I recently delved into the topic of ‘ghosting’, which is when someone who you’ve had an intimate relationship with disappears. But of course disappearing isn’t limited to ‘full-on’ relationships: ghosting is something that many people have experienced with dating plus it happens with friendships and even with family—my father ‘ghosted’ me after I got married and it took a couple of months for it to register and when it did, it floored me. Anyway…, today’s post focuses on dating.
It’s highly likely if you’ve been around the dating block a few times, that you’ve ghosted–I know I have. The pleaser in me felt as if I ‘should’ reciprocate interest but I didn’t want to. I feared making him feel bad (because I would then feel bad), as well as confrontation, so I ignored his texts/calls about a third date. Several months later, he’s stood on the opposite tube platform and I hid beneath my carriage window cringing with shame. After that I vowed not to dodge texts and calls and I stuck to it, even when he was a Mr Persistent. I knew with the latter that my only option was to be direct rather than dodging and once I knew that I’d been direct, I was free to ignore any texts or calls after that.
Ghosting is especially rife in the early stages of dating because in a time where someone might juggle multiple contacts due to apps and websites, or where their heads are easily turned due to a plenty of fish in the sea mentality, some argue that surely they can’t be expected to break up with or at least give a heads-up to each person they date. It’s like, “Don’t oblige me with other people’s emotions! But make me feel good!”. And actually, it’s also fair to say that not everyone wants to hear back from every date that doesn’t work out. A lot of the time, we can work things out for ourselves (if we were present rather than auditioning on the date).
Back in olden times, it was understood that if we didn’t hear back after a first or early date, it was a no-go. If they didn’t call after one-nighter or fling, although we’d likely feel a bit hurt and disappointed (especially if they were giving it the big talk while we were shagging our brains out), we’d still get the gist–it’s a no-go.
Disappearing was real and horrible in olden times and it still is, only some of us have Columbo tendencies so we have the added pain that comes with checking to see if they’re online or stalking Facebook.
As I hear from thousands of people each year who feel wounded by not having heard back from a date, I had to ask myself what’s really changed since ‘olden times’ and it’s this:
Because we have such a myriad of options to be ‘rejected’–from texts, to Whatsapp, to Facebook, to email and the list goes on—on some level we don’t think that people ‘should’ disappear. It’s not as if they have to call or see us face-to-face.
Can’t you at least ping me a rejection message? Of course if they did, we’d still hurt over the method or content of the communication.
It’s never been easier to be emotionally unavailable via maintaining all sorts of distant communication, and the fact that we have these options mean that those of us who feel the rejection particularly hard, can be inclined to keep up loose connections rather than face endings which means that if someone doesn’t respond, it messes with the picture in our head and activates an old wound.
Why do some people ‘ghost’ after professing to have had a good time on a date or making all sorts of promises?
Because they’re Mr/Miss Good Time so they’d rather give us a great time in the moment so that they feel OK about what they do next—disappear.
If they bail when it all feels a bit too ‘real’, that’s their trigger. It could be hours, days, weeks, or even a few months but once the ‘challenge’ of ‘getting’ us is over and so they no longer feel out of control, desire wanes.
In this illusionary world where we tippy-tap away with strangers, possibly for quite some time before we meet face-to-face, we do also have to pose the question: Is it ghosting if we haven’t met the person?
Certainly in terms of romantic liaisons, it’s got to be a no. I hear from folks who didn’t hear back from a prospective date from Plenty of Fish or whatever, who they exchanged a few messages with and it seemed as if they had “so much in common”. The person was a ghost before the contact stopped.
If we haven’t met a prospective date, we are at stage zero.
If we feel that someone we haven’t met but who we felt interested in based on a profile or exchange of messages has ‘disappeared’, it is time for us to step back and be honest with ourselves about what is really going on because emotional responsibility dictates that we need to do our due diligence before we get emotionally invested and we have a duty of care to remain grounded.
How do we end things with someone we don’t know?
“Thanks for a nice evening but I don’t want to pursue this further. Take care.”
“It’s been nice chatting but I don’t want to pursue this further. Take care.”
And Diane said it so well in the comments on ghosting: “Thank you so much for the dates but I do not feel we’re a romantic match. I wish you the best of luck in your journey!” Boom!
And we (and they) have to be adult enough to respect our own and their position. That means we can’t ‘end’ things even if it’s been brief and then lurk but also if we’re on the receiving end of it, we need to respect their position rather than demanding to know why or even asking for an exit interview (I kid you not). Seriously, thinking that you’re owed a breakup or some lengthy discussion based on one or a few dates is like thinking that you’ve bought a house after viewing it a few times or that you have the job after doing three interviews.
So, how can we avoid ghosting someone?
Act with integrity. This stops us from being someone who is fast with words and getting into people’s pants but then who ‘suddenly’ isn’t feeling things. Slow down. We can be responsible and horny at the same time.
Slept together or been on more than 2-3 dates? Say something instead of blanking him/her.
Said we’d call or intimated plans? Do the decent thing and let them know. Next time we won’t be so quick to run our mouth and soap people up for the sake of avoiding discomfort in the moment or to get strokes.
Stop dropping hints. Rather than ignoring texts or calls in the hopes that they get the hint, reply, after all, if they’re still attempting to reach out even though we’ve tried to blankety-blank them, they’re not on the same page. Be direct and then leave things be.
Remember, when it comes to the early stages of dating, we have the right to not be attracted or to not want to pursue things but–and it is a big but–we can make things easier for ourselves by having enough self-awareness and self-discipline to not say or do things that are about instant gratification and pumping up our ego. This way, we don’t over-promise, under-deliver and then excuse ourselves from ending things decently on the basis that the person is a stranger and that we’re not dating. Why were we saying that stuff then?
OK, so how can we minimise being ghosted?
Sure, we can avoid dating altogether but what would be the point? We cannot control the uncontrollable or guarantee a decent ending but who we date in the first place lends the situation to being disappeared on. Conflict avoidant people who we have often convinced ourselves that things are ‘perfect’ and dismissed code amber and red alerts, are big time ghosters. This means that staying grounded and being personally secure rather than coming from a place of, Am I about to be screwed over or abandoned?, lends us to not being involved with ambiguous, flashy, Fast Forwarding, Future Faking showboating types who want to soap us up with fantasy. If we’re not trying to escape ourselves or attempting shortcuts, we’re less attractive to these folk plus we are present so able to listen to our intuition as well as any conflicts between actions and words. Also, we must not ghost ourselves because if we’re willing to give us up at the first whiff of interest from somebody, we are conveying that we are excessively emotionally reliant on them or on the idea of being taken or chosen. That’s too much whether they’re conflict avoidant, showy or not.
Ultimately, in the early stages of dating, regardless of any assumptions, impressions, chit-chat or nudity, we can only speak for what we will do. The term ‘ghosting’ is relatively new but dodging confrontation and disappearing in dating isn’t. Be safe out there!