It’s hard out here for singles in lockdown. Since the pandemic has snatched away all of the perks of flying solo, the world of dating has been forced to go digital. Enter the dating app. Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Grindr, Plenty of Fish - whatever your poison - the thrill of the swipe and the prospect of a new relationship can be addictive. But where you might gain a quick ego boost from receiving multiple matches on dating apps, you can just as easily get hooked on the pain of rejection from the same potential suitors. If break-ups have ever felt like a come-down from love, you’re not alone. Studies have found that romantic rejection stimulates the same receptors in the brain as cocaine. But with lockdown shutting down our in-person social lives, getting ghosted could further add to feelings of loneliness and anxiety already felt in isolation.
Picture this: you match with someone and start chatting. The banter flows so well that your match asks you on a date. You meet and the chemistry sizzles. You talk for hours, feel the feels and taste the sweet optimism of what could be. Your match promises a ‘next time’, and you leave the date feeling high on life. But then, you never hear from them again - or worse - they continue to watch your stories but have actively chosen not to be in them.
The message is loud and clear: you’ve been ghosted. Ouch. It’s enough to make even the most confident among us cringe. After such a perfect date, what could possibly have gone wrong for you to be treated like a used handkerchief that’s been tossed away? Add in heightened mental health pressures from a year of isolation, and you can find yourself stuck in a loop with nothing to distract yourself from the damage. If you wanted to humiliate yourself, you could have stayed home to record yourself attempting Tiktok dances, but here you are getting all dolled up to let someone do it in real life.
Before you torture yourself by dissecting your date for weak spots, please know that there’s no way to avoid getting ghosted. Ghosting isn’t new - people have been ignored in dating since the dawn of time. It’s just that in 2021, we live in a hyper-connected world which makes it all the more obvious when something has abruptly ended. And while someone’s choice to ignore you rather than be upfront about their feelings might sting, it’s very much a regular part of modern dating. A study by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that 25% of participants had been ghosted by a partner, while 20% admitted to ghosting someone themselves. But while it can be scary putting yourself out there when there’s a real risk of getting your ego bruised, it’s important to remember that we can’t all be compatible. Sometimes we have to learn to recognise when dating matches can be like trying to put pieces of the wrong jigsaw puzzle together. It simply won’t work, no matter what you do.
Ghosting isn’t necessarily even about you. The reality is that we don’t know the exact reason why someone has ghosted, short of confronting them directly. So why do we need to carry the burden of assuming it’s our fault when it could just as easily be theirs? Indulging in the idea that someone’s inability to communicate and be upfront and honest with you about how they feel is somehow your fault is self-sabotaging. Not everyone can like you, not everyone has good taste. But every ghosting experience can be a lesson in setting boundaries so that no one is left feeling the ick when lines have been crossed. Before you download any dating app, you first need to ask yourself: what do I really want? Am I okay with something casual? Or am I genuinely looking to date and take things further? No one knows you better than you, so no one else can give you this answer. If you can’t be honest and upfront with yourself, then you won’t be able to be transparent with your match. This will help avoid any misunderstandings on future dates and hopefully avoid any need for a ghosting situation to occur again.
Ultimately, the best way to cure any ghosting pain is to take away its power. Unfollow, unmatch, and delete previous messages to preserve your mental health and clear space for better things. It’s easy to become jaded when you’ve been ghosted. But one of the bravest things you can do in a world full of people behaving badly is to remain kind and treat others how you would want to be treated. There’s beauty and strength in showing kindness even after you’ve been treated poorly. Don’t forget that when someone ghosts you, it’s usually not about you. In worrying about what your ghost thinks of you, you’re giving them far too much credit to define your worth. You are the most important person in your life, so what you think of yourself is what is most important. When you transfer your desire to be loved by others into a desire to focus on growing and loving yourself, you can take your power back. Ghosting is all part of the process. Don’t forget to dust yourself off, remember who the hell you are, and move on.
Written by Stephanie Conway