Breakups suck, no matter how they end. Here’s the thing- to be abandoned with no explanation is just wrong, it’s like getting buried and you did not know you were sick.
Recently The New York Times and New York Magazine brought an “ah ha” moment to my life by using and highlighting the term “ghosting” – in reference to how allegedly Charlize Theron “ghosted” Sean Penn. This terminology sums up the ultimate phase out. Reading these stories was like finding out I am a member of a club that I didn’t know existed. While this club sounds like it would be full of a bunch of losers, sad sacks and heartbroken souls, I believe its membership is composed of people who have been given the opportunity to reevaluate their lives after being dumped by cowards. Without a word of “it’s not you, it’s me” they disappear like a ghost and haunt you forever. I guess there are a bunch of us out there that have dated Casper and got burned. But take it from me, life on the other side is a whole lot better.
I don’t know if it’s karma, my calling or just part of my life’s path, but so far I have not been lucky in the relationship department. I feel like I have acquired a PhD. in getting dumped.
My significant long term relationships have ended badly with me playing the victim and feeling like my whole world fell apart. After each split I thought I finally got it down; there is no way I could feel that distraught again. But that brings me to my ex, THE ex. There is no need to bash him. That’s just playing into the comfortable victim role. But I want to share how I was ghosted.
After returning from a press trip to Rome, I was at my best friend’s wedding. During the entire time in Italy my gut was trying to tell me something. My ex had stopped communicating. I had a feeling he was gone. I was unsure about our status, and embarrassed that I did not know what was going on, so I just kept showing people my big smile as much as possible. While seeing my friend walk down the aisle, I remember thinking “I’m about to get dumped..I’m screwed. It’s done.” When asked about my boyfriend, I clutched my iced Pinot Grigio while saying he was on a business trip and we were happier than ever. Lies lies lies.
After a sleepless night, as my guided imagery played I looked at my phone and he had emailed. Without going into details, the main point was he never coming back. My heart sunk and a small part of me disappeared, only to return years later. I was looking outside of myself, viewing the situation from above and wondering how this person should deal. What do you do next?
At six am I got in my car and drove back to the city. I must have stayed in my car for three hours driving, parking to cry and then driving some more. Wondering who do I call and how do I tell someone about this. I must have called him 100 times while I parked in front of The Grey Dog Cafe in Chelsea, a spot where we would usually go while we walked our dogs. I’m not sure what felt worse at the time- the fact that he dumped me over an email or that each time I called him he sent me directly to voicemail. He was alive, he was on the other end of the phone, he did have answers but he wouldn’t give me anything. He wouldn’t witness my pain nor did he give a shit.
I looked in my rear view mirror and saw my face. From crying It was red and swollen like I had been stung by 100 bees at once. I knew that this time was different from all the other fights and times he had disappeared. Kelly Cutrone says “If You Have To Cry, Go Outside”. I took her life advice literally and not the way she intended it. Standing outside on 16th street by the home we shared I wept behind my sunglasses not caring who saw or who heard that awful noise you make when it feels like your whole body is crying.
Shortly after I walked inside- all of his stuff was still there just like he had left it. I could still smell his cologne on our sheets, photos of us on vacation and with friends were still on the fridge held down by humorous dog magnets he brought home one day. One thing that was not there was a goodbye letter, or an “I’m sorry” note. Somehow he forgot to leave those.
And that was that. I did try for months to get a response via any way other than a messenger pigeon, but he was gone, just like a ghost.
I’ve learned about the darker side of being dumped the hard way. Like Diana Ross famously sings “Love Taught Me Who was The Boss”. Today looking back, older, hopefully wiser and willing to give love a try again I see why this time after this breakup I learned a more difficult but valuable lesson. People who ghost show signs throughout the entire relationship. Just like an actual ghost these signs are hard to see. Always be aware. Don’t be cynical, but keep your eyes open and they could show up. I was so blinded by the idea of having someone that didn’t want to stay that I just ignored the instances where things did not appear right. Follow your gut, I promise your gut will never lie to you. The signs are everywhere.
If you need to spend your time holding onto something that is broken, rescue an animal from a shelter instead. Save yourself the therapy bills and the prescription medication. If you want to leave you can, and you can do it the right way. Gracefully say goodbye, in person..like a kind human and leave- before you are ghosted.