ghosting image

They knew exactly how to vanish, so I let them.

I’ve gone through my twenties with my fair share of boys who knew how to leave without a word, but now, there’s a term for it. People have always ignored each other without reason and served silence as punishment when there’s no crime to pay. None of this is anything new.

One of the most peculiar parts of returning to life as a newly single woman was learning all the behaviours, tricks and talk that had yet to be revealed during my last stint as a young single adult. Benching, breadcrumbing and ghosting have always happened, but now, we’re far more aware of it. Thank God for the internet, am I right?

In a time where everything is shared online, and people talk, we now have some fun new verbal additions to demystify our dating lives. Words give us understanding, and they give us closure. So, when we say we’ve been ghosted, it still hurts, but at least we know what it is.

No, he didn’t get too busy, and she didn’t leave her phone battery to die. They just wanted a way out. They were indifferent to us.

Like I said, the truth hurts.

I don’t know about you, but one of the most frustrating things for me is being ignored. I have this utter refusal to let someone ignore me, which isn’t always my most endearing quality. I firmly believe that I always deserve an explanation for someone’s behaviour, and I’ve had to accept that letting them go is sometimes easier than fighting.

God forbid, they call me ‘crazy’. Because a woman who demands what she deserves is clearly mentally unbalanced. I do struggle with the concept, because the ghoster’s silence, silences us in return. I’m choosing my battles.

I spoke to a friend of mine about this, and she told me she felt it was the nicest way to let someone down, because after all, who wants to know the real reasons that someone doesn’t want to be with them? The truth really does hurt, so we avoid it. Passive withdrawal from communication seems to be a kind approach.

I disagree. For many of us, the idea of not knowing something is unbearable. I’d rather take all the bad news you’ve got for me, and then stitch together a silver lining later on. The what ifs, rereading of text messages to find secrets and signs, and the self-blame is more painful and far more time consuming. I don’t make a habit of forgiving those who steal time from others, because we’ll never get it back.  Life is controlled by clocks and calendars.

People do react differently to things, and the lack of response for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being ghosted. People are different and communicate sometimes a lot less than we want them to.

This also doesn’t apply to every person you’ve matched with on Tinder or Bumble, and the truth is that we’ve all had our share of half-hearted conversations. The real ghosting comes after you’ve been talking every day, had a date or two, and given yourself a month (or four) to get attached. What’s worse is when you actually know them, and still have to see them.

When you’re being ghosted, you know about it.

I asked a boy once if ghosting was one of his magic tricks. It was outlandish, and a bit rude, but I deserved a response and I got one. I’m not afraid to say these things anymore.

I realise this doesn’t work with everyone, but I’m doing well with my strategy so far.

I’ve been ghosted by friends before, and one took an abrupt exit recently. This one particularly hurt, but I understood it, because I knew her. I knew what drove it, I knew why she couldn’t come to me for resolution and I also knew it was the right thing. With dating, we often don’t know who we’re dealing with until the very end. It’s hard to find reason when you’re starcrossed with strangers.

Disappearing acts aren’t just for magicians, mere mortals have mastered the foolery, and enjoyed the permanence of vanishing. It was like we never existed at all, but if this is all there was to it, then neither did they. You can’t have half of anything, especially a person.

The truth is that in most of these situations, it hurts. We’ve been hurt before, and fragile self-esteem and barely surviving egos have been put in temporary care. We’ve all been vulnerable with someone new, before getting left behind by them when they can’t speak aloud, or even type a human response.

For the ghosting offender, it’s believed that the reason behind the method lies in their own emotional discomfort. Not saying anything at all is easier than confrontation, and it’s easier than the guilt of upsetting another human being.

I’m not coming down on people for being confused, or not being able to verbally communicate their own needs. To my knowledge, I haven’t ghosted anyone, but that’s not to say I never will. I like to think I won’t.

So, what happens after the ghosting?

The haunting.

It starts with the anxiety, fear and niggling paranoia that wonders if they’re okay. We know something’s wrong, but we’re just not sure what.

Then, self-doubt perches itself on our shoulders, watching our every move. We start to doubt the validity of what came before this. We tell ourselves we imagined it to mean more than it did.

Some would argue ghosting is emotional cruelty, and in some situations, it really is.

They fed our appetite for attention, before stealing the bowl and leaving us to starve. It’s still the kindest thing to do, right?

Then comes the rejection. We’re all afraid of not being wanted, and acceptance seems impossible to find. With the realisation of an ending with no closure and no exit scene, comes the feeling that lodges in the pit of your abdomen. It’s the one that works itself through you until the words come out, “I’m not good enough.”

For a lot of us, processing an emotional experience requires answers. We’re unlikely to get them.

We’ve been brave, and maybe braver than serial ghosters can be. After all, letting someone know us takes guts. It’s not easy to let someone know you, after the damage done by another.

Instinctively, we shut down. We pull down the shutters, hiding in a safe place until its okay to come out again. We always come out again, because that bravery survives even after its been left to die from humiliation.

After the words swirl in circles, answering themselves and admitting defeat, things go quiet again. There’s okay in the quiet. What’s left in silence? We are.


Featured image credit – Jordan Jenson

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