Something a Little Different

About two months ago I met a man through POF. His profile caught my eye because of the honesty in his write up, because of his height (yes, I can be shallow too), and because of the style and quality of his profile pictures. Not what I could tell about his looks from the pictures mind you, but the emotion that he managed to convey in them. It appealed to the amateur photographer in me, and left me interested enough to want to know more.

We messaged a bit and then set up a meeting. My favorite type of first meeting actually, a walk through a local park. I think he even suggested it. The meeting went well; the conversation flowed naturally, there was enough light teasing and laughter to suggest the presence of chemistry, and we never seemed to run out of topics to touch on. He was comfortable with my polyamory, and seemed like he might be on the edge of looking for something similar, although for different reasons. It was definitely one of my more successful first dates. He was going to be working out of town for a bit, so we set up an early dinner date for the next day, just before he left. The second date went as well as the first, cementing the fact that there was a connection worth pursuing, whatever that connection might be.

Between him working out of town and my schedule it was about a week before we saw each other again. He was pursuing other relationships and so was I, but we continued to grow the one we were building as well. Our third date was something I wouldn’t normally do that quickly; we planned to hang out at his place, just to spend time together and see what would happen. I was so comfortable with him so quickly that I wasn’t even judging myself, I was just letting things happen as they would. They did, and it was great. No pressure, no expectations, just two adults enjoying each other’s company and planning to continue to do so. He went out of town again for the week, and when he got back we had a great night out followed by a great time in. Things were going really well. Then we hit a hiccup.

I have a habit of adapting to the needs of my partner, and I was getting the sense that he wanted or felt like he needed a relationship. Not an exclusive one, and maybe not even one with me, but something with feelings and future potential. I was happy with what things were, but felt strongly enough about him that if he wanted to try then I was willing. So I let him know that. It turns out I was wrong, and my assumption and ensuing declaration resulted in some anxiety on his part and some hurt feelings on mine. I think if we had less of a connection then things would have ended there, and we each would have gone our separate ways.

Instead of running away we wound up having a series of conversations, and out of those we were able to figure out what we wanted from each other. Not a romantic relationship, that wasn’t something either of us felt would work out long term. We each had our own reasons for that, some of which we discussed and others that we did not. What it really came down to was the fact that that particular spark wasn’t there, for either of us. Sometimes it just happens that way; everything else can be a perfect fit, but if one piece isn’t there the whole thing doesn’t work.

So if not a romantic relationship, then what? Friends, obviously. But friend is such a broad term and encompasses so many different levels of relationships that it seems too general. In the short time we have known each other we have shared things, supported each other, and connected in ways that I haven’t with people I’ve known for decades. Friends with benefits is too harsh, it sounds cheap and like we were using each other. When our other relationships allowed for it and when we chose to enjoy each other’s company physically it was as an add on to what we had; never an expectation or a pillar of the relationship. If it never happened again it wouldn’t change anything.

We were out for a walk the other night, chatting about our lives, other relationships, and various thoughts or experiences we had over the last few days. Just enjoying each other’s company. He turned to me at one point and said “I do love you, you know” and I replied with “I know, and I love you too”. Because I did, and I do. It wasn’t a big declaration, there weren’t any tears or giant smiles or passionate embraces or promises made. It was just a quiet verbal acknowledgement of something we both felt, something that had grown without effort or intent.

When I started online dating I expected to make friends, I even hoped for it. I also expected misunderstandings, and that some would go well and others would not. It happens. What I could never expect was that a mistaken assumption on my part would lead to a series of conversations that has allowed me to find one of the best friends I have ever had in my life. Would we have gotten here without that hiccup? I honestly don’t know. And really, it doesn’t matter. We are here. I may not have a word for exactly what we are to one another, it’s something a little different, but I do know that it’s special and that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Online Dating Terms

If you are going to be out there in the dating world there are some terms you should familiarize yourself with. This is not a comprehensive list, so if I missed any please feel free to add them in the comments!

