Relationship Accountability

Ghosting, icing, simmering and other names for bastardry

Past generations did not have so many names for shitful behaviour. Maybe ghosting existed, but without smartphones and the expectations around keeping in touch 24/7, it was more of a slow fade.

These days we have a veritable tsunami of names of how to behave badly when it comes to our interpersonal, ‘romantic’ relationships. This is my shorthand way of saying relationships that involve ‘more than friendship’, although friends can choose the slow fade as well, but it’s not as pervasive.

In my Glossary, I have a useful collection of terms in case you want to brush up on your online dating lingo. Of course, these behaviours are not limited to dating that originated from an online dating source (eg most modern dating), but they are extremely common behaviours where there aren’t other connections like mutual friendships, community, work or family to help keep people accountable.

This post was inspired by one from Confessions of a Reformed Cad, which reminded me that modern dating behaviours need to come with a users’ manual and a regular, no-kid-gloves reminder of what they mean. Stories that people tell about their dating experiences are littered with these unethical and abusive behaviours.

Some of the names for these modern-day behaviours, in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, are benching, bread-crumbing, catch and release, monkeying, layby, and zombie-ing.

At their heart, each of these behaviours is a form of emotional cowardice. Some might call it a dislike of hurting someone else or being the bearer of bad news, but the other – less palatable side – is a lack of empathy or consideration for someone else’s feelings or lived experience. Some people just don’t care about the effects of their behaviour. They can justify it as ‘being too busy’, ‘not really being into them’, or it being ‘all too hard’.

As Esther Perel says, “In this relationship culture, expectations and trust are in constant question. The state of stable ambiguity inevitably creates an atmosphere where at least one person feels lingering uncertainty, and neither person feels truly appreciated or nurtured. We do this at the expense of our emotional health, and the emotional health of others.”

If you consider the row in the table that gives examples of typical text messages according to relationship accountability I’m certain that you’ll have experienced all of these if you’re seriously giving online dating a go. Just reading those examples brings back uncomfortable memories of when this has been done to me, not because I was necessarily emotionally invested in the person, but because it’s game playing and dishonest. It leaves you ‘not really knowing’ where you stand; it sucks your confidence and if, like me, you’re a generous person who believes in giving people the benefit of the doubt, it leaves you feeling tricked or abused.

More than once I’ve walked away from ‘textationships’  that repeat patterns of building and then dashing hopes  – plans for meeting, plans for sex, plans for dating … plans that involve actual commitment to a time and place. Making a decision and sticking to it seems to be a rare combination sometimes!

Cad says, “I’ve come to realize nearly everything that goes wrong in a relationship can be addressed simply with vulnerability and a change in the angle of approach. I firmly believe now, that if I had better skills when I was younger, I would still have a loving marriage with my ex-wife.”

Wise words indeed from someone who is not afraid to ‘do the work’ and take a good, hard look at their own behaviour and culpability – something so many of us are afraid to do.

Esther Perel believes that ghosting and behaviours of the same ilk are “manifestations of the decline of empathy in our society — the promoting of one’s selfishness, without regard for the consequences of others. There is a person on the other end of our text messages (or lack thereof), and the ability to communicate virtually doesn’t give us the right to treat others poorly.”

Wherever you may sit on the spectrum of relationship accountability, acting passively (or passive-aggressively) and hoping someone will ‘get the hint’ is not a responsible or ethical choice. It’s not easy sometimes, and I know I haven’t always been perfect in the past, but it’s the right thing to do. By recognising others as worthy of the same honesty and compassion that we ourselves seek, we are acting true to our own moral frameworks as well as ‘creating positive vibes’ in the world around us. If you want to read any of my past stories about ghosting, these are a good place to start.

Whatever your relationship status...

Expectations in online dating and the risks of addiction

Another online dating adventure – Ian the octopus

Digital landmines – people don’t treat people like humans anymore

What should I do when the guy I like ghosts on me?

Solstice or festive greetings to you all!

15 thoughts on “Relationship Accountability

      1. Some good stuff there. Leah does a great job keeping the topic focused so there hasn’t been too much crappiness…one person I know of crossed the line with some over the top judgement and Leah squashed it. She does a good job with the curating.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I think it’s been around for a long while. Phil Collins on his 1982 album ‘Hello, I Must Be Going’ wrote a song about being ghosted by someone he’d been dating. Cad’s have been around for centuries.

    I would say that everything except ‘power parting’ is for one of two reasons. 1. They don’t care about your emotions. 2. They are cowards. The problem is that the more we date in this social media world, the less we care about the outcome and about how people feel. It’s easy to not think about how someone feels when you’re ignoring texts. Social media promotes a lack of empathy because dealing with the consequences of treating someone badly doesn’t mean having to face them or give a proper explanation. It’s a simple case of blocking someone and moving on. And that’s the end of it for the instigator.

