Full stop. It doesn’t matter if what they did was cruel, you don’t get to harass and abuse them.
I want to make this clear because if her intent was to make the message read as though ‘I don’t want you to contact me’, I didn’t get that message. And hell, I could post the messages – assuming I still had them, which is a possibility because my phone has the unique ability to keep and save a fuckton of shit that I’m not aware of where or how or anything (I really hope this is a common problem and you leave comments like ‘I know exactly what you mean’, because I’m constantly finding stuff on my phone that I swear I’ve deleted or pictures I’ve never taken or downloaded or saved). Regardless, it’s irrelevant. You could argue I should’ve picked it up and you could argue that she wasn’t clear enough – it’s impossible to tell through just a few texts unless it actually says something like ‘Fuck off, I never want to talk to you again’, and that’s pretty difficult to misinterpret.
Now, like many of you know, a few days later she’d make it very clear that ‘Fuck off’ was the message, I simply sent her a message thanking her, and apologising to her for bothering her.
And I kept that promise.
Once I knew, for certain, that she didn’t want to associate with me, I made sure I didn’t bother her again. I mean, if I ever saw her or her partner out in public, I would always try and be polite, but I wouldn’t try to instigate a conversation. I want to make this clear, because I don’t think I behaved perfectly and there’s a lot of things that make me Captain Hindsight, but it’s so important to understand that once someone has made it crystal clear to you that they don’t want to talk to you, you should leave them alone. You don’t ever get to demand someone’s time, and, even though these things are tough given a small town and mutual friends, I tried my very best to make sure that all my mutual friends felt that they could talk comfortably about her around me (because we’re not in high school), and to make it very clear I wasn’t ever going to infringe or encroach on her personal space.
While I think I handled this part reasonably well, I became obsessed with wanting to know why, and if it’s the one thing that I wish I had was solid, proper reassurance, because unfortunately, sometimes there is no answer to the question why.
For me, I wanted to know why because I kept thinking something was wrong with me, and it became a more prevalent issue when I knew a second friend was exhibiting the same signs as the first, but I was too terrified to ask her as we worked together and I didn’t think I could afford potentially a similar reaction. Often, when I was asking any mutual friends why the first one didn’t like me, what I was really saying was, ‘I don’t know why X doesn’t want to be my friend. As far as I was aware, we were reasonably friendly, and the next thing I know, she doesn’t like me. I’m sensing the same signs in my friend Y, but because I work with Y, I’m terrified that if I ask Y anything, she’ll also not want to talk to me, but because we work together, I’m not sure how that will work professionally, and as a result, I’m really scared that there’s something wrong with me or that I’m doing something wrong because while it hurt when X clearly decided she didn’t like me, at least it was like, ‘Okay, then, at least I know’, but shortly after, it was clear that Y felt similarly, so what the hell was I doing to make people hate me?’
(I know that last sentence is long and rambly, but it’s done that situation so you can understand everything ‘Why does X hate me?’ meant. It’s important to understand that there was a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in that period of time, and I was unfortunately unable to get any proper reassurance from anyone.)
Now, not contacting (in any way, and I do mean this) X after it was clear she didn’t want me in her life was the right thing to do. Like I said earlier, it was fine if I didn’t realise, and it’s fine if you don’t realise. It’s fine if you, like me, suspect something is wrong and want to try and fix it. However, it’s also vitally important that we respect someone’s wishes and boundaries, and forcing yourself to harass, abuse and maybe even stalk that person is never okay. Ever. Seriously. It doesn’t matter what they did, you don’t get to do that.
The last thing that I know about X is that she is a beautiful mother to a beautiful little girl. I think the little girl would have to be a few years old, and she may have had other children. I honestly don’t know. I don’t know where she works or lives. I think she was thirty when I met her, but it’s been so long now, that I’m not even sure of that. But that’s how it should be, because unless we’re in a close proximity situation where it’s literally unavoidable for me to know things about her, there is no reason for me to know these things.
And you know what?
I shouldn’t. She doesn’t want me to know that information about her, and that’s okay. The only reason I know that she had a baby girl was because mutual friends told us when they stayed with us a very long time ago. So long ago I think it was before I was even engaged, and I’ve been married for over three years.
