I was ghosted and I didn’t like it. What I learned about myself from being ghosted.
Ghosting has been a rather acceptable way of telling someone you don’t want to date them. In the past I’ve ghosted an untold number of dates myself, but no one really likes it when you’ve dated a guy, he makes promises to contact you, and then you never hear from him again, I know I didn’t like it at all when it was done to me, but I’ve done it to others, so why shouldn’t he?
Why did I ghost? Well, I told myself I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I’ve always been afraid of confrontation, and afraid of hurting others, and even though I felt guilty about ghosting my feelings of not wanting to hurt someone overrode the guilt. Of course, you feel less guilty doing it when the guy you are ghosting is a jerk. One guy kept interrupting me so much that I pretty much closed down halfway through the Fettucine at Rosa’s Pizzaria, and stopped replying to his questions.
The online dating site, Plenty of Fish sampled 800 single millennials and found that 78 percent of participants had been ghosted. Eharmony states that while some might see this as rude, those who are socially awkward or fear confrontation will find it convenient. At least there won’t be a painful breakup. If you’ve been ghosted tell yourself “good riddance to them” because if they are ghosting you, then they weren’t meant to be in your life.
My Experience With Being Ghosted
Recently, I got back into dating, and I had an experience where I first-dated a guy from Match.com who really seemed like a great match for me. Everything went well. We had good conversation, similar interests, laughed a lot, were very comfortable with each other, and even held hands part of the evening. He actually serenaded me with a song he wrote while he strummed his guitar. We were looking into each other’s souls, and I was convinced he was what my girlfriends and I call a “potential”. I had a fantastic time, and by the time I got home I was smitten and started thinking about the next time we’d see each other. I was absolutely convinced we had a connection.
The next day I got a short “How are you doing?” text. I texted him back with two paragraphs of information on what I’d done that day, and then he was incommunicado. The next day there was silence, and the next day after that more silence, and so on. He disappeared as quickly as he showed up in my life. This from a guy who had texted and talked to me every day during the 4 days before our date. After we had several hours-long conversations pre-date I had expectations, and when we finally met up he met all of my expectations. One of my expectations was that I expected the dates to continue.
Of course, in the days following, I did the thing where you replay the date in your mind and you do a blow-by-blow on what it could have been that turned him off. Here is my personal inventory:
- Was it when I talked about my aversion to spit? I didn’t clarify that I wasn’t talking about french kissing in an intimate relationship.
- Was it when I made the offhand comment at the restaurant, “Now, this is dining. I could get used to this.” Maybe now he thinks I’m a gold digger.
- Did I drink too much? I don’t think so, I only had one drink an hour.
- Am I too tall for him? He’s 5ft 4inches. Nothing I can do about that.
- Did I talk about myself too much? I talked about my abusive childhood so maybe, but I felt comfortable to confide in him.
- Am I too nice? It’s possible. After all, I’ve heard about the book, “Why Men Love Bitches”.
- Am I not sophisticated enough? Or not _________ enough? Just fill in the blanks.
“Will the day tell its secret
Before it disappears,
Becomes timeless night.”
―Dejan Stojanovic, Circling: 1978–1987
For three days, I wondered what happened and I replayed the date in my mind obsessively. I had my own little personal pity party starring Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and Blue Bunny chocolate ice cream (together of course). After 3 days under the covers and 3 days of processing the rejection and sadness, I felt a little stronger and decided that I would text him. I didn’t really want to ask him why because I didn’t want to seem needy and frankly I was afraid of the answer I may get, but I felt like I needed closure, so I texted him with, “Did you lose interest?” His text a day later was, “I’m fine. I just went golfing” which was an answer in itself. The read-between-the-lines answer he gave me was he was just not interested, and couldn’t be completely honest about it with me!
Dating and relationship expert, Wendy Newman, of 121 First Dates, says “Most men don’t call because they want to spare your feelings.” The trouble with not getting an honest response from your dates is that you end up making excuses for him telling yourself that he got busy, or he’s out playing golf, or he’s just not a clingy kinda guy and needs his space.
I’ve experienced being ghosted numerous times. Too many to count. Previously, I seemed to have handled being ghosted just fine. Typically on dates, my feelings weren’t invested enough to where, when I was ghosted, it hurt to the point where it disrupted my life. In the past, I was able throw it off quickly, although there were times when it did affect my lifestyle. I chose to quit going to my gym because a date ghosted me. I knew he went to the same gym and was too embarrassed to chance running into him again.
