Ghost stories begin on a sunny day, when the characters finally find someone attractive and interesting. Some couples meet online; others, through a friend. Some flirt for a few weeks; others, for a while. Some wine and dine; others walk hand-in-hand into the moviehouse to watch the romantic film of the year.
Then comes the scary part.
One of them stops replying and disappears into thin air. Texts are ignored, calls go unanswered, social media messages remain unopened.
The sole survivor is left thinking, “what have I done wrong?” He or she is left hurt, insulted, or disrespected, while the ghost gets to run free, away from responsibility, without having to face any sort of emotional consequence.
If you’re “the ghost,” and you’re ready to give up this horrid habit, then I’m talking to you.
The Consequences of Your (Non)Action
The sheer number of people who have been ghosted imply a sheer number of ghosts, as well. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that 20 percent of the participants have ghosted at least once — not far from the 25 percent who have been ghosted.
Ghosting is common, but that doesn’t make it right. I could only count a handful of cases, where ghosting is understandable, like when the other person doesn’t take no for an answer or is emotionally manipulative.
If, however, your date has been nothing but charming and polite, the respectful thing to do is to let them know that you are not interested in pursuing a relationship.
Remember, ghosting says more about the ghost than the ghostee. Closure shows your manners, the depth of your emotional maturity, and an iron gut that can stomach difficult confrontations (very sexy). Plus, it shows your gratitude for the time and effort the other person has given you.
How Do You Get Over It?
If you’re in the middle of a relationship that is unlikely to work, here’s what you should do.
1. Acknowledge that the other person is a living, breathing human being.
It’s tempting to just click “block” and casually drop off the face of the earth, but that’s for the unladylike and unchivalrous. The first step in reformation is to acknowledge that this person, like you, has feelings.
Those feelings may be unrequited, but they shouldn’t be ignored altogether. After all, your previous actions have fuelled his or her feelings. You’ve shown intentions, and it’s only polite that you clarify things and stamp out the fire with grace.
2. Prepare the message.
No, a lazily written, sloppy message won’t do. You’re braving the conversation, might as well do it properly.
Start with gratitude and thank the other person’s time and effort. Bonus points if you praise the person (sincerely, of course). After all, it’s what caught your eye in the first place — she’s accomplished, he’s well-mannered, she’s thoughtful, he has the best jokes.
Then follow it with the “but.” Be upfront. Say you “don’t feel the chemistry or spark between us” or “don’t think we’re compatible.”
It’s going to hurt when you say “I’m not interested” or “I don’t think this relationship is what I’m looking for.” However, the other person will choose this over being left in the dark.
You can also wish them luck on their next dates and hope that they find someone who deserves their time more. Any person would be lucky to have them.
3. Don’t delay.
“This weekend” can easily turn to “next week”, which can turn to “next month.” Soon, you’ll realize you’ve ghosted the person, and it will be supremely awkward to send the message now.
When you’ve edited the message once (and once only — don’t overthink), hit send. I’ll permit you to sleep it over and send it the following day, but that’s your deadline. A tip: have a friend slap your wrist for every hour you put it off.
4. Stay friends.
If you feel safe around this person, offer to stay friends. You won’t be besties, and he or she won’t be the person you run to when you fight with your future SO (please, don’t), but it’s all right to stay connected and like each other’s witty posts from time to time.
There’s a huge chance that the person might disagree when you say you’re not compatible or refuse your refusal outright. In this case, I’ll leave it to you to clarify further or ghost altogether.
You’ve done your job. The story has ended. And the curtain is closed. You can now move on to greater things, without a dark splotch on your dating record.