Ghosting: How I did it to someone I loved

A TBS reader graciously shares the story behind him suddenly cutting his long term girlfriend out of his life, or “ghosting”, as it’s also called.


I’ve never really shared this story out loud before, but I’m guilty of cutting someone out of my life, cold; no warning, no nothing; or “ghosting,” as it’s called now.

I suppose the blanket on anonymity spares me from having to make sweeping statements to defend who I am, but here are some anyway.

I’m good guy. In my relationships, I’ve endeavoured to be that, and largely, I’ve been successful. Whatever the relationships may have come to, if a poll was taken, the unifying response would largely be one of me being “a good guy.”

As long as you didn’t poll that one in particular.

I was unsure why I did it. We dated for eight months, a substantial amount of time. I wouldn’t say what I did was to avoid conflict. We argued all the time, so there was no fear of voicing my concern or fear of my point not being heeded. We were open, if blunt. We had separate lives, but spent time together. I had nothing to hide, but nothing to give. She knew me, and I her. She was concerned about my well being as well as hers. We had a varied sex life. We tried to push each other away, to test each others resolve, but we stuck around.

Then it happened.

I woke one morning and felt different. The face I supposed I loved looked different. Her words, once sweet, now prosaic. Her jokes old, our routine became just that. My distance made her work harder, which drove me too. I was motivated by guilt. On the inside I blamed her for this change that came over her, and subsequently, us. But it was my fault too.

The reason why I can’t give you a straight answer is because there wasn’t one.

I just did it.

A terrible thing to do. Terrible, because it was surprisingly easy. One day I was there, and the next I wasn’t. Not answering my phone until it stopped ringing, hiding in my apartment until the door stopped knocking. I fled to a friend’s house until it blew over. I never tried to put myself in her shoes, I was busy hiding behind the padded wall of self-preservation. From the relationship, I gained a designer umbrella and an Egyptian level of denial. So there it sat, taking up residency in the back of my mind since 2004.

Which was fine by me. Save for the occasional regret, drunkenly manifesting itself into grand schemes to ease the pain I caused. An earnest phone call maybe, a naked billboard appeal perhaps, or even an anonymous two-word note. In the end, it came to nothing beyond the urge to do the right thing.

I crossed the possibilities of meeting her in my mind. How would I handle it? I hid behind a chivalric idea: I’d face whatever she had to say. But would that do any good? Or just dredge up old wrecks from the bottom of her? I couldn’t just pretend it didn’t happen, either. I couldn’t let her know that I’m the still the same. Promises to myself made, I was ready for the possibility I’d never face. The years slipped by, and I didn’t.

Until recently.

It was the year Vince Gilligan came to town. Standard Sydney rush-hour, the ceaseless movement of opposing commuters, looking for spaces, heading in opposite directions, in this sea, is where I crossed her again.

Our history made those seconds stretch. Brain acting on impulse, I caught myself staring for confirmation. There was no mistaking her, she looked the same. We both reached the conclusion of a double-take, and a flicker of resignation. By the time I caught myself, she was already beyond my shoulder, adrift in the wriggling mass. I always assumed that the anguish I was responsible for would goose me into action, but it kept me in my rut. I kept walking.

 So, if you’re reading this, I suppose an apology would be a token gesture. But I do hope that you’ve forgotten about us, dismissed it as a lesson learned from someone you barely know.

From your quick shift of eye-contact away from mine, that might not be the case, but I hope the nostalgic twang of pain was a dull one.


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