Bae: A term of endearment, a shortened version of babe or baby. Because apparently those words aren’t already short enough. It is also a Danish word for poop, and the acronym for “before anyone else”, “best at everything” and “bacon and eggs”. Use at your own risk.

Bread crumbing: Sending occasional flirty texts or giving just enough attention to keep someone’s hope of a relationship alive. Also known as “Hansel and Gretelling” for those of you who remember fairy tales that don’t involve vampires that sparkle in the sun.

Bot: A fictitious account on a dating app, designed to get you to hit a link or give up an email address and eventually pay money to see more.

Catfishing: So common that Merriam-Webster has actually added the term to the dictionary, it is used to refer to internet predators that fabricate identities in order to trick people into emotional relationships. Bottom feeders, much like an actual catfish.

Cuffing Season: That period during the fall and winter months when people who would normally rather be single or promiscuous find themselves desiring to be tied down by a relationship. Essentially the hibernation of the dating world, it is about as far from the kinky thing it sounds like as possible.

Curving: Like ghosting, but instead of just leaving you hanging their replies will get further and further apart, and will contain lots of “I’m sorry, I got caught up with <insert predictable excuse here>.”

Cushioning (or benching): A technique where you have a main partner or potential partner, but you are chatting and flirting with other people that you are keeping on the bench to cushion the potential fall if your better option doesn’t work out.

DTF: If you don’t know this one, congratulations, you have led the perfect life. Or a really boring one. Either way, if you see a profile with “DTF” on it, or someone asks you if you are “DTF”, make sure all of your personal maintenance is in order and that you are freshly showered.

DTR: The natural follow up to “we need to talk”, this one stands for Define the Relationship.

Firedooring: Just like that safety door at work, this is when access is entirely one sided. Any attempt to make initiating contact, meeting needs, or confirming plans go both ways is met with a flat, hard, impenetrable surface.

Ghosting: When a person cuts off all communication with a partner or potential partner and completely disappears, with no notice or explanation given.

Haunting: Occurring after ghosting, this is when the ghoster continues indirect contact by liking your social media content, but is still not responding to any direct communication attempts.

Kittenfishing: The most commonly used tactic when online dating, kittenfishing is making yourself seem way different online than you are in person. This means using really old pictures, fibbing about things like height, weight, or size, or exaggerating your interest, skills, or talents. Basically wasting everyone’s time.

Meet-cute: A scenario in which two people are brought together in some crazy, unlikely, destined to be together forever kind of way. See any romantic comedy for an example. If anyone has seen it happen in real life let me know, I certainly haven’t.  

Pied Pipers or Pie Hunters: People who deliberately seek out singles who have a disastrous dating history, so they can hook up with them when they are at their most vulnerable.

Sapiosexual: Originally defined as a person who is attracted to someone’s mind before their body, many online daters are now using it as a statement against the current hookup culture, to let others know they want more than just sex.

Stashing: When you are in a relationship with someone but you refuse to introduce them to your friends or family. Likely because you view them as temporary, replaceable, or lacking in some way. A nice word for being an asshole.

Sup: If you hear this from someone, move on. Anyone too lazy to say or write all 7 letters of what’s up is also going to be too lazy to satisfy you in any other way.

Thirsty: When you are so eager for attention, sexual or otherwise, that you basically look like a dehydrated fool wandering in the desert, willing to lap up anything thrown your way.  

Why I’m Trying Open Relationships

Like many of you, I grew up in a nuclear family. Two parents and their dependent children, regarded as a basic social unit by society. This has been the ideal model, in western culture at least, for as long as most people can remember.

As far as I know this model worked for my parents. They have been married for over 40 years, have not lived apart at any time during that period, and to my knowledge have not had romantic relationships with any other people since they got together. They are the ideal that our society tells us to strive for.  

So many things in life have told me that I should want this, my parents and their example being the first. It was reinforced through my youth, seeing other young kids playing house, listening to high school friends dream about their wedding day, and watching fellow college students frantically try to find ‘the one’.  As an adult it’s been hammered into me, watching one by one as people I knew paired off, getting those dreaded ‘when will you find someone’ questions at family events, and seeing the pitying looks from people any time I went to an event without a partner. It is expected that we will all pair off, and that we will do everything in our power to get to that as early as possible.

