real life

Ghosting: the new trend that's haunting relationships.

Ghosting is officially a thing. Charlize has just pulled a ghost on Sean, Greece has pulled a Ghost on most of the world’s banks, and my landlord who was meant to come and fix my kitchen window today has sure as hell pulled a Ghost on me.

Ghosting.

It’s the buzzword flying around the world of relationships: new word, age old concept.

Ghosting, you see, is the process of being ditched – be it from work, a relationship, or a social circle – without explanation or communication. You are simply shafted, sent on a one-way train to social Siberia without as much as a wave goodbye.

If you’re anything like me, you are probably thinking, “Naw, that kind of social ineptitude doesn’t really happen!” – right? Wrong. Scratch the surface and our modern world is becoming a haunted house of gutless ghosts.

ghosting out of relationships
Charlize Theron ghosted out of her relationship with Sean Penn. Image via Getty.

The New York Times reassures us it’s definitely A Thing, in an article full of statistics that are probably meant to make us feel better, but are actually rather disheartening:

“In October 2014, a YouGov/Huffington Post poll of 1,000 adults showed that 11 percent of Americans had “ghosted” someone. A more informal survey from Elle magazine that polled 185 people found that about 16.7 percent of men and 24.2 percent of women had been ghosts at some point in their lives.”

Haruki Murakami wrote a whole book on friend ghosting, ‘Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki,’ in which the protagonist is unceremoniously ditched by his childhood friends, and spends his entire life wondering what he did wrong.

Heck, even online dating giant E-Harmony has a full advice page on ‘How To Deal With Ghosting’, which includes helpful gems like this one –

“And that is perhaps key to surviving a ghosting – keep doing your own thing. “If they vanish, it isn’t a reflection on you or your own worthiness of love,” says Charles. “They could have called and/or wrapped things up in a respectful manner. Maybe they had an emergency, maybe they didn’t feel the connection… maybe a million things, but that is all about them.” ”

(Um, Charles, HELLO – what emergency requires never talking to someone ever again? Amnesia?)

ghosting out of relationships
Greece has pulled a Ghost on most of the world’s banks. Image via
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Ok, so Ghosting is officially A Thing. Charlize has just pulled a ghost on Sean, Greece has pulled a Ghost on most of the world’s banks, and my landlord who was meant to come and fix my kitchen window today has sure as hell pulled a Ghost on me.

But I wanted to hear first hand from these sneaky Ghosts exactly what the story was, and why they felt it was the easiest way out.

I put the call out to the public to see if anyone was a Ghost, and if so, why? The answers were surprising. For some, it was finding a quick and bloodless end to a floundering friendship. For others, it was about protecting themselves from long and drawn out shit-slinging with immature or argumentative partners. But for most, it was just a squeamish reaction to actually having to admit to someone – ‘I’m just not that into you.’

One girl tells of dating a childhood friend in the small country town they grew up in. Not completely convinced from the moment he asked her out, Jane* endured an awkward few months before the romance began to fizzle. And yet, rather than end it (and have the whole town watching), she ghosted. Stopped answering calls, stopped replying to messages, and avoided him at all costs – which, in a tiny Western QLD town, would have probably involved jumping behind a post box every time she walked down the street. After a few months of no contact, Jane saw him again…and pretended like they were the same old buddies as always. Fling? What fling?

ghosting out of relationship
Is there ever an appropriate time to ghost? Image via iStock.

A male perspective shed some light on the act of Friendship Ghosting, which can be a lot trickier to navigate than New Romance Ghosting. After Tom’s* ‘best mate’ of many years failed to invite him to his children’s birthdays, and actually failed to let him know he had children at all, Tom decided enough was enough. The iron curtain fell and his slack friend was blocked across social media, and phone calls. 27 voicemails later, and Tom still sees no point in answering, asking, “Why should I be the one who tries all the time! Relationships are two-way streets, are they not? So it was easier for me to “block”. I do hope one day to still have a relationship with him, but not right now.”

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Anyone who has dumped a partner, quit a job, or had to cut ties with old friends knows all too well how unpleasant it is. It’s awkward, it’s painful, it’s scary – and usually the culmination of days, weeks, even months of deliberation. In a world of smart phone armour, we have learned to hide behind a keypad when it comes to letting people down.

ghosting out of relationships
“In a world of smart phone armour, we have learned to hide behind a keypad when it comes to letting people down.” Image via iStock.

But is there ever an ‘OK’ time to Ghost? I daresay, after hearing a handful of stories regarding idiotic, relentless, (and at times, a bit scary) partners who refused to be dumped, I can empathise with simply packing up and walking away. Likewise to jobs that are causing specific emotional or mental distress. And absolutely likewise to one-night-stands who replace the ‘I had fun last night’ text with a ‘Would you consider taking my last name? What should we call our kids?’ phone call.

However, for everyone else who once was a part of your life, but you have now chosen to distance yourself from – don’t take the easy way out. Learning to confront a situation and deal with it with empathy and maturity is going to stand you in good stead moving forward. Hey, you might even get out of it with your reputation in tact. (Unlikely.)

Like bikini waxes, pap smears, or Betadine gargle; there are just some icky things in life that just need to happen. Practice in the mirror! Google ‘dumping strategies’! Buy them a beer beforehand! Be brave and remember: a flesh and blood ‘I’m sorry’ will hurt a lot less than the ghost of never knowing what they did wrong.

What do you think? Would you ever ghost out of a relationship? Have you ever? What’s the most brutal way someone has dumped you?

For more on ghosting, try these articles:

There’s a name for those men who take you on 3 dates and then never call again.

Ghosting. When you leave a party and never say goodbye.

MIA: Ghosting. If you do it right, your host won’t even notice.

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