Have you ever been excited about the prospect of a new life change or a major decision? You want to scream it from the rooftops; you want to tell every single person you know, all your friends, your family, your coworkers, and so you do. But what happens when the people you tell are neither unsupportive nor supportive, but instead they ghost you.
Ghosting has been happening for as long as I can remember, long before there was a word for it. But before we assigned a clear definition and before we talked about it openly and before everyone around us experienced the same thing, it lived in this weird in-between place. When I was growing up, being ghosted was confusing and elicited shame. Now it’s the norm.
When it comes to ghosting my therapist always says, “no response is a response.”
And she’s right. Those five simple words have helped me navigate through the past twenty years of my life. They’re not the only wise words that come out of her mouth, but they’re simple, to the point, and I’ve passed them on to as many people as I possibly can. If we remove a personal story from the ghosting, take the emotion out of it, leave the assumptions behind; we’re left with a simple fact, which is: whoever has ghosted us is not capable of being our friend.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want people in my life that aren’t emotionally available or supportive when I need their help.
A year ago this month, June 2020, I decided to quit my fifteen year career for good, get rid of all my belongings and move into a van. I was met with mixed responses. I’ve already blogged about two of those responses. One group of people were naysayers also-known-as people who crap on your parade. The other group I label, the encouragers. These are people who are excited about what you’re doing and maybe even wish they could do the same. Some even want to live vicariously through you. But there’s a third set of responses, and those are the ghosters. These are people in my life that I had counted on in the past or had considered friends, but they ghosted me rather than offer any communication.
Some of the feedback you may encounter from the people in your life stem from their fears. The naysayers are coming from fear. So are the ghosters. But their fear is different. Remember, it’s still not personal. Their fear comes from not wanting to get too close to you before you leave. So, in essence, their fear stems from abandonment issues.
When I reached out, in sheer excitement, to the people in my life, I was not prepared for the barrage of negativity. I had assumed that everyone would be happy for me. After all, I was happy and in the past, I’ve always supported my friends (and families) decisions. I’ve always stuck by people even when other people thought they were crazy. I’ve always been the encouraging friend, the cheerleader, the one who screams, “I believe in you, you can do it.” From the rooftops.
Life changes aren’t simple and not everyone will react to events the way you do. As my year progressed, people I considered loyal friends started falling away. Some stopped returning my texts. Others stopped calling or returning my calls. In one form or another this subset of people stopped reaching out, stopped making an effort.
In the end, it’s not because of anything I did wrong. It hurts sometimes, and I do get resentful, but I have to remind myself that it was their choice. It was the only way they could handle my leaving. Will I be friends with these people in the future? Probably not. I’ve had issues with friends in the past, that’s human nature and there have been a small handful who approached me years later and apologized. I’ve done the same with other friends that I felt I wronged in the past with my actions. When someone is sincere and truly apologetic, I always give them another chance. It’s how I’ve maintained some very long and close relationships that go both ways.
I can’t tell you what to do, and I don’t want to. But I will say that looking at ghosting from other points of view, I found it to be not only beneficial at times but also telling. Maybe someone wants to avoid confrontation. Maybe they have social anxiety and don’t know how to explain the way they feel. Maybe they don’t know how they feel. Perhaps they’re still trying to work it out for themselves. In some instances, ghosting can actually be a kind thing. For example, you may be better off being ghosted by someone with anger issues or communication problems.
Ghosting is a response.
It’s telling you that person no longer wants to be in contact with you. They don’t want to be your friend, or your lover, or your dog walker, or whatever. When I get ghosted, I just let it be. I understand it as a complete response, and I move on. Does it hurt? Absolutely. But no more than being broken up with or being someone’s punching bag who lashes out in anger or being involved in a screaming match.
What triggers most people when it comes to ghosting is they ask themselves, “what did I do wrong?” But I counter with, “does it really matter?”
Because most of the time if someone told you what they perceived your wrong to be, most likely you would get defensive and disagree with them, anyway. The bottom line is that whoever ghosts us, doesn’t get us. They may not get us intellectually, or emotionally but their actions also ensure they don’t get us physically either (as part of their life). They don’t get to stay in our lives if they don’t want to keep us in theirs. And wouldn’t you rather know that person is not capable of being your friend without all the drama that can go along with it? Ghosting is cleaner. It cuts out the middlemen: emotion, regret and shame.