I was never the girl that planned her wedding. It just didn’t matter to me. Over the years I’ve tried several time to have successful monogamous relationships, sometimes to the point of completely repressing who I am just to make it work. It’s what I was told I should want, and I tried my hardest to have it. Then when I couldn’t make it work I stopped trying altogether, stopped trying to find anyone. I didn’t meet people, didn’t date, and eventually didn’t even have sex for over a decade. I thought I was broken, damaged, or in some way incomplete because I couldn’t find this thing that every other person seemed to be able to. I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was the problem.

There isn’t anything wrong with me.

It has taken me a long time to say that. Probably too long. I am a good person. I am happy, social, attractive, and I care deeply about the people I come to know. I like going out, staying in, or any combination thereof. I am compassionate, supportive, giving, playful, entertaining and independent. I am easy to be around, and easy to love.

I just don’t fit the standard formula.

In all of my relationships I’ve felt restricted, or like something is missing, in one way or another. I’ve had to give up meeting new people, lost time with people I cared about, and changed plans countless time to fit another person’s life. Hobbies I enjoy have fallen by the wayside, and things I’ve wanted to try have never happened. I’ve given up freedom, experiences, friendships, and time, all in the pursuit of that one goal – becoming a couple.

In every relationship I’ve had that feeling of restriction has turned me into someone I don’t want to be, and someone my partner ultimately hasn’t wanted to be around. In some I’ve become exhausted, constantly worn down by not having my own needs fulfilled while I meet someone else’s, making me angry and petulant. In others I’ve become rebellious, lashing out and finding ways to hurt my partner in an attempt to express how unhappy I am. I’ve tried telling my partner exactly what isn’t working for me, what is missing, only to be met with confusion or abandonment. It’s not their fault. It’s not even mine. But it doesn’t work.

Recently I’ve been introduced to the concept of open relationships. Open means different things to different people, and many names and labels are used to define it and it’s varying levels of feeling and commitment. Regardless of the term used the definition I hear most is ‘committed intimate caring relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners’. The rules are set by the people involved, and as long as everyone is honest and follows them these relationships work beautifully.

Imagine it. Not having to find just one perfect person to meet all of your needs, and not needing to be the one perfect person that meets all of someone else’s needs. Not having to restrict yourself to one person’s likes or dislikes, hobbies or passions, and not having to badger that person into participate in all of yours. Being able to find different people that fit the different parts of your life, that allow you to do things you love with people you care about who also love doing them, and knowing that you aren’t leaving someone out while you do that because they also have someone to do the things they love with. Sharing experiences and emotions, good and bad, with multiple partners, instead of requiring one to carry all the weight of it on their own. Being free to meet new people you might care about, without needing to give up anyone else first. Being allowed to care for as many or as few people as you want, for as long as you want and in whatever way you want, at any time.

I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than that, and I’m looking forward to experiencing it for myself.

Trust

What makes you trust someone?

Meeting people is easy, but truly letting them in is more difficult. We all have parts of ourselves that we hold back, things we don’t share easily with others. Sometimes they are things we are ashamed of, but most of the time they are things that we are protecting. Things that are fragile, things that are precious, and often things that have been hurt before.

Trust is a huge hurdle in any new relationship, whether it is romantic or not, and there are so many different pieces to it. There’s your basic trust, things like “do I get in a vehicle with them?”, “Should I watch my drink around them?” or “Do I want them to know where I live?”. Then there’s the more complicated questions like “Are they really who they say they are?”, “Do they make good decisions?”, and perhaps most importantly “Are they going to hurt me?”.

Trust is a social construct, defined as a belief in the reliability, truth, ability or strength of someone. It’s something most of us learn as children, then spend our lives relearning and redefining as we add up our positive and negative experiences. It is a constantly changing creature, and can be swayed by more internal and external factors than we can possibly imagine.

