What to do when a close friend ghosts you, according to experts

What to do when a close friend ghosts you, according to experts
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  • As we get older, we have fewer but more genuine friendships.
  • Losing a friend can come with grief, which makes it tougher to recover from.

In budding romantic relationships, being ghosted after a date or two seems to come with the territory these days. Sure, it stings, but it's relatively easy to bounce back from a failed love connection, especially one that started online. But when we're ghosted by a longtime trusted friend, our grief can be intense and difficult to navigate.

By the time we become parents, our friendships feel more solid and reliable. We might have fewer friends, but they're more genuine. It's no wonder that losing a friend can be a tough blow to recover from. Here's why ghosting happens and how to find closure.

Why do friends ghost us?

Friendships break down when one person is consistently considering their needs over the other person's, said Dr. Marisa G. Franco, a psychologist and friendship expert. "There's a concept called identity affirmation. The idea is, I'm able to see my friend for who they are. I am able to respect the ways that they want to live their life," she told Insider. That means supporting a friend's dreams even when their values don't align with our own. If we can't, the friend probably won't stick around.

We rarely break up with somebody who leaves us feeling good, said Shasta Nelson, a friendship expert and author of "Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness." "Research shows that we need five positive emotions for every negative emotion for a relationship to stay healthy. By the time we're breaking up, that ratio has usually gotten reversed," she said.

In friendships, we tend to avoid conflict at all costs. "If we can think about conflict as a way to enlighten each other so that we can treat each other better, it can be a healing force rather than a destructive force," Franco said. Addressing our issues is the only way through them.


How to let go and when to hang on

There's a lot of shame surrounding friendship breakups, Nelson said. "We feel like every single friendship is supposed to last forever, and if they don't there's something wrong with us. But not every relationship is going to last," she said, so learn to let your relationships ebb and flow.

It's important to recognize your loss and grieve it in a healthy way. Holding in our feelings leads to "the rebound effect," Franco said. "When we try to suppress something, it ends up coming back stronger. Your feelings have to be felt for them to pass," she said.

Friendships that have brought you happiness in the past are probably worth fighting for. Even a difficult conversation is worth having if the person has added value to your life, said Smiley Poswolsky, a friendship expert and author of "Friendship in the Age of Loneliness: An Optimist's Guide to Connection."

"Take the time to send a handwritten letter and just say, 'Hey, I've missed you. I wanted to reach out. You mean a lot to me. I'd love to have a conversation about our friendship.' Then your cards are on the table and you've made the effort, and that's a beautiful thing," Poswolsky said.

"We can't force somebody to interact with us, but we can reach out to say, 'Is there any chance you'd be willing to tell me what happened between us or what you're feeling right now? I want to try to fix it or at least apologize to you,'" Nelson said, and if our friend isn't open to a conversation, we have to forgive ourselves and our friend, doing our best to learn from the experience.