I'm a serial 'ghoster' in dating -- here's why I do it

Garry Knight/Attribution Licence/FlickrThough it doesn’t feel great to ghost someone, there are times when it’s the best option.
  • Ghosting is much more common in online dating than I originally thought.
  • Though it doesn’t feel great to ghost someone, I think it’s the best way of getting out of a casual relationship if neither party is emotionally invested.
  • Here’s when I’ve ghosted and why I do it.

Dating in your mid-30s isn’t easy. Many of your friends are either married or in serious relationships, and work or raising children has pushed them into the suburbs. It was hard enough meeting the friends I have, never mind making new ones.

When my last serious relationship ended, I was slow to explore online dating. It took me a while to realise how sedentary my life had become and that dating apps seem to be necessary to meet new people these days (and sometimes just to leave the house). I signed up and started swiping.

After a few seemingly pleasant dates, a pattern emerged: I’d meet a woman for a drink, have a good time, part ways with her, and never hear from her again. This happened regardless of whether the goodbye came in the evening or the next morning. In a word, I was ghosted.

This wasn’t the kind of dating I was used to before apps. Within the confines of a common social group, dating, no matter how casual, always required a certain decorum. If you didn’t want to keep seeing someone, you had to say so, because you were definitely going to see that person again.

Online dating has no such confines. When a woman I met through an app shared intimate secrets about her life with me, I assumed we were building trust. Not the case. She was opening up to me the same way she might open up to a cab driver in Lisbon. There’s a certain safety in being yourself around someone you know you’ll never see again. She ghosted me soon after.

The first person I ghosted was Cara (a fake name, for obvious reasons). We connected on a dating app and decided to meet at a bar in a neighbourhood not far from mine. We had a few drinks and got along pretty well – so well, in fact, that she assumed that our next stop was my house. I was having a good time, so I considered her forwardness endearing.

The next morning, that forwardness revealed itself to be a thoroughly off-putting entitlement.

“Do you have a bag?” she asked me after I came back from the bathroom.

“Sure,” I said. “What for?”

“I’m going to borrow these books,” she said. I looked down and saw she was holding a stack of three books she had taken from my shelf.

“Uh, OK,” I said. I looked for a plastic bag while resigning myself to never seeing those books again and continued to get ready for work.

She then asked how to get back to her neighbourhood. I gave her directions – how to walk to the subway and how to take the bus – and she decided it was too much trouble. I told her she could take an Uber, but she didn’t have the app. So I ordered a car for her.

When I got the receipt, to my surprise, rather than go to the subway a mile from my house, she had the driver take her to a suburban town more than 10 miles away.

A week later she texted me, “Wyd?”

I had to ask to find out that meant “What are you doing?” I told her I was out of town (which was true). She told me to let her know when I got back, and I said I would (which was false).

I considered explaining to her that I wasn’t interested, but by this point I figured we were speaking different languages, so why bother?

Another time I ghosted was after a date with a woman named Melissa. I had an extra ticket for a play, and all my friends were busy, so I went on Tinder looking for a theatre companion.

After three hours of theatre seats and actor-speak, we split a pizza at a bar in her neighbourhood. I realised we didn’t have a whole lot in common, but we had a pleasant enough time. I laughed at her jokes, and she laughed at mine.

She spent the next week texting questions referencing topics that had come up during our conversation. I would respond when I saw them, but I wouldn’t ask her anything to further the dialogue. I just wasn’t all that interested.

Then came the question I wouldn’t answer: “So you want to hang out again, or not so much?” I know I could’ve politely declined, and I believed that I was going to – as soon as I got home, as soon as I finished this work, as soon as I was done with this ice cream.

But after three or four days of silence, I had already rejected her. Why do it again? “Hey, it’s the guy who has been ignoring you for long enough that you probably think I’m not interested. Anyway, you’re right. I’m not.” That seemed needlessly cruel.

So I said nothing.

The reality is that meeting new people through a network of friends or a connection to a physical space tempers our interactions in a way that a one-on-one dating app simply can’t. When it’s your friend’s sister, your coworker’s brother, or the waitress at the bar you always go to, you already have an emotional investment in the social world that introduced the two of you. And that remains true even if the date doesn’t work out. You can’t just ignore someone you’re going to see again.

While it’s true that being ignored can be very hurtful, for me, it really only stings when it’s coming from someone you love, someone with whom you’re deeply connected.

But someone with whom you share an initial attraction and little else? That’s a different story. I can’t say how the women I ignored felt about receiving the digital cold shoulder, but if their reactions were anything like mine when I was ghosted, my guess would be “not much.”

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