This January, I reconnected with an ex. In fact, it’s the ex with whom I probably have the most history.
Our breakup had been rocky and bitter, and it took us years to make amends. But when he reached out to me in the winter with a desire to be friends, I felt good about it. It felt like a sign that maybe forgiveness was afoot and we were coming back into each other’s lives at a good time.
Fast-forward to spring. We were officially friends again, somewhat romantically connected — we’d hung out a few times, been on some casual dates with each other, had been intimate again since reigniting our friendship. At that point, it’d been a while since I’d seen him. I commute between two cities and I had been away from the one where he lives.
When I was finally back in the city, I shot him a text. Hey, I said. I’m back for a little while and I’d like to see you. Are you free anytime soon?
He said he was, and we made a loose plan to see each other one night after he got home from work. I was excited. I had missed having him in my life, and I thought maybe this reconnection would be our second chance.
The night we were supposed to hang out, he texted when he got off work. Just hopping in the shower, he said. I’ll pick you up after.
It was a little late, but I didn’t mind. I knew the drill — after work is always chaotic. I had no problem waiting.
But I waited, and waited. No text from him.
I waited most of the night, actually. Still nothing.
I went to bed. I woke up with no communication from him whatsoever. That afternoon, I tried to reach out. Hey, I texted. Are you OK?
I heard nothing. He didn’t even open my message.
He’d ghosted… at the worst possible time.
My trip back to the city was brief, and I had to leave a few days later. I wouldn’t be coming back until June. And I’m ashamed to say that when I finally did come back in June, I gave him a second chance.
I ended up hanging out with him again. He said that he felt bad for last time and the only reason he didn’t follow up was because he was worried I was upset. I told him I wasn’t; that I just wanted to know the truth, and that I understood if he was busy. He agreed that next time, if that happened, he’d communicate about it.
I should’ve remembered what a notoriously horrible communicator he was. Because not two weeks after we hung out in June, we planned something else. This time, it was a lunch date — his idea. He told me he’d send me his work schedule as soon as it came out. He was just waiting on it over the weekend.
He said he’d touch base with me as soon as he could. I believed him.
But of course, crickets. I should’ve known.
I called him again — an actual call this time, not a text. Hey, hope you’re doing well. Just wanted to know if you were still up for lunch. I’m getting a little busier so I’d prefer to plan it soon. Talk to you soon!
No answer. Usually when I called, he’d follow up with a message — Hey, sorry I missed your call, what’s up? And then call me back. But this time, silence. It felt like he just didn’t care at all.
I tried calling again, a few days later. This time I didn’t leave a voicemail. And then I sent a text, a few days after that.
I wasn’t going to let him ghost me.
To some, this sounds overbearing. I know that most of you are probably reading this and thinking, Give it up already. Ghosting is ghosting. You get the hint, right?
The truth was, I did get the hint. Even if he wasn’t necessarily ignoring me on purpose (he’s a busy dude), he didn’t care enough to follow up, so that meant something, too. But I was still frustrated. And I wasn’t going to let him ghost me.
I wasn’t doing it to be spiteful or stalker-like. I wasn’t about to bombard him with texts and phone calls after he stopped responding. But I also wasn’t going to quit communication cold-turkey after one unreturned phone call or a text that he read but never responded to. The reason is complicated.
Firstly, we had history.
I couldn’t believe he would do this; we weren’t strangers. We had dated for two years, had a dumpster fire of a breakup, and then finally came together on good terms. It felt like we were turning a corner. And he acted so invested when we spent time together.
But interest and communication are two different things, and regardless of whether his interest had once been genuine, his lack of contact was saying something else. A person who is truly invested in a friend or romantic partner would continue contacting them without just leaving them out in the cold. He’d chosen to leave me out in the cold, again.
But I wasn’t going to let it be that easy for him.
Ghosting is such a dismissive, senseless action. It allows the ghoster to escape without taking any accountability, leaving the “ghostee” feeling disheartened and ignored and unimportant. It allows the ghoster to just mind their own business and hurt people’s feelings with no obligation to watch the aftermath unfold or hear the other person out. It’s so incredibly easy, and it shouldn’t be.
People aren’t disposable. They have feelings. I had feelings. I wasn’t going to let him get off that easy, because of course I got the hint, and of course he’s not the only person in the world who has ghosted someone. But it shouldn’t be that easy. No one should be able to get away with doing something like that, something with zero consequences, zero communication, zero consideration for the other person.
Ghosting is a shameful trend in the modern dating world, and it’s time to put a stop to it
Ghosting runs rampant in the modern dating world, especially the online dating scene. You can match with someone on Tinder or Grindr or Hinge or Bumble. They’ll send you their Snapchat username, or you’ll send yours. Or your phone number. (Whatever people prefer.) You’ll talk for a few days maybe, possibly even go on a date or two together. Everything feels like it’s going swimmingly. And then, out of nowhere, they ghost.
You don’t know them, so you won’t run into them, so no awkwardness. To them you were just an online friend, words behind a screen, so they don’t care to see or hear your feelings. No one is going to come after them for their terrible communication skills or lack of consideration, so they don’t have to take accountability. In fact, they might just start the cycle all over again with someone else.
We can’t let this continue. It’s shameful, and exhausting. It’s hurtful for the people who are on the other side of it. And sometimes it’s just plain annoying.
It was my own form of protest.
I guess, in a way, continuing to contact this guy after he ghosted me was like my own form of protest. He was being passive aggressive, but I needed him to be direct. I was fed up, for sure. But if I just took the hint and moved on, that would be like letting him win, letting him believe this was working. It might encourage him to do it again because he didn’t have to handle any of the hard parts.
I’ll be honest. I doubt my form of protest really made a difference to him. I don’t think that I was the last person he ghosted, and I don’t think that he had any particular epiphany after the fact. But instead, it made a difference to me, and that’s what matters. I believe people deserve respect — even myself. And I wasn’t going to the ends of the earth to get it, but I wanted to at least push back when someone thought they could completely disregard it.
At the end of the day, I’m not suggesting that everyone clings to their ghosters. That would be pointless and for some people, uncomfortable. In fact, if you’ve been ghosted before and you just felt down in the dumps or indifferent or annoyed and your way of responding was just to let it go and move on, power to you.
But to those of you who have trouble doing that, I want to say that you should not feel bad for asking for what you deserve. I don’t mean calling them twenty times in a day and spamming their phone with HELLO?!!!s. But it’s OK to call them a day or two after they stopped responding. It’s OK to send another text (or a few) and ask how they’re doing or suggest updates on that date they once wanted to plan.
You may feel annoying or like a nuisance. I did. And maybe in his mind, I was. But you’re asking for what you deserve. You’re demanding to be respected like the wonderful human being that you are. You aren’t letting them get away with such a cowardly, easy-way-out move. You’re practicing your values. You are standing up against the impersonal, dismissive practices of modern dating.
And maybe it’ll make no difference to them. It’s not like you’ll teach them a huge life lesson or anything. But at the very least, you’ll be true to yourself. You’ll be reminding yourself (and them) that you’re not disposable.You’ll be proving to yourself that you deserve better.
And that’s what matters most.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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