In my novel, Waiting at Hayden’s, one of my main characters is “ghosted” the day before her wedding by her fiancé. “Ghosting”, for those who aren’t familiar with the term, refers to a romantic partner disappearing suddenly and without an explanation.
Excerpt: “She believed it was called ghosting, what he’d done. She’d heard friends at work use the term when describing what happened when men they’d been happily seeing suddenly disappeared from their lives without explanations. Kendall had always thought it sounded so horrible. She couldn’t believe people did such things! Now it had happened to her. The day before her wedding. Maybe this was karma for having escaped heartbreak her entire life.”
Kendall in Waiting at Hayden’s wearing House of Harlow (shop here)
While the example in my book may seem like an extreme, I’m sure it has happened to somebody. Plenty of my friends have been in seemingly blissful relationships only to have their partners stop calling them unexpectedly.
Now that we’re busier (and more distracted) as a society than ever, I get how “ghosting” can happen after a first or second date. I am guilty of this. Just recently I went out with someone during a crazier than normal week and spaced on communicating that while I really appreciated him taking me out and enjoyed getting to know him, I didn’t see it going anywhere romantically.
Dating apps also now make it easier than ever to date constantly. While in some ways I think this as a great thing, I also think this is partly why ghosting has become a dating norm. I have friends who are on every single dating app and go on four or five dates a week. How could they possibly remember all of their dates’ names, let alone remember to text or call each one of them back?
But ghosting people who we have been seeing for months—or even weeks—is something I truly think our generation should work to change and ultimately make disappear.
Favorite White Summer Dresses
We are living in a time where we are obsessed with checking—our phones, our Instagrams, our emails. And this behavior is amplified after a great date—and even more amplified after sleeping with someone. Back before cell phones, people would go about their days, then in the evening after work they’d check their voicemails. If they didn’t have a message from their date, they might then wait by the home phone for him or her to call. Nowadays we’re always “waiting by our phones” because we never go anywhere without them. So when hours and sometimes days go by and we haven’t heard from the person we thought things were going well with, all sorts of horrible feelings are reinforced: obsessive thinking, frustration, confusion, self-doubt.
I polled some friends who have ghosted their significant others and asked, “Why did you do it?” The interesting thing I found was that their reasons were almost 100% well-intentioned. “I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by telling them I wasn’t into them anymore.” But here’s the thing: it actually hurts the person you were seeing more when you don’t tell the truth—or at least some version of it—because then they spend more time checking. More time waiting. More time driving themselves crazy wondering, what happened.
Twice in my life I’ve had guys I was casually seeing pick up the phone, call, and end things. Neither of their reasons were personally hurtful. One was an unresolved issue with an ex and the other was moving. But even if they had told me that they just didn’t see it working out, I still would have respected them both because I know that’s a difficult phone call (I HATE making that phone call). And also because that phone call allows someone to move on quickly.
Dating isn’t supposed to work out with everyone. That’s why when it does, it’s exciting and really means something.
While we obviously don’t have any obligation to date a certain way, I think we should do our best as a generation to stop ghosting. If we think of dating like a game, which it is—sort of—then picking up the phone to end a relationship is a common courtesy like lining up to give high fives after the final whistle has blown. It says, “I know it didn’t work this time, but get back out there. Try again.” I have friends who have sidelined themselves romantically because of ghosting. Because they desperately don’t want to go through that again. Let’s be good sports, shall we? Let’s make difficult phone calls and make ghosting, disappear.