Modern dating is akin to surviving The Hunger Games – it is not for the faint of heart. It requires confidence, patience, trial and error. Dating is an investment – when playing the game one must be all in, emotionally exposed and unafraid of rejection. We put ourselves out there in hopes of connecting with someone who can satiate our innate desire to love and be loved (or at least laid.) A true journey is nothing without a few challenges along the way – managing expectations, following “rules”, navigating societal practices/norms, breakups, the dreaded “what are we” conversation, dodging f*ckboys, and most recently ghosting – which for those unfamiliar is exactly as scary as it sounds.
Ghosting is the act of literally leaving a dating prospect hanging. One party (the ghost) decides that they are no longer interested in moving forward and proceeds to eliminate contact with the other (the ghostee). The ghost is the decider: he/she is in charge of making the executive decision to cut communication via a method of their choosing, be it a slow fade – a steady and mysterious decline of interaction – or an abrupt, unprecedented end to all communication (rude!) The ghostee, often blindsided, is subsequently left to sit and wonder many things, the main one being “what the actual f*ck just happened.” There is no closure, except for the closure you create to get through such times – I personally recommend journaling and hitting a punching bag or two, while others may prefer drinking a liter of Yellowtail and venting on Twitter. In this sensitive time, you are encouraged to do you.
Being ghosted could actually be quite funny if it wasn’t so maddening. There is something particularly cruel about being forced to acknowledged that while there are a million and one ways to get in touch with someone, you are being ignored on single one of them. This level of rejection is enough to drive even the most laid-back person to absolute insanity. Rejection stings no matter when it occurs – be it after one date, several months of seeing each other or perhaps at some point in a long-term relationship (yes, this does happen!) For the weeks following said ghosting there is often a full-blown period that spans the full five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). How long this mourning lasts depends on the ghostee – more experienced daters may appear to bounce back quickly, licking their wounds and chalking it up to part of the game. The first cut is definitely the deepest, so one’s first ghosting experience will definitely warrant a few weeks of wallowing in self-pity and talking lots of shit about how big of a douche said ghostee is, regardless of whether or not its based in fact (screw facts, this is about you!)
In reality, having someone ghost you is for the best as it frees you up to explore other, more compatible prospects – you know, those people who actually like you. Yes, you will move on. But in the mind of a millenial, being ghosted leaves an interminable sting of rejection, a painful reminder of a near-fatal blow to the ego – which, for many of us, is worse than death. More often than not, the pain comes from the loss of potential of a relationship that was never actualized, of not being someone’s type. It triggers our deep-seated insecurities, ranging from body image issues, our level of intelligence, to our personalities – as if a flat ass or a penchant for profanity are legitimate reasons why someone disappears. All of this blinds us to the fact that there was nothing that could have been done differently to change this outcome – so no, do not go back and retrace every text, call or interaction to see where you messed up. The only closure that brings any satisfaction cannot be given by anyone else but us, and more often than not the reasons for said disappearance has little to do with you. However difficult it may be to believe it, your ghost is likely not an evil person, just an extremely cowardly one. Refrain from angrily throwing darts at their photo or wishing them a lifetime of unhappiness. You are, however, welcome to rip them a new one via text, as my friend Jess* did in the recent past:
“I had a few great dates with this guy, and after one night I left my portable charger at his apartment. I shot him a text letting him know, and he said he would get it back to me. A week later, I hadn’t heard from him so I reached out again – letting him know that if he doesn’t want to see me again and no hard feelings but that I really wanted my charger back. He immediately answers – saying he’s sorry, he’s getting back with his ex, of COURSE he will send me my phone charger. Three weeks pass and still nothing – I message again. No response. At this point, I’m LIVID. I go full on crazy – send him a novel cursing him out and shaming him for not being truthful.
In reality, I just wanted him to be honest with me. Needless to say, he never answered my crazy message, but I got my phone charger in the mail shortly after, so it was a win for me!”
Lesson here: If venting to your ghost feels good, do it but make it a one and done type of thing . Do not expect a response – Remember that a ghost is trying to avoid any and all confrontation via cutting contact with you, so the best move after getting things off your chest is ghosting them right back. Also, for the love of god give back people’s stuff in a timely manner. A girl needs her portable charger!
I had to ask some of my eligible lady friends – is there any time when ghosting is okay? It was generally agreed upon that if you have been on less than 5 dates you are allowed to ghost, noting that “it is especially hurtful to tell someone you don’t want to date them anymore when you don’t know them very well.” In this case the ghostee will likely be pissed, but not wounded. Ghosting is also acceptable after a particularly awful first date or when dodging a creep/stage-5-level stalker who is giving you serious vibes (the bad kind) or anyone who comments negatively on your appearance (#boyBYE). As for someone you’ve been seeing consistently for a month or longer, out of courtesy you need to bite the bullet and tell them its a wrap. “Not that it’s ever easy to end things with someone, nor is it ever easy to hear,” one friend said, “but I think after you’ve been dating for a while – like a month or 5+ dates – it’s just good manners to tell them you want to end it.”
My friend Natalie, who has a strict “no ghosting” policy regardless of how many dates she has been on with a guy, takes the high road and has had positive results. “You’re not always to mesh with people – especially when you meet them on social media it can take a couple of dates to really decide if you are into them.” She continued with, “early on some guys fall faster than I do (within 1-2 dates) and I don’t want to deal with the fallout, but its mortifying to reach out to someone and not get a response, so instead of ghosting I tell them ‘hey, I don’t feel the romantic chemistry I’m looking for. No hard feelings.'” She says the men in question have responded well, despite being a bit disappointed (rightfully so, she’s a catch!) But being truthful is key, so do not say that you will reach out again when you know you won’t and for the love of god do not set up a next date and then disappear. Also, eliminate “I’m just not looking for a relationship right now” from your vocabulary – because everyone knows that is B.S.
And there you have it – ghosting is pretty much never okay, unless its very early on in the process or after a painfully awful Tinder date with a creep or asshole. While ghosting may seem like the best strategy to temporarily avoid emotions and confrontation, be considerate of the person on the other side – however painful this may be for you, being ghosted is much worse on the recipient’s end. If you are ghosted, ride out your feels however you see fit and then keep it moving to someone that fully reciprocates your affections – this is an infinitely superior and rewarding use of your energy. If you feel the need to ghost, let them down easy. I recommend this one-liner from my friend Carly: “I enjoyed getting to know you, but I don’t see this working out. Good luck, and I wish you the best.” Telling someone they are not for you is never easy, but completely disappearing is a surefire way to become haunted by ghosts-of-dating past – or at least deserving of some bad dating karma. Who wants that?