Being single is hard. Dating is harder. Being ghosted is the worst. But it's become commonplace to wiggle out of awkward situations and waning interest by simply ignoring the other person. There are even articles about how to ghost as responsibly as possible -- which, I grudgingly admit, is progress. If everyone's going to do it anyway, there might as well be some guidelines.
Especially when you're trying to swipe your way to love, the fear of ghosting is real. And as someone who's been on the receiving end, I can tell you: being ghosted by someone you really like is excruciating.
As much as it can seem like there are no other options once that panic to extricate yourself from a budding relationship sets in, there actually are some alternatives... uncomfortable as they may be. So let's make dating more humane by doing these things instead the next time you feel like you have no choice but to ghost.
1. Return that text
... But NOT because you're going to disingenuously agree to see her again. When she says she had fun and asks what you're doing next weekend, you've been handed an opportunity to gracefully, simply get out of seeing her again. Just dart off a sentence or two setting her free from the unsettling uncertainty of weeks spent wondering if her text didn't go through while anxiously awaiting the notification beep of your reply.
The quick text is an acceptable way of ending things if you've only gone on one or two dates and haven't had sex yet. It helps to have a response handy that you don't have to think too much about, and it can be pretty generic.
Here's a stock line a friend gave me several years ago that I still use: "It was nice meeting you but I just didn't feel a total connection." Sure, it doesn't feel all that great getting this text. But it does feel good to move on. And that makes you look decidedly un-douchey.
2. Suck it up and have the awkward conversation
If you've gone on several dates, or had sex, or offered the promise of a relationship by saying things like you'd hang up pictures for her in her apartment, or asked her to be your date to your cousin's wedding in two months: you need to do more than text a farewell. If she leaves you a voicemail wanting to know what's going on, RETURN HER CALL. It's not necessary to meet in person to painstakingly hash out every detail of what went wrong; but please, please, please give her the dignity of clarity and closure voice-to-voice.
Here, because of the time that's been invested or the sex that's been had, you'll need to be more specific than "not feeling a total connection." Be honest (but kind!) about why you're no longer interested. When ghosted, women will often go over every past interaction again and again searching for a reason why things changed. Don't let her do that to herself. Let her know if you're busy with a demanding job and don't have time for dating right now, if you're not looking for anything serious, or if you just got back together with an ex. This might be the least fun thing you do all week, but if you want to do more than serially ghost and have any interest in being in a relationship one day, the ability to show up for difficult conversations is a necessary skill to have.
3. Take responsibility for your past words, actions, and promises
Maybe you're not absorbed in a demanding job, you didn't get back together with an ex, and there's no concrete, legitimate explanation for why you don't want to see this person again. One of the reasons that ghosting is so confusing and painful for the ghostee is that it often comes out of nowhere and is a dramatic shift from where things seemed to be heading. One day a guy is snuggling on the couch with you watching a Girls marathon and making plans for the future, and the next he disappears into the texting ether, making you feel like he never existed at all.
Listen, we all have our issues! But if you've misled someone to believe you were interested in more and then all of the sudden never want to see her again, you need to own up to it -- even if you can't totally articulate why. Saying things like, "I know I promised to [insert past promise], or when I said [thing that sounded like we had a future together] it made you think that I wanted to be in a relationship, but I tend to do that and then freak out when things get serious or more intense. It's an issue that I have and I apologize if it caused you any pain." By doing this you'll be validating the confusion and hurt she's feeling and taking responsibility for your part, so she doesn't go on blaming herself for your sketchy behavior.
4. Rip off the BAND-AID
For the conflict-averse, a tempting alternative to ghosting is the slow fade. But honestly, this is just as bad as ghosting. Some would argue, even worse. Maybe you think that if you keep saying you're busy or canceling and rescheduling plans (only to cancel them again), she'll eventually get the message and give up. But when a woman likes a guy (or vice versa), hope is clung to no matter how faint. The slow fade only prolongs the confusion, drags out the pain, and keeps her from getting the clarity she needs to get over you and move on.
Ghosting and the slow fade leave the door open for you to come back into her life and haunt her again. Not fair.
5. Be clear from the beginning
If you have a history of ghosting and know you don't want anything serious, you have a responsibility to share this information early on. That way she can make an informed decision about whether she wants to get involved with you. Unfortunately, many women -- myself included -- will hear this and think that we can change your mind, or that we'll be the one to make you want to settle down. But that's on us. The fact that we saw it coming will make it not hurt.
Or at least take the sting off.
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