Ghosting is a Bitch
Have you ever had a super sexy hookup with someone, but when you call them for round two they don’t respond? Have you ever had a really stimulating conversation with someone online, but when you reach out to keep the conversation going they leave you on read? Have you ever lived with someone for three years and they go out to get milk for the kids and never come home? Ok the first examples are much more common, but all three are forms of ghosting i.e. cutting off all communication with someone with no clear explanation as to why.
Being ghosted can take a particular kind of toll, as the ghostee is left with no clue as to what went wrong in the encounter. Did they talk about Star Trek too much for a first date? Did they freak them out when they expressed your deepest sexual desires? Was it because they didn’t have time to go home and shower before the date? Or, is their date going to get back to them shortly? Are they not responding because they are dead in a ditch? The unfortunate thing about ghosting is that you will never know what happened. If it was personal, you may never know what you did to lead the other person not to respond, which makes learning from our mistakes super-difficult.
Research shows that rejection activates the same neural pathways as physical pain. So ghosting is kind of like a psychological punch to the face and can lead to a painful loss of self esteem and self worth.
If it’s so shitty, why do we ghost?
It is very difficult to be honest with sexual and romantic partners about how we feel. We may feel like it is less painful to stop answering someone than to be honest about why we don’t want to see them again. Ghosting may also happen somewhat accidentally, where you mean to respond to someone but life gets in the way. Of course, we are less likely to forget to respond to someone that we feel a real spark with. However, sometimes ghosting may have very little to do with the person, and more to do with what’s going on in the ghoster's life. Perhaps they just got out of a relationship and got scared by the feels, perhaps someone close to them just passed away, perhaps they are up for a promotion at work.. yada yada. When we feel rejected it is very easy to take it personally, but it’s important to keep in mind there are many factors that may have led to ghosting and sometimes it really doesn’t have anything to do with you.
How do you move forward after exposure to a ghost?
If someone you felt connected to stopped responding to you it is a shitty feeling and it is normal to grieve. When messaging with the ghoster it is helpful to give them time-frames, for example tell them, “if I don’t hear from you tomorrow I’m going to assume you don’t want to speak and not message you again.” This way you can take control, stop waiting, and start moving on.
Alternatives to ghosting
There is nothing wrong with deciding that for whatever reason you no longer want to see or talk to a person, but they deserve to hear it from you. What are some slightly more acceptable options other than being the ghost..
- The “way too honest guy”. Be the person that tells you exactly why they don’t want to see you again. Say that at first you thought that you had a real connection with them but the more you hung out the less you felt it. Tell them that you don’t think you are sexually compatible because you like to experiment but they don’t seem open to fun things. Tell them that you want to make a baby in the next three years and they don’t seem like they have good genes. I think that with short relationships and hookups being too honest isn’t necessary, but for longer term partnerships it may be helpful to communicate exactly why the relationship isn’t working.
- The “it’s not you it’s me” guy. The person who showers you with compliments only to end them saying that it isn’t working. Very similar to the “I’m a fuckup and don’t deserve you” guy, this guy will not express what is really going on, but will tell you how incredible you are, despite them not wanting to be with you. I guess it’s possible that he is genuine, but for the most part, despite his compliments he is often full of shit. I think if this type of communication style has to happen, it works best for short term hookups/relationships. For example, after hooking up with someone a couple times I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying “I loved sucking your cock, you fucked me proper and were an amazing conversationalist and cuddler, however I don’t want to see you again.” This should leave the other person feeling positive about themselves, despite the rejection.
Depending on your personality, the nature of your relationship, and how long you have been communicating, there are many ways to reject someone that are much much better than ending contact and waiting for them to get the hint. With online dating, where we swipe humans based on physical attraction, it is very easy to forget that we are talking to real live human beings who deserve to be treated with kindness and respect. Especially, because we are often meeting people who we have no friends in common with, and may be unlikely to ever bump into in the streets, it makes it much easier to stop responding to someone we aren’t interested in. However, karma is a bitch, so I suggest being kind and expressing yourself to partners, even if it’s difficult.