Ghosting has become a phenomenon that ceases to be one: it is now so common as to be expected in dating, friendships, and other social realms.
And for any number of people, that sucks. Having someone disappear from your life, cutting off contact, whether you know why or not, can hurt like hell.
This is especially true for autistic people like me who have trouble reading people if they do not speak up and verbalize what they are feeling. It can leave someone with a serious case of abandonment issues.
So, simply put, fuck ghosting—with a crucial caveat. Others’ ghosting often gives me a perspective on who is worth my time and energy.
When I was a kid, growing up with no friends, I didn’t understand social boundaries and social cues, and I felt abandoned by everyone who acted like a friend—because they weren’t.
Now, as an adult in the age of smartphones, I notice a conspicuous absence of people in my life who turned out not to be friends, even if they were close to me for years.
I think of a dear family friend who left our lives without saying why she was angry.
I think of a friend who ghosted me as a roommate, never understanding that I put my housing on the line for him.
I think of an ex who disappeared without telling me that he was frustrated with me.
I think of someone who I thought was one of my best friends who abandoned me when I was struggling with severe mental and physical illness—and another who did the same when my beloved grandmother was dying.
I wish they all had spoken up, but they weren’t capable of honesty at that point. That was their right.
I may be far from that behavior today, but I did ghost a guy in 2014—he was toxic, and I had no tolerance for conflict because I was severely sick—so I just stopped responding to his messages.
The best amends, I’ve learned, are changed behavior, so the best things I can do are to set boundaries, to not let conflict build, and to address issues honestly when they arise.
These habits, which take practice, have helped me immensely in my social life. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t been ghosted in years—far from it—but I have a different perspective on ghosting today: that’s their issue, not mine.
I try to use “I” statements when addressing ways others have hurt me: “I feel hurt,” for example, without using “you.” As with anything, the process is imperfect—I still struggle with anger and blame.
What I can’t do is neglect and ghost myself, including by denying my needs, desires, and truths. I may need companionship, but the truth is, I don’t need anyone else to make me happy. I only need me.
It took many years to get to this place where I’m comfortable alone. And in this solitude, I realized that I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from others’ ghosting.
I am convinced today that other people removing themselves from my life was a gift. Memories can still hurt, but maybe, as I think of it now, something bigger than me—whatever that is—got them out of my way. I don’t believe everything happens for a (godly) reason, but I try to reflect on what I’ve learned from every hurtful situation as an opportunity, and God knows that ghosting teaches me how not to treat people. I’m grateful that today I have the clarity and empathy to not treat people as I’ve been treated.
So, all the people who have ghosted me: Thank you. I’m doing really well without you.