Ghosting, but cuteEden Keily-Thurstain

I am on good terms with all of my exes. Except one. We were seeing each other, for a while, and then he disappeared. No calls, no messages, nothing. This is the only ex who won’t stop in the street to say hello if we walk past one another. Cambridge isn’t a big city so this happens quite often, and every time I see him shoot past on his bike a sick-green feeling sloshes around in my stomach.

Last week, I sent this ex a message. I am clear that I am not looking for anything further with him, that all I am asking for is one conversation to wipe the slate clean. Then I wait. And I wait. I find myself unable to do anything but concentrate on the passing of time. Books remain unread. Essay remains unwritten. As the hours go by, slowly and painfully, my confidence begins to diminish. My phone lies silent on my desk, face down. A headache comes on, like a knife being pushed into the space between my eyes. No is a sad but acceptable answer. Silence is not.

He’s busy, I think. He probably hasn’t seen it. He’s just busy. That’s all it is.

This is never true. It might be for a few minutes, maybe an afternoon, but who do you know that doesn’t look at their phone for more than twenty-four hours? Nobody. We all have our phones in our hand all the time. I know this because at the same time I am waiting for this cowardly ex to reply, I am ignoring the message of another guy. I know I shouldn’t, that I really ought to reply. I know that it will take two minutes and then he won’t feel this same horror at being totally ignored. But I still don’t say anything.

“It’s too easy to forget that the person you’re not replying to isn’t just a name on a screen”

‘Honesty is the best policy’ they say. Is it? Do we really want to know when people don’t want us? Do we really want the truth when the truth is that they’re actually not that bothered, even though they swiped right, even though they sent that Instagram follow request, even though they laid next to you in bed and told you their secrets. Do we want that?

It’s too easy to forget that the person you’re not replying to isn’t just a name on a screen. The person in that tiny little circular contact photo is a real person, one with thoughts and feelings and an imagination, who is probably waiting to hear back from you. When we ghost people what we are really doing is evading responsibility. We are taking the easy exit, instead of facing up to the consequences of our actions and telling the truth about how we feel.

“You are allowed to change your mind about people. Deciding that someone actually isn’t for you is okay”

My ex did not reply because he was scared of what I might say to him, of me asking questions that he did not want to answer. I did not reply to the guy in my Instagram inbox because I did not want to close that avenue completely, even though I knew that I didn’t want to go out with him. And you know what? The guy in my inbox is probably not replying to someone too, for some similar reason. There is probably a person out there staring at their phone screen and waiting impatiently for his name to appear.


Mountain View

AskVulture: How do I regain the spark in my relationship?

You are allowed to change your mind about people. Deciding that someone actually isn’t for you is okay. However, that person has a right to know this. When they send you a message, asking if you’re free, reply and tell them you’re not interested. Tell them that they haven’t done anything wrong and apologise that you’ve wasted their time. If they have done something wrong, if they’ve offended you with something they said or something they did, tell them this too. In the grand scheme of things, this is the better option. It’ll hurt them for a minute, but then things will be better and they’ll wonder why they ever wanted you to reply to their message to begin with.

That my ex did not reply has not changed the course of my life. I have carried on doing all the exciting things I would otherwise be doing. But now, having told the guy in my inbox the truth – I’m really sorry but I’m not interested in taking things any further – I have broken the cycle. I have the moral high ground. I bit the bullet and told the person I had been ghosting that I actually didn’t want to go for that drink. Now I am even more sure that this is what I deserved from my ex. It is what we all deserve: the truth, whatever that is.