The ghosts of friends past.

Dear Amy: I really identified with the letter from “Ghosted by a Friend,” in fact, I thought that letter could be about me, because I’m the one who does this to others.

I can cut people out of my life, (work or personal), in a heartbeat.

It’s a learned behavior from my parents. My sibling did this to me, too.

For me, if a person has lied to me or has hurt me in any way, they are GONE.

I felt bad about doing this with one friendship; I tried to repair it, but it was not the same.

If this happens to you, my best advice is to ask the person point-blank what happened, to see if there is anything that can be done to fix it.

If they are stubborn and won’t talk about it, let it be. Some of us are just too bullheaded to forgive and forget.

— Ghoster

Ghoster: Your folks taught you how to manage your relationships, and so you repeat this pattern whenever things get uncomfortable.

I applaud your insight into your own behavior, and I thank you for sharing it. (c) Ask Amy

Well, that’s heartbreaking. Oddly enough, I can relate. I’m just wondering where the line should be drawn. With me, it all comes down to intent. Does the person who hurt me feel bad, and/or was it a misunderstanding, or a faux pas, or an attempt to help me gone awry? Or, does the person want to be hurtful and therefore stands by having hurt me? That question is everything. And then someone could be hurtful due to their having issues, like if they’re in a really bad mood, or that sort of thing. That could be forgiven because no one’s perfect.

But I’m almost wondering if this letter writer is taking those things into account or simply going commando at the drop of a pin. If it’s the latter, I feel sorry for her, because I’d be miserable if I had that sort of learned behavior.

It’s just strange. I can relate to her A LOT, but I myself have friends with whom I’ve been friends for several years (shout out!).

But it’s possible that a younger version of myself is relating to this. After I went paranoid as all get-out, which was back in 2005, my dad observed that I tried to forge relationships, but they all failed due to the “fatal flaw”, as he to aptly put it. I’d discover a fatal flaw about the person, and that would be that. No more relationship. (This applied to friends, dating, mentors, extended family, etc. No one type of relationship in particular.)

But I now realize that those fatal flaws were indeed fatal. The problem is that when you don’t have truly good friends, you might accept a lot of grief from the friends you do have, and you tell yourself, well, it’s good that I have friends, so I must make allowances for how Bob does such-and-such, even though it really bothers me. That’s what I was like growing up–always giving the benefit of the doubt. After I became excessively paranoid, I switched to the dark side and began to sniff out someone’s fatal flaw right away so I could protect myself from getting hurt.

But in both cases,  both when I gave the benefit of the doubt and when I held the fatal flaw against someone, the real issue was on their end, not mine. In retrospect, I can tell that the fatal flaws were signs to me that the other person didn’t really care about me and/or wasn’t really good for me.

For example, my mom’s friend, Dorothy, took me under her wing and tried to become a mentor to me. I like to think she meant well, but she never took me seriously. When my mom fell down the stairs under mysterious circumstances several years later, my interactions with Dorothy (who I hadn’t seen in a while) confirmed for me that she wasn’t someone I’d want to be close to. It’s hard to articulate, and I wouldn’t say that I passionately hate her, but she’s not a good fit for me, and I don’t trust her. I think when she was originally trying to be my mentor, many years ago, I tried to tell her that my parents were abusive. Since Dorothy’s one of my mom’s best friends, and she knows how mild-mannered my dad comes across, she flat-out didn’t believe me. I’m sure there was a conflict of interest there, but when I say she didn’t believe me, I mean she really didn’t believe me. She thought I was blowing things out of proportion and trying to get sympathy for very slight parental mistakes that any parent could make. (So. Not. The. Case.)

So I almost wonder if the letter writer has ever had any really good friends.

For me, if a person has lied to me or has hurt me in any way, they are GONE.

And indeed, we shouldn’t really lie to each other or be hurtful. Did she end the relationships because she sensed a certain underlying hostility or aggression against her? Because if so, then the did the right thing! I mean, why would we want friends who scheme behind our backs and trash-talk us when we’re not looking?

On the other hand, if her friend lied in a tactful way that was meant to spare her feelings, then we have a major case of overkill here. I don’t think that’s the case, because she qualifies it by adding “… or has hurt me in any way”, so I’m thinking the lies were hurtful.

I felt bad about doing this with one friendship; I tried to repair it, but it was not the same.

I used to do the same thing with my less-than-stellar relationships. It’s unwise to give the benefit of the doubt if someone’s original sin against you has your inner voice shrieking, he or she can’t be trusted! Don’t go there again! But I always gave the benefit of the doubt.

But also, I’m not sure if this would count as ghosting. (Ask Amy’s whole column was examples of people who’ve ghosted or been ghosted. I singled out this one letter today to blog about.) To me, ghosting is a gradual disappearance, like, whatever happened to Samantha? What this letter writer is referring to reminds me of how my former friend, Ash, dumped me, and I wouldn’t call it ghosting. I’d call it… more of an abrupt departure, like slamming the door in someone’s face.

At any rate, the letter writer needs to tap into that one question: did the person hurt me from a place of wanting to destroy me (or otherwise not caring, or being flagrantly unsupportive, etc. etc), or from a place of being human? Because if the letter writer’s alienating people over the latter option, then my heart breaks for her.

If she could do some soul-searching and become convinced that it’s the former option, then I think it’s okay. But still, you have to wonder. Since it’s a familial pattern and one of her siblings wrote her off, I have a bad feeling about it all around. It might help the letter writer to ask herself if she’s ever done anything that would justify someone else shutting her out. (Therapy could be helpful here.) I’m just thinking that I’d be miserable if I were doing this to people.

5 thoughts on “The ghosts of friends past.

  1. I don’t think your definition of ghosting is the same as the popularly used one. Ghosting is “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.”

    I ghost when I’m depressed. It comes from a place of “I don’t have the energy to deal with this, so I’m just done.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhh, you’re right about ghosting!! (I googled just now.) Buh-doink! Huh. You learn something new every day!! I always sort of pictured, like, actual ghosts drifting away? 😀 That seems funny now. Nope, that’s not what it is! 😀 Well… huh. Yeah, I thought it always seemed a bit too peaceful, given how upsetting it could be!

      Oh my, if you ever ghost me, please feel free to come back later!! 🙂 I’m so happy to know you!!

      Liked by 1 person

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