Most dating relationships nowadays seem to end before they even begin because someone seemingly “ghosted” the other party. For those unfamiliar with what ghosting is, it is essentially ceasing contact or initiative in a relationship abruptly and without an obvious reason as to why. The subject of ghosting is not an exclusive Christian dating practice, as I have found both secular and religious crowds being hurt by the phenomenon. Anxiety often stems from being on the receiving end of the practice as it leaves people wondering what they could have done wrong or what about them is so awful that is caused someone else to cease all communication out of the blue.
Back in the day, it was a lot easier to avoid someone simply because phones were not readily available. But nowadays the act of avoiding someone involves intentionally not responding to texts and avoiding interacting with their social media. Thinking that someone you once had a thing with suddenly saw enough and ran away to the point of not even watching your social media stories can logically cause a great deal of harm to someone’s self-esteem.
Are You Actually Getting Ghosted?
While there are surely some people who blatantly stop all contact and provide no clarity, I have observed that some situations of ghosting are not really ghosting, it’s actually just poor communication, second guessing, and an inability to meet in the middle in terms of effort towards a relationship.
I’m not sure who articulated it first but someone once put into words the common phenomenon many people go through in all kinds of dating: a guy will usually make the first move and start up conversations. From there the conversations go back and forth. It has been made clear by women that a bad first date habit is to only talk about yourself (i.e. seek to be interested rather than interesting) which is something that many guys have picked up on so they will ask questions. At some point or another, this thought creeps into the guy’s mind: what if the only reason we’re even talking is because I’m putting in the effort. If I shut down, would she pick up where I left off or is this solely dependent upon me? And so they’ll back off a bit with the initiative taking and conversation starting, putting the ball in the woman’s court.
Some girls will notice the reduced effort and will pick up the mantle of initiating conversation and taking interest, making clear to the guy that the potential relationship isn’t just one-sided. Others will believe that the reduced effort is a sign that he either doesn’t like them or that he is ghosting them and then they don’t put in any effort because they figure there is no point. Either side simply should have communicated with the other how they felt but instead they rely on people picking up vibes and unspoken gestures.
In a way, the guy was “ghosting” her but not in the way she would think. He simply wanted to know if the effort was returned or if he was the only one pedaling this tandem bicycle. In some of my lesser moments I have “ghosted” people because of this exact reason or another, and I’ve since apologized for those times, but what I wish was that I had just communicated with them where I was at and what I was feeling instead of trying to have them pick up on something I had not made clear.
It’s Time To Add Honesty to Relationships
The necessity of honest communication cannot be overstated. Within Christian dating culture, a lack of honest communication usually occurs because people think that withholding the honest truth in order to spare someone else’s feelings is the “Christian” thing to do. We become so paralyzed by fear of offending someone or things being awkward that we will never address when things start getting weird. Most cases of ghosting could probably be remedied with honest communication. In your dating days, train yourself to lovingly communicate when something doesn’t sit right with you or you’re not sure how the other person feels. Learning this essential skill will serve you well if you get married, but it will also serve you well in all of your relationships.
The next time you find yourself in a situation of apparent “ghosting,” it may be a good idea to take these practice steps towards clarification:
Putting in the work to communicate and eliminate confusion does not guarantee that the other person will respond the way you want, reciprocate the feelings, or even respond. But a big growth moment occurred when you took the time to communicate instead of just letting the awkwardness and unanswered questions just sit there. At the end of the day, you want to be able to say that as far as it depended on you, you sought to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18) and sought to communicate in the way that you would like others to.
If someone does genuinely ghost you, then they are showing that their current self is someone that does not communicate, which will not serve them well in any of their endeavors. It’s okay to mourn the loss of that potential relationship, but as the tears dry on your cheek remind yourself that there are people out there who genuinely desire someone that will communicate lovingly and they seek to eliminate confusion themselves. You don’t need anybody, but if you happen to want somebody, remember that those people are out there and patiently but actively seek a person like that.
Landen Swain is a writer, playwright, lyrist, poet, and aspiring author who is currently trying to get a book on Christian Dating Culture published. Since October of 2020, Swain has been building up a platform on TikTok and Instagram (@detoxchristiandating) in an effort to spread the word about the book and start conversations about Christian Dating Culture. You can contact him through the DMs of either one of those platforms.