At this point, you’re probably familiar with the term “ghosting”: the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with the person you’re dating, without any explanation or warning. In today’s society of catalog-style dating apps that make the process of finding love more like a game of musical chairs, this once-unheard-of term is as commonly used as “hello.” But just because something is commonplace doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Many of us can speak first-hand about the pain of being ghosted, as well as to the inevitable downward spiral of insecurity that can follow. But how many of us will actually admit to being the villainous a**hole who ghosts? Well, feast your eyes on one. Yep, for the first 30 years of my life, I perfected a disappearing act that I never really acknowledged until pop culture pointed its big fat finger at it and gave it an official name.
For years, I sugarcoated my personal version of “ghosting” and justified my bad dating habit as protection from inevitable heartbreak. And I wish I could tell you about my great “a-ha” moment, but it never happened. Due to the fact that I’m a stubborn brat, this realization came slowly and gradually. Trust me, lots of wine-filled girl talks, as well as a few guilt-ridden evenings alone with Chinese takeout, had to happen before I came clean about my apparition-like tendencies. Although I admit that ignorance was bliss, dissecting my behavior and admitting to it has brought me some serious clarity—and a little bit closer to being an authentic adult (I hope). Here are some of my key takeaways as to why ghosting is not just harmful to others, but to yourself, too, in the long run.
The Great Ghosting Dilemma
Fact: Many moons ago, I was dumped via email. (To add insult to injury, the note was chock-full of grammatical errors and misspelled words. I mean, you didn’t even care enough to spell-check your work? Did our relationship mean nothing?!) Although I've always thought this to be the most solid case of douche-baggery ever experienced first-hand, I think having him completely ghost on me would have been much more painful. Vanishing on someone who invested time and emotions for the sole purpose of getting to know you is just plain not nice. Rejection is never pleasant, but to have it done in such an abrupt and unceremonious way is hurtful, cruel and only normal for terrible humans. Any form of communication—text, phone call, email (if you must), letter by carrier pigeon—is a much better option. And, if you’re of really good stock, break it to them in person.
My random acts of disappearing could always be traced back to fear. I somehow caught a glimpse of something in the guy or the relationship that led me to believe I was going to be disappointed and hurt in the future. These glimpses would come in the form of awkward conversations, misinterpretations of behavior and body language, lack of verbal affirmation, lack of immediate interest on my part, and (my favorite) good ol' jealousy. Truthfully, the act of ghosting is often a result of the ghoster being burned just one too many times (or, in fact, being the ghostee at one point).
But here's the kicker: My illogical thought process only rolled on a one-way track. And that track was called "me." I only ever considered the outcome for myself and how things could possibly affect me. I hardly considered the guy's POV, and dropping off the face of the Earth was my method of permanently avoiding doing so. The word you're looking for is "selfish."
It's pretty simple: Games are for kids. Playing hide-and-seek was fun until the age of 6 or 7, when you realized looking under sofas and beds for someone was a complete waste of time. Playing hide-and-seek with your love life is equally juvenile and pointless.
All ghosting proves is that you can't handle the two C's essential to every adult relationship: confrontation and conversation. If you're a grown man or woman with a verbal aptitude that exceeds that of a 5-year-old, you are perfectly capable of letting a person know why it's not going to work out and/or what you want in a partner. You are not wrong to vocalize what you need from a person you're dating or to speak up when those needs are not being met. Be the bigger person and use your words.
It Does Not Lead To A Relationship
In all my years of game-playing, I can safely say I never came out the winner. None of those ghosting incidences turned into a relationship. Not one. Even if a guy pursued me more and tried to figure out where I disappeared to and what went wrong, there was usually some frustration and distrust involved by this time–two qualities that don’t exactly define a healthy relationship.
And, let me tell you, no one will ever take a ghoster seriously. After you pull that peekaboo act once, you are officially exiled to "loser" territory. And no one wants to date a loser.
To end, let me clarify that this message is not meant to call out anyone but myself. I only mean to acknowledge my own mistakes, as well as the steps I'm taking to make amends. And while, yes, I'm still single, I’m happy to report that my dating path these days is a little less spooky.