dating

'I was ghosted on a dating app by a man I've never met. And still, I'm heartbroken.'

I’m in the midst of heartbreak. I’m feeling every single inch of it. The empty pit in my stomach, the inability to stay upbeat even when surrounded by my favourite people, a heaviness when I breathe air into lungs that no longer have the strength to open to their full capacity. 

If I let myself, I can feel tears welling, but I won’t allow it. It’s ridiculous. Every rational cell in my body is dying of embarrassment. How can I possibly be feeling such an intense heartbreak over someone I wasn’t even in a serious relationship with? Someone I hadn’t even met.

Welcome to dating apps.

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Over the past two years, I’ve had my share of app success. I’ve strung men along, accepted gifts on dates, been wined and dined, and then ghosted and blocked those I’d felt were moving too fast or becoming ‘too needy’. Little did I know I was luring the karmic gods and releasing a 180 curveball down my own path.

He isn’t even my type. I usually go for the scruffy, bearded funny guy. He is clean-shaven, with a nerdy, serious intensity. I like carefree surfers. He’s an overachieving tech head. Yet when I swiped right, I couldn’t help but try to find him on social media.

It didn’t take long to find a few videos of him speaking about start-up companies and that was it. His intelligence shone, a subtle humour only detectable by a cheeky glint in his eyes. His voice was deep, manly, sexy. Game over.

We’d matched instantly. Now I had the opportunity to start a chat. I pulled out my usual line. He wrote back. We were off to a flyer. My eyes lit up every time his name appeared on my screen. I felt butterflies. He embodied everything my last few dates had lacked. A confidence and sex appeal that I’d started to think only existed in my occasional guilty pleasure re-watching of The Notebook.

We chatted more the next night. The conversation flowed effortlessly, his quirky humour seeing a smile fixed to my face even when filling the dishwasher. Nothing short of a mean feat. 

I went to sleep conjuring images of our first date, red wines in hand, discussing everything from politics to travel stories. Naturally, we’d see eye-to-eye on almost everything, laughing at the same places in our stories, with room for a few challenging conversations that ensured we’d both understand that this was an intellectual match too. 

We’d start planning our second date before the first was over, and he wouldn’t be able to wait 24 hours before messaging to let me know how excited he was to have met me.

This didn’t happen. None of it. In fact, when I messaged him the next day nothing came back. I checked my phone every hour while at work. Nothing. This escalated to checking it a completely self-respectable rate of every five minutes in the evening. Still nothing. Crickets. Tumbleweeds.

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Two days later he dropped the bombshell. His mother was ill. He wasn’t in the headspace to be dating right now, but would let me know when things had calmed down.

That was two weeks ago.

Listen to The Undone, Mamamia's podcast for people in their 20s. In this episode, Emily and Lucy speak to Tully Smyth about that time she went on a celebrity dating app. Post continues after audio.

Of course, I understand where he’s coming from. If I were in the same position, I’d have sent the same message. The problem isn’t him, it’s me.

I’ve heard stories of catfishing and always wondered how anyone could ever possibly allow themselves to be so easily manipulated by somebody they hadn’t met. How could you become emotionally invested or vulnerable to the mere idea of a partner? 

Yet here I am, experiencing all the symptoms of heartbreak from a man I saw online and had a couple of sweet but meaningless text exchanges with. A man I have no history with and will likely never hear from again.

This is dating in 2021; the unspoken brutality of dating apps.

When you feel hurt by somebody you’ve had an actual relationship with you’re allocated some grieving time. Friends and family bake lasagnas for you or ply you with alcohol and chick flicks. What’s broken inside is given a chance to heal. 

However, when you are rocked by an online ‘potential’ romance there is no such sympathy given. “It wasn’t real”… “You never met”... “He was probably a loser”. All typical and quite reasonable responses. All thoughts I’ve had myself. Yet the feeling of loss is no less difficult to shake. The interactions were real. The attraction, at least the perceived online attraction, was there. And now he’s not available.

What I’m struggling to work out is whether it’s the loss of this particular man or the feeling of rejection that has me feeling so flat.

With every man who ghosts us comes the dreaded panic that we weren’t good enough. We lost him. All our insecurities rise from the depths of our adolescent core. We start reliving all the times we’ve been told we’re too bossy, too passive, too emotional, too stoic, too controlling, too carefree, too overtly sexual, too frigid, or just not enough. 

Then we start questioning, wondering what we could have done differently. If I’d just worn a sexier outfit, not blurted out how amazing my kids are so quickly, pretended I was impressed that he still plays in cover bands at 45…

No. Stop. Your outfit expressed how you felt in the moment, your kids deserve your gushing praise, and his band is probably some lame attempt to feed his own need for validation.

You are enough. People will come and go, and if it’s meant to be it will happen.

And so I go on. I’m no longer checking my phone every half an hour, or looking to see if his Instagram followers have moved. I’m getting back to living in the moment, appreciating all the things that make my heart smile. Most importantly, I’m trying to remember that I am enough, with or without the attention of a nerdy, sexy tech man.

Feature image: Getty.