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Sandra* had been dating Melvin* for two months when he disappeared on her – just like that, without warning or explanation. One day they were making plans to holiday together, and the next, Melvin had, it seemed, dropped off the face of the earth. “Things between us were fine,” shares Sandra, a 29-year-old marketing executive. “Then all of a sudden he was unreachable. He stopped answering my texts or calls and I had no idea how to get a hold of him. That was several months ago and to this day I still don’t know what happened to him.”
What it means to be “ghosted”
“Ghosting” is when the person you’re dating totally disappears from your life, and, in most cases, is never seen or heard from again. It’s avoidance, basically, or, as some relationship experts like to call it, “the slow fade”. It’s almost as if the person you dated is dead, only you know that he’s not. And it’s hard to accept because you didn’t officially break up, yet you know that the relationship is over.
“My relationship with Melvin was pretty good, or so I thought,” Sandra says. “We spent a lot of time together and he even met my friends. So naturally when he broke off all contact with me, I was hurt. But, more than that, I was confused. Had I done something wrong? Had he found someone else? Even now, I wish I had an explanation as to why he dropped me like a hot potato.”
Ghosting is – for the ghoster at least – the easy way out of a relationship that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Michael*, who admits to having ghosted more times than he can count, says that he’s a coward when it comes to telling a woman that he doesn’t want to see her anymore. “I guess I’m not man enough to deal with the repercussions,” says the 29-year-old lawyer. “I don’t want to make her angry and I don’t want to see her get upset, so the best way is to just cut off all contact. There’s no real polite way to tell a woman that you’re not into her.”
To be fair, women are just as guilty of ghosting. Louisa*, 30, says that she’s ghosted on men a few times in the past. “It’s not a nice thing to do, I know,” says the personal trainer, “but I don’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings. If I’m not interested in a long-term relationship with him, if I’m bored, or if I feel that we don’t have a connection, I’d rather just slip away than explain myself to him and have him try to talk me out of leaving.”
Of course, there are a couple of reasons for which ghosting is acceptable, such as if the person you’re with is abusive and you simply have to get away for your own safety; or if you’ve tried to break up with him, and he won’t take no for an answer and starts stalking or harassing you. But for all other situations, there is just no excuse for this behaviour.
How to deal with a “ghost”
It hurts to be ghosted on. It’s frustrating when you have no idea why the guy you’ve been dating has decided he doesn’t want to see you anymore. But you shouldn’t languish in the despair or try to win him back (and if he does try to worm his way back into your life, do yourself a favour and give him the heave-ho – yeah, ghost him back!).
If a guy disappears on you without so much as a Goodbye text or email, it shows what kind of a person he is: Disrespectful, untrustworthy, cowardly, confused about what he wants… and the list goes on. So why on earth would you want him to stick around? It’s fine to feel that a relationship isn’t going anywhere, but if a guy really respected your feelings, he would not leave you hanging that way. Instead, he would tell you why he doesn’t feel you’re a good fit for each other. If there’s something about you that bothers him or he isn’t happy about the relationship in general, he would attempt to resolve the problem with you first and not throw away what you have. A good man doesn’t just walk out on a woman he’s dating without some kind of explanation.
“The first couple of times I was ghosted, I was devastated, unable to focus on or do anything for weeks,” says Jacqueline*, a 32-year-old banker. “I made excuses for the guys, telling myself that they were just busy with work or playing hard-to-get. The third time it happened, I told myself that if a man could do something like that to me, then he wasn’t worth getting sad over. A few months after this one guy stopped calling and texting me, I saw him at the movies with another girl. I’m so glad I didn’t waste any tears on him. I was right to believe that he was a jerk.”
Don’t be left hanging
It’s not easy to predict if the guy you’re dating is going to disappear on you, but you can minimise the chances of it happening by, firstly, not investing yourself emotionally too soon. Take your time getting to know him and try not to have too many expectations so early on in the relationship. The less “gaga” you are about him, the less likely his sudden getaway will affect you, if he does indeed ghost on you (and anyway, you don’t want to come on too strong in the beginning – your guy may feel suffocated and this may make him feel like he needs to escape).
When you start dating someone new, it’s also important to talk about what you both want. If the guy makes it clear that he’s not keen on a serious relationship or that he just wants to have fun, then he may not think he owes you any explanation if he does decide to stop hanging out with you – in which case, you really shouldn’t be surprised if he ghosts on the relationship.
“I’ve been ghosted so many times that when I started dating Edward*, I was wary,” shares 27-year-old postgraduate student Jennifer*. “Right from the beginning we took things slowly so as to allow a bond to develop between us. Once we established that connection, it was easy to have an honest discussion about what we wanted – and it was good to know that we both wanted something serious with each other. After a few months of dating, Edward and I were so emotionally invested in each other that there was no separating us. Now, even if one of us wanted out of the relationship, we would not abandon the other or break up without at least talking about it first. Ghosting has no place in a relationship that is based on love, trust and respect.”
*Names have been changed