An end to any relationship is painful, but how can you cope with being ghosted by your best friends?
Friendships are simultaneously beautiful and complicated things. Sometimes they’re easy and sometimes they’re hard. And as the new Sex And The City revival And Just Like That shows us, sometimes they end, unexpectedly, and without a clear reason why.
In the show, the iconic quartet of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte are now a trio, as Samantha has seemingly moved to London and is ignoring their calls. In the first episode, Miranda and Carrie speculate about the reason for her distancing, putting it down to something vague about money, but they can’t quite put their finger on it.
Indeed, ghosting isn’t just a dating phenomenon (and a horrible one at that). It can happen in the workplace, with family members and within our friendship groups, and is markedly different from just ‘drifting apart’.
When you’re ghosted, there’s an abrupt end; an unanswered message, a date stood up. And while every scenario is painful, there is something particularly hurtful about being cut out by the ones who are supposed to hold you closest.
“Being ghosted by my friends has happened twice now,” Nicola, a communications director, tells Stylist.
“It’s been 17 years since Sam* and I last spoke. We’d been really close since we were 12, meeting at school. We had an incredible connection. I could walk into a room, see them and we’d both dissolve into fits of giggles.”
But as soon as Sam got engaged, Nicola says that everything changed. “All of a sudden, they were endlessly ‘planning the wedding’ and had no time to meet up. After the wedding, I honestly never expected to see them again, but then a few years later, out of the blue, they got back in contact and asked to see me, but brought another friend along as a buffer. It was a really strange dynamic and after that Sam walked away from me for good.”
On another occasion, Nicola explains that she was ghosted by a group of fellow mums that she’d met in an antenatal group. “Individually, they were all lovely, but I was definitely struggling more than they were. I had undiagnosed postnatal depression and then severe separation anxiety, which made returning to work really hard. I guess I was always the one having to leave early from get-togethers and watching the pennies, whereas they could afford not to return to work.”
But then Nicola was ousted from the group without explanation.
“One evening, we all went for a meal in a pub as a group. I was feeling broken, getting up early to commute to a new job and struggling with other family issues. It’s fair to say I was broken when I arrived. I got through the meal but afterwards, the WhatsApp group seemed to stop. I knew that they were still seeing each other and meeting up, just without me, and I still see on social media that they’re in contact, even five years on.”
“I was ghosted IRL and shut out of my friendship group while we were all on a trip to New York,” Linnea, 21, shares.
“My friends and I had promised to stick together to make sure no one was wandering the city alone. On our way to Central Park, the group started making plans for the day. It was only when we got there that they told me they wanted it to be just them. They said nothing on the bus, nothing at the hotel. They waited until the last possible minute to tell me that they didn’t want me to be part of the group anymore.”
Linnea says it was the last time they ever spoke to her, in real life or online. “It wasn’t the first time I was ghosted, but it was definitely the worst time. I felt betrayed and disappointed. I already had insecurities, and it made it 10 times worse, especially when what was supposed to be my best day ended up being my worst day.”
How to cope with being ghosted by a friend
Nicola says that she only wishes the best for the friends that ghosted her. “I’ve heard that Sam is still married and now has three children. And I wish the NCT group nothing but health and happiness. But I always think, if you can see someone is struggling, you should be there for them, not turn your backs.”
“Everyone has things going on, and I know, for some of them, huge life events have happened. I always try to be as supportive as I can from a distance, but there’s not much else I can do.
“It wasn’t my choice to be ghosted – it just happened,” Nicola adds. “Even though I don’t know why, I understand that everyone has things going on. It’s been a journey for me too and I would have loved for the friends that shut me out to come along with me for the ride. But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”