So that’s something I did right when I was being ‘ghosted’ by X, and if you are being ghosted by your friend, it’s something I strongly encourage you to do.
So now that that’s looking at something I did well, what is something I did wrong?
Well, it’s actually why I wrote a fairly detailed explanation above about what I was really asking my friends when I kept asking why ‘X hated me’.
What I wanted from my friends was either to reassure me that X’s decision to not want me in my life was not a direct reflection on who I was. I wanted to be reassured that I wasn’t a bad person, and that this hadn’t happened as a result of something I said or did (in the sense that I’d done something, or was the type of person who continued to do something, but was totally not self-aware). What I also wanted to hear was that if I had done something wrong, what it was, so I genuinely wouldn’t repeat it (or, if I thought that the reason was ‘stupid’, just be like ‘Oh well’ and move on with my life). I wanted my friends to hear and understand that I was incredibly hurt by the sudden and (to me, at least) unexplained ending to our friendship. And, more importantly than that, I wanted them to hear the fear and desperation that I was repeating whatever happened with X happened with Y.
What I needed to do, and what I should have done, is explained this. I needed to explain to my mutual friends (particularly the ones I was asking these questions of), properly, that I was sick, that I was confused, that I was hurt – everything I wrote above, and more. I don’t honestly have a good reason as to why I didn’t raise these questions other than hindsight is 20/20 and I was incredibly sick and scared. I think that, by focusing the attention on X, instead of explaining everything, it gave the appearance that I was obsessed with X, and X’s friendship, and not what my actual fears and concerns were. As a result, the questions I asked would have definitely given the impression that I really was harassing her to any mutual friends, which was the complete opposite of what I wanted, as well as reduced any chances I had of finding out what I really wanted to know. Now, while it’s easy to explain in the aftermath that I was incredibly scared and that’s why I asked the questions the way I did, it’s also easy to explain why this was the worst idea possible. I didn’t communicate my fears, so if X had asked them to respect her privacy or anything of the sort, of course they weren’t going to tell me. I hadn’t told them my actual fears, so why would they think that information was necessary or relevant?
And again, you can argue all sorts of things, both in my defence and in theirs, but I think the most important thing is that I can honestly say that things may have been different had I been more willing to openly discuss what I was so afraid of and why, instead of focusing your questions onto a specific person and foolishly hoping that someone else would understand what I was really asking.
If that’s the case for you, I implore you to do what I didn’t, and make sure you’re honest. At least that way you had integrity, no matter the result. Unfortunately, however, other than reaching out, trying to fix things and then accepting whatever answer they give you, there isn’t much else you can do, as painful and shitty as that is.
After you’ve done your best to try and repair the friendship, and respect your friend’s boundaries, there isn’t much you can do, as sad as that may be. I would recommend practicing a large amount of self-care – because you deserve it – and while I heavily encourage self-reflection because there’s always ways we can improve, even if we don’t believe we are at fault, it’s important for you to know that among adult women, this is actually quite common. So while it’s certainly possible there are things that you did wrong – and maybe you were the cause of the demise – please know that women ending friendships via ghosting is actually incredibly common, despite how incredibly painful it is. It’s okay if you’re hurt and there’s a good chance that nothing is wrong with you, and it’s more than likely it’s a not-you-it’s-them situation, which can be hard to understand and accept, but is an essential process to complete nonetheless.
Have a question? Need some advice? Leave a comment or send me a question!
— Sources —
Bachelor of Education: English and History
Diploma in Criminology and Profiling
Diploma in Forensic Science
Background in law and psychology
Teacher 7+ years
Background in special needs, learning support – other specific teaching fields that required hands-on development.
NB: This is a declaration of the background of my personal knowledge, collected over the years via a professional form of education and development. Some of these take the form of actual degrees and others come in the form of necessary professional development. When doing your own, you should always try and verify the person’s credibility. My credibility, nor anyone else’s, is not with their education. Everyone has biases and no one is infallible. I am deliberately including some of my background education to highlight this, because you should be questioning information you are receiving.
What Did I Do Wrong? – Liz Pryor
The Friendship Break Series