Ghosting leaves the other person wondering what the hell happened, and if they are like me they go through a myriad number of reasons why it could be them. The super-nice guy you went out with who is just not that interesting and definitely not your type deserves to know why at least, and letting a guy know why you don’t want to date if he is an ass may benefit him and prompt him to change his behavior. I’d been pretty selfish in assuming he would just figure it out when I didn’t text or call back. Plus in my mind, one date didn’t commit me to have to give him a convoluted reply as to why I didn’t want to see him. I felt I didn’t owe him a reason.
My Epiphany About My Ghosting Behavior
I was beginning to realize that just because ghosting is done by so many doesn’t make it right. So this was the beginning of my waking-up to authenticness. I decided to call a good friend of mine, Lifestyle Coach, and Founder of KeatsCoaching.com, to ask for advice. Tanya Keats does individual coaching and has helped others to successfully achieve an amazing life. I’ve turned to her several times when I’ve needed to understand what was going on at different periods in my life.
When I asked her about the prevalence of ghosting after a date, she stated, “if people want to date and pursue a relationship then they should be willing to do the work in honesty. If you aren’t willing to do the work then you shouldn’t be out there dating. You don’t have to be cruel. If you aren’t interested in them or your beliefs differ from theirs you can state, ‘Our outlook on finances differ’ or ‘Our communication methods are different’, or even ‘Your values don’t align with my own’ or even as basic as ‘I don’t want to pursue a romantic relationship with you’. Ghosting is easy! You have to go deeper than ‘I just don’t want to see you’. It’s being authentic with integrity.”
Tanya believes that ghosting is passive-aggressive, and believes it speaks volumes about integrity. “It isn’t about ‘hurting’ the other person, it’s about staying true to yourself. You should stay authentic within your integrity. It takes courage. It takes introspection. It takes intention. You have to do the work.”
Does this mean that everyone who “likes” me on Match should get an explanation of why I don’t want to go out with them? No, was the answer. Only the ones who respond to you.
Let’s face it getting ghosted by someone you like hurts, but out of my hurt, I vowed to become more honest and authentic. After speaking with Tanya, I made a new dating resolution to be as authentic and honest as I could with guys I choose to date.
How do you reject someone? Dating and relationship expert, Wendy Newman, says, “Do it quickly — Band-Aid style. He can take rejection, and it’s kinder for you to let him know up front.” Being rejected by a guy you’ve dated is a part of being human, and it’s a reality if you have been dating for any period of time. The truth is if a guy wants to keep dating you he will touch base.
Newman says “Inevitability, I face the facts: he was not having the same date I was; there just wasn’t enough of a connection for him to want another one. You can’t expect to know the truth about his intentions with you….But both men and women often quickly make up their minds about whether or not they are going to see their date again, and out of what they perceive as kindness, they don’t share that information while on the date. They think they are being nice or polite and socially graceful.”
Newman suggests saying something like, “Thanks so much for offering to call. I don’t think we’re quite a match. I wish you luck out there.” When asked, ‘Can I call you tomorrow?’ if you’re not feeling it, please don’t say yes. Women do this all the time.” She says it’s the top complaint she’s heard from men.
What I’ve Learned From Being Ghosted
What did I learn from being ghosted? At the very least I’ve learned that for me to live authentically I need to consider others’ feelings when I decide not to see them anymore, or decide not to pursue the relationship.
Recently, I heard back from a guy I’d been ghosting. He was quite persistent in wanting to go out with me again. So, when I heard from him for the 4th time, my new authentic self texted him back saying, “I wanted to let you know I’m not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship but I am interested in doing things together. Is that something you’d be interested in doing?” His response was to ask if we could talk on the phone soon. OK, I was on a roll in my honesty work.
Then there was the guy who texted me on Match who I believed was too young for me to date. I answered him with “I’m too old for you. You’re a good looking guy though so keep at it and you will find the one.” He answered with “Well, I’ll leave it up to you if you change your mind! My reply was, “ If you want to just do some fun stuff together I’m all for that. Let’s think of something we can do as friends.” He ended up being open to that and gave me his phone number so we are going to plan something to do as friends. I have doubts that he will just want to continue going out as friends because it’s been my experience that guys can’t just be friends, but I’ll leave it up to him to accept my limitations and boundaries.
“Do what is right, not what is easy nor what is popular.”
