how i never, ever ghost!
welcome to strong feelings! Essays by writers we love, in which they share their most impassioned opinions on a given subject. If you love our usual advice column — don’t worry it’s not going anywhere. This month for strong feelings, culture writer Sara Radin (she/her) dives into her habit of serial *non*-ghosting.
As a person who’s dated for nearly a century now, I’ve been ghosted plenty of times. If you’ve never been ghosted before — lucky! — let me quickly paint a picture for you: Imagine you’re dating someone and, all of a sudden, they completely disappear from your life. They stop responding altogether. And even when you try to ask for an explanation, they do not reply.
While getting ghosted is utterly infuriating, some of my experiences have been more memorable than others. In fact, my first boyfriend as a twenty-something — who was incidentally my then-boss’s best friend — ghosted me shortly after telling me he wanted me to be his girlfriend on his birthday. Though I tried to get an explanation from him, he didn’t respond. Instead, he quickly met a woman who looked just like me. They ended up getting married.
Fast forward to today: I’m in my thirties and I’ve had loads (and loads) of therapy and dating experiences, yet somehow I’m still running into this ghosting shit. Earlier this summer, I was ghosted by someone who seemed promising. It was only a few weeks into our fling when he invited me to his family’s beach mansion. Both of us brought friends along, and reassured ourselves there was no pressure to be couple-y. The weekend went off without any major hitches. However, he stopped replying to my texts the day after we got back, and we haven’t spoken since.
I wasn’t too heartbroken over that situation. If anything I’ve just become numb to it. But after a lifetime of being on the other side of this shitty behavior, I've made it a point to never ghost anyone, myself.
Since dating apps and social media became the norm in the 2010s, ghosting has become exceedingly more common — as has the discourse surrounding it. In fact, on TikTok there are nearly 2 billion uses of the hashtag #ghosting. What once was considered a passing dating trend has now become a part of mainstream culture. I mean, even workplace ghosting is now a thing. And while making memes about ghosting or turning one’s stories of getting ghosted into other forms of content can help alleviate some of the pain, experts say being ghosted can have real, serious long term health effects, resulting in issues like low self-esteem and trouble trusting others.
Not knowing why someone has disappeared, even if you haven’t been dating very long, can feel jarring, maddening, confusing, and, well, extremely uncomfortable. My brain’s MO is to blame myself, but in recent years I’ve been able to recognize that it’s not at all my fault. Ghosting is almost always about the other person, and if you’ve been ghosted, remember this: It does not mean you’re unworthy or unlovable. And you will find someone who is willing to communicate their feelings with you properly.
No matter how many times I’ve been ghosted, I’ve made it a point to never ghost someone else. Of course, there are extenuating circumstances where ghosting may be appropriate — like if you’re in danger, for example — but I personally believe that what you put out, you get in return. With this I mean that if you’re out there ghosting people, chances are you’re going to get ghosted too. The world is small and you really never know when you’ll run into someone again. It’s better to close the loop than to leave things left unsaid.
Letting someone down is uncomfortable and I get why people avoid it; maybe you’re worried about what to say or that the other person may react badly. As a self-identified non-ghoster for life, though, I’ve made templates, as well as a list of things I always keep in mind for myself, so I’m not reinventing the wheel every time I send a text.
if it’s relevant, share what’s going on personally. Letting someone into your thought process or internal experience can help them see that maybe it’s not all about them. I find that people are more receptive, and less reactive, when I explain where I’m at, personally.
be honest, and kind while doing it. Being honest and kind is critical when breaking it off gently with someone you’re casually dating. You don’t have to write a novel like me, but if it’s been a few dates, I think it’s nice to let the other person know where your head is at. Even if there isn’t a clear “why”.
be yourself. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a cold, impersonal rejection text. I’ve made a point to add bits of my personality to my correspondence by including some glimmers of humor and some emojis. I believe this makes the message feel more genuine and warm.
remember it's not personal. At all stages of the dating process, knowing that it’s not personal is key. Recognizing that you and the person you’re dating are in different places, and you want different things, is important. Identifying, accepting, and effectively communicating that shows maturity.
even if they don't respond, you should still be proud. When you reject someone, the other person may not respond nicely — or at all — and that can really suck. But I think you should still be proud of yourself for staying true to who you are, and remember that all of your efforts will add up and lead you to the right connection one day. Hopefully very soon.