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Let’s talk “ghosting.” For those who of you who may not be “hip” with the times, ghosting is the act of severing contact or communication with a prospective partner via blocking their number or simply not responding to the texts or advances being made by the other person. It often occurs out of the blue and the person on the receiving end is frequently blind-sided. It would not be fair for me to say that I have never done this myself. I have been guilty of this quite a few times (back in my 20s, when I was in the thick of my dating career). At this point of my life, I was so caught up in my own fears and insecurities that truthfully, I wasn’t as considerate or mindful of the feelings of the men I would be talking to or getting to know. I’ve learned now that men also have feelings and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (who would have thought??…also that is sarcasm). But ghosting is very commonplace that continues to occur regularly within the world of dating, ESPECIALLY now that a good amount of dating is done through dating apps and texting has become the primary mode of communication.
So why do people ghost? Honestly, I do not believe that the intent is ever malicious. Based on my personal experiences, the experiences of friends and those of my clients, ghosting is avoidance. Ghosting is really just a way to avoid uncomfortable conversations or having to express one’s honest feelings. It usually occurs when someone is feeling overwhelmed and is trying to avoid confrontation. So really, when you boil it down, this behavior is fear based. Fear of expressing one’s feelings or thoughts. Fear of hurting another person’s feelings or causing a reaction. And while I am not condoning the behavior, it does help to understand the behavior and have more compassion for the ghoster—which in turn will help you have more compassion for yourself.
For the purpose of this blog and breaking down “ghosting,” I will share a personal and more recent experience. I was ghosted after a VERY brief but enjoyable conversation with a guy I had matched with on a dating app. We had similar senses of humor and shared similar politic beliefs and understandings (which are very attractive qualities to me by the way). He quickly asked me if I would like to go to dinner and shortly after some back and forth discussing the logistics, all of a sudden POOF he was gone. I was informed, “this match is no longer available.” While I was annoyed and disappointed, I wasn’t surprised. Unfortunately this is the new normal. And while nowadays I would typically not think twice, I did reach out to this person on social media to ask what happened—really out of curiosity. We will call this my “field research.” He explained that he realized he moved too quickly and needed to focus more on his friendships versus seeking out romantic relationships and connections. He also apologized for “ghosting” me and acknowledged that it probably wasn’t the best move or fair to me (the girl he just asked to dinner). I validated where he was coming from (as I have been there myself) and thanked him for his transparency. Honestly, he could have been full of it (we may never know) but the point is, he was avoiding confrontation and either didn’t want to hurt my feelings OR just didn’t want to deal with what could be an uncomfortable exchange with me.
In the past, I would have internalized this and probably tried to analyze the conversation and break down the series of exchanges so I could get to the bottom of it. Like a lot of people, I used to want answers and to know exactly what happened and why. I would spiral and agonize over what went “wrong,” or really what I did wrong or could have done differently. And that line of thinking (in addition to the ghosting itself) is problematic. This is problematic because 1) the reason doesn’t really matter—the ghoster is no longer interested in conversing or exploring a potential relationship and 2) you will most likely never know the thought process or reason, so it will only drive you crazy seeking answers. While you may want “closure,” you cannot impose this on another person, let alone a stranger or acquaintance (especially if that person ghosted you and is already exhibiting avoidant behaviors—good luck with that one). So why invest MORE time and energy in a person that is not a space or position to have these uncomfortable conversations. And unfortunately, that is part of life—conflict, awkwardness and uncomfortable conversations.
To sum it up, while “ghosting” is frustrating, it is best to just leave things be. This is more than likely about them, than you. And you are deserving of a partner that WANTS to connect with and get to know you.
Also, if you have gotten into the habit of ghosting others, maybe do an experiment. Maybe consider being honest if you are no longer interested in someone. You don’t have to go into detail or provide explanation, but even a simple “I’m not sure this is going to work out” or “hey, I’m not in a position to date or pursue things further” is sufficient. Yes, this could be uncomfortable but also most reasonable people will appreciate your honesty and then move on with their lives. And on the off-chance that someone were to protest or challenge your honest, they most likely have some stuff they need to work on themselves.
So, here is my call to action. Do not take ghosting too seriously or internalize it. It is NOT worth your time and peace of mind. Communicate more openly as you date and try to be as direct as possible. Let’s have respect for one another and treat each other with kindness, instead of avoiding and hiding behind a screen.