What does it mean to be ghosted? Ghosting is a modern term coined to put a name to the ever-increasing practice of ending a personal friendship by suddenly withdrawing all communication without explanation. One day you stop hearing from a close friend. You try really hard to get in touch but they just stop responding to you. It happened to me with my best friend of over a decade and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
I’m a worrier, and of all the things I spent time worrying about growing up, this was never one of them. Aimee and I, our future was set. I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be, but it was definitely going to be done together and I found a comfort in that. Like most things in life however, things didn’t turn out the way I hoped they would – one day, completely out of the blue, Aimee stopped talking to me. She stopped answering my texts and phone calls, and ignored all attempts I made to contact her directly or indirectly. It was a good few months before I finally accepted that this was what she was doing, but when I realised and stopped making excuses for her, it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Our friendship was literally the stuff of dreams – those friendships you see in teenage movies that you don’t actually believe are that common in real life. We became best friends (in those days you could only have one) in the last year of primary school when our classes were switched around and we were shoved together with people we didn’t know that well. Immediately, I was going to her house after school instead of going to my childminder’s, and I was staying at hers, not just one, but two nights most weekends. I got to know her whole family very well. We would take her dog for walks, go sledging in the park across the road and record pretend radio shows with her younger brother. Neither of us was particularly cool, so we enjoyed all the same things as each other.
Throughout high school and the many trials of a friendship that happen at that age, ours remained more or less the same. The fact that I was basically her right arm actually became a running joke. Her Dad tried to teach me how to ride a bike again, I went to work with him for ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day’ and her Mum made one of my Halloween costumes. Aimee knew the alarm code to my house and felt at home in every room and every drawer of it. Then, at university when my Grandma died, Aimee travelled across the city in a taxi to be at the funeral. After graduating, she made an emergency place for me at a family dinner when I turned up crying my eyes out because I’d been dumped by a boyfriend of only three weeks. We were completely entwined and I truly believed it was always going to be that way.
She had got a lot cooler and more popular by the end of high school, but she was always my protector. I was geeky and unpopular, overweight and I let my mouth run wild without thinking; but Aimee was always defending me and sorting out my problems. She was sensible, level-headed and didn’t let the opinion of others cloud her judgement or change our friendship. Now that I’ve lost her, I know I will never have another friendship like that again – one where we are so particularly at ease with each other. Sure, I have friends, even old ones that I trust with my most private of problems, but you can never recreate the relationship started by two eleven year-old girls who never grew out of holding each other’s hands to cross the road or cuddling up on the sofa to watch scary movies. Adults just aren’t as tactile or uninhibited, and we aren’t as free and easy with our feelings.
Looking back, little cracks did appear in our friendship as we progressed through university. Aimee got her first boyfriend and was completely besotted. I hadn’t had one yet so I didn’t understand how she was feeling or appreciate the intrusion into our little world. We went on holiday with her family to Spain and she had to phone him several times a day from a pay phone as she missed him so much. I just didn’t get it. Time passed however and Aimee’s excitement died down. Her relationship with her boyfriend lasted years, and although we spent less time together and she now had an aspect of her life that I didn’t understand, nothing really major changed between us.
Later, I think meeting my husband had something to do with our downfall too. I was very late in the department of love, and my first serious relationship progressed to an engagement within weeks. It was my turn to be the besotted one. The fact that I can’t remember picking up the phone with the same regularity, or giving her whole days of my time like I used to, kills me now. I just assumed that, like I was with her, she would still be there when I came out the other side. Whilst I’m regretful of neglecting her, I still don’t think this was a wrong thing to assume of my best and oldest friend.
I remember the last time I spoke to her – it was on the phone and I was in the bath. Everything was good and I didn’t know then that I wouldn’t ever speak to her again. Even when she wouldn’t answer my calls or messages for months, or acknowledge the Christmas present I left on her doorstep when she wasn’t home, I still made excuses for her behaviour. I then found out on Facebook that she was pregnant and this was the last straw – a huge life event that I couldn’t believe I wasn’t a part of. I got angry and demanded a response from her. I begged that she have it out with me whatever I had done, but I got nothing, so I gave up trying.
It felt like a death, but one which I could have prevented. I talked about her endlessly, but I couldn’t make sense of what happened and I couldn’t envisage an alternative Aimee to the one I thought I knew. Now, nine years on from when we last spoke, I still think about her most days. She was such a huge part of my life and even the smallest of things remind me of her. She was the Aimee that I knew when I knew her, but something happened to her when I was too busy living life – something that changed her and changed her view of me. Something she clearly wasn’t able to talk to me about and that makes me very sad. Somewhere we lost our way and there was no route back. I know where she works, but there’s no point in us coming face to face again.
My advice on how to deal with being ghosted? I would advise you to accept what is going on a lot sooner than I did. If, after multiple attempts via different means of trying to contact and leave messages for your good friend and you aren’t hearing back from them, something is wrong. Exclude the fact that they are seriously ill or on a holiday in a remote area, then you’re probably being ghosted. Stop trying to contact them – any good friend who doesn’t hear from you in a while will wonder themselves what is wrong with you and will get in touch eventually. If yours doesn’t, it might just be over.