It's A Pleasure
Help! I Was Ghosted & Don't Understand Why
He gave me no explanation. I'm hurt and confused. How do I move on?
Q: My guy ghosted me after talking for a month. We met online and hit it off immediately. We talked every day from the time I opened my eyes until the time I closed them at night. After about a week of talking online, we decided to exchange numbers. I texted him and we went back to talking all day, every day. A week later we decided to meet in person. He came over and we just sat in the car and hung out. I wasn't comfortable with him meeting my kids so soon and he agreed and was understanding. After we met, nothing changed; we still talked every day, all day. And then, a couple days later, we were texting as usual, he asked how I was doing, and I responded fine, and that was the last I heard from him.
He didn't respond, so I figured maybe he was asleep or busy, but as days went by, I’d text and get no reply. A couple days after that, I decided to call. The phone rang three times and I hung up after realizing he wasn't gonna answer. I checked his social media and he was active and also changed his profile picture so at least I knew he was OK, but my feelings were hurt. I'm not sure why he ghosted me with no explanation. I sent him a long paragraph and told him how I felt and wished him the best and still didn't get a response. I'm just confused and still hurt as to what happened and why.
A: Whenever someone in my life tells me that they’ve been ghosted, I have a very ridiculous but firm response: “Well, we have to assume they died.” And then when my friend balks at that, I almost always follow up with something like, “No, really, jet skis are very dangerous and I'm so sad they had to go like that.” It’s a flippant response to rude behavior, but it’s more than that, too. When someone ghosts you, there are a thousand million possible explanations. They were married the whole time, they didn’t like your eyebrows, they’re not ready to date, their gout came back... You’ll never really know the truth, so you might as well assume they died in a freak jet-skiing accident. That’s why they can’t text you back. They’re dead!
Of course, in your situation, you’re able to see on social media that jet skis were not to blame for this one and that the person you were talking to is alive and well. (Or as well as can be expected for someone who doesn’t have the good sense to date you.) Even if you only knew this person for a short while, it can feel supremely odd for them to suddenly disappear from your life.
Society accidentally got hung up on grief as a feeling that only accompanies death, but it happens all the time. Grief is about loss, and you lost something. You lost companionship, flirtation, the feeling of being appreciated by someone, a happy part of your day, plans, fantasies, and excitement over a future with this person. There’s plenty more, I’m sure, and you could probably make a much more specific and comprehensive list than I can. In fact, I encourage you to make an actual list of all the things you feel like this ghosting took from you. If you do, I hope it validates how sad you’ve felt about this relationship having ended. However, I also hope you’ll see that you haven’t lost a deep, abiding love here. What you’re grieving is the potential for the future you felt, which is sad. But you didn’t lose a life with this guy.
It would be very painful to hear, “You were really annoying,” or, “I’m not attracted to you.”
There is a bone-deep frustration and hurt to being left with no explanation. It’s rude, it’s cowardly; I’m not trying to encourage anyone to ghost someone. However, I must say that ghosting isn’t all that different from any other end to an early relationship. (Here’s where I might lose some people — please hear me out!) The truth of the matter is that it’s very uncommon to get a real answer to why someone wants to be done with a relationship. And if you did, it might hurt even worse than if you’d received no explanation. For example, it would be very painful to hear, “You were really annoying,” or, “I’m not attracted to you.” I mean, really, what do you do with that information? Besides, it’s not your business! They’re no longer dating you. Their feelings about you are now irrelevant.
Now, you might be thinking, “Well, I want to know what went wrong! I want to know my flaws!” OK, that’s fair. I get the impulse, but this person is an unreliable reporter. If you want to work on “flaws” of yours, work on things you want to change about yourself. Not what someone who treated you poorly and who no longer wants your company thinks are your flaws. You cannot succeed in relationships by changing yourself or your behavior to attract people who do not want you. That is a fool's errand and it’s cruel to yourself. No one ever gets ghosted or broken up with and thinks, “I wish I could find out all the things they did like about me, why they were attracted to me in the first place.” The desire to know “why” is so often about learning what to dislike about ourselves in the hope that we can change that and prevent pain in the future. However, that’s not how things work! No one else is going to have the exact same impression of you that this guy did.
I must say that I watch a lot of The Bachelor/ette and contestants on there — no matter how much or little explanation they do get when they’re being broken up with — very, very frequently come back at the end of the show and confront the lead again to ask what they did wrong. The truth is: probably nothing! Some things simply don’t work out. Sometimes, the feelings aren’t there.
The specifics are, frankly, kind of unimportant, if they even exist. Sometimes, people just don’t match romantically. If there really was something he wanted you to change or work on — say you interrupt too much or he felt you weren’t opening up as much as he was — he could have spoken to you about it. Instead, he was a little baby. Ghosting is a cruel way to get out of doing the bare minimum.
Try your best to let go of what this says about you. It says nothing.
I want to lightly suggest that you examine how much time you give to people you’ve begun dating. (To be clear, I’m not saying you’re to blame in this situation.) Is it possible to meet up in person earlier? Can you hold back from texting all day? It’s OK to let yourself feel the thrill of being into someone, but it’s also important to ensure they don’t occupy too much space in your life until you’ve met up with them at least a few times. There’s no possible way to avoid ever getting hurt or left, and meeting up in person is much harder with kids. But I do think there’s something about an in-person meeting that can reveal a lot about who someone is and what they’re looking for.
Look, maybe his aunt died and his mental health is suffering. Maybe his childhood crush moved back into town and he wants to see if things could work with her. Again, maybe he simply didn’t feel enough romantic interest in you and nothing specific went wrong. You won’t ever know, and that’s OK. This one random stranger’s opinion of you is no longer important. He was a coward and a d*ck about it, which is a real shame. Grieve what you’re missing, and try your best to let go of what this says about you. It says nothing. You’re also welcome to pretend that his loved ones are updating his social media profile photos post-tragic jet ski accident.
It’s A Pleasure appears here every other Thursday. If you have a sex, dating, or relationship question, email Sophia at BustleSexAdvice@gmail.com or fill out this form.