I didn’t even know what the term meant. I thought ghosting was when you slink out of a party without saying goodbye. I didn’t realize you could apply the term to a relationship as a whole.
Wikipedia defines ghosting as “breaking off a relationship (often an intimate relationship) by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as ignoring the former partner's attempts to reach out or communicate.”
If you’ve ever been ghosted or are being ghosted right now, you understand the ensuing feelings of confusion, hurt, shock, or likely all three. According to an article in Psychology Today, “ghosting is a passive-aggressive interpersonal tactic that can leave psychological bruises and scars.”
The open-ended nature of being ghosted makes processing said ghosting nearly impossible. What did I do? Why the silence? Am I a shitty person? Why won’t this person talk to me? The questions and self-doubt seem endless. Which is why I want to share with you my ghosting experience (as a Ghostee and a Ghoster), and hopefully make your journey a little less painful and a lot more positive.
Here are some vital questions to ask yourself:
1) AM I BETTER OFF?
The insidious nature of being ghosted means you never really know the reason for the ghosting, but my most recent (and painful) ghosting experience was -- I believe, like a lot of ghostings experienced lately — politically motivated. The Ghoster had become increasingly conservative over the years while I stayed the same old progressive I had always been.
But she was a best friend I had been very close with since we were teenagers. We went through a LOT together. And though we began to differ politically over the years, I place a high value on my friends and our histories, and couldn’t imagine just cutting one loose over politics. To quote the smarmy Steff from Pretty In Pink, “I wouldn’t trash a perfectly good friendship over it.” I thought our friendship could survive anything, even the rise of Trump. Turns out I was wrong.
When it became apparent I was being ghosted, my immediate reaction was complete bafflement. Really? After all these years of friendship… really? Really? I couldn’t get over it. What on earth could possibly come between us? We hadn’t had a fight or even so much as a disagreement. Nobody had fucked anybody’s husband. Nobody had caused bodily or psychological harm to anybody’s children. Nobody had even so much as posted an unflattering photo on social media. Could it have been that orange narcissist in the White House? Preposterous.
And then I spent some time thinking. And looking at things from different angles. And getting some distance from this person. And realizing that for all our closeness over the years, there had been patterns of passive-aggressive, possessive and jealous behavior. Like, since the beginning.
I remembered there had been times I tried to inconspicuously step back from the relationship when it became apparent we were so different and our ideas of friendship were so different. There was a lot of dysfunction. I had this image of what a supportive, loving BFF was supposed to be, and on a deep level I knew this wasn’t it.
Things that went well in my life, the little triumphs or big happy occurrences were met by the Ghoster with sullen, weird silences. But always I was pulled back in by that whole “we have so much history together!” notion.
But history does not make a true friendship.
And I realized something: Holy crap, she did me a huge favor. The months that went by only increased my energy level and gratitude. She wasn’t there to drain it anymore.
I also realized something else: Do I really want someone in my life who can’t even be bothered to pick up the phone and have a conversation? Who thinks that I’m worth so little? Maybe bring a little dignity to ending a relationship that had weathered so many storms but had simply run its course? Instead, the cruelest Silent Treatment was deployed. A Ghoster is not capable of having a mature relationship where real, loving communication happens.
And I just don’t need that shit in my life.
Neither do you. If you can’t even talk to me, there is nowhere to go in the friendship.
2) ARE YOU NEGLECTING SOME FRIENDS WHO ACTUALLY LOVE YOU AND WOULD NEVER STOOP TO GHOSTING YOU?
In the months following the above ghosting, I took a little inventory and realized this: I was surrounded by a lot of good, solid, caring friends, and the loss of the Ghoster did not diminish this fact. I reached out to them and made an effort to spend more time with them, during which it became clear that they really loved me and supported me, and with the Ghoster no longer bleeding me dry, I had more energy to love and support them, which is what friendship is all about.
I also noticed something really cool: I started making new friends everywhere I went. People I had lots in common with, who seemed genuinely interested in me, who had similar value systems. I didn’t set out to make these friends; they simply appeared. Like a vacuum being filled. It was a reminder that I am a good and worthy person, that God was looking out for me (as always), and that the Ghoster’s efforts at making me feel unworthy of friendship or even acknowledgment had failed.
3) IS KARMA BEING A LITTLE BITCH?
Look into your past, even deeply if you dare. Have you ever ghosted someone? Even someone who “deserved” it?
I ghosted a very close friend many years ago, and the memory came back to haunt me when I became the Ghostee.
I was in my late 20s, and it became increasingly clear that said friend had a drinking problem. Not only had I become tired of the constant flaking, but one day at a pool party, I watched her down six Coronas and chain-smoke whilst three months into a planned pregnancy. I’ve never really been a judgy person, but that was tough. The next time she flaked on plans we had made, I decided I just couldn’t anymore. I didn’t respond to her email and that’s the last we saw or heard of each other.
I justify it in my mind now by saying well, she didn’t fight very hard for the friendship. I was young and immature. What was I supposed to do? But the truth is, there is plenty I could have done. This friend put me up in her tiny apartment when I was going through a divorce and reeling from the pain. She would show up at my house with champagne on my birthday. She sent faxes (for you young people, an antiquated form of communication) that constantly reminded me that she loved me and cared about me. She may have had some addiction issues that I had to separate myself from, but I could have at least communicated as much to her to stop her from wondering why I was no longer in her life. It’s a difficult conversation to have, but when you love somebody (I loved her very much, and still do), it’s what you do, dammit.
If you ghosted somebody, don’t beat yourself up about it, but make a vow that you will never be so callous with another human being again. Learn from your mistake. The uncomfortable conversation sucks — nobody likes to do it!— but you can go through the rest of your life knowing that you treated everyone with integrity, honesty and value. Also, look for the lesson. You will always find it!