Ah, ghosting. Possibly one of the cruellest ways for a relationship to end – the complete and utter severance of relations by one person to the other. I do not mean the subtle fade away, in which conversations become more disparate and stunted. I mean full on ghosting, where the other person seems to disappear from the planet.
What does it feel like? Pretty horrible – and that’s sugar coating it. I guess the severity is determined by how invested in the relationship you were. In my case, I had been dating this guy for a few months and we had established we were ‘in a relationship’ (whatever that means). We hinted at meeting each other’s parents, and while I was always cautious of the relationship, I allowed myself to become more invested than I had planned.
Then one day he disappeared. He stopped replying to my messages. He stopped answering my calls. He didn’t even bother to pick up some of his pretty valuable things from mine.
The scene is set. Ghosting feels awful. It’s a feeling of complete and total rejection on so many levels. Not only do they not want to be with you, they will actively go to lengths to completely cut you out of their lives. You go from in a relationship to single in the blink of the eye, without any input from you. You get zero agency in this breakup; you are a mere appendage in your own relationship.
That is how it feels, but it is not what it fundamentally means. It is not a simple case of deciding to cut you out – there is a thought process that leads them there. Or, more realistically, an emotional process. If they decided to be in a relationship with you, you were not merely an appendage. People are arseholes. But ghosting requires energy. It is a concerted effort. It is not as straightforward as them reluctantly replying to your messages, more disillusioned with your relationship every day. There is a definite reason for ghosting. It points to emotional unavailability, or being unfit to work through emotions rationally through conversation. Ultimately, ghosting is not about those who are ghosted, but the ‘ghoster’.
As for my advice, for the ghoster: I would say you need to stop. Even sending a text saying ‘I can’t do this anymore’ will suffice. Even a crude, ‘yolo bye’ will do. Cutting off ties completely may seem like the easy option, but if you genuinely think that then you have got to be inherently selfish. Pluck up the courage and do it properly. Clarity is always the best policy.
For those who have been ghosted, stop thinking about them. If someone has the capacity to ghost another person, then they do not have the ability to be in a proper relationship. There is something wrong with that person, because they cannot adequately express themselves. They are not the person for you, (or anybody) until they can do so. It’s easy to sit there asking why whilst eating your body weight in break-up food. Pick yourself up and acknowledge what has happened to you, and that it was crap. But also realise that it did not happen with you. You are a bystander watching another person’s inadequacy, and if anything you should be grateful that you’re shot of it now.
For those who have been ghosted, but their ghoster has returned apologetically – don’t accept it. As the old saying goes, once a cheater always a cheater – get out now. They are clearly more trouble than they are worth.
One of the pieces from our series Relationships: the love and the hate, exploring a wide array of people’s experiences, with regards to their interactions and relations with others. Click on the link for more information about the series, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in sharing your story.
Image kindly allowed for use for this series by Ece Clarke