Exploring the pathway to ending things when “the feels” have vacated the premises.
Hey…..so….we need to talk.
It is about…us.
Her hair whipping in the wind, from a clifftop in Europe.
Her, with a bunch of nicely dressed girlfriends, having brunch in a classy, Tuscan themed restaurant, tipping mimosas with a smile.
Standing in low waves, the sun shining on smooth curves that run down the side of her waist, over her hip, interrupted by the string of a swimsuit.
Her profile pics are bewitching.
Her bio reads just as well as her pictures. She seems classy, interesting, nice, and fun. Everything is there.
You think, “Eh — this is a long shot. She’s probably out of my league.”
You write a nice little message, commenting on a pic that appears to be from a country you recently traveled to also.
The next day.
You have a new message.
Holy crap. It’s her.
You begin going back and forth. You have great chemistry in your chat. You have a phone call. Then, you ask her to meet for drinks, she says yes.
You go out, heart in your throat, and meet. The date goes great.
You make plans to meet again.
You brag to your friends about a girl you just met. You show off her pics to your married buddies, who secretly love living vicariously through you.
You continue seeing each other. Then — about 3 or 4 weeks after your first date, something….changes.
You detect your interest in her is beginning to fade. It makes no sense. She’s beautiful. She’s smart. She’s doing everything right.
But — the spark just isn’t there for you.
The Fade, as I call it, is a terrible feeling. I sometimes think of it as more like an evil spirit, like Cupid’s evil twin. It strikes without regard to logic or emotion.
We all experience The Fade. Sometimes it's timing. Sometimes its chemistry. And other times, it is just the illogical nature of matters of the heart. For better or worse, we can’t control these winds.
So what do you do? You know you don’t like this person romantically. You know it isn’t right.
What Happens Next?
Unfortunately, in many cases, the lovely girl in those profile pics will get ghosted. Ghosting is pervasive — there are few people I know who haven’t been ghosted multiple times. It is the nature of modern dating.
I’d estimate that, of the girls that lost interest in me, 80% of them ghosted me.
Ghosting comes in varying magnitudes. I had a very serious girlfriend, who just vanished on me. Ignored my calls and texts. Pretended she was busy. It took hell and high water, just to get her to come to look me in the eyes and explain to me why she was leaving. That’s all I’d ever wanted.
The experience was horrible and disrespectful. Nobody wants to be treated like that.
And I know I’m not alone. Many of us have bad stories.
The G Word
Ghosting is a loaded topic. It churns up emotions in readers. Right now, many of you are recalling some not-so-cool experiences you’ve had.
In fact, saying anything short of, “Ghosting is evil. All ghosters should die” will get you nasty comments from people online. I exaggerate — but ghosting is definitely a trigger word.
If you don’t know what ghosting is — it is basically the idea that someone turns into a ghost. They vanish. Their messages stop coming. They stop calling. That becomes their way of ending things.
This is why response times are so closely watched in the modern dating process. We get neurotic about it. Dating has degraded away from honest communication and down into a game of stopwatch.
Four hours go by, “Am I getting ghosted?”
Text: hey!! just got out of work!
Whew! <wipes forehead>
It’s a weird thing. Most people are cordial and friendly on dates. You might think things are going well — and boom, they are gone in a puff. You never know when your ticket is up.
Ghosting has actually always existed. Many years ago, people just stopped sending letters. They stopped coming over. It hurt every which way it happened.
I can’t help but be reminded Paul Simon’s, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover:
You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free
Oh if ever lyrics were clairvoyant.
When I first returned to dating, after 8 years away, I didn’t really understand how to handle the ugly backside of dating — getting out. I was rusty.
And while, I didn’t resort to “slip out the back, jack”, I did essentially ghost a woman, Jen, who I’d been dating for about a month. I slowed down my communication. I figured that easing back would hurt less. And, if I’m being totally honest, I was afraid of the confrontation.
Eventually, Jen got the hint and things fizzled.
I felt terrible about how I handled it. I felt like a coward, a jerk. It felt so hypocritical, after how I’d been brutally ghosted by a girlfriend, I turned around and did it to someone else.
I almost sent Jen this long apology nearly a year later. But when I found her on Facebook, she was already happily in a relationship with a new boyfriend and I figured it wasn’t worth causing a stir.
We live and we learn.
A New Law
In the immediate wake of my experience with Jen, I implemented a change in policy.
If I went on one date, two dates, five dates — and lost interest — I always told them. I made it a point to let them know. I felt great about my new initiative. I made a vow to myself to stay true to that policy: everyone was owed an explanation. That is respect.
And, surprisingly, it went rather poorly, particularly in the early dating phase.
I’m rather diplomatic and kind. But things just tended to blow up on me. People flip out when you text them after a date or two, saying that you aren’t interested. It caused me a lot of anxiety, to the point that I took time away from dating.
I think I overcorrected. It was a well-intended policy with unintended consequences.
So what is the correct course of action if you are no longer interested?
There’s no perfect answer to this.
But I would use your common sense: as a general rule of thumb, the longer and more intensely you’ve been seeing someone, the more personal your delivery should be.
In the case of the girl I ghosted: after a single month of dating, I would argue that having a sit down was probably a bit much. We were just dating. It wasn’t a relationship. A call would probably have been appropriate or perhaps a thoughtful text.
Getting the boot sucks. I hate it. I hate getting ghosted.
But I think we also need to check our egos a bit on this explosive topic. Myself included. We’ve broadened the definition of ghosting to be a bit too inclusive. We seem to think any instance of someone losing interest is a huge insult if they don’t do it exactly on our terms.
Let’s be clear. People shouldn’t be ghosting.
But if you’ve only met a person once or twice, sorry, that’s not really ghosting in the true sense. If they vanish on you, just take it on the chin, move on. They’ve probably saved you the chore of having to dump them at a later date anyway.
And if you get super angry about someone not giving you an explanation after one or two dates:
One: you need to check yourself.
You have become way too invested in this person after one date. You should be keeping things light at this stage, spreading your wings, meeting lots of people. If you don’t hear from a person, they aren’t interested, move on.
It’s fine. It happens to the best of us.
Two: if the ambiguity is killing you, if you are left wondering “why” they weren’t interested. Guess what? You probably weren’t going to get an honest answer anyways. People usually just come up with the nicest reason they can think of.
Ghosting is going radio silent where an explanation is owed.
Ghosting is bad. I ghosted Jen. I was wrong. I would take my actions back if I could.
But you aren’t owed an explanation after a single date or two. If they give you one, great. But don’t feel entitled to one. I’m giving you, and myself, tough love. It is to help save us the pain and demoralization that comes easy with the dating.
If you are going to start dating, you need to be tough. The world is cruel and unkind. Stay classy in victory and defeat.
Don’t ghost people. It will leave a terrible last impression on you.
If you are dropping the ax, use your best judgment, give a level of decorum and respect that is appropriate given your involvement with that person.
But above all — be kind. Don’t be a prick. There’s enough of those out there already.