As the office buzzed around me, I took a deep breath and slowly read the text message again. ‘Hi Siam, how’s it going? Sorry I haven’t been in touch, but I met someone else, and it’s only early days but it’s going really well, so I wanted to let you know. I’m trying to be a good guy.’ There were no two ways about it: I was being dumped by someone I wasn’t even dating.
I’d met Mark* on Tinder a couple of months earlier. We’d had a great first date and there was definitely chemistry, but he’d admitted he didn’t want kids – and I definitely do – so we’d decided to just keep things casual. And it was fun. But then, a couple of months in, he went quiet. The last time we’d spoken I’d noticed he was a bit off, so when two weeks passed with no contact I wasn’t particularly surprised. We’d both agreed it was only casual, so I just took his silence as a sign he’d moved on. It was no big deal.
But then, out of the blue, he sent me that text, and forced me to acknowledge the fact that he just wasn’t that into me – he preferred someone else. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t that into him either, or that I too was seeing other people – I felt humiliated. Why couldn’t he have just left things as they were? Why did he have to break the silence and suddenly be so incredibly, brutally, impulsively honest? I realised that, sometimes, ghosting – that oft-maligned modern-day dating pheomenon of suddenly freezing someone out – really is the best option.
Regular Grazia readers may remember a piece I wrote last year about the rise of ghosting. In it, I condemned the act of disappearing, ghost-like, from someone’s life with no explanation as cruel and cowardly. And I still believe that to be true in some cases (for instance, if you’ve been involved in a proper, committed relationship). However, what the episode with Mark taught me was that, when it comes to early dating and casual flings, sometimes it’s better to let your actions (or lack of them) do the talking.
And I’m not alone. I was surprised how many friends agreed that there were times when they’d have preferred the person they were dating to just stop contacting them, rather than receive a detailed breakdown of why the relationship wasn’t working. My friend Grace* reminded me of the text she received from a guy she’d just started dating explaining that he couldn’t see her again because he was worried about his business due to the economic climate. ‘It was the weirdest dumping text I’ve ever seen,’ she said. ‘I’d have massively preferred it if he’d just stopped texting me rather than sending a ranty message about post office closures.’
Another friend told me about how a guy she’d slept with twice over the space of six months invited her out for a drink – which she assumed was their first official date – only for him to go
into great detail about why they shouldn’t sleep together again in the future. ‘It just felt so unnecessary,’ she explained. ‘I mean, surely if he didn’t want to sleep with me again, he could have just not slept with me. It’s not that complicated.’
But how have we got to the situation where we’d rather men just disappeared into thin air than take the time to let us know how they’re feeling? We all know that being able to deal with rejection without spiralling into despair is a skill necessary in the increasingly cut-throat world of dating. It isn’t just that we’re such delicate souls we can’t handle the idea of someone admitting they can’t see a future with us. It’s that when they do it, they often end up oversharing. Dumpings seem to have turned into long, tediously drawn-out monologues about everything from the dumper’s insecurities to their relationship with their mother.
I blame social media. Our generation is used to sharing so much of our lives, and it’s made us self-indulgent: we assume everything we’ve got to say is worth saying. We think everyone wants to know our ‘truth’. Ironically, the more we share online, the less authentic we become, because what we’re sharing is a carefully modified version of ourselves rather than the real thing. The outcome is that the number of narcissists my friends and I encounter in the dating world seems to have increased exponentially. And that’s why, when they decide they don’t want to see us again, they so often decide to enter into detailed explanations that are far more about them and their issues than being honest with _us_.
Vicki Burtt and Selina Barker from online sensation Project Love say it’s always best to try to be open and honest about the reason why a relationship isn’t working. However: ‘There’s a big difference between sharing from the heart and emotional dumping,’ says Selina. ‘Being on the receiving end of emotional dumping is always going to feel uncomfortable, because it’s not about you at all. It’s a purely selfish act.’
What these dumpings have in common is their lack of kindness and sensitivity. It’s as though, in their eagerness to unburden themselves – either to assure themselves they’ve been ‘honest’ and therefore fair, or to use us as some sort of free therapy – these men have totally forgotten that we have feelings too. If someone simply disappears from our lives, we can work out for ourselves that we probably weren’t compatible. Do we really need them to list all the reasons why?
Vicki warns against ghosting, saying, ‘It’s always best to be honest and respectful rather than ignoring someone and pretending they don’t exist. If you go around ghosting people, you’re inviting others to do the same.’ Which is true, but it’s the ‘respectful’ part so many people seem to get wrong. That’s why, having been on the receiving end of both a ghosting and an ‘honest’ dumping, I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes – just sometimes – ghosting really is the kindest option.
How do you feel aboout ghosting? Let us know at email@example.com