— Roy T. Bennett (The Light in the Heart)
There was another guy I met on Match who simply complimented my picture. Being new to the honesty life, I wasn’t sure what to do. He was someone who I absolutely knew was not a match and I knew I didn’t want to go out with him, but I wanted to be polite so I simply said, “Thank you.” Well, that brief reply was a mistake because he thought I wanted to continue texting him. After I received back numerous responses, I finally said, “Thank you for the compliment, but we are not a match.” Live and learn. I learned if you are going to reject someone do it right off the bat, and include the rejection with your thank you.
I went out with a guy who lives in a beautiful RV park in Cottonwood. He was upfront and honest on our first date stating, “Full disclosure, I want to travel in my RV to other states and live that lifestyle”. I honestly didn’t know how to handle that. My immediate reaction was the feeling that I couldn’t live the RV life, but I didn’t know how to reply. There was a part of me that also thought that maybe if I fell in love with him I could be an RVer as well. After all, I love to camp, so maybe the vagabond, minimalist lifestyle is for me. After getting home and thinking about that for a full day, I realized that that is not something I would ever want to do on a full-time basis. Because he wants to see me again my next conversation with him will have to be a difficult one.
My Future Authentic Dating Self
I am beginning to realize that being an authentic dater is one of the most difficult things I will ever do. I’m committed to being honest with all my dates, but it’s hard to change a habit that you’ve had for so long even if the change came out of an epiphany. I don’t know but I imagine it will get easier each time, paradigm shift or not.
I have always convinced myself that not being honest with a date was me being kind because if I was honest with them I’d have to hurt them. The truth can hurt but it hasn’t helped me or him. My dating profile was always honest, but I couldn’t quit step into being totally honest when giving someone bad news. It’s stressful when you aren’t honest about not wanting to see someone. Avoiding calls, not answering the phone, and the one-line texts back to him just made me feel evil and bad about myself. I simply pushed back the shame of not having the courage to be honest. Each day I let it go on, each day I wasn’t honest with the guy, each day I avoided talking to someone who wanted to continue dating me I felt worse and worse about myself. I’ve never played games on a date so I considered myself an honest dater. As emotionally immature as ghosting is I thought I was being considerate if what I was going to say to the other person was, “It’s not me it’s you”. All my life I’ve been shy, reticent, and afraid to approach people. I don’t like drama. Now, that I’m owning my behavior I realize that not being an honest dater has affected my self-worth.
If I want my dates to be honest if they don’t want to continue dating me, then I need to be honest back. It’s the golden rule. It might be hard to take sometimes, but I prefer my dates to be honest rather than ghosting. There will be times when you will still get ghosted, and there will be times you won’t get closure.
I don’t have to be brutally honest, but you need to be honest. If you don’t want to date someone don’t write him a 2-page letter detailing every reason you aren’t attracted to him. Make it easy for him to accept your bad news. Give him a compliment first then give him the bad news gently.
I made a commitment that I was going to continue dating purposefully. I was really excited about my progress in being an authentic dater. Next, I scheduled a meetup at a Mexican restaurant near me for another first date I met on Match.com. That evening, immediately after meeting the guy it was obvious to me that we were not even a close match. He looked, physically, way older than his stated age. Life had not been kind to this Hugh Hefner look-alike, which became more and more obvious as he regaled me with stories of his back surgeries and prostate problems. It was patently obvious we were not a match and I assumed he felt the same way.
We still had some interesting discussions and when he offered to walk me to my car I accepted this as a gentlemanly polite gesture thinking this time I would not have to hurt someone’s feelings, thinking this time it was going to be easy, thinking that surely he must see how incompatible we were. It was at this point he said, “Can I see you again?” WHAT?! What was obvious incompatibility to me was apparently not as clear cut to him. Immediately, I blurted out “We can talk about it”. We can talk about it?? Damn it! That wasn’t a very honest reply. Why did I say that? I should have said, “We aren’t a match but I had a really good time tonight thank you”, but I was thrown. I was not only unprepared at that moment, but I also realized that authentic dating is a lot harder when you are attempting to be honest in person.
I got in my car and felt really disappointed in myself. Apparently, being completely honest with my dates is going to require baby steps, and the amount of courage it takes is exponentially harder when you have to be honest in person. My nascent courage will require more strength and practice.
The next day, I got a text from Hugh about wanting to see me again. This was my chance to go back to the drawing board. Baby steps. I begin by texting, “Thank you so much for dinner. It was fun and the conversation was really interesting. I don’t think we are quite a match, and I wish you all the best in your endeavor to find a partner.” Good one…..baby steps.