    We’ve become immune to the emotions of other people, numb to the outcome as social media has allowed, and encouraged, us to indulge in consequence free digital relationships. The fact is that there is nothing social about social media because all we do is keep distance between us and other people. They are all texationships.

    As time goes on I’ve noticed I’ve got harder and harder and I’ve now lost any ability to communicate on an emotional level. At least it hurts less than being overly emotional and getting stamped all over. But it’s not a great outcome for my 13 months of online dating. Harry disappeared over a month ago, and I don’t feel anything.

    I accept ghosting like it’s just a part of the course. And occasionally I dish it out too. This may be a temporary transition, but the last year has jaded me to, I think, a non-reversible level. I cannot begin to imagine the superpower of the person that can cure me of that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, people have always behaved badly – of course. But it wasn’t ‘the norm’ and our lives are now so much more complicated when these technologies suck our empathy, as you point out. I was becoming jaded too, and when I read blogs and stories now of people’s dating behaviour I find it hard to remember how brutally hurt I was when those terrible things happened to me for the first, or second or third times. We do become immune to it – and we shouldn’t have to. I feel sad that you have got to this point in such a short time. I do think it’s harder in places where the population is larger – you know the old thing that people in cities treat each other less kindly and take less interest in their fellow humans? I don’t ever want to be like that, and I don’t ever want dating and trying to find positive connections to mean that I lose my ability to feel, and love.

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  2. You write: “each of these behaviours is a form of emotional cowardice”

    However, I would tend to disagree when it comes to Power Parting.
    If a relationship just isn’t working out (no matter how much an effort is put in to it) isn’t it at least more honest to explicitly and clearly let the other person know without cruelly leading them on to hope otherwise? Your table backs this up in the box describing the effect on the other person – clarity and resolution, a faster healing time. Not all attempts at a solid relationship tend to work out. That’s just life. Sure, the other person is hurt for awhile by your departing action but have you a better approach to maturely ending a relationship where both people are just not connecting?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you have misunderstood my meaning. Of course power parting – as defined by Esther Perel – is the preferred option. Of course I’m saying that accountability and being clear and honest is better than sneaking off into the distance and blocking someone’s texts or calls. The behaviours I mention are the ghosting, icing, simmering etc etc – the NOT being accountable, human, ethical or responsible. THOSE are the things that irritate the crap out of me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good on you – the power parting can be so hard to do, but it’s the accountable, decent thing to do. Most recently I was ghosted by an ‘old school’ guy (the one I met at the same time as my beloved about 5 months ago), who claimed it was his first time on a dating site and meeting someone via online. Being a first timer didn’t stop him from avoiding the conversation that goes something like ‘this isn’t working for me’. I was holding off telling him I had met me beloved because I wanted to do it face to face – there goes nothing 🙂 So he still doesn’t know, and I doubt he cares although he was full of artificial ‘romance’ and all the right words at the time.

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  3. Here’s the thing, I have described myself as an emotional coward through this process, and at times other relationships, because I think it is the best description of both my attitude and my behavior.

    Simmering, my go-to option of choice for ending relationships apparently, is really about not having the emotional maturity to face my discomfort in someone else being hurt. I didn’t just put my ex-wife on simmer because I was keeping my options open, I was trying to avoid the difficult reality that she would be hurt if she knew the truth. Much of my hero playing, was about trying to control how other people felt so that I could be more comfortable.

    I thought perhaps emotionally immature might be a more accurate description. However, an immature person doesn’t realize there are more mature ways to deal with a problem. I knew there were better ways (even if I couldn’t pinpoint them I knew I was wrong) and I chose not to be vulnerable. And in this place I agree with brene brown, vulnerability is taking a risk, facing the uncertainty, and being emotional transparent and available. Through that act I’m courageous. That seems to me to be the exact opposite of simmering.

    As such I really have no better phrase then emotional coward. I don’t think that shaming for me, I think it’s an accurate description of my behavior. When someone comes up to me, and asks what happened, I tell them but, “I was an emotional coward and that I was avoiding the vulnerable places in my relationship. Meaning, I know what needed to be done and I didn’t do it because I was afraid…also I slept with my ex-wife.”

    Maybe it’s the ex-marine and male ego, but I still haven’t found a better term. And believe me no one wants to refer to themselves as an emotional coward, but I don’t find that shaming but simply an accurate reminder of why it is essential I embrace vulnerability to reclaim my integrity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am so heartened by your emotional honesty and current bravery. Your whole process of therapy and self-growth and development is beautiful to watch because you are so brutal on yourself in a way that is only acceptable because you are making those claims and accusations in all transparency against your past self – that is true responsibility, maturity and accountability.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. *looks around to see if you’re talking to me* 😉

        You just gave my the best Christmas gift. Thank you UC.

        Had the first dream in over a year about my xp & I that was empowering this morning. My subconscious bubbling up through the guilt and shame and grief to remind me that I matter.

        Liked by 1 person

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