Jorge's relationship advice is based on experience and observation. Let his trial and error be your success (hopefully).
When Your Friend Is Ignoring You
Has your friend started ignoring you all of a sudden? Maybe they ghosted you after your last conversation or even blocked you on social media. Now you're wondering what you did and haven't heard a peep out of them for awhile. They might even be ignoring you in public, which has you extra worried.
The good news is that there might be nothing wrong. Your friend might not even be ignoring you on purpose. As a more introverted person, I've drifted away from friendships many times when I needed to spend time alone, and didn't even notice I was missed until I came around again. I've been on the receiving end of this, too, and it's best not to assume the worst.
Only your friend knows for sure why they're suddenly pretending you don't exist. The human mind is complex, and each person has their own set of triggers. Most of the time, the reason won't be logical, even if they eventually offer some seemingly logical excuse in the future. In fact, the real reason may have nothing to do with you at all.
But here are some possibilities you might want to consider while you wait for them to contact you again:
- Your friend had a sudden emergency
- They are going through something emotionally difficult
- They are overwhelmed with school or work
- Your friend is angry or offended
- They think you are mad at them
- They have social challenges you are unaware of
- They've fallen prey to rumors
- Your friend is in love with you
1. Your Friend Had a Sudden Emergency
The first and most obvious explanation is simply that something unexpected happened to them. Even if they might be physically fine, they could be going through the aftermath of something major and it's absorbing all of their attention.
For instance, they might be facing the death of a loved one or the sudden need to relocate from their home. There are many possibilities. When someone is trying to handle an emergency, probably the last thing on their mind will be hanging out with friends.
If it's only been a few days since they started ignoring you all of a sudden, try giving them the benefit of the doubt.
2. They Are Going Through Something Emotionally Difficult
Similarly, your friend could simply be going through a period of emotional upheaval. Maybe something difficult happened to them—such as a messy breakup—and they are completely devastated.
Everyone will eventually go through times like these, but not everyone gets comfort from talking to friends about it. Some people have the opposite reaction and end up locking themselves in the house for days or weeks. Even if they don't physically isolate, they may emotionally isolate themselves and walk around without talking to anyone.
While it's not good for people to isolate themselves forever, and certainly it would make sense to check up on your friend if you suspect they need help, this is simply how certain people process their emotions. Don't be offended if they let you know they need space or start ignoring you—because they're ignoring everyone.
3. They Are Overwhelmed With School or Work
Sometimes life can get overwhelming. It may be that your friend is not trying to ignore you at all, it's just that their attention is entirely on their work or school projects at the moment. Maybe they are facing a particularly busy period and it wasn't their intention to make you feel bad.
If you suspect that this may be the issue, then consider bringing it up next time you see them. Get their attention and ask. Don't demand that they make time for you, of course—that is completely up to them—but it might ease your mind if they have a mundane explanation. "Oh, sorry, I was so busy with school!" It can happen to anyone.
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If you're a particularly attentive friend, maybe you can even offer to take something off their plate so that they can hang out!
4. Your Friend Is Angry or Offended
Maybe your friend is angry about something, and they either blame you for it or think you had something to do with it. A person who does not like to confront people or who lacks a certain emotional maturity may then choose to ignore you over this.
It might seem unfair, especially if you don't even know what you did, but some people find it exceedingly difficult to discuss their feelings. Often, these people grew up in families where it was not OK to feel negative emotions, where it was impossible to disagree without offending someone, and where everything was therefore swept under the rug.
This has happened to me before with a person who had that kind of emotional background. After a fairly minor disagreement, they shut down and began to ignore me. Sadly, there wasn't a whole lot I could do. This was simply how the person responded to conflict in relationships and I had not been the first friend they had started ignoring in this way.
Your friend may suffer from a similar pattern. Think back to other friendships they've had, maybe among mutual friends of yours. Is there anyone else that they just cut out of their life over some random thing, without even discussing the issue and trying to reconcile first?
Communication is a basic requirement for understanding each other, and it's hard to reconcile when someone won't even talk to you. You may simply have to let your friend go until they come to their senses, especially if you've tried to reach out to them more than once.
Of course, this is all assuming that your "offense" was minor and not something you could have known would bother them ahead of time. If you hurt them on purpose, then don't be shocked if they no longer want to deal with you.
5. They Think YOU Are Mad at Them
Along similar lines, your friend could be ignoring you because they think you're mad or offended at them. Think back to your last interaction. Do they have reason to believe this?
That's still no reason to ignore you, but maybe they're trying to avoid confrontation. Try contacting them first and clarifying that you're not angry with them (unless you are). They may not respond, but if they haven't blocked you, they'll probably at least read the message.
How Long Has It Been Since Your Friend Started Ignoring You?
6. They Have Social Challenges You Weren't Aware Of
On a totally different note, some people have a lot of anxiety when it comes to social interaction. Sometimes these people appear on the surface to be very confident and extroverted, so it may shock you to find out that they are actually really anxious on the inside.
For folks with this sort of temperament, it may take a lot of energy to interact with others—and maybe for your friend, that energy is tapped out at the moment. If you think this is the case, let your friend recharge. They will probably be back later.
7. They've Fallen Prey to Rumors
While it's best not to get too paranoid, there is a possibility that there are third parties in this situation. Your friend could have heard rumors or negative gossip about you from other people, decided that the stories were true, and then started ignoring you all of a sudden because of this. It would also explain why you might have no idea what you "did" to them.
A good friend would ask you about it first, though. They wouldn't just believe hearsay with no evidence if they were truly invested in the friendship.
8. Your Friend Is in Love With You
Finally, there's always the possibility that your friend has developed feelings for you. This might sound like an odd suggestion at first, but some people retreat when they start falling in love.
Maybe your friend assumes their feelings are unrequited and it's difficult to spend time with you platonically as a result. Maybe the feelings just make them too awkward to talk to you in a normal way, so they've started avoiding you.
How you handle this is totally up to you. You might feel the same way—or maybe the idea of dating your friend might have never even occurred to you before.
If you do have romantic feelings for them yourself, though, beware! It's easy to build up this possibility in your mind and rack your brain looking for "evidence" that they are ignoring you for this desired reason. Don't spend tons of energy trying to convince yourself of this. It's a waste of time. Just ask them.
You don't really lose anything in asking (usually). If you're still in contact with them and think they wouldn't react in a terrible way, bring everything to the surface. Show all your cards.
Use your judgment here, of course. In certain contexts, it may not be safe to confess your feelings, so you will have to be more cautious. (For instance, if you are gay and the person you're attracted to strongly identifies as straight, it may not be safe to be upfront, depending on your culture.)
If you do decide to be totally honest and they respond, at least you will know the truth.
The Silver Lining to Your Friend Ignoring You
This may be hard to hear if you feel really hurt, but there may be a bright side to your friend ignoring you all of a sudden.
All of a person's actions communicate something about them and how they feel—even lack of communication can communicate something. It's sad that they couldn't be up front, but your friend might be saying, "Hey, I no longer want to be friends and I'm bad at expressing my emotions in person because I'm scared of confrontation."
When someone is unwilling to mend a friendship or address its problems, they are either bad at communicating or they thought that you had irreconcilable differences. Either way, they felt that the connection wasn't worth the effort of discussing the perceived conflict.
And you know what? As much as it sucks, it sounds like you dodged a bullet there. Better to spend your energy on friendships that can actually grow with time, even through conflicts.
This doesn't mean you're a bad person or even that your ex-friend is a bad person, either. It just means you're probably incompatible now, and that's OK.
Your Plans Going Forward
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jorge Vamos