Dear Life Matters,
I am really hurt and upset by the sudden rupture of one of my closest relationships. Someone I thought was a best friend has suddenly disappeared from my life and won’t call me back when I reach out.
I have racked my brain, searched my soul, discussed it with people who know us both and I honestly have no clue why this has happened.
I keep thinking I must’ve done something wrong. I must have hurt the relationship in some way. How could this just happen?
Friends tell me that it’s not me, but then what else are they going to say?
I know you can’t tell me if I’ve done something wrong or if it’s my fault, but maybe you could shed some light on it. Why has this happened to others?
Baffled & Hurt
I’m sorry. It’s always upsetting to me as well when I hear this sort of thing.
First off, yes it happens to others and you would be surprised at how often it happens. I hope this is some consolation.
I don’t know that I have any “for sure” answers for you, but I can tell you that over the years I have heard this type of story and the pain associated with it many times. It is not an uncommon story.
There are a multitude of possible reasons, but whatever they are it is not OK, no matter what the reason. At the very least I feel strongly that we owe others we’ve been close to some sort of explanation if we are going to leave the relationship. If one is too chicken to do it face to face, there is always e-mail or sending a letter. Some sort of explanation in whatever form is far better than none.
It really is like a murder, an emotional murder, to just abandon a long-time relationship without explanation. It is one of the most cowardly things to do and definitely one of the most painful to experience.
Now perhaps someone has tried, tried and then tried again with no results so they decide to end things. OK, but did they try on their own, or did they communicate this to the other person?
So what are the reasons that some people do this? Perhaps there is something uncomfortable or bothersome in the relationship. But why hasn’t there been some discussion about it? Some people simply cannot handle any form of conflict. They are afraid of it, overwhelmed by it and simply avoid it at all costs.
Sometimes, it has nothing to do with you per se, it is some sort of a problem that the other person is having. Obviously it is one that they cannot face up to or share, not even with a close friend.
I always say that it takes two and I mean it and yet, in this situation, if you truly feel you have been as honest and thorough with yourself as you can be and have come up with nothing, it is really possible that it is about the other person and not you.
I know that this is difficult to come to terms with. In fact, it is hard to believe that there is nothing that you have done. But even if there is something on your part, the fact that they run and do not face it is totally about them!
Sometimes we would actually prefer to believe that it is our fault because then there is the possibility of controlling it by changing or correcting ourselves.
Very often the people who just drop and run are those who have a lot of guilt and shame over something that they just cannot share or get past. This is the most frequent reason that comes up among cases that I am familiar with.
Also, people with serious abandonment/attachment issues can cut us off before we (their fear) cut them off. Unfortunately for them and you, it makes for a very sad situation.
Lastly, they may not even know why they are doing what they are doing. The reasons may go too deep and too painful. Just an example, if they were needing you and for any (even good) reason you were not totally there for them, or you may not have even known that they were feeling this way, for some this would be a good enough cause to bolt.
Also, if you are in the same field of work and especially if you have mentored someone and they then begin to feel competitive but clearly are not doing as well as you, this can create a problem causing them to drop out, even though for you it was never a competition. You were only trying to help.
It all boils down to the psychology of the other, something we have no control over. But we can step back and look for the warnings signs so we are better prepared if this happens again.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage/family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your anonymous questions to firstname.lastname@example.org