Rejected By a Loved One
Since when has “ghosting” become a thing?
Isn’t it interesting as to exactly which folks we are willing to give the benefit of the doubt and which not? When you like someone, and they say or do something stupid, your reaction is to take the words or action in the best possible light. You assume they didn’t mean to be stupid. You are quick to forgive them; maybe even say “ouch” and give them a chance to apologize. On the other hand, if you dislike another person, it’s easy to take their words or action in the worst possible light. You assume they meant to be mean, cruel, or stupid, and you feel justified being angry or even blocking them out of your life.
That “benefit of the doubt” reality is why it hurts so much more when a friend or loved one suddenly seems to want nothing to do with you. In social media parlance, it’s called “ghosting.” All the connections are shut down, all attempts to contact are, in the words of Elvis, “returned to sender.”
Actually, that idea — of cutting people off physically and even emotionally — is not a new thing at all.
For example, many years ago (I was 17) my father decided to disown me. I had skipped school. My Dad was so mad he quit speaking to me, pretended I didn’t exist, and wouldn’t acknowledge me in any way, even though we lived in the same home. After a month of this “being invisible” I couldn’t take it anymore, so I ran away from home. It took 17 year old me a whole week to realize this wasn’t the greatest idea I’d ever had, so late one night I came back home. I was surprised to find at such a late hour that the front door was unlocked. I walked in and my Dad, who’d evidently heard the door open, had come out of his bedroom and was standing there in his underwear! I was shocked as I had never seen him in his underwear before. He immediately walked over, gave me a big hug, said “I’m glad you’re back home!” and happily accepted me back into the family. (The comforting thought he might have left the door open for me was dashed when he asked me how in the world I got in.)
I guess “ghosting” isn’t really a new thing, just an old thing with a new name.
So with long experience that far predates the rise of social networking, let me share what I have learned about what to do whenever someone decides to shut down our relationship, whether face-to-face or via other messaging.
I may or may not be given the chance to respond, but once their intent is clear and their decision final,I respect their obvious boundary. Actions such as refusing calls, blocking or unfriending clearly sends the message “Leave me alone!” Okay, message received and boundary set. I don’t attempt to contact them. I don’t force myself on them asking “Why?”. I accept my loss, grieve, and move on.
Once a year, on their birthday, I use an e-mail ID I haven’t used with them before (so at least it will get through one time before they block it) to simply say “Happy Birthday. I am still your friend.” Or “Happy Birthday. I love you.”
But for those whom you are inclined to give the “benefit of the doubt”, respecting their boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t feel bad about the rejection and lost relationship. You naturally find yourself assuming they must have had good reason. So the questions begin. What happened? Was it them? Was it me? Why?
For example, recently I realized it had been awhile since this person had responded to any of my emails. So I went back and checked. In the past 10 months I had written about 8 emails to them and they hadn’t responded to any.
Why were they ghosting me? I wrote another email, with no response. Then I tried texting and a phone call, but found out they had blocked me. So it was no surprise when I checked my friends list on Facebook and found they had unfriended me.
I am lost as to an explanation. We have known each other for years, visited each other’s homes. Many times when I had a problem I knew I could consult them.
So if they now felt reason to disown and reject me, wouldn’t you think there would at least be some message from them as to why?
As of now, the reason is still unknown, and connection still severed. Come their next birthday, though, another dove will be sent forth. Who knows, maybe one day it will return with an olive branch.
Lesson Learned: It’s those closest to us that can hurt us the most.
Lesson Learned: Don’t take relationships for granted. You never know when one you think quite strong may suddenly turn fragile and break.
Lesson Learned: Respect the boundaries another sets, no matter how much it hurts.
Lesson Learned: Even those who hurt you can still be worthy of the “benefit of the doubt.” Their ghosting may be more about the current chaos in their lives than anything in your relationship.
Lesson Learned: Don’t run away from home, unless you are prepared to see your Dad in his underwear.
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