dating

'My boyfriend ghosted me without a word. A year later, I ran into him.'

I met James on Happn. He was handsome, funny and fit, and his profile had a British flag emoji. An expat, I thought. Lovely.

We had our first date at a bar near the beach, and he filled me in on his backstory: he’d arrived in Australia seven months ago, and had scored himself a great job (sponsored) working for a production company.

He loved Sydney and, visa permitting, he desperately wanted to stay. At that point he was living in a divey apartment with a mate from London, but they were looking for something nicer.

The Twins: Jessie and Clare Stephens translate modern dating. Post continues after. 

Video by MWN

That night we talked and laughed for hours, and he walked me home. When I closed the front door, I felt giddy.

The next day, after sitting on my hands until 3pm, I texted him to say what a great time I’d had. I suggested we meet up at the beach the next weekend – it was summer, and the weather was gorgeous.

And then I waited.

For 24 hours I waited, wondering if I’d made up our connection; anxious about making the first move. I’d been the first one to message him on Happn – maybe I was coming on too strong? Suddenly I was 17 again, an insecure mess.

But then, at 8pm the next day, it came through – a two word text. “Sunday 2?”

Ok, I registered. Not a texter.

After our beach date, things heated up. We organised a mid-week date, and then another one on the weekend, and another after that. He stayed over at my place and my feelings deepened.

After that initial communication hurdle, I didn’t get the sense he was flighty or non-committal. He was slow to respond, but he was busy with his job and so was I. The texts came later at night; sometimes he called instead.

I learnt to be more patient; to look forward to his contact rather than expect it. I told myself this was a mature, adult way to approach a relationship. I was 26, after all, not 17. So throughout our four-months of seeing each other, that’s what I reassured myself about the infuriatingly long gaps between texts; the two-word answers; the questions left unanswered.

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And when we were together, it was so good I forgot all about our unsatisfying text-life.

He got along with my housemates like they were old friends. I felt that warm glow you get at the first sign of love – I could see James fitting into my little world just-so. I started imagining a future for us, somewhere in Coogee in a pokey beachside apartment, his huge foam surfboard in the doorway (he was learning, slowly) and my books stacked up next to the bed. We weren’t just sleeping together, we were cuddling. We were staring at each other’s faces for too long. We were in it.

One afternoon, James invited me over to his brother’s house. He was living there with his wife, who was pregnant. Both of them were from the UK, but they were firmly established in Sydney. We sat at the kitchen table after dinner and played card games for hours. I felt, again, that this was something real. Boys don’t just invite you to dinner to bond with their brother’s pregnant wives for no reason. Why get so tangled? Why allow it to progress into such familial intimacy?

The four of us spent many nights like that, me tucked up next to James on the couch, the four of us watching a movie.

It had been four months. I felt safe.

Side note – we’ve come up with the best break up text and you can hear all about it in the podcast below. Post continues after audio.

On a sweltering Saturday afternoon, a few ciders deep at a pool party with my girlfriends, I texted him. ‘How’s the sunshine?’ I wrote, with the sunglasses emoji. We were planning to meet up that evening, and I knew he was at the beach with some mates.

I waited, but no text came – so I called. It went to voicemail.

The next day, no text came. I’d played this game before, and I didn’t yield.

But by Thursday, I was concerned. Was he dead? Did he die in a surfing accident? This was entirely plausible, I fooled myself. He was bloody terrible at it.

Finally, I caved and called again. It rang out.

The days and nights after that, I bounced between self-pity and an irrational regret for being too forward.

I racked my brain, but there was no clear trigger-point to his dismissal. No reason to do this suddenly. He had the power to spare me the agony of not knowing, but he chose to ignore me right out of his life.

The thing is, I missed him and our connection; this thing we had that was just for us, and the way he made me cry with laughter. Imagining he was dead was preferable to the thought that he’d actually just…ghosted me.

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We were never friends on Facebook, which was telling in retrospect – but we’d followed each other on Instagram. I knew he’d ghosted me when I realised he was no longer following me.

But I could see his activity, and he had recently followed a bunch of new girls. This felt deliberate, like a sign: stay away, I’ve moved on.

I realise through all this how disempowered I sound. I wish I could’ve seen he wasn’t good for me, that I was stronger than this and deserved better. But honestly, I was sad and humiliated. My feelings were completely invalidated, and that felt sh*t. I wanted to say all this to him, even though I knew there would be no response. So I did:

“James, I’m not sure what’s happened. But it would be good to hear from you.”

Predictably, he didn’t write back. I told myself it was fine; carry on. And I did.

But then, almost a year later, something funny happened. I like to think karma intervened.

I was helping to coordinate a work function after hours. It was a black tie event – I’d had my hair and makeup done and I wore a slinky black dress accessorised with a clipboard. We’d hired out a space and a major production company was helping bring the staging together.

As I approached the cramped back-of-house area, I felt something bump into my hip. I whirled around and looked down – the stagehand had nudged me with an amp. “Oh god sorry,” he said, and my eyes travelled upward. It was James.

Evidently, he had not drowned.

In that moment, truthfully, I have never seen a man look more sheepish.

“Oh, hi,” he said, touching his chin.

“Oh. Hi.” I said, with precisely no emotion on my face. I’d thought about this moment and everything I would say, but when it came to the confrontation, nothing came out. I had zero interest in hearing what he had to say. I was grateful for my LBD, my armour that night. I had a job to do; I felt powerful.

He called something after me, I think it was “How are you?” But I’d already turned on my heels. I caught him sneaking glances at me all throughout the night – and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t satisfying.

When I got home, I finally unfollowed James on Instagram.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia and has chosen to remain anonymous. The image used is a stock photo.

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