There one second, gone the next
Dating experts give insight into why “ghosting” is the latest trend in break-ups
Rachel Moore // Contributor
Illustration by Max Littledale
Meet Jenna* – the five-foot-five, green-eyed 22-year-old North Vancouver local, carefully unwrapping her Teen burger as she sits in a corner booth at A&W. The interior of the restaurant is painted orange and beige, and is filled with an overwhelming smell of fresh french fries. She wears a dark grey, chunky knit sweater, with silver hoop earrings and her eyelashes are amply coated in the blackest-black mascara. You would never guess that a mere seven months prior, Jenna was stuck at home, trying to mend a broken heart with rom-coms and chocolate peanut butter ice cream. “He literally just disappeared,” she said before taking a sip of root beer through the classic orange and white pinstriped straw. “We dated for over nine months, and he didn’t even give me a reason.”
Although Jenna had traded in her post-breakup sweatpants for some vintage Levi’s, it was clear that she still felt strongly about how the relationship ended. “I met him on Tinder and usually I would never have serious conversations with guys on there, it was just a way for me to kill time, but something was different with him,” she said, tucking her blonde hair behind her ear careful not to get it into her meal. “He had the nicest blue eyes and always asked me lots of questions about my day.”
It wasn’t long before Jenna met him for the first time – a nice walk along the seawall on a sunny Saturday afternoon. “We clicked instantly and somehow ended up talking about onion rings, so that is how we ended up here, at A&W,” Jenna explained. “It was a bit weird for a first date, but we thought it would be a funny story.”
Fast-forward through nine months of dates, family dinners and sleepovers to the day Jenna’s new boyfriend completely fell off the face of the earth, ignoring every message she sent. “He never responded to any of the messages I sent him asking for answers, but then after about a month he did text back asking if I could drop off some of the Tupperware he left at my place,” she said with a sarcastic laugh. “I never replied.”
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What Jenna had experienced was the increasingly common phenomenon of ghosting, the 21st century method used to ditch your lover in the laziest way possible. As defined by Google’s Dictionary, ghosting is “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” To some, this may sound like a quick, feasible way of ending a relationship, but nobody ever considers how awkward it would be running into the ex at Urban Outfitters right after you have cut off all contact. Not only does ghosting set the ghoster up for some potentially horrifying social situations, but it can also really do some damage to the ghostee’s feelings. According to a 2015 article from Psychology Today, “Social rejection activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain.” But before you think you’re the only one who’s ever been hurt by this, a survey done by Fortune magazine revealed that approximately 80 per cent of millennials have once been ghosted. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” said Jenna. “It almost feels worse than a breakup.”
Without a doubt, the prevalence of dating apps and websites have added fuel to the proverbial ghosting fire. With apps, daters are often thought of as a profile with a short bio and pictures, rather than a real person with real emotions. In order to get some answers as to why someone would rather fake their own death than at the very least shoot off a breakup text, Vancouver love-experts Anna Maria Jorgensen and Eddy Baller offer up some valuable insight. Not only are these love-experts striving to put an end to the ghosting phenomenon, they actually instruct their clients to avoid online dating altogether if they are looking for any kind of promising connection. Jorgensen is the owner of Wingmam, a company typically coaching men, and occasionally women, how to respectfully navigate the dating world. Jorgensen began her career in the dating industry after moving to Vancouver and discovering how painful the dating scene is in the city.
“Ghosting is for gutless human beings,” said Jorgensen. “In a perfect world, we’d be able to be honest with each other and just say, ‘Hey, you’re great but I just wasn’t feeling it.’ The reason that doesn’t happen is because of fallout,” she said. Some people, whether a man or a woman, prefer to just move on without the potential of drama.”
Moving on after being ghosted is key. Although handling the situation with maturity instead of posting a slew of passive-aggressive quotes to your Instagram feed is always a good idea. With all her experience, Jorgensen remains a true fan of meeting people out in the real world, like in coffee shops. So put on your finest blanket scarf and head out to the nearest Starbucks, with higher standards than before. Although, if online dating is more your style, Jorgensen suggests to go big or go home. “Sites that require users to input more information, or even charge a fee, are more likely to lead to a serious relationship.”
Baller has had his dating advice published on sites such as Plenty of Fish and Vancity Buzz while managing his own dating coach business, Conquer & Win, which teaches clients how to navigate the dating world with confidence. “If you aren’t feeling the situation, just be simple and honest,” said Baller, “Or send the ‘I am busy’ text, which will usually get the job done.” Baller also added that ghosting someone after having sex multiple times or even just once will definitely add to the sting. He suggests that if you are mature enough to be intimate with someone, you are quite positively mature enough to send a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ kind of text message.
Although Jenna’s experience of being ghosted after a nine-month relationship is quite rare, it does happen. “Ghosting after a long period of time shows a lack of social skills, and the other person in the relationship commonly would pick up on smaller red-flags leading up to the end,” said Baller.
Like Jorgensen, Baller too believes that ghosting rates are much higher when meeting on an app, as it lacks romance, making him another advocate for coffee shop interactions. “In public is the best place to meet someone. Pretty much anytime we step outside there are dating opportunities. We just have to tune ourselves to recognize them,” said Baller. “It takes courage to say hi to a stranger but learning how makes us stronger people.”
Though it is easier said than done, both love-experts want to remind daters not to take being ghosted too personally and to remain strong should it occur. As for those rocky days following a cowardly ghosting, take care of yourself. Lean on your best friends when you need to and remember that everything left at each other’s houses is fair game. So Jenna, keep that Tupperware, girl!
*Name has been changed to protect privacy