I’m guilty of chronic ghosting when I date, but here’s how I plan to stop

When it comes to being non-confrontational in dating, I take it to another level. Don’t get me wrong; if someone steps out of line, I don’t have any problem letting them know. But in certain instances, I’d rather avoid conflict at all costs—and that means ghosting. However, I’m only getting older, and it’s about time I learn how to date like an adult.

The story of my dating life over the past year or so goes something like this: Boy meets girl. Girl gives boy number. Boy and girl go on a date or two and communicate daily (preferably via text). Girl nitpicks something about boy or is completely turned off by something he said or did. Boy reaches out to girl. Girl goes ghost. Boy never hears from girl ever again. The cycle repeats.

You’re probably judging me, and that’s fine. I realize that my chronic ghosting is perhaps not the best way to tell someone that I’m no longer interested in them, but I can’t seem to help it sometimes. The closer I get to my 30s, the more I realize that I’ll never be able to pursue a mature relationship if I don’t change my non-confrontational behavior so we can grow past the dating phase.

The first time I ghosted someone was in middle school.

I know what you’re probably thinking—middle school doesn’t count. But considering the fact that I’m still ghosting all these years later, I beg to differ. Middle school crushes and relationships were rarely anything serious, but even then, I could never find the strength to tell a middle school boyfriend, “It’s over.” Instead, I would find some way to push their buttons and hope that they’d break up with me. And yes, it usually worked. As an adult, it’s crazy that I am using middle school tactics to tackle my issues in dating.

Upon self-reflection, I think a lot of the problems I run into while dating stem from my relationship with my father. Don’t get me wrong; I had an almost picture-perfect relationship with my dad growing up. I was blessed to have a male figure in my life as a child. While our relationship in my childhood was pretty solid, his relationships with women weren’t so great. As a young girl, I watched my dad run away from relationships like the plague. It’s one thing to not want to commit to someone—but leading women on and even having children with them, despite not seeing a future with them, is a whole other ballgame. My dad’s idea of dating is pretty manipulative—he only sticks around as long as the relationship is beneficial to him while he puts in as little effort as possible.

By my sophomore year in college, I had enough of my dad’s misogynistic B.S. One day, I received a baby shower invitation from a woman he was casually dating. Shocked was one way to describe how I felt, and as much as I love the brothers and sisters who have come out of my dad’s casual situationships (five of them, to be exact), I was upset. Let me not even start discussing the fact that he has yet to talk to me about this mystery child who was born while I was away at school. As a young woman newly living on her own and experiencing real dating for the first time, it made me distrusting of men. Hence my pattern of ghosting before I’m able to give someone a fair chance.

Watching a man I respected have no regard for women has contributed to my non-confrontational style of dating.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a very pessimistic attitude when it comes to dating. Although I try not to live by the “all men are trash” narrative, it’s pretty hard not to believe it when the first man you loved engages in the trash behavior that you won’t condone in your own relationships.  Of course, the simple solution would be to make better choices in men, but so few show their true colors in the beginning, and I assume they’ll only reveal their bad habits later.

My ghosting is ultimately a defense mechanism. I recognize (and sometimes create) red flags as a way to save myself from heartache in the long run.

I imagine the proper way to remedy this is to just tell men, “Hey, I think you’re a nice guy (or not), but I honestly don’t see this going anywhere.” While that seems pretty straightforward, it’s the conversation that follows that I don’t want to have. What if he asks me what I didn’t like about him? Will I feel comfortable going into detail? All these questions come to mind like I’m Carrie Bradshaw narrating a scene from Sex And The City.

But, for the sake of being a functional adult, it’s time for me to grow “some” and muster up the courage to tell a guy, “I’m just not that into you.”

The more I toil with dudes’ minds and hearts, the more it backfires on me.  For instance, dudes I’ve ghosted have looked for me at my workplace (never tell someone exactly where you work on those first few dates). I’ve even randomly bumped into them when I least expect it. But more than those awkward run-ins, I mostly feel bad for doing it in the first place.

I probably will never text or call the guys I’ve already ghosted, but I hope they find it in their hearts to excuse my immature behavior. I hope they know that it was more on me than it was on them. In the future, I will refrain from being Casper the not-so-friendly dating ghost. It is an asshole-ish thing to do, and it’s not something I’ve enjoyed when it has happened to me. For the sake of learning to be more upfront, I vow not to ghost anyone from this day forth.

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