It’s all too easy to remember with stinging pain the people who have ‘wronged’ you, especially in dating. Like a sick jab in the stomach, or a burning sensation running up your spine, you feel it in your body. You imagine the day you’ll ‘accidentally’ run into them, repeating the witty remarks you’ve rehearsed over and over again in the shower.
And yet, have you ever thought about the people that you have wronged? We remember the ‘ones that got away’, or the ones that simply disappeared without a trace. But chances are you’ve been on the other side of that – you were the one that got away, or you were the one that ghosted.
For all the times I say that I’ve rarely been pursued or dated or ever been in a relationship, I have to remind myself that’s a lie. The truth is there has been many suitors and people wanting to date me. But I was always looking over their shoulder at the person who was more mysterious, enigmatic, and less obviously interested in me.
I’ve seemed to inherit an unhealthy attachment style where I’m serially attracted to avoidant personalities. Anyone who’s reliable or consistent is an instant turn-off. No, I wanted the men who would text me at 11pm or were too lazy to plan a real date besides Netflix and Chill™. Or the men who lived so far away from me that it would make no geographical sense to date. But I wanted those ones! Don’t hand me any man who is too readily available or god-forbid, a nice guy.
These poor nice guys, showing genuine and healthy interest whilst I inadvertently flirted back, and leaving them confused by my hot and cold behaviour. One minute I seemed intrigued and keen, but if I sensed they were more interested than I was, I would back off. And then I would ghost them.
There was a period where I was incredibly flaky, around 2016-2017. The first two years out of high school are probably rough for everyone; you’re of legal age, technically an “adult”, but brain-development wise you’re still a reckless growing adolescent. Throw into the mix binge drinking and drugs and you got a brilliant concoction of bad decisions and insensitive actions.
Ghosting comes in different tiers of severity, according Wendy Walsh who spoke to the NY Times. You have your lightweight ghosting, say not responding to a text temporarily with someone because you got into a argument. Then you have mid-weight ghosting, where you’ve met someone a couple of times and then engage in deep avoidance, which can feel deeply upsetting. Then you have the big guns – your heavy weight ghoster, where someone you had sexual relations with leaves without a trace, ultimately blind-sighting you.
So if we’re going off this scale, I was a mid-weight ghoster. Despite not being as brutal as the heavy tier, it would still hurt like a b*tch to have someone vanish from your life without explanation. Looking back, I can point to several reasons that I would engage in this behaviour.
For starters, I’m a Gemini. Not that I can blame everything on my star sign, but hey, sometimes it helps to paint the picture.
Fitting to the Gemini description, I am talkative and naturally curious about other people. This often get’s mistaken as me being a flirt, or being romantically interested in the other person. But genuinely, I am just intrigued by people and the journalist in me wants to dig into other people’s stories. To be honest, I hate talking about myself and would rather have you do all the talking (this blog is an exception). I love asking questions; I don’t like doing the answering.
The other side of the story is deep down, I loved the attention. Don’t we all? I mean, who doesn’t love when someone is shows interest in you? It’s flattering and you don’t want to go in and ruin it… not just yet. So perhaps you keep it going longer than you should.
But that’s a pathetic excuse. The real reason that I flaked and disappeared and left your messages on read is because I was scared. I am scared of people who show healthy interest. I am scared of honesty and vulnerability. I’m afraid of admitting the truth to someone. I’m afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings by telling them no, so I would ironically hurt them much more by not telling them anything.
It can feel safer for me to go after those who I know won’t reciprocate, because it reinforces some outdated subconscious story about myself that “I can’t be loved”. I think we constantly seek experiences that feed into these negative self-beliefs, creating self-fulfilling prophecies that support it as evidence. Making new choices and actions are difficult, and yet we have to continually practice them in order to rewire our old stories.
On occasion, I think back to all the guys I’ve ghosted before and how incredibly sorry I am for toying with their heartstrings. At the same time, I have to remember I was doing the very best that I could with what I knew at the time, which as a 19/20 year old, wasn’t very much.
Honesty and confrontation are personally some of the hardest things for me to practice. But I have made an effort these last few years to do so, even when it was uncomfortable and anxiety inducing. People deserve to have closure to a relationship, an explanation or just the truth that you no longer want to have them in your life. It sounds brutal and often hurts more in the moment than avoiding the conversation altogether. But ghosting leaves open wounds to fester. Being honest is like sanitising a wound: it’s painful for a few seconds, but it heals far quicker.
Ghosting always says more about the ghoster than the recipient. So it’s important to not take it personally if you’ve been ghosted. And if you’re the one who’s on the other side of it, it’s time to get real comfortable with honesty and truth telling, because sooner or later, you’ll be forced to do it; you may as well start practicing now.
Image: Jr Korpa