Casper is the only friendly ghost. Here are kind and compassionate ways of letting someone down when you are no longer interested.
Ghosting. It happens to the best of us. In fact, a recent survey from PlentyOfFish (POF) reviewed the dating habits of millennials and found that almost 80 percent of singles reported being dumped by the person they’re dating suddenly going AWOL.
Unfortunately, I can relate. During sophomore year of college, I was emotionally and romantically attached to someone who I wasn’t in an exclusive relationship with, but was hooking up with long enough to the point I never would’ve guessed I’d get ghosted by him. We made plans to meet during fall break and we didn’t live in the same area at the time, so naturally, I texted him with excitement, eager to see him again. Everything seemed completely fine until I asked about what time he was coming to pick me up from my house.
Then boom. Nothing. No response for hours. I wasn’t alarmed by this at first because people are busy and I don’t expect to always get a response within seconds, minutes, or even hours of texting someone first. However, the sudden silence didn’t feel great.
Flash forward to the following day when we were supposed to hang out…still no response. At that point, I had double texted him, and still no response. After a little more than 48 hours had passed, deep down I knew that I was being ghosted. Not only was it hard to get through my head that he and I weren’t on the same page, but it was humiliating going back to campus after fall break. My friends greeted me asking how my date was, to which I replied, “I don’t wanna talk about it.” Embarrassing, huh?
Though I laugh about it now, being ghosted sucked, and that’s not the kind of pain I wish on anyone. Sadly, after chatting with a dating and relationships editor for a prominent publication, I realized just how common ghosting is.
The Ghosting Trend
“It’s really unfortunate that ghosting has become so common. If you talk to any single person, particularly any single woman, who is actively dating, you’re likely to hear some version of a relationship ghost story. It’s practically unavoidable and while I hope this trend gets buried, I don’t think it’ll die any time soon,” Mead explains. “The ugly truth about ghosting is that, no matter how complicated the whole story may be, the reason it happened can always be simplified to: they didn’t feel a connection or want to continue the relationship.”
“When dating, people so often don’t feel as though they ‘owe you’ anything unless you’re in an ‘official’ relationship. This is something I find really upsetting about today’s dating culture because, whether you’re in a relationship or not, everyone (with some exceptions) deserves common courtesy and that includes a simple goodbye or explanation.” She continues, “Between this toxic ‘I didn’t owe them’ mentality and the fact that dating has become more accessible via dating apps and social media, it’s easier for people who don’t feel a connection to just forget, move on, and continue swiping or DMing without caring about the other person’s feelings or having to confront them.”
The Emotional Toll of Ghosting
So, why can getting ghosted by someone you’ve never ‘officially’ dated hurt as much or even more than getting dumped by someone you’ve been committed to for years?
Mead explained that there is a whirlwind of emotions that come with being ghosted. People experience denial, sadness, anger, and confusion. People may hold out hope that the person they have feelings for will eventually come back or make up excuses for their inconsistent communication.
This is different than when there’s a legitimate breakup because at least the person knows for a fact that the relationship is over. It’s easier to heal when there is a clear past, whereas, with ghosting, the lines between what is past and what is present are blurred when the person being ghosted isn’t sure what’s going on at all.
How You Can Do Better Than Ghosting Someone
Here are tips on how to be honest about unreciprocated feelings without being insensitive:
- Be specific so that the other person can move on. “Make sure you say everything you need to in order to close the chapter so everyone involved can move on. Because it’s always kind to let someone know whether or not you’d like to continue seeing them, regardless of how long you’ve dated,” Mead points out.
- Consider your contact method of choice based on the status of the relationship. “If it’s a very new or casual relationship and you typically only chat via text, texting them to tell them you’re not feeling it should suffice. If you mostly talk on the phone, a call would likely be appreciated. As far as in-person breakups go, if things are more serious or you are in an exclusive relationship, this should be your only option. Please do not break up with someone you’re dating seriously or exclusively any other way,” Mead describes.
- Type out a draft in the Notes section of your phone first. “Type out what you’d like to say to the person, then go back and fine-tune it, but NEVER go with the first draft. Your final draft, whether you send it via text or plan to say it in person, should be succinct and only use clear, strong language — remove any fluff that may be vague or confusing,” Mead adds.
When Ghosting Is a Legitimate Option
Is ghosting ever a valid option?
“While I’m a huge believer in being honest and just telling it like it is, there are definitely scenarios in which ghosting is not only okay, but necessary. Generally speaking, if you were seriously disrespected or your safety/mental health are at risk, ghost them ASAP,” Mead stresses.
“If you’ve told them you want to end it but they don’t respect your wishes and continue to contact or harass you in any way, disappear without a trace (block them everywhere). At a certain point, you have to put yourself first because if you don’t, who will? Common courtesy should absolutely be tossed out the window the second they are not treating you with the same respect in return.”
Nevertheless, Mead tells tabú that generally speaking, “The best thing to do is just say something and not ghost.”
What to Say Instead of Ghosting
Here are specific text templates to send someone instead of ghosting:
“Honestly, the connection isn’t really there for me. I think we’d both be better if we dated other people. Best of luck.”
“I don’t think we’re as compatible as I originally thought. It was nice getting to know you, but I think it’s best if we went our separate ways.”
“Thanks for going out with me recently. I thought a lot about it and just don’t think we’re a good match. It’s nothing personal, but thought I should let you know instead of leaving you hanging.”
“I have a number of things that have come up in my life that need attention. I’m not in the best headspace and I can’t put the time and energy into this that would be fair to you. I’m sorry.”
“It’s been great getting to know you, but I’m picking up more of a platonic vibe between us. Is that okay if we’re just friends?”