Imagine this scenario: You’ve recently met someone who makes your heart go pitter pat. Their thousand-watt smile could power the entire East Coast of the United States. All the words you have been longing to hear issue forth from them. Phone calls and texts permeate your day. You can’t wait to introduce this person to your family and friends and just as you are about to arrange the initial get together … radio silence, crickets. Their phone goes immediately to voicemail. No response to texts.
Days pass and you wonder what happened. Self-doubt kicks in and you question what you did to scare off Ms. or Mr. Wonderful.
Relationship coach Jonathon Aslay expressed his take on this phenom that often feels like the rug has been pulled out from under us and we are left on our respective butts wondering what happened:
This may sound like a rant…
There’s a saying: rejection is God’s protection, and nothing says “rejection” like ghosting these days when it comes to dating, mating & relating.
For those of you unfamiliar with ghosting, it’s basically someone who disappears (like a ghost) after a few interactions (from a dating perspective) or even established romantic relationship. In fact, ghosting has become so common place in the dating realm, it’s the norm.
So, what’s the basic reason why someone ghosts?
Friends, it’s almost always the same, fear of telling someone they are no longer into them… basically, it’s conflict avoidance. Ghosting is rooted in fear and while it might seem immature (which it is), our culture seeks self-pleasure and when something stops feeling good, we’ll do anything to avoid pain… like telling someone we’re just not interested anymore. Let me also add, I highly doubt someone is doing it to be mean or hurtful to another (even though it feels that way), it’s just they are in fear… and that’s not a good place to be in either.
So, Jonathon, why is ghosting a good thing? Well I’m glad you asked.
Having been on the receiving end of being ghosted several times, I can tell you the feeling of rejection sucked, and I immediately went into thoughts: What did I do wrong? Am I not worthy? Am I not lovable? The variety of emotions stirred up inside sent a shock wave to my inner value system and any internal self-love I had was abandoned.
Let’s think about this for a moment, how did I allow someone’s actions (or lack of action) cause me to doubt my own self-worth, my own self confidence and my own self love? Maybe I didn’t love myself as much as I thought. Maybe I didn’t feel as worthy as I thought and maybe I didn’t feel as confident as I thought.
As I look deeper into these feelings, I realized I have adopted the U.S. culture of laziness (or even victim-hood) vs. staring emotional adversity straight in the face. Lazy because when I had been hurt or rejected, I choose to run away and even give up on love. This is such a common tale and most people point the finger at the perpetrator and blame someone else for their emotional plight.
Look, I get it. It is easier to blame someone else for abandoning your self-love vs. taking ownership for one’s feelings. And I will agree, being ghosted sucks and wouldn’t it be a better world if everyone had the courage to face their fears, but who cares if someone else doesn’t face their fears, what matters most is YOU facing your own.
What if being ghosted was a trigger meant to awaken the giant within and declare: I love myself so much it doesn’t matter what someone else does… I’m going to be okay. I am enough. Or better yet, I am more than enough.
Enough was your starting point… are you ready to love yourself more?”
When I read this explanation, I had simultaneous personal and professional responses. As a seasoned woman approaching 60, I have engaged in many relationships over the years. Some lasted weeks, others, years. From each one, I learned valuable lessons. Some brought out the best in me with expressions of loving-kindness, nurturing, confidence, compassion, support, and some the worst, which had my co-dependent, self-doubting, enmeshed, enabling inner critic driving the bus. The takeaway is that love is never wasted, and I have remained friends with many former partners, regardless of duration of the relationship.
A few noteworthy exceptions remain and those were toxic encounters in which emotional self-preservation and personal dignity superseded any feelings I had once held for these people. In each one, even as I felt nervous and am admittedly conflict avoidant, I let them know that our interactions needed to end. Before the days of electronic communication, they were either done via telephone or in person. I can recall a few instances when I was on the receiving end of breakups and most were done cleanly as well.
As I look over my shoulder down the timeline, I can only point to a few times when ghosting occurred and those were in the early stages of dating. Fortunately, I had not invested a great deal of time and energy in the erstwhile budding relationship and I was able to say, “lesson learned,” and move on.
The career therapist, now nearing 40 years in the field, viewed Jonathon’s ‘rant’ in this manner:
- Fear of rejection may have allowed the ‘ghoster’ to reject first.
- They may not have learned how to be open with their communication.
- They may not have had role models for healthy relationships.
- They may not have felt comfortable with the other person and didn’t have the words to express it.
- They may avoid, hide or otherwise procrastinate in various areas of their lives.
- They may not have felt deserving of love, so they sabotaged a potentially healthy relationship.
- They might have narcissistic tendencies.
For the ‘ghostee’:
- Look at your beliefs about yourself and your worthiness to receive love.
- Do your best not to take it personally and recognize that it says more about them than it does about you.
- Who are you in or outside of a relationship?
- Can you take this experience and make lemon merengue pie out of the lemons you have been handed?
- Set clear boundaries for yourself and know what you are willing to accept.
- See if there were any red flags you ignored or made allowances for.
For anyone in relationship:
- Assess your beliefs about your role knowing that relationships are not 50/50, but 100/100, with each person bringing their history, baggage and energy.
- Look at the ways you express your desires and what you truly want in intimate interactions.
- If you find yourself feeling disenchanted or simply that this person is not a good match for you, please be kind and treat them the way you want to be treated.
- Be clean about moving on. It could be as simple as saying, “I’ve enjoyed the time we have spent, and it’s not easy to tell you that it doesn’t seem it will work for the long run. I wish you well in whatever happens next.” If the other person expresses sadness, as much as possible, be present for them, without guilt. If they ask why you feel this relationship isn’t what you want, be honest, with the guidance of ‘say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t say it mean’. Re-direction doesn’t have to hurt.
- Can you look yourself in the mirror as a relationship shifts? Integrity is an important value to hold.
A Boy Scout adage applies here: “Always leave the campground better than you found it.” Responsibility for our feelings and the ways we communicate them lie within us. Although ghost stories may be fun around a campfire, not so much in our daily lives. Don’t let the ghosts of relationships past keep you from keeping your spirits high in those that follow.