Ask Agatha: The Rationale Behind “Ghosting” On A Relationship, Explained
Raven from Brooklyn, NY asks:
We met a year ago at a house party in Bmore. I sat next to him on the couch because he had prime real estate by the lone fan (and because he was sexy as hell). He introduced himself. And we soon discovered we were both from Brooklyn. We spent the night discussing music and books and even politics. At the time neither one of us believed Trump had a chance. Back in New York we managed to meet up a few times over the summer and then more so over the fall and then what with holiday familial obligations and traveling we didn’t see each other again until late January. Then he asked me out for Valentine’s Day and showed up with roses.
And without having a discussion about it, just like that he became a constant feature in my life. Our laissez-faire texts went from every now and again to a continuous ongoing ever-varied conversation about everything and nothing. I went from wondering if he’d call to assuming we’d spend our weekend together. I met his mom. Accidentally. And his sister on purpose.
Throughout his lazy chase of me, I had never pressed him, never hoped. And then one day I woke up and knew I loved him. And I told him. And without hesitation he said, “love you too.” And everything was perfect.
So last month I threw him a surprise birthday party and I invited all his friends. His sister helped me with the planning and we (his sister and I) became closer because of it. He was truly surprised and we all had a great time. He even gave a toast thanking me for being a great girlfriend. That was that first time he’d said that in public. What’s the word for better than perfect?
That night, when my surprise party for him was winding down, he left with his boys for the “turn up.” I joked with them to watch him. He kissed me, a little drunkenly, a little sloppily, goodbye, with a promise to be good. I called him at noon the next day to see if he was okay and he didn’t pick up. So then I texted him, “Are you okay?” And a couple hours later he replied, “jus woke up, talk to you later.”
He hasn’t texted me since.
It took me a while to realize, after calling and texting, that he’d ghosted on me.
I just don’t know why. So I thought I’d write out the chain of events in as unbiased way as possible so you can tell me where I went wrong. What signs did I miss? Why didn’t he at least say something? Everything was good. We were good. What happened?
Why would anyone think ghosting was acceptable??
As a serial equal opportunity ghoster I’ve never wanted to not answer a question more than this one.
You’re forcing me to answer “Why do shitty people do shitty things?” but only by acknowledging that I too am a shitty person.
And I’ll answer you. But just know that the answer isn’t pretty. Just know that the answer might bruise. I mean it’s deep and not deep.
Ghosters don’t care enough about you to talk it out.
Ghosters don’t care enough about you to talk.
Ghosters don’t care enough about you.
Ghosters don’t care about you.
Ghosters don’t care.
There I said it.
We know he’s just not that into you. Clearly. (I mean you did know that right?) But baby. That’s precisely why he ghosted as opposed to having an “I want to break up” convo. Those hard and awkward conversations are for the people you want to try to change your mind.
You ghost when your mind is already made up.
And you don’t care what the other person has to say. This isn’t rule by committee. This is pure self-interest.
Some old ass studies about the way people end relationships say that:
There are many psychological reasons why someone ghosts, but at its core, ghosting is avoidance and often stems from fear of conflict. Which means, at its heart, that ghosting is about wanting to avoid confrontation, avoid difficult conversations, avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
I know I got my PhD from the same school Dr. Phil got his but I can say with all certainty, that that’s a crock of shit. I mean you and homeboy had a robust discussion about politics, a definite first topic no-no, the first night you met. You said your conversations were often about everything and nothing.
Ghosters don’t suffer from selective mutism—as comforting as that notion can be.
Ghosters aren’t afraid to have hard conversations.
They’re not even afraid to hurt the feelings of someone they care about during the course of a discussion.
They just have to care enough to do it.
To have the discussion.
They don’t care enough.
That same study also said:
Surprisingly, avoidance also costs the ghost much more in the long run…the more you back down from your anxiety, the more likely you are to avoid anxiety-producing situations in the future. In fact, a frequent ghost is probably avoiding conflicts throughout their relationship. And many of the issues they avoid are likely problems that might have been sorted out through open communication.
This idea of a hand wringing, anxiety-ridden avoider is soothing. The idea of the act of avoidance leaving a possible emotional and spiritual tax on the ghoster is satisfying.
It’s also not true.
Ghosters for the most part feel nothing but relief.
And a faint sense of irritation when you interrupt their Twitter scrolling with a phone call that they have to wait out because lords knows everyone knows when they’ve been sent to voicemail. So now you have to gingerly set your phone down for fear of accidentally swiping the green button.
In fact, the last person I ghosted on never crosses my mind—except and until I get another text. And after months of random texts I only felt an intense sense of relief when he “announced” he was going to stop texting me. (I also rolled my eyes.)
I told you I was a shitty person.
All those pleas and I felt nothing but annoyed.
His closing text would be a threat from someone I loved but from him it’s just nothing at all.
Because I don’t care. At all.
I never did.
Your ex didn’t care at all.
He didn’t love you.
And that might be the harshest thing I’ve ever said to someone else and I’m sorry for it. But I want you to understand that that’s what it is and what it always was.
Your love was unrequited.
But your next love won’t be.
Because I’m arming you to see the signs.
I want you to be able to tell when the person isn’t as into you as you’re into them. And the signs are always the same.
And I’m not telling you this because I want you to be continuously jumping ship or having up your guard. Because that’s no way to live or love.
I’m telling you this so that you give your heart wisely if not freely.
So stop filling in the gaps for the men you’re dating. You went from assuming nothing to assuming everything. You assumed commitment. You assumed his “love you too” was “I’m in love with you too.” You assumed getting close to his friends and family meant something. Next time, make yourself ask the hard questions.
And next time don’t be so fucking available. I’m cursing to shake you up. And I’m not saying to play games. I’m saying to actually get a life. There’s no way he should’ve been able to disappear for months and still be able to wrangle a Valentine’s Day date out of you.
You say you didn’t allow yourself to hope initially but that’s not true because why else were you waiting? Because that’s what you were doing…all through the summer and the fall and the winter…you were waiting. What’s more hopeful than that?
A shitty person is going to take advantage of that.
Shitty people take advantage.
He’s a shitty person.
You’re still romanticizing him and what you had.
But what did you have really?
A nice meet-cute and a dozen dates before you told him you loved him and accidentally met his mom and threw him a surprise birthday party.
A man you admit was lazily courting you.
Stop texting him.
Stop calling him.
Stop telling yourself a story about what you had.
And most importantly stop letting this eat at you.
He’s done, so now you have to be done too.