Are you there, dude I dated for over two years?
It’s me, the person you are cruelly, cold turkey ignoring for no good reason.
This isn’t a new perspective on the armpit of modern, millennial dating we call “ghosting,” nor is it my first personal rodeo but this is the first time I feel compelled to put some words down on iPhone notes to share some insights so here we go:
First, a brief list of things for which I will hold myself accountable. This isn’t an easy mirror to look into because what’s reflected back to me are all the things I know (I know, I KNOW) are behavior I shouldn’t be allowing as a 30 year old woman who considers themselves a (relatively) savvy dater. I think accountability is a huge piece of the solution to this epidemic and I’m ready to say it starts with me (Did I just steal that tag line? I think I did. Sorry. I’m accountable for that, too.).
1. Drama Addiction. Namely the emotional crack cocaine that comes in small doses of broken promises and tiny breadcrumbs of false hope. If that sounds dramatic it’s because drama, baby! It’s like watching a TV show you know is not good. You wouldn’t advertise that you’re watching it among most circles and even you, devoted watcher, are disappointed in the content most of the time. Maybe you even say, “this show is ridiculous, I’m not watching anymore.” But you are, aren’t you? Just. one. more. episode.
2. Lowering Expectations. Most people (including myself) might say this is a good thing. I truly believe that managing your expectations and, in turn, being open to different experiences can be integral to finding happiness. Lowering your expectations to meet someone’s low quality behavior in relationship hell where respect goes to die is not integral to finding happiness. That’s just silly.
3. Backsliding. You know how some people can do all sorts of cool tricks with yo-yos where they go back and forth and even magically suspend the yo-yo on the taut string so it’s not really moving at all? That’s cool. When I have tried to use a yo-yo the string has gotten tangled around the plastic part and also my fingers and also I have used a lot of swear words. Backsliding is probably the item on this list I am most guilty of and, unfortunately, the most hurtful to other people.
And now, another list of things for which I will take zero responsibility. In fact, so severe are these offenses that this list could also be titled “Things I Would Break Your Kneecaps for Doing to My Friends.” These things include (but are, sadly, not limited to):
1. Lying. Maybe it’s a little baby white lie. Maybe it’s a nice idea that you really wish you could grow into and you just might if you say it out loud or send it in a text. Whatever, man. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Did I read too much into the things you said? I don’t know, I LITERALLY JUST READ THEM.
2. Gaslighting. Sorry but it’s actually not crazy to expect that someone you entered into some sort of romantic involvement with treat you like a human being with all those fancy human being bells and whistles like, oh, I don’t know…respect? Honesty? Empathy? Is that too far? MAYBE I’M CRAZY.
3. Cowardice. This one might irk me the most because, to me, hiding from a situation you have co-created and actively participated in is a really dark thing. I feel this way about this sort of behavior as it pertains to work, family, friendships, commitments, etc. but there is something particularly sad about it when it’s in response to another human’s care and vulnerability. I don’t even have a quippy all caps ending to this one because it’s just too sad.
I love lists. They help me make sense of so many things. What the hell I should be accomplishing on a daily basis. How to grocery shop. Goals. Gratitude. (Thank you, God, for the gift of lists.) And so I use these lists to help me make a bit of sense about this strange phenomenon. I could make a third list about all the things I think you should do to “get over” the person who may be ghosting you, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll share what it’s taught me about accountability.
This might be a good time to disclose that, personally, I’ve had something of a tough year. And, okay, if I’m being honest and if my tough year was a toddler it would be more like 27 months old. There hasn’t been much clarity that’s come from making lists or managing expectations and having someone I loved very much and very deeply cut me off at the knees with no explanation certainly has not helped but. BUT. I think that the making and the managing is good and important work because it has prepared me to walk away from this and be better. I want the things I do and say to be answerable because I’ve seen first hand that the alternative is crap. Do I get to be angry? Sure. But if I’m not accountable for my anger and how it manifests and how I put it aside and love people in the future, I’ve learned nothing. It starts with me.
Finally (hopefully), it’s also taught me to choose better but that’s about how I encounter other people, not about how I encounter myself. And after someone takes and takes from you, even in their absence, even from their dark hiding spot, it’s good to make some things about you instead.
So, thank you for ghosting. Not because you showed me your true colors but because you showed me mine.