The Trouble With Ghosting

Erin: So…how was it?
Me: Amazing! We had the best time!
Erin: What did you do on this date?
Me: We met at a coffee shop near the bluff, got hot chocolate, took a walk by the beach, got dinner and drinks and then he came over…
Erin: And…?
Me: It was awesome! We only talked. For real. We kissed a little, but really got to know each other.
Erin: That’s exactly what I wanted for you — to have fun and get to know someone new! When’s the next date?
Me: We’ve scheduled for Thursday.

So how was it?

Well, no date. No call. No text. No carrier pigeon.

What happened? What was it? We had a good time, there’s no denying that. The truth is, I’ll never know. But it really doesn’t matter. It was a single night. I had fun. That’s enough. It was easy to move on.

I hear alternate stories, though, that aren’t quite so simple.

Like the example of the new couple who met a few months ago and have been seeing each regularly. She thought they were getting closer, she was beginning to have strong feelings for him. But when he disappeared, dissolved, she could not help but take it personally. She reached out a few times after giving it ample time, talking about it in sessions with me, and analyzing this scenario with her friends.

Eventually, he circled back and revealed that he’d gotten back together with his ex. She was disappointed, but could totally handle it. He said had not wanted to hurt her. But his disappearing act was much more hurtful than simply telling the truth. She was a grown woman, she could handle honesty. He showed a cowardly side of himself that she found unattractive. His actions caused her to question their previous dates, reread their flirtatious text messages, and wonder “was it me?” 

He said he hadn’t meant to vanish away, but he had history with the other girl: “If she wasn’t in the picture, I’d always choose you.” That didn’t make her feel better. In fact, it made her feel worse. She thought they were really getting close, so when he decided to reunite with his ex, she thought he was settling, afraid to branch out. What a let down, she thought. But his ghosting eventually led her to someone better.

It happens to guys, too. My friend Chris told me a similar story of having some excellent conversations on the phone, and spending equally satisfying time with the new woman he was dating. He liked her sharp intellect, found her quirks endearing. But, when she vanished, he was shocked. Chris was attracted to her, felt connected and he thought they wanted the same thing: to start a relationship. Chris couldn’t believe he was so far off when she started writing perfunctory texts and shortly stopped responding all together.

I reminded him it’s probably not entirely his fault. Again, it’s so easy for me to say this, but when you’re on the receiving end of ghosting, it sucks. There’s that annoying pit in your stomach, the swirling thoughts, the embarrassment. You try not to look at your phone. You try to stay busy. You tell yourself it didn’t matter, anyway. You wonder what you could have done or said differently. You think about that person and wonder what’s going on with them. You feel lonely.

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Photography by Melissa Gluck

What goes through someone’s mind when they decide to be the ghost?

Unfortunately, I’ve done it. I feel guilty about it still (sorry, Dan). What happened for me was I’d had a nice date, not great, but not terrible. He was pleasant and polite. I had plans after our afternoon coffee and got busy. It’s not an excuse. But he and I didn’t have much of a rapport prior to the date, so he just sort of slipped my mind. I realized my rudeness many days later, but but by then I was so embarrassed and ashamed of my behavior I went into ghost-mode. I didn’t want to write to him and thank him a full week later, and also didn’t want to reveal that I’d forgotten, because that would be downright rude, so I ghosted away. For me, it wasn’t anything about him, just a case of “we’re not super connected and we likely won’t go out again…” I was probably caught up in my own world, and not really thinking.

Other times, I haven’t wanted to insult someone with a stock line. “It’s not you, it’s me.” Bleh. It probably really was me. In all fairness, I likely could not see some of the guy’s gifts or special traits that made him desirable for someone else. This, in and of itself, indicated a poor match for me.

The real trouble with ghosting is that it usually makes the recipient doubt and question him or herself. We want to be liked and considered, so when we’re ghosted, we wonder what we did wrong.

It’s important to remember that we probably haven’t done anything egregious, but something about our joint chemistry might not work. It’s not personal. It’s that the ghost has decided not to communicate with words. The ghost is using action to tell a story. And the ghost is doing us a favor by showing us that we’re not a great fit.

Remember: when you are in the right relationship, nobody is ghosting. You’re talking and laughing, communicating with language that feels right and doesn’t leave you doubting yourself.

In sum, let it go. Don’t obsess. Move on.

Please visit my website, Coaching By Nina Rubin.

These photos were published with permission by photographer, Melissa Gluck. Melissa can be reached here.

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6 thoughts on “The Trouble With Ghosting

  1. Hey Nina. I have this perspective:

    1) When dating, have no expectations. If things don’t go anywhere, great! You learned, maybe had a good time, or a bad time… whatever – both are experiences you need embrace and appreciate.

    2) Date multiple people. Don’t get hung up on one person. Keep your options open. You’re exploring. You’re not in a committed relationship yet. If someone isn’t interested in you, Ok … no problem, in fact, that’s awesome – more time for you to spend with other people with whom you might be more compatible with.

    3) Welcome rejections. Be yourself. Don’t try to please – get rejected as quickly as possible. Be brutally honest – especially about who you are and what you stand for and believe. And if the person you’re dating doesn’t like you for you — great outcome … you both saved yourself some time.

    4) You don’t need a guy or girl in your life. Don’t be desperate for a relationship. Seriously, don’t! You’re chasing a lie. Work more on yourself rather than chasing relationships. There is nothing wrong with being single. The truth is it’s rate for 2 random people to come together in a healthy way, compatible way. If you rush into it, you might not like what you get. Don’t be jumping from one unhealthy relationship to another, take your time.

    With these attitudes, you won’t end up being “the ghost” hopefully – because you are honest and upfront about your intentions… and if you aren’t compatible or aren’t interested in someone at all, you’d just tell them straight up rather than playing games or disappearing. And if someone “ghosts you”, it simply won’t bother you – you are not gonna get butt hurt about it because you’re not overinvested in any one particular person.

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  2. Not contacting the other person after ONE date is not ghosting at all. I did it, like, 5 times last month alone. Going on several dates, being intimate with each other and THEN doing the vanishing act, is ghosting – and extremely cowardly. The fact that it’s so predominant in this day and age is because so many people jump onto dating sites right after a break up and attempt to use the other person to get over their ex, which never, ever, happens. What happens is ghosting, and exactly what happened to your friend. Always ask when their last relationship was, and if you don’t, you’ll know they are rebounding by how often they bring up their ex. This is becoming a very common question early on because rebounders / ghosters are so abundant on dating sites.

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