What to Do If a Friend Starts Ghosting You, According to an Expert
Ghosting isn't limited to romantic relationships.
It’s not even Halloween yet, but the ghosts are out in full force.
Sadly, between 13 and 23 percent of people in the United States have been ghosted by a partner, according to a 2020 study. But while it may be common, it still hurts every single time. And ghosting isn’t limited to romantic relationships — it’s something that happens in friendships as well, which can be equally devastating.
Surprised? If you’ve ever been ghosted by a friend, you can just imagine how hurtful it is, though ghosting is usually discussed more often when it comes to romance. So here’s why ghosting may happen, what to do if it happens and how to move forward.
Why It Happens
Unfortunately, it often happens because a friend doesn’t have the communication skills to talk about how they’re feeling, says Ashlee Hunt, a therapist in Utah and the owner of Maple Canyon Therapy. “They might get really overwhelmed and feel disrespected or unheard, and either they don’t know how to talk about it, or maybe as a friend, you also didn’t have the ability to listen to it.” Ghosting is often an extreme response, likely to a big emotion. And frequently, ghosting may not be about you at all.
But even if it’s not about you, it could be devastating to be ghosted, says Angela Dora Dobrzynski, a licensed professional counselor and certified grief counselor in Downington, Penn.
As a grief counselor, the topic of ghosting comes up often, and clients are initially embarrassed at how upset they are when a friend ghosts them, Dobrzynski explains. But friendships are based on trust, loyalty and reliability.
“When someone ghosts us, it violates all three, and leaves us feeling hurt, confused, mistrustful and often wondering, ‘What is wrong with me?’ or ‘What did I do?’” she says.
What To Do If It Happens
Try reaching out to your friend to let them know you miss them. Ask if they want to talk, and tell them you’re open to hearing anything that’s on their mind — even if it’s about you, Hunt says.
It’s important to really discern whether they’ve actually ghosted you, or have just been out of touch. Sometimes, life circumstances can get overwhelming and people retreat for a while or just aren’t available. But if you’ve made efforts to connect and you don’t get a response of any kind over a period of time, you’ve been ghosted.
Dobrzynski cautions against attempts at reconciliation or understanding this move.
“If a person is not capable of directly addressing interpersonal issues with you when you’re friends, they likely won’t be capable after they’ve decided that you are no longer friends,” she says. “It would be like negotiating with an unreasonable person, as your efforts will likely drain you and yield nothing.”
That being said, sometimes you just have to say what you have to say to someone who hurt you, even if there is no chance of resolution, Dobrzynski advises.
How To Get Over It
If you don’t get a response, it’s important to respect the boundary they’ve set. “They’re sending signs that they’re not in a place to continue the friendship, and pushing will only make that worse,” Hunt says. “Losing a friend is hard, and finding a way for you to take care of yourself and your emotions is important too.” Going to therapy to talk about it is a great way to cope.
The process is similar to getting over any breakup, Dobrzynski says, suggesting that you surround yourself with people who love you and validate you. Recognize the growth opportunities in this by examining the dynamics of that friendship and your role in it.
Next, look to the future, and work to deepen and enhance existing relationships.
“Accept that you may never have answers to this ghosting, and that even if you did, the answers likely wouldn’t satisfy you,” Dobrzynski says.