Ghosting: Why we do it and how to make it stop
Have you ever ghosted anyone? I have. I was 20 years old and in an intense relationship with a classmate. We started dating at the end of our hotel management course. Rounds of placement interviews later, we got placed in different organisations but in the same city.
It was easy to disappear in the pre-social-media days. At home, my folks politely told him I wasn’t in when he called, and at work, I requested the same of my colleagues. It took a month of dwindling calls before he stopped reaching out.
It seemed, at the time, the best possible way to let him know that I was no longer interested in keeping the relationship going. I continued to believe that what I’d done was all right, until I was ghosted a year later.
IT HAPPENED TO ME
Rahul came to our campus as a participant in a chef competition, fell in love with me, and proceeded to send me anonymous love cards for three years. At which point we ended up working in the same hotel. (That was when he confirmed that he had indeed sent all the cards.)
He was very cute. I was extremely flattered. We went on two dates. I thought we were really connecting, and then it started. The man was a master at ghosting. We worked in the same hotel but I was never able to catch him at work. He didn’t return my calls. Messages went unanswered.
I experienced the entire gamut of emotions, from frustration to anger to self-pity and, of course, heartbreak. Why was he behaving like this? The hard fact was, he had made a decision. He was not interested in me anymore.
WHY DO WE GHOST?
Why do we ghost people? To avoid confrontation. What stops us from being honest about our decision? Fear of unpleasantness, in most cases. But with the benefit of time, I — as ghoster and ghostee — feel that surely to actually end things would be better, no matter how hard the break-up chat. At least the other person wouldn’t end up thinking of you as a jerk, a mean, selfish, likely cowardly, jerk. And really, is it so difficult to say, “Hey, I don’t feel this is going anywhere and I don’t want to lead you on”? Wouldn’t a kinder, more graceful approach be to give closure to the individual you once went out with?
HOW TO MAKE IT STOP
It’s fine, of course, to not reciprocate romantic feelings. But I’ve taken an oath to never ghost anyone again. It isn’t easy to tell someone who likes you romantically, that you don’t feel the same way. Yet I have always done it face to face, ever since I was ghosted.
This has done two things for me. One, I leave the discussion with closure myself. I know the chapter is closed and I don’t have to worry about trying to avoid the person, or avoid places where I might bump into them. Two, the honest approach has won me some friends for life. And spiritually, it has kept my karma clean.
The joy of leading an honest, uncomplicated life when it comes to relationships is unparalleled. The best part is that it’s totally in your control.
(Simran Mangharam is a dating coach and founder of floh.in, a real-world community for singles seeking a meaningful relationship)