So should you trust someone? Some people trust freely and completely, believing people deserve it until they show they don’t. For others trust must be earned in levels, through a series of conscious or unconscious tests. And for some it is something they aren’t capable of ever completely giving.

There are no right answers to these questions, there is just what is right for you in the moment, based on your experiences, your openness, and your ability to handle being hurt. Trust is risky no matter who you are dealing with, every single person on the planet has the ability to hurt someone else. Some might choose to and others will do it unconsciously. It’s unavoidable.

For me trust has always been a gut feeling. It comes quickly with many people, slowly with others, and in some cases it never happens. Sometimes there are obvious reasons I trust or don’t trust someone and sometimes there aren’t. Sometimes I trust fully, other times I hold back and the trust comes in levels.  And sometimes my gut is wrong, and I get hurt.

It is tempting when we get hurt to make sweeping decisions like, “I will never trust again” or “I make bad choices, I should just stop making choices at all”. I did that, for a long time. I eventually learned that it’s important to remember in that moment that this was just one bad decision. Maybe it was a big one, maybe it really hurt, maybe it even hurt someone else, but it was still just one bad call. One mistake. Don’t let it stop you from trying again. Add it to your pool of experience, learn from it, maybe be slightly more cautious next time, but don’t give up. There are more people out there who are worthy of your trust than there are who will abuse it, and the only way to find them is to keep trying.

The Other Benefits of Online Dating

When we are online dating it becomes very easy to develop a negative perspective on the process. We tend to focus on all of the things that we aren’t finding, whether that is love, the perfect fling, or something else, and not the things we are. We go into it with our lists and our expectations and often come out of it feeling even more alone or unfulfilled than we were when we started. On top of that not all dating experiences are good ones, so sometimes we develop new social scars to go along with the ones we already have. These feelings can make it very difficult to see the other benefits of the experience, beyond meeting the person or persons you think you are looking for.

The first unexpected benefit I found when I started online dating was the realization that I was not alone in being alone. At the time most of my friends were in long term relationships and I had been single for over a decade. The need I felt to partner up, either by lowering my expectations or increase my desirability, was intense. My inability to do it bothered me to the point that it became a source of shame, something else that made me feel alienated, unworthy, and unwanted. The constant commentary from family and friends that I should find someone, and their expectation that it should be easy for me, only added to this. I know they all meant well, but the pressure I felt from being unable to meet the social expectation that we should all couple up ultimately made me very depressed.  

When I started online dating I found out just how many people out there were single, and I was amazed. Some of them were like I was, desperately looking for a partner. Others fell into the category of people who were single for a reason, either by their own choice or due to something they needed to work through. Several were in that brief period between relationships that most serial monogamists experience. Ultimately it didn’t matter to me why people were single, the fact that there were so many of us made me feel like less of a failure. I wasn’t an outsider anymore, I was part of a community, one that I had previously known nothing about. Through the shared experience of dating I became closer to the few friends I had that were also single, and realized there wasn’t anything wrong with any of us. Eventually the imposed feelings of expectation and loneliness left me, and I was able to realize the complete person that I already was.

I credit online dating with improving my social skills. When I was younger I had no problem talking to anyone, but during my long period of being single I had forgotten how to meet new people, how to interact in a crowd, and even how to talk to people I already knew. I became very introverted, uncertain of myself in every situation, and that added to my isolation. I wouldn’t say or do anything because I was so afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing.

Online dating gives you a unique opportunity that I don’t think you get anywhere else – the chance to edit yourself. Most communication is done through messaging, which means you can compose and make changes to your words before you send them.  It is a social crutch, but one that I found very helpful when learning how to put myself out there again. The chance that I would blurt something awful out, or laugh at the wrong time, or miss part of what a person was trying to tell me was gone. I could read, reread, write, and rewrite to my heart’s content. Over time I found myself doing this less and less, as I re-learned the skills I used to have, and as my natural confidence began to come out again. I was shedding layers of self-doubt and fear with every message, and it felt wonderful. By the time I felt ready to have a real relationship most of my unnatural shyness was gone, and I was able to show the person I wanted who I really was from the beginning.

