Why Do I Keep Getting Ghosted?
What should I do if someone ghosts me after we sleep together?
I read every question that comes through my inbox, and answer as many as I can on videos and podcast episodes. Ghosting comes up a lot, to the point of needing its own guide on my Instagram. But there was one specific question that stuck with me. A woman wrote in:
“Every time I meet someone on Bumble, we start off great, but when I decide to have sex with them, I get ghosted. I’ve worked really hard on expressing my feelings, not being vague in what I want, being sweet, having fun, and it ultimately doesn’t work. I’ve even asked people if they were emotionally available and wanted a relationship. The last person I dated for about a month was extremely busy with a new job, so I understood and gave him space. A week without talking, he messaged me and apologized, telling me he would try and make time for me because he knew it was important. Then I slept with him, and now we haven’t talked in a week, and I haven’t seen him in three weeks. This is a pattern of the same thing happening with different guys, and it’s not just a one-off. What am I meant to do?”
This is a challenging topic for a few reasons. First and most obviously: if I suggest we hold back the booty, people respond by saying they’re sexually empowered and can bang whoever they want whenever they want, and sex shouldn’t be a determining factor. I hope we can all agree this is a nonjudgement zone here. I don’t give a shirt if you go hump people! It doesn’t matter to me! Just use protection! Safe sex is self-love! And, some lesser-taught sex ed advice: let’s not put ourselves in situations we can’t be sober for.
All of this should be covered in sex ed, right? But I went to Catholic school, where we learned fear ed — to be afraid of sex, of pleasure, of potential consequences, and our own desires. What I learned was more like this: so there’s the birds and the bees, they do the thing and that makes kids, so don’t do the thing because you don’t want kids. And if people objected, or asked what to do if they wanted to have sex, the response was usually, “Yeah, just don’t.” Abstinence works, except when it doesn’t.
Even though we’re biologically designed to wanna hump, we’re taught not to because it’s bad. Many of us who were raised in religious households were even told we could go to hell. Unless, of course, we were married, because marriage is this perfect little sanctioned box, and if you get in there, then you can definitely have sex. But then you could cheat because no one really taught you about sexual empowerment, or relational conversations, or how everything you’ve been taught about sex is probably now tied to shame. Because you’re human, you’re a sexual being, and yet, if you were taught that sexual feelings or thoughts were tied to shame, then you’re going to be walking around covered in shame. The only way to have a sexual experience without feeling shameful about pleasure is by being intoxicated, but then you’re going to feel totally conflicted, because you feel good while also feeling bad.
How confusing is all of this?! All this to say: our society has a lot of baggage when it comes to sex, and some of people’s behavior afterward (like ghosting) might be bewildering because sex can trigger old and outdated thoughts and feelings.
In this person’s case, they were beautifully aware of what they wanted and the pattern that came up. They worked hard on expressing their feelings, and were specific about what they wanted. But still, it wasn’t working. Which often means the root issue is in who you’re picking. In this one instance, the person they picked was busy with a new job, so they gave them space. If someone says right from the get-go that they’re busy, or they just got out of a relationship, or they’re not looking for anything serious, or they’re about to move away, then that’s an indication they might not be able to fulfill your needs.
All of those disclaimers are actually distancing strategies. That person is creating space and basically telling you to lower your expectations, because they’re not going to meet them.
For someone who feels like they ask for too much or are too emotional, they might respond by suppressing what they want. Listen: you telling someone what you want and standing by it will get rid of everyone who is not the one. People often ask, “But what if they’re the one! We had such a connection!” If they don’t want what you want, they are absolutely not the one.
At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people were getting ghosted left and right, or hearing from people who had dropped off the map ages ago (u up?). And if we learned one thing this year, I hope it’s to stop talking to people who don’t want to talk to us, to stop wasting our time chasing people. I hope no one messages people who don’t want to message them back. If someone doesn’t want to be caught, why would you chase them? Stop that game.
That’s the work, really. Choosing better at the outset is one lesson. The other is to stop chasing people who don’t want to be caught.
Choose people who are also clear in what they want. Choose people who don’t offer disclaimers and distancing strategies. Choose people whose words match their actions. And choose to stop chasing if it doesn’t work out.
And if you’re someone who always runs from people, then you need to learn how to receive love. Learn how to stand still. Why? Because you’re both running in a circular cycle, where the person chasing wounds the person running, so the person keeps running, and they validate one another’s views of the world. The first person thinks, No one ever wants to stand still for me, while the second person thinks, Everyone chases me and is controlling, overwhelming, smothering, and I don’t have any room to breathe. They continue to validate one another’s view of the world. But here’s the thing: you don’t have to play that game anymore. Choose to stop running. Choose to stop chasing. The person you’re meant to be with doesn’t need you to do either.