If one chooses to date in this modern era, one quickly realizes that getting ghosted is part of the game. To those unaware of this phenomenon, bless your heart. Ghosting is when a human person to whom you are speaking in a romantical fashion stops communicating without so much as a “Best wishes on all your future endeavors.”
Sometimes it happens and I’m not mad about it. One might call it mutual ghosting. But there have been a couple of times where it was disappointing. Last year, I was talking to this guy whomst we shall call Thomas. Things seemed to be going great. We’d met up in person a couple of times, video chatted, and texted regularly. Everything he said and did seemed to indicate that we were going places.
After about two months, mid-conversation he stopped replying. It was weird, but he had been sick, so I gave him a little leeway. After a few days, I texted saying, “Hey. I haven’t heard from you in a bit. Are you ok?” Nada.
Now, I am a compulsive overthinker. My normal tendency in this situation would be to assume I’d done something wrong and obsessively analyze every interaction we’d had up to that point. In any relational context, my brain goes into full derp-mode in silence and ambiguity. All it wants is to fill in the blanks.
That didn’t happen this time, or at least not in the same way. Perhaps it’s because the conversation was so innocuous there was no way that could have been the last straw. Or it could be that I’m thirty and no longer have the energy to go down that rabbit hole in this context.
The Monday after Thomas fell off the face of the earth, I mentioned it to Dr. Therapist. I was thinking through my options for responding to the situation and wanted to get his thoughts. We talked a bit, and he said, “There isn’t enough information to draw any conclusions.” It had only been four or five days of radio silence at that point. It could have literally been anything.
He could be swamped with work. He could have lost his phone. He could be mad at me. He could be in the hospital. He could be ghosting. No way to know, so there was no reason to expend bandwidth putting non-existent pieces together.
In the ensuing days, I experienced feelings of disappointment and confusion. I felt the temptation to let myself bend over backward imagining what I could have done wrong. But for the first time in a long time, I also believed worrying and analyzing wouldn’t make the missing information magically surface. I believed that I had no control over his response or lack thereof, just my response and my own actions.
I don’t say that to toot my own horn. In relationships where I’m more emotionally invested, that compulsion to fill in the blanks and read people’s minds is much stronger. This story only played out the way it did because of a million cases in which I did go all the way down that rabbit hole.
In situations where we don’t have enough information to draw any conclusions, what is your tendency? It might be muscle memory, and so you’re not mindful of it or you might not realize there’s any other way to respond to relational ambiguity.
The first step is to start noticing. Don’t judge; just notice. And as you’re noticing, if you feel any shame or embarrassment creeping in, take those feelings to God.
To close the story loop on Thomas, I decided to send him one final text asking him to reach out. After two weeks of radio silence, he replied, “Yeah sorry! Lol it’s been a crazy few weeks.” After thinking of replies that were ten kinds of petty, I decided to sleep on it. The next day I texted back, “Did you maybe want to elaborate on that?” I haven’t heard from him since.
It was information. Still not enough to draw many conclusions, but enough to feel that I dodged a bullet.
And I suppose that’s how you bust a ghost.