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.
Solstice or festive greetings to you all!