Ghosting a Friendship? NO! Simple Ways to End a Friendship with Respect
One minute they’re there…the next minute they’re gone, without any explanation or apparent reason. The person who you thought was a good friend has become a ghosting friend. They won’t answer your texts or emails. They block you on social media and avoid you in public. You wonder, “What did I do wrong?” Why is ghosting a friendship becoming more common, not only in romantic relationships but in friendships and even the workplace?
This subject is coming up often for my clients. For example,
Marla (not her real name) was your typical good-hearted, fun, loving, happy-to-help kind of friend. She had known Tami for over twenty years. At first, their friendship was peripheral, but over the years, their connection had grown stronger, and they considered each other family.
Four years ago, Marla started to ignore the first signs that the relationship was in trouble. Tami seemed to be strangely cold and distant, and Marla chalked it up to family struggle, stress, and other complications.
When the distance became more palpable, Marla again told herself that, “My life is just less complicated” and “Things will get back to normal soon.” But things never got better.
Ultimately, Tami slowly exited the relationship without any reason and efforts to repair became futile. When Marla shared her experience with me, she was not only confused and upset, but also carried most of the blame. She thought she did something very bad even though she really didn’t know what. She felt anxious and deeply depressed.
We were able to sort out what happened and gain perspective; her sadness started lifting and her anxiety decreased. She now can look back with some sadness and regret but with less self-judgment.
Why is ghosting a friendship becoming more pervasive?
There are a lot of factors involved. Each situation will be different. However, a common denominator is that technology makes it easy to cancel not only shows and subscriptions, but also friends. Some people are already prone to avoiding difficult conversations by giving the cold shoulder. They just stop talking. The ease of “unfriending” and “unfollowing” in social media and Meetup apps reinforces in their minds that this behavior is acceptable.
Instead of ghosting a friendship, what can you do?
It takes maturity, courage, and unselfishness to talk with your friend and explain that your life has changed. Remember these wise words from Khalil Gibran, “Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” It may be that you can withdraw from the friendship somewhat, without totally ending it. As Elisabeth Foley said, “The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” If that’s not the case then…
It would be a kindness to invite your friend out for a coffee and explain that you won’t be spending time with them like you have been in the past. (If your relationship has become too emotionally charged, a letter might suffice.)
Be prepared to listen calmly, without interruption or judgment. Make sure your body language stays open and positive. You don’t want it to turn into a blame fest. It’s not about finding fault. It’s about moving on with peace of mind.
Do you have to say why the friendship must end? You get to choose how much you want to reveal, but bear in mind that it’s not a good idea to lie. Be honest about your feelings.
This simple and respectful approach provides closure for your friend, it doesn’t keep them on the hook. And you can move on with your dignity and integrity intact. This is so much better than bending over backward and contorting your life into a shape that no longer fits.
And what if you’re on the other end of the ghosting?
If you’ve been ghosted…
- Take some time to reflect. Use a journal and jot down your experience, your thoughts, feelings, and the stories you are making about the situation. Also, ask yourself, “How did I contribute to the situation? Maybe I ignored some initial signs that the relationship was in trouble. Were my boundaries too tight or too lax?”
- Connect with your values. Your anger and disappointment are probably directly connected with what you value most. Do you feel betrayed, because you value honesty? Or maybe you feel hurt, because your friend abandoned you, without trying to repair the relationship. It could also be that you expected your friend to take responsibility for her part in the situation.
- Attempt to repair. Ask for clarifications. Remain curious about the other person’s experience. Remind yourself that they have their reasons and try to understand their perspective.
- Let go and move on. If you find out that a repair is not possible (the person is not available or you realize that your feelings towards your friend have irreparably changed), get the lesson and move on. In time, you may even discover that your life is more peaceful without that person because they were actually toxic for you.
- Learn the lesson. Is there a pattern that continuously shows up? How could you avoid the situation in the future? Have you changed, grown and you need to uplevel your boundaries? Do that. Step into that future self with a new perspective, and say thank you to the old you for the lesson learned.
When one friendship ends, find new friends who challenge you. As Thomas J Watson said, “Don’t make friends who are comfortable to be with. Make friends who will force you to lever yourself up.” If you want to talk about how to start, improve or maybe even end a friendship, take advantage of a 30-minute complimentary consultation so we can explore a coaching relationship.