I feel like this image is perfect for what I'm going for here. Somebody standing in a corner in plain sight, hiding under a stupid white sheet. "You can't see me!", they think. Yes I can, asshole. Yes I can.
I'd like to start by stating that this post isn't entirely centered around something that's happened to me. Somewhat, yes. But entirely, no. It's more centered around what I believe I've learned. What I'm pondering and writing about here is this increasingly common practice where full-grown adults give each other the silent treatment. Yes that's right, "ghosting".
The idea here is that someone who has in some way indicated that they care about another person, suddenly withdraws all contact - leaving the other involved party confused, hurt, and most likely with a significant bruise to their self-esteem. I'm not currently in the dating pool, thank the lord, but dating is where I hear about this the most.
Ghosts of Dates Past
This kind of ghosting has never happened to me. I belong to a group of folks on social media who are of a similar age, and many are dating after painful divorces or otherwise failed relationships. These folks are reaching out, trying to meet the right person, and going on dates. The number of occurrences of this silent treatment that they've shared with me, truly surprises me.
Someone goes on a date, the date seems to go well, ends well, maybe even with a kiss or something more. Maybe this person even says yes to a second date, or "I'd love to see you again." Then, *poof*, they disappear into the void, never to be heard from again. Nothing but an embarrassing string of unanswered texts (or voicemails for us old folks).
The idea that a 40-something year old adult lacks the fortitude and strength of character to simply say, "this was fun, but sorry I'm not feeling a connection" - or a plain old "no" when asked for a second date - baffles me. Are people really ok with conducting themselves in the manner of a weakly-constituted, hide-in-the-corner, I-just-met-this-person-but-their-disapproval-scares-me, manner?
If so, bullet dodged, I say. Big time bullet dodged. I don't want that kind of person in my corner. I imagine these are the kind of people that would use you as a human shield if you were both caught in a gunfight. Seriously.
Ghosts We Loved
Now this kind... this kind has happened to me. Only twice in my life, and I'll never forget either of them.
This is when someone you love, and who loved you too, turns their back and shuts you out. Although this type of silent treatment is lovingly baked up with some special cowardice sprinkles on top, I do believe there is generally a lot more behind it than the simple lack of fortitude of character that I mentioned above. But damn, does it suck to eat that cake.
To have most likely opened your heart up to another - which if you're like me doesn't happen often - and have them receive it? Such a grand feeling. To feel truly accepted as you are, loved, appreciated, and not alone - to feel like you have a friend who is there for you no matter what - this is the stuff that makes life feel worth living. This is top-shelf cake. This makes every hardship feel softer, every smile brighter, and just gives you that special something in your step, as you stumble through your life.
Then, something happens. That person who welcomed your funky little self, your weird heart, your flaws, your beauty, your ugly, your achievements... chooses to stop doing so. And does so without saying so - without saying why. They just either very suddenly or gradually but quickly, stop showing you that they care. God, it can be so painful.
Things you have to say, it seems, no longer matter. Feelings? Nope. Heartbroken? Nope. Dying inside? *Yawn* Nope.
That is how it feels to be on the receiving end. I do believe though, in situations like this where there was real love before the fallout, there is more behind it than the obvious dash of spinelessness.
In one of my experiences, the perpetrator had it in his mind that disappearing was the kindest thing to do, due to some things that were going on in his life. He didn't want to break my heart. What he didn't realize is that my heart was breaking anyway, he just didn't have to see it. The other experience, I do not yet know the specific reasons behind it. I was told some things, and I have some ideas, but I don't know if any of them are reality and I've come to terms with the fact that maybe I never will. C'est la vie.
And so here I have, some advice! Take it or leave it.
How to Eat Ghost Cake and Survive
Well, maybe more than survive. Surviving it pretty easy, just... eat, sleep, don't die. Surviving and keeping your head figuratively up & off the floor, a bit harder.
The things that happen psychologically when someone we love withdraws communication, love, and contact, are incredibly painful. Some journals have likened the brain's reaction to that of physical, bodily pain. I mean why not, all pain is in the brain, right?
It's not just missing a person, there is a whole lot of "why" involved. Why did they do this, why did I deserve it, why won't they just talk to me... the list goes on. For these thoughts to be swirling in the brain of a person who is already chemically depressed by the relationship falling apart, can be dangerous. This person's brain enters fight or flight mode.
It's far too easy to allow your thoughts to spiral down these paths. To blame yourself. To question your self worth. To start to believe each and every bad thought that your chemically volatile brain throws at you. To believe that you will never be truly loved, that something is wrong with you. If it sounds like I am familiar with such thought patterns, it's because I am. A side-note: shout-out to my sobriety. So very helpful in not falling prey to my mind's raptors.
What you've got to do though, in my opinion - because you loved this person, right? - is reset yourself and look at it from a place of love. Look at it from the perspective of the person you were before you were hurt. Think back to how you thought of this person before they hurt your feelings, and then try to see the situation from the outside of the pain. There are really only two options here:
This person has something so big, so painful, so difficult going on, that they need space. And needing space and taking it is not only acceptable, it is healthy. Maybe they need to reset themselves and don't want to hurt you. Maybe they just need introspection. Maybe they need freedom. Who knows - the point is, they need space and if you love them, you should allow it. It's ok to still love them. Sure, maybe the way they went about it could have been communicated better. So what. Are you perfect? People screw up. If you love them, it's fine.
This person has come to a realization that they actually do not want your relationship anymore. This could be for so, so, so many reasons that it's not even a worthy task to list any of them. The point here is, they want it to end, so they're ending it. Again, maybe the method they chose sucks for you - sucks a whole lot - but there is not a whole lot you can do about that. Maybe you'll say something, maybe they'll say sorry, or maybe you've spoken your last words for them in this life. If you loved them, you must realize that the opportunity to have had that love was a blessing, and that all things are temporary.
Ok, so those being the two reasons, what do you do about it? One thing. LET. THEM. GO. Release them into the abyss. Allow yourself to feel hurt, and process it. You'll grow to accept the events that passed, and you'll grow to accept the future as it comes to you. You can still love them - or not. It's up to you. You feel your feelings, and leave them to theirs.
None of this erases the good feelings you had. The happiness, the love, it actually happened. Don't let your injured feelings color your beautiful memories with shit. Let the good memories stay good, and let the change take place. Goodness will happen again, with or without this person. There is no way to know the future. So you have got to let go and take a step forward into whatever is next, right now.
Oh, and as for the dating ghosts I spoke of above - not even worth a moment of wondering. Let that shit go, imediatamente. Spineless cowards, I tell ya.
Heads up, and flow forward, folks. There's a lot more life to live.