What Is Ghosting Anyway?
Up until a few months ago, I had never even heard this term before. But, as I was having some issues with an acquaintance of mine, someone suggested that I just ghost them. Ghost them? What the heck is that? According to Jennice Vilhauer PhD of Psychology Today: Ghosting is defined as cutting off all communication and dropping out of someone’s life without any explanation of any kind. It goes on to further say that:
Ghosting is the ultimate use of the silent treatment, a tactic that has often been viewed by mental health professionals as a form of emotional cruelty.1 It essentially renders you powerless and leaves you with no opportunity to ask questions or be provided with information that would help you emotionally process the experience. It silences you and prevents you from expressing your emotions and being heard, which is important for maintaining your self-esteem.
Regardless of the ghoster’s intent, ghosting is a passive-aggressive interpersonal tactic that can leave psychological bruises and scars. 2
I could not go through with the ghosting of that acquaintance; it’s just not in my make-up to behave in that way no matter what the circumstances were. I always feel closure is the best way to go, so nobody wonders what happened in the end.
As I was looking for insight on ghosting and going over my old messages, thinking of our time together, not going to his house and meeting his friends in person, I realised I was also breadcrumbed and stashed! Whoa! No relationship is perfect, but this was seriously a big mess. At 55, sometimes there is more compromise as long as there are things we like in the relationship.
I did feel there were a lot of holes in his stories. But, until I started reading about ghosting, I didn’t realise that he was doing more than just that. This was some relationship that we weren’t actually having.
“Breadcrumbing is worse than ghosting because it is more sadistic. Breadcrumbing is a slow and painful death of a relationship, whereas ghosting makes it clear — eventually — that the person is gone.” – Carole Lieberman, M.D.2
I don’t think I need to get into the nitty-gritty here of how much breadcrumbing he did, but this was really an unhealthy guy, and I fell for his lines; hook line and sinker. I’m not saying I was completely innocent in this dysfunctional relationship. However, a relationship was not what this guy had in mind when we started dating. He told me he was more comfortable with having a colour friend at first, but that was not what he wanted to have with me.
He wanted a grown-up relationship. He had been living this strange kind of life for too long, and now he had rethought his life and was ready. Great! But, it still felt like I was a colour friend some of the time. My intentions were pure and always crystal clear. I know I’m not the most relaxed person to deal with, but nobody is bad enough to deserve the abuse of this behaviour. Maybe after time, the breadcrumbing would have hurt more, but the abruptness of the ghosting was really painful for me because I like closure.
From the Independent’s article, HAVEN’T MET YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER’S FAMILY OR FRIENDS? YOU’RE BEING ‘STASHED’:
“Stashing”: It’s a new term for an old phenomenon: When the person you’re seeing doesn’t introduce you to their friends or family.
According to Julia Bekker, owner of NYC matchmaking service Hunting Maven, “stashers” are typically people who have commitment issues and are emotionally unavailable.”4
Yes, more reasons to not love this man. I had never been to his house; the timing was always wrong. Of course, it was terrible on my part. He’d invite me, but still when he knew that I had something going on at times he asked me. My horse was competing, I was travelling somewhere, or I didn’t have a cat sitter. So, the invitations were there, but not really. As much as I had my suspicions and now I have actual names for his behaviour, the breadcrumbing and stashing don’t compare to the ghosting. So, let’s talk about ghosting.
It All Hurts
After not hearing from my boyfriend for two days, I went through the normal stages of wondering what was going on. My first thoughts were something had happened to him, was he in an accident? Was his daughter was sick again? Then, after not getting any answer to my ‘Are you okay’ message…and yet, nothing for a third day, the penny dropped; I knew that he was just gone. He hadn’t read my messages according to the two grey ticks on WhatsApp (delivered but not read) and since I don’t usually phone, him, I just didn’t (we have a slight communication problem on the telephone with my poor Portuguese and his even more inadequate English). I thought of sending his daughter a message but then thought better of it. He was gone.