My favorite benefit has been the improvement to my social life. I am very glad that I never fell into the habit of ignoring a connection because it didn’t include the romantic element I was looking for.  Online dating gave me access to people I would never have met in my everyday life, and some of those people have quickly become my closest friends. Because of them I have been exposed to new experiences, different points of view, and have developed a better support system than I have ever had before. Without them my current hopeful, happy, and excited personality would not exist, and I would have missed out on far too many wonderful aspects of life because of that.

Closure

For most of us this is something we never get. When a relationship ends one partner is usually left wondering what changed, when it happened, where things went wrong, why now, and how they could have missed it. On top of all the emotions that come with losing someone, there is the not knowing. It eats at us, bringing out feelings of self doubt and mistrust, and often causes problems in our future relationships.

So given the opportunity for closure, would you take it? The easy answer is yes, of course, because if you know everything that went wrong then you can prevent it from happening again. Right?

Wrong. In most cases the things we call ‘closure’ wind up being more hurtful than helpful. Or they aren’t really closure at all, just excuses, or blame. They often lead to more hurt feelings, and further destruction of the relationship. And they can still affect your future relationships in negative ways, by adding to any lingering anger or lack of trust.

If you are given the opportunity to get closure from someone it is important to ask yourself some hard questions. First, is this person really capable of giving you closure? If they couldn’t tell you this information when things ended,why are they capable of telling you now? What has changed for them? Have they really been reviewing what happened and coming up with more thorough answers, or are you just going to get a regurgitated version of things you’ve already heard?

Second, are you capable of hearing what they have to say? If your former partner really does come to you with new or expanded reasons about why things ended, are you going to be able to really hear what they are telling you? This won’t be easy for them either. If you are going to ask for closure, and they are ready to truly provide it, you had best be ready to hear it. Otherwise it’s not fair to anyone.

Finally, is this closure really going to change anything? If you do get all the answers to every question you ever wanted to ask, what will that mean? It won’t bring back the relationship, and it probably won’t leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy about you or your former partner. What is you end game in asking for closure? Why is it important to you? If it’s so you can assign blame to someone else, don’t. That’s just a waste of time, it’s already over. If it’s so you know what you did wrong, be careful. Just because it was ‘wrong’ for your last partner doesn’t mean it will be wrong for your next one, or that it’s wrong for you. Changing yourself based on what someone else wanted is a slippery slope that can end up with you losing who you are. I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to what the other person has to say, but remember to take it with several large grains of salt. Hold on to who you are and what you learned about yourself or each other while you were together, and let the blame and hurt fade away.

The Friend Zone

Yes, it happens to all of us. Regardless of your gender, sexual orientation, or physical attractiveness, at some point in life you have or will be friend zoned. Probably more than once.

Maybe you’ve been chatting online with someone, or you’ve met them in person. Maybe you’ve even been friends or colleagues for some time. However it began you’ve had that feeling, felt that spark, gotten excited, and have hit that moment where you want to be something more. You gather your strength, build up your self esteem, and work up the courage to make your move. You invite them on a date, suggest a weekend away, or maybe even just go in for the kiss. Then BAM! it happens. They tell you they would rather just be or stay friends. Ouch.

That’s right, ouch. It’s ok to say it. Let it sting. However noble their intentions or how gently they do it, it is a rejection. It’s ok to feel that way. You put yourself out there, offered yourself, and it wasn’t what they wanted. Let yourself feel it, even if it’s just for a moment. Don’t wallow in it or get angry about it, but do acknowledge it. What’s important is what you do next.

What comes after ‘let’s be friends’ is entirely up to you, and it’s an important decision. Don’t blow by it. In order to be fair to yourself and to the other person you need to ask yourself a couple of serious questions.

