advice

Why does my friend keep disappearing?

I’ve been friends with this guy for a few months now. A few times we’ve flirted, but for the most part, we’ve been friends. Except that every now and then, for no reason I can figure out, he’ll ghost me for a while. He won’t respond to my texts and just kind of disappears. Then he’ll show up again, out of the blue, sending me a text or IM to say hi. When he does, we fall back into a friendship, texting all day, sharing all our thoughts. And then it happens all over again… he won’t answer my texts and then disappears. I really like him, but I really hate when he does this. I tried texting him how I feel but, surprise, he didn’t respond. I don’t know what to do. Why does he choose to do this?



When you don’t know where you stand with someone, or when someone you care about behaves inconsistently, you become uncertain about what to expect. Will he be there to chat when you’re bored or sad? Will he have your back if you’re having a bad day and need to vent? Will he celebrate your successes with you when you don’t want to celebrate alone?


But also… will he lean on you when things are tough in his life? Will he bestow upon you the honor of being part of his support system?


What the heck is going on with him anyway?


Uncertainty breeds insecurity and anxiety. This is just how it is. Maybe not to where you pop Xanax like Skittles, but to where you’re uncomfortable enough. Nobody wants that.


Besides, what’s a friendship if there’s no way of being sure that your friend is… well… a real friend? I mean… emotionally unavailable much?


You ask me why your friend is choosing this particular brand of behavior, and I’m going to bum you out by saying I don’t know. In fact, I will likely never know, and there’s a good chance you won’t either. Even if I knew the guy and asked him straight up why he’s doing what he’s doing, he may not tell me. What’s more, he may not know. We’re not all super self-aware.


But you don’t have to know what’s driving his behavior to make your own good decisions about him.


In fact, this explains why a lot of us get stuck when making choices in our relationships: because we feel driven to understand the things we don’t know. We need an explanation. We need an answer. Do they really love me? Do they think I’m fun? Am I too dumb for them to hang out with? Is my new hair color why they aren’t liking that Instagram pic of us together? When we’re uncertain, our go-to solution is to understand why. Knowing why gives us a greater sense of certainty and a greater sense of control. So, we hunt tirelessly for the elusive explanation, making no decision in the meantime, making no real move.


But some things are just not knowable. Embracing this reality is a good place to start.


If you want to run in circles and feel stuck, you can go on trying to unpack the mystery that is your friend. But if you want what’s best for you, you need to focus on what is knowable, calculate likelihoods for things you’re not sure about, and make a choice that gets you what you really want in life.


First, start at the end. Rather than using up your energy looking for the why, burn some of that fuel getting real with yourself about what you want from your friendships. Set him aside and focus on you. How would you expect your friends to behave, in your ideal yet realistic vision of the world? Lining his behavior up against your preferences will help you make choices that lead to your end game.


Next, ask yourself what you know. For instance, you know he’s inconsistent. You can count on that. You know there have been times when you wished he was there for you, but he wasn’t. This is reality. This is information.


Finally, using this information, ask yourself: what is the likelihood that he will turn things around and give you what you need? This isn’t a yes/no question. Is there an 80% chance he’ll stop disappearing on you anytime soon? A 50% chance? 10%? You can estimate it, and when you do, you can think back on his track record. He ghosts you without explanation, doesn’t explain why or talk to you about it, and expects you to be there when he’s ready to come back around. I’d say the chances of things changing are pretty low. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say they’re 5%.


Is a 5% chance enough for you to hang in there? What if I told you there was a 50% chance that investing your energy into other people would pay off with better friendships?


I don’t know this guy. When he’s in your life, he could be so mind-blowingly amazing that anyone would be willing to take what they could get. It’s up to you to decide if the value you get from him is worth the discomfort.


Either way, you don’t need to peek inside his brain. You can make a choice with incomplete information. You kind of have to; he’s not really helping you out. But that doesn’t mean your decision won’t be a good one. If you play your cards right, it could be the best possible decision under the circumstances. And most of the time, you can’t do much better than that.