At 38, my circle of friends was solid. These were my ride-or-die chicks, and since all of us are in serious relationships or married, drama was mostly rare. Forming close connections in adulthood is often challenging but my most important friendships were forged in my late 20s and 30s. These were women I’d met and developed friendships with through circumstances like a Craigslist book club, a shared house, a mutual friend’s birthday party and an art program.
Making friends later in life feels like a courtship. You meet someone, sense an instant chemistry and voila! Suddenly you’re texting, making plans and even thinking about them. It’s exciting to meet a new person you like, but like dating, similar discretions apply. A relationship can burn just a bit too brightly, or you may realize you weren’t compatible after all. When I’ve jokingly mentioned to my husband how he’s different from what he initially presented, he always says (not jokingly) I was a salesman trying to make my sale. Female friendship isn’t much different. We’re selling the best version of ourselves to someone who we think shares something with us, whether that’s values, a sense of humor or a love of Instagrammable ice cream.
I met Kate (not her real name) five years ago at a work event. After a brief conversation led to us sticking together all night, I immediately sensed a connection. It wasn’t the first time I’d fallen quickly for a platonic lady friend, but appearances and timing can sometimes be deceiving. Typically, I’d keep my guard up, but underneath that facade hid a sensitive girl who fell fast, whether for friends or lovers, and didn’t always protect her heart properly.
When the evening was over, not only did we feel like long lost BFFs, we realized we had a lot in common, from our neighborhoods to our hobbies and our craving for authenticity (or so I thought). We exchanged numbers, but I remained cautiously optimistic, not keen on offering myself up. But meeting someone of substance, or a female friend, that truly complements you is rare ― especially in New York City. So with that in mind, I eventually ignored my fears, and let the sparks between us fly.
Meeting someone of substance, or a female friend, that truly complements you is rare — especially in New York City, so I ignored my fears and let the sparks between us fly.
Soon I had jumped full throttle into a burgeoning new alliance. Texts led to meetups, which led to dinners and attending events together. If you can sit at dinner with someone and never feel starved for natural conversation, you know you’ve found a connection, and that’s exactly how I felt.
Our duo evolved, extending beyond us to the introduction of others from our respective lives. We supported each other’s endeavors whole-heartedly as good friends do. We met for lunchtime coffees, morning yoga and random vent sessions. We traveled together, and well, the true measure of any new relationship. In the winter of 2017 when she attended my wedding, our bond was still going strong.
It wasn’t the kind of bond in your 20s which relied heavily on constant activities and daylong Sunday brunches, but it felt like something more substantial. I didn’t put much weight on our current lifestyles being different. I was newly married and mostly a homebody (something brewing long before meeting my husband), and she was single and very social. I felt like we had started on a strong foundation and seemed built on something deeper.
But a few months later, by spring of the following year, things suddenly changed. There weren’t any big signs, issues or even a disagreement. It began the way it commonly does. Small actions that fester into gaping holes where there was once a presence. No “can we talk” conversation or “Real Housewives” reality TV-style lunch to hash out issues.
Ghosting is a common occurrence in dating today. One that everyone has acknowledged as part of the potential downside to putting yourself out there. In any romantic relationship’s earliest stages, there always seems to be a sense of subtle fear. Fear that after some invested time, one of the two people might walk away without explanation. But a friendship between women is a delicate creature and the thought that one would ghost the other, simply because she didn’t want to confront something (or admit she’s just not that into you anymore), was hard for me to accept.
It began the way it commonly does: Small actions that fester into gaping holes where there was once a presence.
But there I was, getting fewer texts and fewer invites, and having an overall uneasy feeling that our friendship was beginning to dwindle. Noticing the signs, I initially reacted like anyone feeling ghosted, and I asked if she was OK. I got the standard answer from those who do the ghosting (unless it’s someone you’re dating, in which case you might not get an answer at all). Fine, just super busy, she told me. Four words that are so simple yet contain a mountain of subtext.
Racking my brain, I wondered what could have happened. Maybe I had unknowingly done something to push her away, or perhaps she was just tending to her own personal stuff. But there were zero clues, signs or texts that could lead me to a decent conclusion. After some urging, we made lunch plans, and I momentarily assumed I’d overreacted.
During lunch, by general appearance, everything seemed fine, but I knew it wasn’t. Our conversation, while not forced, felt different, but it went unmentioned. The air between us felt heavier. After lunch, we said goodbye and parted ways, making empty promises to meet up soon. We’d been friends for five years, and though I didn’t know it then, that would be the last day we would see each other in person.
