Just in case you’ve been off the dating market for a while or so wildly and spectacularly magnetic of a human that no one has ever wanted anything other than to sustain long, meaningful relationships with you: Ghosting is when you’re seeing someone, you have no blatant signs that things are taking a turn for the worst, but then the person you’re seeing disappears into, apparently, the deepest cavern of the Earth, where they can no longer use modern technology in any way to communicate with you. Because you never. hear from them. again.
Millennials didn’t invent ghosting, but they did name it, and they do seem to be interested in perfecting it. If you’ve been ghosted, then chances are very high that you internalized it the way Heidi Priebe articulates it: “The only thing worse than being broken up with is realizing that someone didn’t even consider you worth breaking up with.” And unfortunately, while not all ghosts have such a blasé attitude about their victims, sometimes ghosting really is a sign of blatant lack of respect for another person’s right to the truth.
Priebe explains that in the age of a dizzying amount of dating apps, so many people are juggling a handful of dates at a time that they’ve stopped seeing their dates as actual people with feelings, and started seeing them just as profiles. We know our apps of full of options, options, and more options, so it’s really hard for us to stop thinking of dates as expendable, as people we’ll see for 2 or 3 dates, but can easily discard if someone better comes along. And the worst part is, we know that the people we’re on dates with might be thinking of us the same way. Priebe writes:
“No matter how happy we are with somebody and how invested it seems like they are, we never know when the other shoe might drop. We never know who else they’re talking to, who else they’re sleeping with, who they might meet at the bar or online or at work who blows us out of the water and renders us suddenly obsolete.”
It’s a state of dating affairs that can make you feel paranoid like you have to be a dating social Darwinist, looking out for #1 to ensure your survival rather than practicing good old-fashioned politeness. Writing for Jezebel, Tracy Moore expresses how getting ghosted even just once makes you feel like you have to play that game yourself rather than risk getting hurt by it again:
“[We have to ghost] not just first, but even harder than we are about to be ghosted. We ghost one better. We out-ghost the ghost. Hair-trigger ghosting is the wave of the future. If you can’t have ‘em, ghost ‘em.”
But not all ghosts do so because they feel like they have to in order to “stay in the game” and avoid getting hurt first. Some do so just out fear of commitment and fear of conflict. These are the people you might have seen for more than 3 or 4 good dates; you might have been dating them for five months – even six! seven! more! – and then inexplicably, and incredibly hurtful, you just stop hearing from them. Chances are, they got the commitment jitters. Maybe you were reaching that point in your relationship where you were starting to have the “Soooo what are we…?” talk, or the “Soooo we’re not going to see other people, right…?” talk. They might have the genuine feelings for you that you thought they had, but they just can’t deal with the conflict. Why deal with a scene that might involve yelling, crying, so much visible pain, when you can just…drift away?
But let’s get one thing straight: just because ghosting is on the rise doesn’t make it right. I’m going to lay down Mom law on this one: just because all your friends are jumping off a bridge, doesn’t mean you should. Too many people start ghosting because they got ghosted, even though they were incredibly hurt by it.
If you’ve been a ghost, try to keep these things in mind:
Unfortunately, not many people in the world have really wonderfully healthy levels of self-esteem. So when you ghost, the person you ditch will almost definitely internalize your silence as a glaring condemnation of them as a person. They’ll analyze all the ways in which they must be annoying, boring, or unattractive. Even if you didn’t click with them, you shouldn’t wish this on anyone.
If it’s a conflict avoidance issue for you, you really need to practice instigating conflict in smaller stakes settings to build yourself up to being able to do this sort of conflict. Let your roommates know you’d prefer that they did their dishes more than once monthly. Let a co-worker know it would be great for you if they could listen to their music with headphones so you can focus. Practicing at small conflicts like this will build up your tolerance for it so you can eventually break up with people with dignity and respect.
If for no other reason, be direct rather than ghosting to save yourself Some people might be really slow on the uptake, and you’ll continue hearing from them for days, even weeks, and each time you’ll feel that pang of annoyance and guilt that they’re not getting it. Just get it over with, for your sake and theirs. It’s rude to string someone along and prolong their false hopes. They could be moving on and starting over with someone else if they knew it was over.
If you’ve been ghosted, remember the following things:
If someone couldn’t be honest and respectful enough to end things with you like an adult, then they were probably not a good person for you to end up with anyway. This isn’t to say they’re an awful person, but they probably have some things to work through.
Just because it happened to you doesn’t mean you have to pass it on! The right reaction isn’t, “Well I guess this is just what people do now! I better get in the game!”
Instead, as Logan Levkoff, sexologist, recommends, don’t be afraid to put your expectations right up front early on in the relationship. That way, potential ghosters will see that you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to play games and they can get out quickly. She says, “I don’t believe there are any rules when it comes to love and sex and relationships. I think if there’s something you want, you should be upfront about it. I don’t think game playing makes sense at all, and if someone doesn’t respond well to directness, then they weren’t the right person anyway.”
So remember, while you might not be able to avoid ghosts – unfortunately, they don’t wear nametags that say, “Hi, I’m Jenn and I ghost” – you can avoid being one and causing people unnecessary pain.
If you want to talk more about the confusing standards around modern dating, you can call us at (305) 501-0133 or schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult.
Envision Wellness is a private practice that offers psychotherapy, psychological testing, and life coaching in Miami, FL. Our team has a passion for helping others achieve happy, fulfilling, and change-making lives that make the world a better place. Each therapist has their areas of expertise. Not sure who you’d like to work with? Click here to schedule a free 20-minute phone consult to help you decide.
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