Ghostly Narcissism

I still don’t believe it. I’ve been ghosted. Me.

Ghosting, for those unfamiliar with the term, is what happens when one member of a relationship decides to simply cease all contact without the courtesy of a “fuck you” or other indication that they don’t want to see the other one anymore. Not exactly a break-up, the spurned party is just ignored and left to wonder what happened. Did she die in a car wreck? Is he deathly ill? It’s been known to happen not only with lovers but also with platonic friends and business associates.  Why do some choose to treat others in this most selfish and cruel way?

There are many reasons. The best defense of the ghoster is self-protection. Some of you may have experienced “the stalker” or “the love-sick fool”, those that impart much more into a budding relationship than would be considered normal, perhaps even becoming obsessive. These people believe they have found someone special but the other party doesn’t feel the same way. Folks who fall in this category may generate an avalanche of communication featuring increasingly needy or shrill content. This causes the ghosting party to cut off contact in hopes that the unwanted admirer will simply tire of it and go away. If an honest explanation is not effective, this is basically a sound strategy. But if honest dialog is not offered or the ghoster believes their lover will psychically “get the message” it could actually encourage the unwanted attention, and that’s unfair to both. At least talk to the person and if they won’t see reason, ignore them if you must.

Then there are those who ghost without any apparent reason. Great conversation, a meeting of the minds, desire, lust, all of the elements are present and strong. Then one day, crickets. Reach out, wait, more crickets. Often, plans have been made by the couple for a date or event. The ghost may pull a no-show or show up for awhile but is never heard from again. What motivates this type of ghoster?

Any number of factors help us determine who we want to be with – and who we don’t. Perhaps the date didn’t go well, or something became apparent about the other that had not been obvious before. Maybe the ghoster realized that they found someone they really like but are afraid to allow the relationship to blossom naturally, opting for self-sabotage instead. It could be that the ghoster is just not confident enough in themselves to move forward. Or that they have not been honest with themselves or the new partner and guilt has set in.

Whatever the motivation, ghosting without providing some tanglible reason is one of the cruelest, most selfish, egotistical, narcisstic things one person can do to another. Having someone spurn another’s attention this way after investing time, energy, and emotion can do massive damage to both parties and set them up for a raft of insecurities with their next lovers, including trust issues and fear of abandonment leading to emotional neediness and co-dependence. Ghosting may seem harmless but a completely new apparition will arise from the ashes and forever follow both the ghoster and their victim.

Sadly, this intentional form of abuse seems to be on the rise with the advent of online dating. This writer was recently ghosted by a woman who seemed fantastic in every way. Enormous attraction on both sides, hundreds of e-mail and text messages (yes, we got a little carried away), her cancellation of our first date with empty promises of making it up next time then being embarrassingly late to the rescheduled date, promises made of sex dates and messages and phone calls, then nothing. Did I do something wrong? No one will ever know. I’m not heartbroken and can handle rejection just fine, though being left to wonder what went wrong with no explanation is much, much worse than honesty could ever be.

My therapist friend Jane was not so surprised by such an experience but by the fact that it had never happened to me before. She said that absent stalker-ish behavior, there’s often more to ghosting than a simple lack of attraction. There’s usually a certain fear the ghoster is responding to; perhaps they’re repeating an old pattern like choosing abusive lovers, or have fallen for the new lover in an unanticipated way, or are depriving themselves through some twisted logic only they understand. She said that such a person is also most likely a narcissist, believeing that their own happiness supercedes that of everyone else. And in an indirect way, the ghoster is sending a very direct message about themselves and their integrity: “This is what my lovers can expect of me.” It’s worse than a no-win scenario, it’s mutually-assured destruction, both bombing the bridge and poisoning the river when a simple detour sign would have sufficed. Jane explains these things so well.

Relationships I’ve been in, whatever their goals or lifespans, all featured some measure of distinct communication from start to finish. This could have been as simple as a smile that initiated a tryst or as complicated as a verbally violent argument that definitively says “it’s over.” Ghosting is truly sad to experience first-hand. Saddest of all is my ghoster, who does not have the confidence in herself or the respect for me to even talk about it. I can only send her my best hopes that she will figure it all out and allow herself to love again someday.

Please, folks, never ghost someone. It is not only damaging to the one ignored, it is detrimental to you as well. You will never forget how you treated that person and this knowledge will stay with you, slowly burning a little hole in your heart where those good feelings used to be.

Ghosting is abuse, plain and simple. Would you still want to be with the ghost, now that you see how they really are? Didn’t think so.


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