By Erika Ettin
Tribune News Service
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The entire online dating scene has been, in some respects, a great way of empowering women to take control of initiating and pursuing relationships. But what happens when a relationship goes sour in this digital age? Is a phone call or text enough? Should relationships end with an old fashioned face to face break-up? One thing is for sure, NO ANSWER..or what some are referring to now as “ghosting” is certainly not the solution.
Tribune News Service
Falling off the earth, pulling the disappearing act, ghosting … it all means the same thing: just up and leaving a relationship without having the courtesy to tell your significant other that you’re, well, up and leaving. In the days before texting and Tinder, there was actual talking and the art of the real, in-person conversation. Even on “Sex and the City,” when Berger broke up with Carrie on a Post-it note, it was viewed as terrible form. But ghosting is worse. At least Carrie knew she had been dumped and didn’t have to wonder.
There was an article in Huffington Post called, ‘Ghosting:’ The 21st-Century Dating Problem Everyone Talks About, But No One Knows How To Deal With. It talked about how people are simply disappearing because that seems easier than breaking up with someone. The ghoster’s rationale is that he or she doesn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. We all know that, in reality, the only person whose feelings are spared is the ghoster him or herself. It’s the weak choice.
With the use of modern technology, it’s almost too easy to think of people as disposable or commodities. But, in reality, people are not things. You need to muster up the courage to have an actual conversation, whether you’ve been on three dates or 300. The other person deserves that much.
That brings us to me. I got ghosted. Just because I’m a dating coach doesn’t make me immune to the inappropriate behavior, or lack of behavior in this case, of others.
I matched with Josh on Tinder in December 2013. Because of the frequent snow that winter, his time constraints with his two young children, and the fact that he lived an hour away, I’m in Washington, DC and he’s in Baltimore, our first meeting got postponed several times. But, we finally met that March. It was a nice date. Nothing earth-shattering, but nice. He came into DC one or two more times, and while I determined that “Baltimore Josh” wasn’t going to be the next great love of my life, I did enjoy his company enough to continue to see him, even in a friendship capacity.
Josh and I saw each other about once a month, sometimes twice, over the course of the next year and two months. Sometimes he’d come to DC, and sometimes I’d go to Baltimore. I wouldn’t call what we had a relationship, but it was more than a friendship… with the occasional PG-13 benefits. We talked almost every day, either over the phone or over text. It was comfortable. I liked having him in my life, in whatever form that took.
In May of 2015 (over a year after we first met), I was asked to perform in a comedy show in DC, which I was really excited about. Because Josh had his children that weekend, he wasn’t able to come see the show. (He had seen me perform at other shows in the past, even brought his brother and sister-in-law once, so I wasn’t terribly upset.) The show was on a Saturday night, so on Sunday we texted a few times about it.
On the following Tuesday, a few days after the show, I called Josh to tell him all about how it went. He promptly texted me back telling me that it was a busy day at work so he’d have to call me later. No biggie. I didn’t hear from him later, though, which was really odd. So I called the next day, left a voicemail, and sent a follow-up text to make sure he got it. Nothing. This was abnormal. He always got back to me very quickly, and there had never been an unreturned call or text in all of the time we’d known each other.
Now I started to worry. I sent him a Facebook message. Nothing. Then another one. Nothing. I was so worried that something terrible had happened that I sent a message to his sister-in-law, whom I had met that time at my show, asking if Josh was okay.
Thanks for reaching out. Everything is all good. I think Josh has been super busy. But I let him know you reached out so I’m sure he will be in touch ASAP.
What?! No one is too busy to respond “I’m alive” after getting a text asking to make sure he was, in fact, alive. And he did not get “in touch ASAP.”
After about a week, I tried again. Nothing. So, I finally sent this email on May 31, 2015:
I’ve been thinking a lot about you lately, wondering what could be the cause of your not reaching back out to me. I’ve called, texted, and even Facebook messaged your relatives because, after a year of conversing almost daily, it was unlike you not to respond to me. I was concerned that something horrible happened to you. When I got the notes back from your relatives saying that all was good on your end, I was just saddened. Our relationship, whatever it was, meant (and means) a lot to me, and even if I’ve done something to cause you to want to stop communicating, I’d like to know what that is. Simply ignoring me is baffling since I know you so well, and I know it wouldn’t be your nature not to choose the mature route. Even a simple, “I’m alive” would have sufficed. I don’t require much.
Anyway, I do hope to hear from you, and I wish you the best in whatever you’re doing or plan to do. You have meant a lot to me.
I never heard back. I was surprised, upset, and confused. I still am. It was on my mind for a long time. I just wanted a response. Any response. “I met someone.” “I hate you.” Anything would have been better than this. So, I finally bucked up and about two weeks ago (in February 2016), unfriended him on Facebook. Chapter closed.
Why am I sharing this story? So you shed a tear for me? Of course not. I have empathy now where I didn’t before. And I can tell clients and friends first-hand what an impact ghosting has on someone’s feelings, perceptions of him or herself, and trust levels for a potentially long period of time. I know, rationally, that Josh’s disappearance had nothing to do with me. It was his inability to deal with his feelings and share them in a productive manner. But, the emotional, vulnerable side always continues to ask, “What did I do to deserve this?” Nothing.
So own up to your actions. Take a little discomfort in the present for a future of knowing you’re not a person who hurts others to spare yourself. Just be a good person, have fun with dating, and when it’s over, have the courtesy to talk to the person you’re seeing, even if the talk ends poorly. Most people would rather have it end poorly than not end at all.
(Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating)