There's no telling how much of, a lot of "stuff", we could be spared if we really thought about what words like "relationship" and "friendship" mean.
Relationship: a connection, association, or involvement; connection between persons by blood or marriage; an emotional or other connection between people
Friendship: the state of being a friend; association as friends; a friendly relation or intimacy
I don't know about you, but the words in these definitions that stand out to me most are "connection" and "intimacy". Hmph. After being ghosted by someone I've known for most of my life, I realize that what we were lacking, in a lot of ways, were both of these things.
Ghosting Happens. Even in Friendships.
Ghosting. I know that's a word that's most often given to dating scenarios. It's when you think you've made a real connection with someone, that real intimacy is established. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, "poof", they're gone—no call, no text, no email. No real rhyme or reason either.
Ghosting is something that I personally don't get—or respect. It's cowardly. It's childish. And it's emotionally harmful. Even if something is not working, running from it rather than discussing it doesn't make a lot of sense to me. That doesn't mean I haven't experienced it, though.
The worst ghosting experience I've ever had was with a female friend, not a guy I've dated. I've literally known her for most of my life so it's impossible to capture our entire "friendship" in one article. I'll just share a bit of what led up to the ghosting.
She was in a toxic marriage and had an affair as a result. Between the pride, lying, and fall out from trying to make her marriage work and still mess around with the other guy, I was working overtime to try and hold her accountable and still be a support system.
After about two years, it all started to take its toll. I was coming to realize that I was caring more about her marriage and our friendship than she was. And so, a couple of days before the turn of a new year, I wrote her an email to let her know just how draining the entire…situation had become. How next year, there needed to be more mutuality; that I loved her but I wasn't going to keep doing most of the work.
Her response? Silence. Complete and total silence.
I was floored. At first, I thought she was taking space to get herself together. But as three months turned into six and so on, I realized that "gettin' ghost" is exactly what she did. Wow. How did we go from our families knowing each other, us seeing each other at least every other week, and talking on the phone for hours on end to me not even knowing if she was alive for almost 15 months?
As a writer, something that can be an occupational hazard is that we tend to not only communicate but—overly communicate. With us, people tend to know exactly where we stand. And so, right around the 15th month mark, I wrote her to let her know that it blew my mind that after all we had been through, I didn't even know if she was still married or not, let alone where things stood with us.
For about six more months, there was still silence. Amazing. Ghosted and ignored.
Then one day, she wrote me. She talked about how much she appreciated my support and she was sorry that I couldn't feel "the love" from her (even though she used to tell me quite a bit that she didn't know if she was capable of loving anyone, so…how could I feel it?). That she felt like my email 21 months prior was a shift in our dynamic and so she was being quiet.
Wow again. So, I set boundaries—and that means we're not friends anymore?
I wrote her back to let her know that she was loved and kinda left it at that. But as I thought about how it all played out, it brought me to a particular conclusion:
A Healthy Relationship Has No "Ghosts".
If you think back to the the times when you've been ghosted (and perhaps even have ghosted someone—SMH), what's usually the common thread that you see in hindsight? It's usually that one person was FAR MORE INVESTED than the other was, right? One was usually feeling the other more. One was usually doing more work than the other. One was usually more committed too. This means that the connection and intimacy was totally imbalanced. And that? That is unhealthy.
Connection: anything that connects; a connecting part; link; bond
Intimacy: a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group; a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.
When both people are bonded, when both people are loving each other, when both people have a detailed knowledge and understanding of one another—how can ghosting ever be an option, let alone actually happen?
For clarity's sake, I'm not saying that sometimes seasons don't change and people outgrow one another. But to not give what was shared the dignity of talking things through and gaining a mutual understanding? That is the ultimate form of disrespect. That makes the relationship anything but a real connection or a truly intimate. Accepting that fact? That is what keeps ghosting from affecting you so much.
That's why I have no regrets about reaching out to my "friendly ghost". CLEARLY, I wouldn't have gotten the answers I needed and the conclusion I was looking for if I hadn't. And, in doing so, it has caused me to recommend to others that if they ever get ghosted by someone they thought they were in relationship with to:
- Get personal clarity if there was a real connection and a healthy level of intimacy.
- Accept that if there was, ghosting wouldn't have happened in the first place. Because running away wouldn't be the solution. Ever.
How do I know? Because one definition of ghost is a "semblance", or an assumed or unreal appearance. Ghosting happens when something is assumed to exist—that actually doesn't.
Healthy relationships—friendships included—don't ghost each other.
There is too much realness, mutuality and respect between them to let that happen. And it's that realization that keeps "ghosts" from "haunting" you. Ever.