About a month later our friendship changed one last time, and I had some news to finally divulge. We’d been trying for a baby, (something she knew) and I was a few months pregnant. Finally ready to share, I decided I’d tell Kate in person. Even though we’d been distant, it felt like the right move. But when I reached out to make plans, there was zero enthusiasm ― another clear indicator that something had changed. I was met with conflicting schedules, and a hectic life again. So I hesitatingly texted the news, to which she responded with a jovial congrats, complete with emoji and exclamation point. It was a friendly enough response, but after that total silence, it wasn’t normal.
A friendship between women is a delicate creature and the thought that one would ghost the other, simply because she didn’t want to confront something, was hard for me to accept.
I did hear from her once, to ask a favor of me, which I kindly obliged. I didn’t need a thank you, but either way, none was given. I don’t require a lot of attention from friends but I do hold them to a high standard and this started to feel weird. I didn’t have any reasons or answers why but it seemed that somehow sharing my news had been the final catalyst in an already-dissolving friendship. That’s when I realized our relationship had truly shifted and two paths that once crossed, like so many in the city, had now diverged.
Once I accepted this, I stopped reaching out. Of course, it hurt knowing she’d distanced herself for some ambiguous reason. But I’d grown a thick skin through the years, and whether good or bad had mastered the ability to walk away without regret (but not necessarily without emotion).
Unfortunately, life would test me again when faced with the unfathomable. Due to overactive fibroids and a litany of other frustratingly random issues, I was no longer pregnant with our son. Close friends and family rallied together, forming a protective layer around my damaged and vulnerable spirit. When suffering a loss, it’s easy to go towards a dark, lonely place and getting support is vital to rebuilding your existence. Luckily I had enough to help me eventually rebuild the pieces.
But later, I found myself thinking of Kate, realizing that in some way I had secretly expected a gesture. That she might reach out, not to explain anything but to somehow quietly let me know she wished me well and ask about the pregnancy in some way. A small act that, even after everything, would have been warmly welcomed. It might have been presumptuous to assume she knew anything about my struggle, but the desire for some small token of support or concern lingered. It’s what I would have done. But it never came, and only solidified what I had already known.
I’d always thought of friendship like a garden. Some don’t need constant catering. I can go months without speaking to one of my girlfriends, and we always happily pick right back up. Others can falter without proper nurturing. Growing up, I spent time trying to figure out which people needed extra TLC, and who could thrive more easily. I’d worked hard for my friendships and held them to a very high esteem.
I also considered myself a discerning woman. Someone who prided herself on a well-vetted and complete adult circle. And yet, despite all that, I still got ghosted. It’s amazing how someone you were so close to can suddenly become another stranger passing by on the street. We’d still see each other in virtual life, but she was just another innocuous tweet or perfectly posed Insta picture to scroll through. And a person you once shared so much with in real life becomes just another random photo on your feed.
In the past, I would have overanalyzed, wondering what I could have done, or if things might have been different. But at this point, I’d developed a low and strict threshold for what I would tolerate. I initially cared about our demise, but I became a dormant bystander in the relationship, watching it lessen without ever grabbing that watering can to replenish it.
It's amazing how someone you were so close to can suddenly become a stranger. We’d still see each other in virtual life, but she was just another innocuous tweet or perfectly posed Insta picture.
I can’t fully explain this other than to say when you’ve been through hell you learn letting things go is easier than depleting your energy. I had none left to give to the situation, and more important places to put my focus, so that’s what I did. I could’ve reached out in the beginning to simply ask what happened, and maybe I should have if for no other reason than to obtain closure, that thing we fight so hard for when any relationship ends without warning. Perhaps if things had gone differently for me, I would have done so. But my path took a turn, and once I went down that new road, I never looked back.
A colleague once told me that by 40, I’d be able to count my closest friends on one hand. I was incredulous, but now I know exactly what she meant. We meet a lot of people in our lives, and often we’re like Goldilocks, trying on various relationships for size. Some succeed, some fall apart, and others fail without any answers as to why. But even in those cases, it’s OK to move forward.
Getting ghosted by a best female friend never feels good, and while the end of a friendship can hurt, life is way too short to harp on the negative. It’s devoting time to those who are there and the ones that make you feel good that matters most. Maybe Drake was right: We don’t need any new friends. But I’m still not completely closing the door on them either.
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