When it happens, when you realize what’s happening, it isn’t a big, dramatic moment of agony. Flames don’t begin to burst out of your phone screen, hungry for a pair of hands. You don’t scream or fall to your knees, begging for release from the pain surging through your heart. Nobody immediately senses your distress and comes to your rescue. The room you’re in doesn’t crumble into pieces. Nothing, really, changes. But all of a sudden, it’s different. Undeniably different.
When my ex blocked my phone number I wanted with everything in me to believe that it was a mistake. Maybe his cell was off. Maybe he was having problems with it and his iPhone was in an Apple store being poked and prodded. Maybe he’d forgotten to charge it overnight so he’d been left without it, all day. A dead lump of technology sitting useless on his work desk. But as the days of my unopened, undelivered text message turned to weeks, and then a month, the truth sunk to the bottom of my chest and stayed there. His foot had come down, hard. He didn’t want to know me anymore. He wanted to disappear quietly and without a trace.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking: why were you texting your ex in the first place? Great question! I have no idea. At the time it made sense. I wanted to check-in and make sure that he was doing okay. Without getting into the specifics of our breakup, I’ll say that I was concerned about his health and needed the reassurance that he was, for lack of a better term, alive. The keywords here are “I” and “needed” — at the core, my reaching out was a selfish act. One that I masqueraded under the costume of concern. At some point, the makeup and the elaborate gowns need to come off, though, and when they did I was left with a mountain of guilt and inadequacy that I didn’t know how to negotiate.
How could loving somebody with your entirety not be enough? How could my genuine concern have been misread as something dirty, and invasive? How could something I’d heard about from friends, a term I’d thrown around in jokes, now apply to me? How could he? How could he? The breakup itself had been the knife in my chest, but this shoved the blade in just deep enough for me to realize that we weren’t going to recover. I would leave this situation scarred and bloody. I would leave this situation alone.
And at first, that was the worst ending I could ever have penned for us. I couldn’t imagine a scenario more devastating than me alienating him to the point of never wanting anything to do with me again. But as time passed, and I deleted our text thread, and I began reintroducing myself to the world, I realized that there were much worse things that could’ve happened to us. Our relationship didn’t have to be defined by our downfall if I didn’t want it to. More importantly, my own life didn’t have to be defined by my failed relationship. Much less the act of clicking on a contact in your phone and then pressing “Block this caller” instead of verbalizing your issues.
Almost three years removed from all of this, I can confidently say that being ghosted is what brought me back to reality. Until then I’d been holding onto scraps of hope, telling myself that he would come back to me. We would pick up where we left off and it would be beautiful and magical and everything I wanted. But that just wasn’t realistic, and it took something as insignificant as an undelivered message to show me that. If he was meant to be in my life forever, if we had the chemistry to make that happen, he wouldn’t have ghosted me.
Now, I take this as a sign that I dodged a potential bullet. If you spend time ruminating on every missed opportunity, everything you could’ve done better or differently, it takes necessary time away from your healing process, and life is too short to put healing on the back burner. It’s okay to grieve, for the person you’ve lost and the relationship that’s unsalvageable, but after a while, you have to look past the phone screen and into your future. It’s bright, and it’s just ahead of you. Being ghosted doesn’t turn you into a ghost.