When friends ghost friends: The sad truth about being abruptly dropped by a mate

People change and grow, but sometimes they just suck. Photo / 123RF
People change and grow, but sometimes they just suck. Photo / 123RF

We often hear of "ghosting" as a dating term, referring to instances where a potential partner abruptly falls off the radar, obviously uninterested in pursuing a relationship but too cowardly to admit it.

Ghosting also happens between friends, when one person decides to end the friendship without verbalising their decision, leaving their former pal wondering what went wrong.

And it's more common than you might think.

I was the recipient of a slow, gradual ghosting by a friend I had known for 10 years.

Actually, it was the most awkward of ghosting scenarios because I lived with this person, who we will call X.

"How can you be ghosted by someone you live with?" I hear you ask. Trust me, it's achievable but it isn't pretty.

The ghosting took place over a period of about nine months and began with the mysterious appearance of what became X's partner, during a period when X was in a relationship with someone who lived overseas.

"Whatever makes X happy," I thought, pushing my confusion and questions of fidelity aside, deciding instead to mind my own business.

The mysterious partner eventually moved in to the house X and myself shared.

Our happy three-bedroom home quickly turned into a hellish, mould-infested pit.

Conversation dwindled and soon it became apparent even refrigerated tap water wasn't a communal resource.

Then, finally, X stopped speaking to me. Not even a word on my birthday, communication went cold turkey for about six weeks.

It got so bad that I would come home and be so frosted I literally wished I was in the pits of hell. I remember telling a friend: "I would rather walk into a burning room than have them turn their backs on me again."

And yes, I spoke out. But my queries were met by a defensive, sometimes angry person I didn't recognise.

Apparently the need to ghost was so great that the mystery partner had to do the dirty work and ask me to move out of my once happy home.

Experts believe being dumped by a friend causes a special type of pain.

"Part of the reason why this pain is so different is because it awakens long-buried memories that harken back to your earliest years, when you had so little control over things in your life," Dr Jane Goldberg, a psychoanalyst and author of My Mother, My Daughter, My Self said in an interview with the Daily Mail.

"Your only weapon was to cry if you needed feeding or to be kept warm, and your whole world was your mother, who either responded or didn't."

Being ghosted by a friend can lead to feelings of abandonment, according to Goldberg: "When similar events happen, such as a girlfriend no longer being available, these unconscious memories can come to the fore."

I am very aware there are two sides to every story, however to this day there is little I can think of that I may have done to jeopardise a decade-long friendship.

Clearly, it's best not to consider people with such a capacity for cruelness as friends so it was a lucky escape. But at the time I found myself going around in circles trying to figure out what would prompt a human to act in such a way - it was like losing a sibling.

*The author has chosen to remain anonymous

- NZ Herald

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