Maybe you recently met somebody via a 3.7-star dating app.
Just when you thought your convos with your match were showing high-level promise—and you were looking forward to, at long last, seeing this person after you both get vaccinated—they suddenly, one day, left you on read. And they never got back to you.
Or perhaps, because you've been following self-isolation practices, you've only taken to texting your SO, but one day you realize they're not replying anymore. You're, like, hey u alive?
This is the world that ghosts and ghostees visit.
Ghosting: To abruptly "cut off all contact with" someone (such as a former romantic prospect/partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.
If you have recently been ghosted, know that it's not your fault: People may choose to ghost because they think it’s easier than explaining themselves. They may even be more inclined to do so during this stressful time. However, those who ghost sometimes don’t realize just how hurtful their vanishing acts can be.
So, I invite you to come on a ghostee’s journey and learn some ways to move on.
Stage 1: The restlessness
You just called a cute person from the comfort of your home. As you prepare for some home-edition yoga, you smile, thinking that online "dates" are not so bad after all. You send a text to schedule the next call.
Every time your phone vibrates, you pounce, only to see that it’s a message from a friend asking you to go grocery shopping with them. Did something happen to your new "boo"? Judging by that green dot though, you know that someone’s active on Messenger, just not replying. Yikes.
Move-on tip: Trust your gut that something feels off. Compare your situation with these tell-tale red flags:
Received excuses to cancel and flake on plans? Check.
How about responses that are few and far between? Yes.
Got a feeling that you’re the one making more investments? Sigh, yes.
Stage 2: The recognition
You start to realize it’s over. You predict that your love life is done for, like it's been flattened by an African bush elephant (the heaviest land mammal). To detoxify, you divert energy into some comforting exercises, like cooking your meals for the week. You start chopping onions to become (temporarily) immune to crying for lost causes. You make your heartbreaker your muse, and decide to:
- Cut your own hair by following a tutorial YouTube recommended to you
- Drink lots of water, because "drinking water" is a solution to many of life's problems
- Pen a Korean drama screenplay—this way, you'll get famous and too busy maintaining your reputation to think about people who wronged you
Stage 3: The relapse
You feel as though you've lost a part of yourself. This whole thing sucks, you think, because you can't exactly physically confront this person, even if you wanted to.
Did I do something wrong? Am I not good enough?
These thoughts are debilitating, but you give in to them regardless. You wonder if they are the Premium version and if you've somehow unlocked the "unlimited subscription" option.
No matter what the reason was, remember: Your ghost should have communicated and given you closure. You’re not to blame.
The prospect of giving in to escapist tendencies may seem alluring—but you know you will move on. Just not now.
Move-on tip: Give yourself time, food, sleep—whatever lowers your blood pressure and makes you feel better, but set a time limit to maintain a moderate work-wallow balance.
Stage 4: The 99.9% recovery
Time’s passed. You no longer feel inadequate. You tell yourself that it's all because Mercury and Venus were (and are no longer) retrograde. You also see that you're already on a tight student budget thanks to corona, and giving out any more undeserved emotional investments can be costly.
But sometimes you do get those quasi-Proustian memories, where certain food, song lyrics, or words remind you of your ghost (or the date you had over the Internet ether).
But remember, you are in control.
Life events are up to your interpretation. You can choose how you feel, react, move on.
Move-on tip: Learn from this experience and see that letting go is being kind to yourself.
Stage #bonus: The revenant
What if just when you thought this was over, your ghost returns from beyond the grave?
Maybe your ghost is benching (checking back to keep options open)?
Or zombieing (sending a sudden message for a renewed relationship)?
Or maybe your ghost never left, and was orbiting this whole time (voyeuristically keeping tabs on your social media activity).
Move-on tip: You may want to swipe left on your ghost’s reappearances. Or, you may want to give them a second chance. Whatever you choose, think it through—only you know what you feel and want.
Getting over getting ghosted can take time. Give yourself the space you need, find what makes you happy, and treat yourself the way you would a friend. No matter how you're feeling, I offer you Facebook's "Care" reaction!
For another read, check out this NY Times article.