Last year, I bonded strongly with a new friend. We were quickly inseparable. A few months ago, they were having anxiety about moving away. I tried to be supportive and give them space when they asked. Then they ghosted me. We had both acknowledged having boundary issues, and I imagine this was part of it. I just don’t know what to do with this ambiguous grief. If they wanted me in their life, they’d have contacted me by now. If my presence made their life worse in the end, I don’t want to cause further harm by pursuing it. Still, in the interest of harm reduction, if I did something wrong or there’s something essential I need to work on to be a better friend, I’ll never know. The unknown is worse than the loss of our friendship. How do I move forward?
Hey there Stuck,
First off, I don’t see any reason here to blame their ghosting on yourself or the quality of your friendship. You haven’t described anything to me that sounds like you were a bad friend, and I’d say it seems more the opposite. You were supportive of this person and honored their requests for distance, and you’re concerned about their wellbeing after a period of silence. You sound like a pretty good friend to me.
Sometimes the need for space or solitude has nothing to do with a specific person or event. I believe that being at peace with one’s own company makes us better at friendship and relationships, because we can trust that we want people in our lives because we like them and value their presence, and not out of loneliness or pressure to date or socialize in a specific way. Hang with people because you like people and don’t need people to make you whole or valid. That’s what makes solo time so fulfilling for me, personally.
You also mentioned that this person moved away, and moving house is a gargantuan task that can take one’s attention for quite a while. Especially if they moved to a different city or state and are trying to put down roots in this new place. Did they move without a partner or friends, or perhaps they moved to a city where they know no one else? Some folks will certainly rely on reaching out to friends back home while they get settled in a new place, and others just jump in with arms wide open. You can’t dictate or control how a friend will react to moving away from you, so it’s best not to internalize their silence or take the move personally.
Have you reached out to them since they moved? Waiting for them to call or text first may work against your interest in nurturing this friendship, and I also worry that you may believe that they have to call first in order to validate the fact that they are your friend. Friends are friends, my dude, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep those relationships healthy and active. So stop waiting on first contact, and check in on your friend.
Now maybe you have indeed contacted them, and you’re getting no response. That would be a more textbook definition of ghosting, and yes, that sucks. I still don’t believe that it serves anyone to take ghosting personally, because it says more about their poor communication style than your quality as a person. There are plenty of folks who can tell someone that their relationship has come to an end, no matter how awkward and uncomfortable that can be, because they respect others enough to be direct with them. If your friend can’t do that for you, then it’s probably best that you part ways anyway. Ghosting is a very sloppy way to establish a boundary, and you don’t have to speak to someone who won’t speak back to you. You don’t need “closure” on that relationship or anything. Their silence says their piece. Move on! I am fully confident that there are people who like you and want to be your friend, and who want to speak honestly and openly with you in order to maintain that friendship. Believe it or not, most people wanna do right by others. Go find those people, and be friends with them.
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