By Rivka Yeker
Experiencing your friend’s vivid details of their most recent Tinder date, or their obsession with a stranger on OkCupid can get overwhelming, whether it’s asking them the vital questions of, “So when are you going to hang out?” or “Do they like the same bands as you?” while simultaneously trying to keep up with every person that passes through their life, nonchalantly and swiftly.
What I have been noticing as of late, though, has been the stump we hit when we aren’t sure if we are actually enjoying our date’s rant about his favorite German Expressionist film or the time he saw some generic indie band at Lollapalooza. It’s that moment when the excitement about someone actually being attracted to us starts dimming slowly, where we realize that we aren’t actually having a good time. The minute that feeling sinks, we are stuck and we are unsure how to move.
Each time I tell my friends that they have to lay the facts down, they automatically respond with, “What do you mean I have to tell him that I’m not interested? I’m going to hurt him!” Yet, they aren’t thinking about all of the times they’ve been on the opposite end, subtly rejected and ignored until the epiphany strikes and they recognize that they have been ghosted. Yes, completely and utterly rejected.
We’ve all been both victims and perpetrators, trying to hold onto something that is entirely unreciprocated or exiting unwanted flings by fleeing the scene and refusing to reply. But regardless of how much we know that “ghosting” is bad, regardless of how much we’re aware that “communication is key” and that it is the better route, we are still terrified of facing someone and telling them the honest truth, whether it’s that we are not interested at all, don’t feel compatible with the person, or are genuinely terrified of commitment, like most of us are. Even the excuse can be slightly altered, as long as you give the person the closure they deserve.
As the person that decides to ghost, you are given leverage, some kind of power that the other person doesn’t have. You have chosen to disregard this situation, to act as if it had never happened, as if you had never went out on a date or had sex, as if this person wasn’t somehow impacted by you or left to feel vulnerable in one way or another. You have decided that this situation doesn’t matter to you, even if the person on the other side feels excited about what they thought was a connection. And this isn’t a matter of whether your feelings are valid or not, because your feelings are perfectly justified. It’s a matter of whether you can discuss those feelings with the person you became involved with, regardless of how casual it may be.
As the person that has been ghosted, you are left with nothing but yourself, which gives only one person to blame. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, this can leave people to feel negative thoughts that continue to damage their self-esteem, especially if they’ve been struggling to get out and date in the first place. When you are ghosted, you are forced to question every single word you said, every facial expression made, every bold opinion stated. It feels like it’s your fault and your fault only, that there are no other possible options for this, like that they may be very busy at the moment, they didn’t feel a connection, or they’re looking for something else at that point in their life. All of those excuses are understandable, but as someone who was recently ghosted, every thought become irrational and self-deprecating.
This is why this conversation is unbelievably crucial. People are horrified of dating for these exact reasons, because rejection is one thing and it hurts, but to be left without a reason, without any explanation as to why this isn’t going to work out, feels like hell. As humans, as people who are capable of communicating and experiencing connection, we deserve closure, whether it’s positive or negative.
So as we grow with our future dates and flings, we must take the time to discuss our feelings when needed, when they should be discussed, even if we claim ourselves to be closed off or nervous, sometimes it isn’t about you, sometimes it’s about the person you could unintentionally scar. Redefining what it means to be “uncomfortable” and taking steps towards fluid conversation is how we will navigate vulnerability in a light that isn’t as terrifying as it currently is.