By Callie Athey, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: After several months of dating a new guy, I never heard from him again. My friends told me I had been "ghosted." Is "ghosting" a new term for being dumped? It was somewhat abrupt. I just never heard from him again, even after I tried to get in contact with him. What did I do wrong?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: Ghosted is when someone abruptly stops the relationship and never speaks to you again. Blow him off; he sounds like he has issues.
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: I've seen two stories using this term recently, in The New York Times and on the Huffington Post. While I was unfamiliar with the term, I am familiar with the act itself and have known people hurt by it — when someone they cared about completely disappeared without an explanation or without responding when they tried to reach out. (Note: Ghosting does not apply if you're trying to leave an abusive relationship, nor does it apply if you have broken up with someone with a conversation and they won't let it go.)
It is nice to put a name to this and realize it's common, but that's all that's nice about it happening. As the Huffington Post noted in “The Psychology of Ghosting: Why People Do It and a Better Way to Break Up,” ghosting often causes more long-term anxiety for the ghoster and triggers more hurt and anger at the ghostee than a proper good-bye would have. To me, the act seems quite self-centered, cowardly and lacking in empathy for a person who was vested in the relationship and cared; it's almost like a dramatic and sudden withdrawal is designed to cause maximum hurt and pain. Ghosters, I'm sure, have a different perspective about the reason for their sudden silence.
But this is an etiquette column and not a lecture or a column on psychology or dating. So, while it is painful, it appears that most of the time ghosting has more to do with what's going on with the person who does it, and that all you can do if it happens to you is move on, as messy and as hard as that is when you don't know why.
HELEN'S ANSWER: So sorry that you have to wonder about what happened to the relationship. “Ghosting” is a new term for me, but I can see how it applies when the person you are seeing disappears.
Too bad he could not have told you how he felt in a gentle manner or that he had met someone else. But, he didn't, so hopefully you have given up trying to contact him to ask what happened. Accept the reality and hope that the next man in your life has better communication skills.
GUEST'S ANSWER:Savannah Evanoff, Oklahoma State University student and former intern for The Oklahoman: Ghosting sounds like it involves a flashlight, haunted house and a camera crew. Forget the lingo. If he isn't responding, then he is most likely finished with the relationship. The use of technology in modern dating now makes it even easier for people to opt out of dating by ending communication rather than using it. His lack of ability to communicate and your clear desire for answers indicates this relationship was likely not a good fit in the first place. Unfortunately, this can be discovered by either party rather abruptly.
Try not to think of this occurrence in terms of what you did wrong or of all the what ifs. What if his grandmother died and he was too upset to contact me? That didn't happen. What if he dropped his phone in the toilet? That didn't happen. What if you moved on? Don't leave yourself on an ethical cliffhanger. The only ghost involved here is the ghost of dating past.
(Story continued below...)
Callie Athey is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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Lillie-Beth Brinkman is a Content Marketing Manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. She was previously an assistant editor of The Oklahoman
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