First, do you feel like you can just be friends with this person? Can you set aside the romantic feelings, for good? It isn’t fair to you or to them if you are agreeing to a friendship only out of hope that it will be more one day. That will lead to a lot of resentment on your part, and will poison the relationship down the road.

Second, is there value in the friendship? We become romantically interested in people for a lot of reasons, and not all of those reasons will translate to a good friendship. You will need to ask yourself where you see this friendship going, what this person will add to your life, and what you will add to theirs.

If the answer to either of those questions is no, that’s ok. It doesn’t make you a bad person, just an honest one. And it will save you both time and possible hurt feelings in the long run. You don’t have to be friends with every person you meet. Agree to be friendly acquaintances and move on.

Slow. Down.

I have this thing I do when I find something new and exciting – I jump in too deep too fast. It happens with new hobbies, new friendships, and most of all, new relationships. I get excited to learn and do more, passionate about what things could be like, and without even realizing it I find myself almost fully immersed in something or someone I know very little about. Sometimes I get lucky and it works out, and other times I wind up brokenhearted, missing out on great friendships, or paying off bills for bags of crafting materials I’m never going to use.

My last long term relationship really brought this to light for me because we both had this problem. Within 3 weeks of our first kiss we were saying I love you. He canceled his plans to move to another city, and I started involving him in extended family dinners barely a month after we started dating. We spent every weekend together, went to every event together, and couldn’t wait to merge our lives as much as possible.

I’m not saying any of this is wrong, or that the love wasn’t there. It was. I’m just saying that we went too fast, and because we shared this problem neither of us could see it. We were so excited to get to the next level of commitment, for different reasons, that we didn’t stop to fully enjoy and analyze each new level as it came, and we missed out on a lot of warning signs for things that came later because of that.

I learned a lot from that relationship, but probably the biggest thing was that I need to slow down. Way down. To an almost glacial pace, at least compared to what I was doing. There is nothing wrong with being excited, feeling things deeply, or wanting everything at once, but there is something dangerous in trying to actually do that. Loving someone and building a life together, if that is the type of relationship you want, should be something that develops slowly. No matter what the feelings are, time is the only tool out there that allows you to have experiences that will test you, make you see certain things, and develop those important questions that need to be asked and answered.

Don’t think that because I learned this lesson once I have followed it to the letter. I haven’t. It is a constant struggle reminding myself not to dive in just because something feels good or seems amazing. Sometimes I slip up, and I have to learn the lesson all over again. Sometimes a partner or friend reminds me that I am trying to move too fast. And sometimes there just isn’t enough room on my credit card to buy that really cool new thing that is totally going to change my life.

The Hiring Process

Modern day dating is a little more complicated than it was in the old days. We don’t trade oxen for spouses anymore, plan elaborate kidnapping schemes to get the one we want, or spend weeks winning over a family to earn the right to spend time with their offspring. So what are the stages of dating today, and how do you know which one you are in? I find it easiest to look at dating in the same way as you would look at applying for a high end job.

Step 1: Resumes and Reference Checks

This stage is everything up to your first in person meeting. It is your dating profiles, your friends recommendations, or your craigslist ad, whatever tool you are using. It includes any messaging or phone conversations you have prior to actually sitting down with a qualified applicant. This is the time when you are putting up a giant billboard saying ‘Hey, here I am, pick me’, and are listing all of your best qualities.

Step 2: Skill Testing

This is your first face to face meeting. Basically it is the best opportunity you and your prospective employer have had to see if you are who you both have said you are and if you are really bringing anything to the table that the other person wants. I refer to it as the testing phase because it isn’t really a date, it’s just finding out if you can maintain a conversation, if there’s any attraction or chemistry at all, and if they look anything like they do in their pictures. Basically this is your time to prove you have the skills and assets you have claimed to have, and to see if they have them as well.

