In midlife, many of us are rethinking our female friendships. This significant life transition—potentially involving new priorities, a geographic move, a change in work or marital or family status, a new mindset—may precipitate a desire for new friendships.
This may also mean letting go of friendships that no longer serve us. Maybe we’ve grown apart. Maybe the relationship was only tenable when our kids were besties. Maybe we’ve realized some relationships are simply too toxic to maintain.
Most of these friendship changes happen fairly naturally, through gentle attrition. The emails, texts, calls and get-togethers become less frequent until they stop altogether. Both sides are on the same page. No hard feelings.
But sometimes one friend is ready to move on while the other is not. And that can be painful.
I myself have been on the receiving end of this unexpected unfriending, leaving me hurt and bewildered. I’ll give you two examples.
One of my daughters’ middle school friends had a mother who was a little awkward and seemed to have a hard time infiltrating the mom scene in our small suburban community. I felt for her, having been in her shoes before, and made it a point to include her in various social activities and mom groups, in the process developing what I thought was a close friendship with her.
At some point, my daughter and hers moved on, but I continued to invest in the friendship with the mom. This mother, however, began to push me away, becoming unresponsive and cool to me. I was baffled and eventually simply gave up. I could not figure out what had happened, except that maybe she could not see us remaining friends if our daughters weren’t. In the end, I felt sad that she viewed our friendship as predicated on our girls’ friendships.
More recently, a new friend I’d made in the city who had been very generous in introducing me to her social group, and whom I’d confided in when I was going through marital difficulties, simply stopped contacting me and ignored my emails and texts.
When we threw a backyard cocktail party last year, and she had not RSVP’d, I hounded her (a little desperately, I admit) until she finally texted me back saying she and her husband were unavailable. No pleasantries or inquiries as to how I was doing. I took the hint and ceased all contact. Maybe my life had too much drama for her.
I know not all friendships are meant to survive through thick and thin. It’s easiest to let them die off naturally when both parties are on the same page. But it can be quite bewildering when you’re on the receiving end of the ghosting and trying to figure out what happened.
Looking back, I wish I’d asked these friends if I’d done something to upset them, rather than letting my anxiety get the best of me. I hope to do better next time. When it comes to these two former friends, I’ve moved on and have learned that if someone is not interested in being my friend, it’s best to wish her well and let her go.
And as we come upon the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, I am so grateful for my many amazing girlfriends, both old and steadfast, as well as new and deepening. Your love and loyalty, openness and compassion mean the world to me. Thank you for bringing so much acceptance and joy into my life.
YOUR TURN: Have you been ghosted for unknown reasons? Or have you found it hard to break off friendships without hurt feelings? What’s your advice? Let us know in the comments!