I've been spending a lot of time recently in Reddit forums and on Facebook singles groups to see what the kids are talking about these days, and one thing that's really stood out to me is the number of people who are upset about ghosting.
That people are upset in itself isn't surprising - nobody likes to be ghosted. And ghosting is everywhere - if you’re a modern dater, and you’re on apps, chances are, you’ve dealt with ghosting at least a handful of times (or maybe even more! Yay!).
What has been surprising to me are the number of people who are ready and willing to write off dating entirely because of ghosting. These daters seem to have almost developed a kind of ghosting-related PTSD that keeps them well away from dating - they’re afraid to open up and engage with new people because - oh, what's the point, anyway? Why bother?
I can empathize with feeling icky after being ghosted. It's a icky thing to have happen, and it’s understandable that after being ghosted enough times, your response is going to be to feel discouraged, unmotivated, and disinclined to want to put yourself out there again.
On the other hand - and I say this from my own experience both as a dater and as a coach - holding tightly to the belief that “all men/women ghost,” “ghosting is normalized at this point - everybody does it,” or “what’s the point - I’m just going to be ghosted anyway,” is paradoxically, one of the best ways to increase the odds for yourself that you will, in fact, be ghosted. (Yikes!)
Why is that?
The belief that most people in the dating pool will, in fact, ghost you, essentially puts your own subconscious confirmation bias to work against you - the more that you hold on to a belief, the more likely you are to notice examples of events in the world that confirm that belief.
Additionally, the belief that most people that you date will ghost primes your brain to look for reasons to distrust people, which will dispose you to be less open to and capable of connecting with the people that you meet. After all - who wants to connect with somebody who has a noticeable chip on their shoulder?
And then, here’s the real kicker - what do people do when they meet people they don't connect with? They leave. And sometimes, they . . . ghost. (Yeah . . . kind of awkward, isn’t it?)
Also very unfortunately - believing that most people cannot be trusted also makes you more inclined to accept untrustworthy behavior when it actually shows up - when you assume that everyone is untrustworthy, why wait for someone trustworthy to come along? What's one more totally shady character to add to the mix of other totally shady characters?
By the way - this principle of “Believing X will make you more likely to confirmation-bias yourself into seeing X everywhere you go” - essentially holds true for any limiting belief that you hold along the lines of “The rest of the dating pool is The Problem, but not me! I am perfect, blameless, and dateable. It’s the other peasants who need to reform.”
Like my grandmother always said (actually, it wasn’t my grandmother, it’s ME - I always say this) - any belief that we have that posits our problems as being “out there, with the 'Other People'” - and does not take personal responsibility for our own roles in choosing and/or co-creating those problems, is probably worth re-examining.
As Mark Manson says, “One assumption I’ve lived my life by for a long time now goes like this: ‘If it’s a question of me being screwed up, or masses of people being screwed up in the same way, then it’s far more likely that it’s just me being screwed up.’” (Mark Manson, Models)
So. Um . . . well. Where does that leave us with our good friend the ghosting belief?
I’d like to propose that we re-frame our question by looking at the mindset of the successful dater.
Ghosting is going to happen, and it is going to happen to you. But you are probably wrong in assuming that it happens substantially more to you than to other, more successful, daters. The difference between a successful dater and an unsuccessful dater, when it comes to ghosting, is that successful daters don’t let ghosting stop them from dating.
When a successful dater is ghosted, rather than throwing their phone, apps and all, straight into the trash and promising to never date again, they say to themselves, “Looks like I just got ghosted - that’s upsetting, but not surprising. I’m going to go ahead and get back to swiping.”
They pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get back out there. They may take some time to lick their wounds, but they don’t stay away from dating very long - successful daters know that it’s not possible to be sure that anyone is right for them in the early stages of dating, so no individual ghoster is worth substantial mental time, energy, or emotional real estate.
For that reason, successful daters have trained themselves to have high standards, but low expectations around dating: they know that they want clear communication and intentionality from a future partner, but they don’t expect for most people to meet their standard. And they’ve accepted that, in fact, most people won’t.
When a successful dater encounters ghosting, they aren’t impressed, but they certainly aren’t surprised. They correctly identify that ghosting happens because of a variety of misalignments, and that it especially tends to happen when the ghoster doesn’t have access to the emotional agility around communicating a want or need to call out the misalignment directly.
In short, successful daters have chosen to accept that ghosting is a part of modern dating culture, and as such, will inevitably occur from time to time. But they also choose not to let that fact bother them much. Because successful daters have an abundance mindset around dating, they know that even if a connection doesn’t work out with one person, there are plenty of other people they will like in the world, and that many of these people will not ghost.
So - where does that leave us with this ghosting belief business?
When it comes to ghosting, there’s nothing fundamentally separating you, the sad and lonely ghost-ee, from successful daters other than the beliefs that you choose to subscribe to and therefore act upon.
Beliefs create our mental maps of the world. Our mental maps then inform our behaviors.
When we change our beliefs, those changed beliefs then change how we exist in the world.
Changing how we exist in the world then changes our dating results.
Where does that leave us (or you), then? Get out there, my cute little sad and lonely bean-sprout, and get to work on changing your beliefs.