One of the most insidious aspects of ghosting is that it doesn’t just cause you to question the validity of the relationship you had, it causes you to challenge yourself. Why didn’t I see this coming? How could I have been such a poor judge of character? What did I do to cause this? How do I protect myself from this ever happening again? This self-questioning is the result of basic psychological systems that are in place to monitor one’s social standing and relay that information back to the person via feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.2
I spent the next few days in a frenzy about what happened, still checking my phone incessantly for any kind of text to come through. I even wondered what I had done to make someone treat me this way to me. I went back through our old messages, and despite knowing we had problems, I was prepared to talk through them when I returned from my trip to Boston.
I boarded a plane in Boston bound for Lisbon on Sunday night with messages from him with goodnight kisses, sweet dreams, awoke to good morning, and more sweet words in the night while I slept on board. He was initially meant to pick me up at the airport but the day before I realised he was still in the Algarve with no immediate plans to change that, so thankfully I booked a car to pick me up. Otherwise, I might even be sitting in Lisbon airport a week later.
After the first few days of hearing nothing, I entered the furious stage of how dare anyone do this to me! We were together for five months; most of which was spent at my house with my friends and family. Enter stashing here! Our first ‘date’ lasted four days. It was much the same after that whenever we would get together.
Was The Writing On the Wall All Along?
Admittedly, after a couple of months of this relationship, my gut started telling me something wasn’t right. We never really went anywhere, just my house or the stables or out with my friends; or if we did go somewhere, it was when I had something to do somewhere. An appointment in Lisbon, my horse competing at some competition somewhere, and he’d come along…or more appropriately, he’d invite himself along. Okay, that’s a bit harsh, we were a couple, after all. Or were we? Breadcrumbing, breadcrumbing, breadcrumbing.
Yes, it’s fair to say the writing was on the wall and I tried a few times to end it but was met with him telling me how right we were for each other and how much he loved me. But, I’d receive messages at all hours of the night, but usually none during the day. I would get a good morning at 6 or 7am and then nothing until the wee hours of the morning the following day. His reasoning, ‘you’re the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep.’ The fact that I did ask about this behaviour says I was seeing things that weren’t adding up.
‘We love each other and love is just love. Stop putting pressure on the relationship and let us be us,’ he would say. I just wanted answers to my growing uncomfortable feelings I was having, however, I would always try and work things out; I am a ‘fixer’ after all.
After more than a few times of him arriving at my house at strange hours, and with his incessant desculpa (I’m sorry). I started to have enough. I think it was more that I liked the thought of the relationship more than having a relationship with him. Now, I see in my messages, I was getting bored, trying to find something exciting to talk about…but unlike those guys that are trying to let you go and you don’t see it, this guy was sending videos and messages at an alarming rate, so then the realisation of breadcrumbing came into play.
He probably sensed that I was pulling away and getting ready to make the final break and, for whatever reason, didn’t want that to happen. Yet.
When we were apart the weekend before he disappeared, I think he sent me ten videos over two days and countless messages asking about my time there, my daughter, my family, am I okay. These can be very typical actions of someone who is about to ghost someone from what I’ve read. The confusion over what prompted this is what was so difficult for me and made the hurt worse than if we were able to talk about it.
I’m in the grown-up school that says if you don’t want to see someone anymore, you should tell them in person and tell them why. It doesn’t need to be a hurtful conversation, just that the person no longer is meeting your needs, and maybe it’s time for a change. Of course, a breakup is usually hurtful in its essence, the act of breaking up doesn’t have to be as such. But, he’s a coward, like most ghosters.
I can be friends with people I’ve been involved with. I am still friends with almost all of my exes. I’ve always liked them, but if there’s no love, then after a while, there’s no point. What we are looking for when we start to see someone is love, isn’t it? I don’t think anyone goes into a relationship that’s more than casual thinking, let’s just like each other forever!
