When When someone chooses to disconnect from us without giving any reason, we are often left feeling guilty and confused. So many questions cloud our mind. Was it something we did or said that hurt them? It is particularly painful when we have been fairly close to the person and things seemed normal before the other person chose to distance themselves or “slowly fade” away from our life.

As hurtful as this sudden withdrawal of a good friend may be, it is important to understand that you have no control over the choices of others.

A few years back, I had left a WhatsApp group that comprised some of my closest female friends. The group was always buzzing with gossip and jokes and was one of the most happening places to be on. We planned our outings, we nursed each other’s broken hearts, and celebrated birthdays there. There was never a dull day in my life because of the antics of my friends in that group.

We shared existential crises and made interventions when we saw a friend straying. However, it was also during that time I was personally going through plenty of changes in my life. I had suddenly started to look inwards, developed an interest in spiritual and religious texts, felt the need to go back to studying, and learn to cook for myself.

My room became my temple where I would spend hours listening to podcasts while cooking healthy food. And the only other place I could tolerate being in was the office gym. In my smugness, that I was trying to make my life better, I decided to leave the group to avoid saying no to outings and gatherings, staking years of friendship for my lack of balance. I never gave my friends any particular reason for why I left and distanced myself from them. Some of them were quite hurt and never bothered to rekindle the friendship even after many years.

After all these years, when I look back, I do question myself: why I was forced to abandon my friends to grow as an individual and meet my fitness targets? Was that necessary? My sudden ghosting of my friends had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my propensity to get enmeshed in other people’s stories. Some of us go through life pleasing people and wanting to rescue others. We become so involved in another person’s life, that it becomes impossible for us to separate ourselves from their story.

People, who are intertwined with the journeys of others, may lack a sense of boundary about where the other person’s space ends and where your separate world begins. They can feel burnt out by intense friendships and the sharing that happens in that space. They forget to feel like themselves unless they deliberately pluck themselves out of this self-created psychological mess. They need to distance themselves from this pit of drama where they have over-invested their energy and over-promised their presence and support to feel like a separate individual.

Barring me, the other friends continue to remain close to each other. Each one has developed into beautiful women in their own right with their own personal journeys. What compulsive doers like us don’t understand is the measure of a true relationship is not constantly doing something “special” for each other. Life is not a series of special events. Sometimes just staying put, being a passive non-judgemental participant in someone’s journey is enough for the relationship to survive and thrive.

(The writer is a mental health and behavioural sciences columnist, conducts art therapy workshops and provides personality development sessions for young adults. She can be found @the_millennial_pilgrim on Instagram and Twitter)

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