Step 3: The Interview Process

Once you pass the skill testing step you are into the interview process. The length of this process can be anywhere from a couple dates to a couple months, depending on what you and your prospective employer have discussed. Just like any interview process there is no expectation that you are exclusive during this stage. You can still be reference checking, skill testing, and interviewing with other employers, and they can still be doing all of that with other applicants. There is no limit on how well you can get to know one another during this (or any other) stage, but it is recommended that you discuss any privacy or exclusivity concerns up front.

Step 4: The Probation Period

It may take some time to get here, but this step begins as soon as you and your prospective employer have decided to take a chance on each other. In a monogamous relationship this generally means an exclusive chance. In an open or polyamorous relationship it will have a different definition, but should still involve some level of confirmation of acceptance. It is very important that this decision is clearly communicated by both parties, and that they are both clear that they are no longer engaging in any of the first 3 steps with any other applicants, or are open about who or why if they are. You should never assume you have reached this step, it should always be a discussion.

Step 5: Hired

Just like applying for a job, this is the end game. There are no rules on how long it will take to get here or what exactly it looks like once you are here. In general you will know you are here when you both have that feeling of long term or even permanent commitment. For some that will be moving in together, or buying property. It could mean going on expensive trips, having children, or getting married. It may just mean that you are publicly declaring that you belong to each other, or privately showing each other that you do. Relationships are different in every situation, and each one will need to communicate and define this stage in its own way.

Ghosting

It’s come, that moment you were dreading, the one you always hope will never come again. Maybe you were chatting online, maybe you had gone out a few times, maybe you were even in a full blown relationship. Then it happened – you just stopped hearing from the other person. No warning given, no obvious changes in behavior to tip you off, nothing. They are just gone, and you are left wondering.

There is an endless stream of questions that come up when a person is ghosted. Usually it starts with concern “Did something happen to them?”, “Are they laying in a ditch somewhere?”, or “Did they have to leave the country suddenly for some reason?”. Then you realize that you aren’t the lead character in a romantic comedy and that it isn’t anything that reasonable.  They have just decided that you are no longer worth their time, and that you weren’t even worth a goodbye. The next round of questioning is usually a little angrier “How could they do this to me?”, “Did they ever really care at all?”, or “What kind of person does that to someone?”. You can rant and rave and ask all you want but you will probably never get an answer. Finally, you will get to the worst type of questioning – the self-doubt round. “What did I do to push them away?”, “How come I couldn’t see it coming?”, and “What’s wrong with me that this was so easy for them?”.

Ghosting is one of the most common types of social rejection out there. It hurts, and it’s not the kind of hurt you can take a pain killer for. It is absence, rejection, loss, disrespect, disappointment, insult, and a gut punch that you can never really fully prepare yourself for. It is the silent treatment taken to the extreme, and some people wield it as easily as you or I do a pencil or a fork.

What makes a person ghost someone? There are as many answers to this as there are people who do it. For some it’s just the easy way out, no harm and no foul, in their minds at least. They genuinely don’t see how it can hurt someone, particularly in the early stages of getting to know each other. For others it’s the coward’s way out, a way for them to not have to deal with the emotional fallout of ending something. There are even a few who do it for the impact it will have, knowing full well how it will make you feel, either out of revenge for times it has happened to them or just because they like the feeling of knowing they have that power over you.  

So what can you do about it?

When it comes to your ghoster? Nothing. Sure, you could keep messaging them hoping for a response, constantly check and see if they are online talking to anyone else, or stop by places you know they go hoping to ‘accidentally’ run into them. But what does this really accomplish? It isn’t going to change anything. Even if they do eventually respond, what have you gained? Another empty interaction from someone you can’t really trust anymore. You won’t get any real answers as to why they disappeared on you, and even if you somehow do it isn’t going to make you feel any better.

When it comes to you? Everything. What happens after you are ghosted is all about changing your internal narrative. Stay away from that last round of questioning. You didn’t do anything, you aren’t blind or naive, and there isn’t anything wrong with you. This is all about them. Instead of beating yourself up, or staying angry, ask yourself this one really important question, “Is a person who can do this to someone a person I really want to be with?”. Hopefully the answer to that is no, and you can grieve the end of the relationship and move on.