What To Do When Someone Ghosts You
1 Remember, it’s not you
I understand that the vital thing to remember is that when he ghosted me, it says nothing about my worthiness for love and everything about him. It shows he didn’t have the courage, moral fibre or balls to deal with his emotions or mine, and he either doesn’t understand the impact of his behaviour or worse, he simply didn’t care. In any case, his message was loud and clear: I don’t have what it takes to have a mature, healthy relationship with me. So, I’ll try to be the better person, retain my dignity, and let him or her go peacefully. See number three when I admit not following numbers one and three.
2 Give them the benefit of the doubt
Maybe it was a misunderstanding. If you haven’t heard from them in a few days. It’s okay to say, perhaps they were busy, or something has happened. So, send them one last text and just ask if everything is okay. If you hear nothing, then they have likely left the room.
3 Take Back Control
After that one last text or phone call. Don’t text him or her again. When it’s clear that they’ve left the room, they’ve left the room. Save what’s left of your self-dignity and walk away. Clearly, a person that is capable of that behaviour is definitely not worthy of one more minute of your time. They are emotionally stunted, and someone who has ghosted you has already shown an inability to handle conflict in a healthy way.
I admit here that I didn’t follow my own advice and sent him three messages during the week after I realised he had ghosted me. The first was the are you okay? message, the second got a little more intense and said I was now finally finished with him using me as a hotel without paying the bill (I realised later that I paid for everything except the lunch on our first date).
The third and final message was delivered with slightly more zest. I celebrated the fact that we were finished, how our relationship was utterly f***ed up from the start and I was thankful that he provided me with the incentive to write this blog piece and to take good care, desculpa, desculpa.) It probably sounded a bit loony, but I needed to say something. I doubt he ever read any of them anyway, so I think I’m safe from further humiliation.
4 Delete, Delete, Delete
Delete everything you have from the relationship. Delete the photos, the messages, the emails, the videos. EVERYTHING! There’s no point in looking at these things as with a ghoster, you know that they’re never coming back into your life and reliving those sketchy memories will just make it harder to move forward.
5 It’s Not Your Fault, So Don’t Blame Yourself
It’s never easy when a relationship ends, but it’s more difficult when you don’t have any answers as to why it’s stopped, and it’s easy to blame yourself. With the ghoster, it’s not your fault. This is a personality flaw of that person, and the blame falls squarely on their flawed shoulders. Blame him or her for leaving in such a cowardice way.
6 Get Back Out There
Try to move on as quickly and entirely as you can. Maintain your dignity and stay focused on your own health, happiness and future, leaving the ghoster to deal with the ultimate repercussions of their own immaturity and lack of courage in the context of a relationship.
7 Be Grateful They’re Gone
Time to celebrate your freedom from a guy/girl like that. If they can leave you high and dry without a second thought, you’re definitely better off without them. I know I can’t get those five months of my life back, but I sure can return to living my life to the fullest again without worrying about what he thinks about anything, and he saved me the trouble of breaking up with him. He still robbed me of those months, but the sex was okay, so that’s something.
It is a shame that things ended this way. I know that if someone that treats people with disrespect and has a lack of integrity, then we weren’t really on the same wavelength, and someone better is coming my way.
Now it’s time for friends, family and my four-legged babies. When someone comes along that seems like they’re worth it, the vetting process will be a little stricter. For sure, I’ll plan a trip to their house and ask to meet their friends.
This blog post lists the personality traits of someone that will most likely ghost you. My man matched almost all of them! Why or why didn’t I read these things before I let things get so severe?!
Cynthia L. Pickett, C., Gardner, W., and Knowles, M. 2004. Getting a Cue: The Need to Belong and Enhanced Sensitivity to Social Cues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30 (9), p. 1095-1107
Vilhauer, Jennice, Psychology Today: This Is Why Ghosting Hurts So Much: Ghosting says Nothing About Your Worthiness For Love
Power of Positivity: 10 Signs Your Partner Is Breadcrumbing You
Bonos, Lisa, The Independent: Haven’t Met Your Significant Other’s Family or Friends? You’re Being Stashed