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The Harmful Specter Of People Who Ghost

Written by: Dr. Beverly Wertheimer, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


“Ghosting” is probably best known as a dating term referring to someone cutting off contact without a word or explanation; and it’s now as common as ghosts are uncommon. It’s frankly hard to fathom that dating culture has devolved to where even the most basic civility has gone by the board. Ghosting another human being as though they are unworthy of even a faint acknowledgement is cagey and cruel. So, how then does one graciously and thoughtfully discard a date?

Non-Calculating Communication

Enter Love on the Spectrum, a Netflix documentary, that after two successful seasons of filming in Australia, moved to the United States to help adults who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) find romance. The couples from Love on the Spectrum demonstrate to me the beauty of authentic, genuine, and non-calculating communication when dating. I asked one of my teenagers if their friends would ever ask a date, “How do you think our date is going?” She replied, “No, probably never.” But on the show, it’s not uncommon for someone to ask their date that very question. One single young lady replied with an enthusiastic, “It’s lovely!” and you could see from the glint in her eye that she meant it.

Another young woman answered her date’s query “What do you think of me?” by plainly telling him that she didn’t have a romantic attraction. The guy didn’t run away or die of embarrassment. He simply replied in the most courteous way, saying, “It’s okay. That happens a lot.” I was in awe of the simplicity and practicality of his response. This frank, unambiguous exchange allowed each person to save face and avoid the distress and confusion of waiting days or weeks for a text – or constantly dodging one. It also provided closure –no worrying and wondering why. It simply wasn’t a good fit. It happens a lot.

Text Anxiety

Contrast this with many other singles today who often calculate every word on every text before tapping that menacing arrow button – as though their very survival was predicated on finding the “perfect” words. Not only that, but dating conversations, whether in text or in person, are also often so breezy and imprecise that one is left wondering (without daring to ask), “Wait, so does that mean we are or aren’t getting together tonight?”

A young, bright friend of mine recently told me that the guy she’s been dating for a few weeks was acting unusually evasive. She tortured herself for more than an hour over whether to text “Sounds like something’s wrong. Should we talk?” vs. “Seems like something’s up. Are you free to talk?” vs. “Is something wrong? Should we talk?” Worried that her words could come across as too forward, she slept fitfully throughout the night, reexamining these various iterations of the same message. She finally gathered her courage in the morning and hit the inexorable send button, only to receive back the colorless message, “No. Just thinkin bout things.” If things were unclear before, this “communication” with him made them even muddier.

Everyone Can’t be the One

But at the end of a date on Love on the Spectrum, one couple is sitting together on an outdoor bench, and the guy sweetly asks the girl if she feels anything for him. The question is exquisitely pragmatic. Think about it! If one small question could spare you hours of worry or provide you hours of joy, why wouldn’t you ask it? His date’s response was every bit as affable and no-nonsense. She told him he was “excellent friend material.” Now let's face it, many of us would bristle at a let's be friends brush-off, but this dater had a far more adaptive and pragmatic reply. He smiled and said, “At least I made a new friend. That’s a wonderful gift of life.”


“Clear is Kind”

The bottom line is that we all want to know where we stand. And we deserve more credit than some date thinking we’ll crumble to pieces from their rebuff. My young friend told me that her date’s text message of “thinkin bout things” was surely a death knell. She convinced herself that he was “100 percent” referring to their relationship and that it was over. These runaway thoughts caused her a tremendous amount of distress. It turns out that she was mistaken, and the “things” he was “thinking bout” had nothing to do with her. But it all started with one oblique, murky message. As a social worker and researcher Brené Brown says, clear is kind, unclear is unkind.

Ghosting is an ironically soulless way of cowering away from another human being who, if nothing else, deserves the minimum of courtesy. That speck of human kindness requires little more than not leaving a person “on read” or declining their calls. Instead of ghosting the next date who doesn’t dazzle, you can pick up the phone to say, “I want to thank you so much for last night. I had an enjoyable time, but I’ve decided I would just like to be friends.” There is a small chance you’ll get an F*** you instead of a thank you, but at least you’ll know you carried yourself with dignity and are irreproachable as you ready yourself for your next date.

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Dr. Beverly Wertheimer, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

As a former TV journalist working at ABC and NBC stations, CNN Turner Entertainment, and Entertainment Tonight, Beverly Wertheimer thrives on creating warm and immediate connections with others. In her current roles as CEO of BeWorthy life coaching, assoc. child and adolescent psychotherapist, and adjunct professor of psychology at Pepperdine University, Dr. Wertheimer is devoted to uplifting others and helping them solve even the most vexing problems. Her mission: Help people get whatever they want out of life...and then enjoy it!



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