When most people realize they’ve been ghosted by someone they’re dating, they do the sensible thing and move on.
Sure, they might mourn for an extended period of time, but all name-calling, text re-reading, and Notebook-watching is done behind closed doors and in the darkness of their own rooms.
Because as immature as ghosting might seem, it’s even more immature to “care” when it happens to you. The person that cares the least essentially “wins” the break-up and anything less is ill-advised.
At least, that’s the kind of advice I got from my friends, when I had a very bad break-up about two years ago. Break up is probably not the right term, considering we weren’t ever in a real relationship. We had been hanging out and sleeping together for five months. Then one day, he just stopped replying to my text messages and that was it. And I got the hint – or at least I thought I did.
About a month later, I showed up at his birthday party and looked for him to say hi. A friend pointed to the door of his room and told me, “He’s in there having birthday sex. Don’t think he’ll be out for a while.” The friend looked at me as if to say, Good for him, right? And I smiled meekly.
Yeah, sure. Good for him.
After that, I knew things were over, but I couldn’t get him out of my mind. I went through a set of questions over and over again in my head that I couldn’t answer – Why? Did I do something wrong? Why didn’t he just tell me? Why do I care?
My friends told me to move on, and I knew they were right. But I couldn’t.
And then one night, I broke. I was out at a concert with some friends, and in my delusional state of heartbreak, I said to my friend, “You know, I never told him how I felt.”
She gave me a look, but I couldn’t think about anything else. I felt like a drug addict cut off from my supply. My mind was doing cartwheels trying to replace my depression with false hope. If I never told him how I felt, wasn’t there a chance he didn’t know I liked him? And wasn’t there a chance that like me, he was also pretending not to care?
My friend advised me to wait until the morning when my head cleared up, but I was filled with a determination I’d never felt before. I knew that I needed to be honest about my feelings, and I was afraid the pale cast of day would wash away my convictions.
It wasn’t as if I thought telling him the truth would change how he felt about me. Not really, at least. There was a little part of me that wondered if he was harboring the same regret that I had been for the last two months. But the reason I felt compelled to confess was because I realized I couldn’t move on without doing so.
For five months, I had pushed down my words when I was around him, shoving all hints that I was falling in love far away to a place where even I could believe it wasn’t happening.
It wasn’t like me to be weak, and falling in love was weak. So I had filled myself up with these unspoken words until I was bursting at the seams. And they were now threatening to escape. I needed to tell him, because if I didn’t, I feared I was going to explode.
After the concert ended, I said goodbye to my friends and started walking to his place. I walked from the Lower East Side to Chelsea, giving myself time to clear my head.
Along the way, I set some ground rules. I wouldn’t wake his roommates up. I wouldn’t just smile and back down. I wasn’t going to get mad. I was going to be clear that I wanted to tell the truth, not change his mind. And I wasn’t going to have sex with him.
At least, these were the rules I wrote down in my iPhone notes as I walked up the deserted streets to do the most foolish thing I’d ever done. Oh yeah, this is probably a good time to add that I wasn’t completely sober. And it was 4 am in the morning.
So I arrived at the door to his apartment, wearing a neon pink skirt and fake eyelashes. I called his phone, but he didn’t answer. I called it again, and still no answer. So I broke one of my rules. I called his roommate. And he let me up.
Once I was in his room facing him, I couldn’t turn back.
“So, what’s up?” he asked.
I thought about apologizing and chalking the whole thing up to a dumb drunk idea, but I knew that would be a lie. Because for the last two months, I had cried so much even I knew it was ridiculous. I had turned over every moment in my head, wondering if I had said too much or too little. The inaction was destroying me, and I knew I couldn’t go back to doing nothing.
Face to face with him, I told him everything. I told him that even though he had made it clear he didn’t want anything serious when we first met, I had fallen for him. I told him that I felt slighted when instead of telling me he lost interest, he chose to ignore me altogether. And I told him I cared about him, even though we had agreed to keep things casual.
I said, “I like you” and he replied, “You mean you like me? Or you like like me?” Both.
When I was finally done talking, I felt like I could breathe again. Two things happened after that. The first thing was he told me the reason he ghosted on me, answering my question of Why didn’t you just tell me?
He said that even though he didn’t want to hang out anymore, he wasn’t sure he’d never want to hang out again. So he hadn’t said anything at all, hoping he could fade me out without burning a bridge.
I was relieved to hear him acknowledge this, because I honestly thought I was going crazy. I had wondered if I had been reading too much into the silence and that he hadn’t been ignoring me at all. So it was nice to hear this acknowledged.
The second thing that happened was that I broke another one of my rules. You can probably guess which one. I know, it wasn’t my proudest moment.
I considered lying about that last part to tell this story. Because if we didn’t have sex afterward, then this would be a story about how I told the truth just for the sake of telling the truth. I’d come off as a much stronger person for being able to come clean and then walk away. You’d probably respect me more.
But this story isn’t about respect. It’s about honesty. And what I learned that night is that you can’t control your feelings, no matter how hard you try.
Acting like I didn’t care only caused me more pain. I cared. A lot. And my feelings caught up to me, at 4 am in the morning.
As embarrassing as this moment was for me, I don’t regret it for a second. Trust me, I know it’s wildly embarrassing. I don’t regret it, because a 4 am confession is about as honest as you can get. It was as if that night, my subconscious grabbed the steering wheel from my careful conscious mind and took over. Instead of wondering what if, I went and got an answer.
Two years later, I’ve taken a better approach to my relationships. I am honest about my feelings, despite frequent advice that it’s gauche to care.
Instead of brushing off my emotions as weak or undesirable, I make a point to talk about them as they come up. Am I in a perfect relationship? Not at all. I actually just broke up with someone that I cared a lot about. Well, he broke up with me.
But this time, I don’t have to wonder if I should have been more clear about my feelings because I made them very clear from the beginning. I won’t show up at his house at 4 am to say “I like you,” because he knows I do. But more importantly, I can move on, because I have closure.
And if you’ve ever lost someone you cared about and wondered if confessing your love would change anything, the answer is yes. It might not change your relationship, but it will change how you feel. You’ll feel better. Take it from me.