Unrequited love can be tough. Not only are you lost in a sea of mixed signals, but now, your ego is bruised because the feelings involved aren't mutual. It's as though the person you're interested in never texts back, and the line of communication is becoming strained. If the other person has consistently proven to be unreliable, we wonder, "Why do I keep talking to them?" Any partnership, no matter the stage, should involve mutual effort. If you’ve arrived at the conclusion that you’re constantly getting ghosted by the same person, you’re not alone.
Ghosting, the term attributed to an archaic occurrence, is the quick and often unexpected disappearance of someone who you are seeing romantically. But now, what used to be waiting by a landline for a call that would never come through has transformed into our cell phones letting us know exactly when we're being downright avoided. Snapchats left unanswered, deliberate read receipts on iMessage, and calls being sent straight to voicemail — you can see and feel yourself being actively ignored. And it hurts.
Ghosting can come at all stages of a relationship — texting, talking, or even while you’re close to labeling each other as ‘exclusive.’ Regardless of your status with the person, ghosting usually happens without warning. We're caught off-guard, wondering what could’ve possibly went wrong, what we did, and what we could have changed. If we truly saw the potential in a long-lasting relationship with the person, we also wonder what could have been in the near future. Although it’s unlikely that you were ghosted by someone you were in a healthy, committed relationship with, the experience is comparable to unrequited love. More than likely, you came to the realization that this person didn’t actually like you at all, left you without closure, and as a result, caused you to investigate your own inadequacies with a magnifying glass.
Unrequited love and ghosting tend to mirror each other once you evaluate your feelings. But perhaps the biggest similarity the two share is how they leave you feeling about yourself in the aftermath. If someone doesn’t like you back, or suddenly cuts off all contact, the only logical explanation is that there’s something wrong with you.
While these thoughts are totally invalid, they’re intrusive and can cause some serious emotions.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized ghosting extends out to my friends as well. I can recall the way we consoled one another when one of us was ghosted and what words we used to offer explanation for such an inconceivable act. We were so quick to vilify the people who had ghosted us, deciding that they had a deeply rooted character flaw dating back to some dark childhood trauma that only years of therapy could reverse.
Kathleen Ledford, a student at the University of Tennessee, offered me a small peace of mind.
“The fact that everyone knows someone who has been ghosted shows that this issue isn’t a ‘you’ problem. If everyone’s been ghosted at least once, and you adopt the assumption that being ghosted means you’re terrible, doesn't that just mean everyone else is terrible too?”
Her statement made me think about how I can’t pinpoint very many people in my life who haven’t been ghosted at some point. If everyone experiences ghosting at one point or another, it isn’t a cruel, vicious, rare condition — it’s a social trend.
While the widespread issue of ghosting may make it easier to assume the theory that ghosts are simply horrible people, the reality is that they probably aren’t as bad as we’d like to think.
In October, I met Jack*. He was smart, driven, funny, and above all else, he was a really nice person. He was a little bit older than me, and in turn, was more mature than any of the boys I had met on campus. As someone who patiently waits for a flaw to arise in each potential suitor, I couldn’t find any immediate red flags. He was an avid reader and always had a running list of recommendations for me. Jack* was also put well put together and wore socks with fun sayings on them, and even had the perfect emoji-to-word texting ratio. Things were going so well and I just couldn’t believe how I had stumbled upon such a treasure like him.
The only problem? In January, I’d be embarking on a four-month-long study abroad program in Barcelona, where I’d be consumed with studying, practicing my Spanish and traveling through Europe on the weekends. My time at school was coming to an end and my budding relationship with Jack was about to reach its expiration date. Although I liked him, things were so new that it would be impossible to take on the pressure of a long-distance situation. A pressure that I didn’t have the maturity or patience to take on wnd who was I to think that he would be interested in dating a girl he barely knew, especially one that was 4,000 miles away?
[bf_image id="q7juwi-4atkx4-9zj5db"][bf_image id="back-view-photo-of-barefoot-woman-in-black-leather-jacket-and-standing-by-the-beach-looking-at-the-horizon-2508688" ]As the weeks went on, I started to slow down my correspondence with Jack once I realized that the relationship would fizzle out on its own sooner or later. I was frustrated with our status and how we could possibly proceed — we were hardly exclusive, as we had only been on a few dates and, most importantly, we had so much distance in between us. Was there even a point in having “the talk” if the reality of the situation was that we were nothing more than two acquaintances that had shared a couple of meals together? He didn’t owe me anything, just like I didn’t owe him anything. I got so overwhelmed by the social stigmas surrounding the “talking stage” that I decided to stop overthinking. I would simply stop making initial contact until it ceased altogether.
Soon, I realized that I had talked myself into becoming the ghost I despised so much.
That act has a negative connotation and my intentions weren't to be a villain at all. I was simply doing what I needed to do, which was cutting things off before things got too complicated. Was my perception just a twisted view of reality fueled by the human tendency to perceive ourselves better than we actually are? Maybe. When I looked back on how I had handled the situation, I realized I was a ghost, and immediately felt horrible.
As much as I hated to admit it, the experience made me realize “ghosting” isn’t such an atrocious act after all. Ultimately, it happens to everyone and is merely a harmless side effect of dating.
[bf_image id="q7juwi-g4wunk-1xlbuz"]The truth is that nobody owes you anything: not their time, not their presence, not a long text about how their day went, or even the effort to ask you about yours — especially not someone you barely know. This revelation is disappointing, especially when it comes to people who you really like. Although you might want nothing more than to be liked and adored by them, that doesn’t always happen.
The good news? Odds are, the reason why you’ve been ghosted has absolutely nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person. It isn’t about the person not liking you or recognizing the "obvious" flaws you’ve missed all these years. In my case, this couldn’t be further from the reason why I “ghosted” Jack. Even after the handful of encounters I had with him, I still thought he was awesome (in all his attractive sock glory).
While ghosting can feel like a hateful act that can only be done by one dimensional, shitty people, that simply isn’t true. We all have lives that are moving at an insanely rapid pace, with many facets and changing circumstances. To assume that being ghosted has everything to do with you, and nothing to do with the ghost’s own problems, is just a tad self-centered. We are all trying to move through this world without an instruction manual – even when we fail miserably.
Whenever things with a guy don’t work out, my mom always rushes to my side to remind me that “he just wasn’t the right one.” And while this sentiment makes me cringe upon impact, I can’t help but admit it’s true. As opposed to strictly assuming being ghosted is a part of dating you have to lay down and take every once in a while, think of it as a new lesson being learned. If someone ghosts you, it probably means they weren’t the right person, or it wasn’t the right time.
The truth of the matter is that a ghost’s love isn’t meant to be reciprocated. The person who is right for you won’t be a ghost at all, and there won’t be extenuating circumstances that cause them to “flee.” They’ll be very much in front of you, very present, and it will be everything you could have imagined.
*Name has been changed.