Maybe in Defense of Ghosting

I read this thing on Buzzfeed last week called “The 10 Worst Things To Say During A Breakup.” I found a lot of the commentary to be valid. Particularly, #3 (“I’m not looking for a relationship.”), #6 (“I’m just really busy right now.”), and #7 (“I’m just bad at this stuff.”) reminded me of past experiences I’d much rather forget. But #10 (“[Nothing]” / Ghosting) hit the closest to home because…that just happened to me.

The very specific details are irrelevant – or, rather, I don’t think this is the best place to share them – but I will tell you that I had gone on several dates with a guy over the course of many weeks. Like, I would describe what we were doing as “dating.” But then, he just disappeared. No communication whatsoever. And I really had no indication that he would stop talking to me altogether except for this feeling the whole time we were seeing each other that it would end like this. But I had chalked that up to early relationship anxiety. Nothing more.

In the first days when I began to suspect that I wouldn’t hear from him again, I drove myself crazy wondering if I should contact him. I decided to hold back, not because I didn’t want to, but because my therapist encouraged me to wait it out until he contacted me. I believe or see the value in most of what she says, but this advice – which she had given me many times before and which I’d never heeded – had always seemed crazy to me. I didn’t see the point in not trying to communicate with him. It seemed anti-feminist to me. Why did I have to sit back and wait? Why couldn’t I take matters into my own hands? And besides, maybe there had been some kind of misunderstanding. Maybe he was just so busy that he’d lost track of time. Maybe he had been trying to get in touch with me and his messages just got lost in the ether.

I thought wishfully for a time, during which I showed extreme will power in not even attempting to text or call him. But when it started to dawn on me that I wasn’t going to hear from him and this was the end, I started to see my therapist’s point in not making contact. It was hard not to try to find out why he had disappeared. (I want to know everything! Like, everything in the world. Especially things that have a direct effect on my life.) But I realized that I would never really know. Because what was he going to say to me when I did manage to track him down? That he’s afraid of intimacy? That he was too much of a coward to tell me that he wasn’t serious about me or that he wasn’t looking for anything more than casual dating? Not a chance. I imagine he would have, like so many others, said one of the “worst things.” Which I don’t really need to hear.

“Isn’t it better to know?” my friend asked me. “Don’t you want closure?” another said. No and yes. For me, it’s better to not know. It’s better to let go and not have a “reason” to fixate on, something that could heighten my insecurities and make me feel helpless. I don’t want to know anything that I could possibly turn against myself. And in terms of closure, I don’t think any of us experience that until we die.

I’ve had some shitty breakups and letdowns before. (Interestingly, the really shitty ones were when the dudes told me they were “seeing someone else,” which I don’t even think was true in a few cases.) This one…is not shitty. It’s disappointing. As a wise person once said to me, “If a dude wants to hang out with you, he’ll call you.” So, this dude didn’t call. He doesn’t want to hang out with me. And maybe this is weird but…I don’t want to spend time and brain space trying to figure out what’s going on with someone who so clearly doesn’t want to spend time with me.

I still think I deserved the courtesy of some form of goodbye. If that had happened in a timely manner, I could have also said goodbye and moved on. But, in general, people suck and we can’t expect anything from anyone and if someone can’t do something simple and decent, then paying any more thought or attention to them is worthless except to acknowledge and learn from the experience of them being terrible.


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