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#858: “My long distance bf just completely disappeared, please help!”

O Captain, my Captain.

I am sort of shocked at what I am writing you, as I’ve never had anything like this happen to me. I have a 34-year-old woman, and was in a long-distance relationship with a 37-year-old man until a few weeks ago. Then? After our first fight (over the phone), which I thought was fairly minor really, he disappeared. No calls, no texts, email, Facebook, smoke signals. I contacted his best friend to make sure he is still ALIVE – he is – he has just stopped communicating with me altogether. Has he broken up with me? Does he actually plan on resurfacing? I don’t know. But what I think you should know is that we have known each other for 20 years, making this behavior even more cruel.

Here’s how it started: we met in high school. I was basically in puppy love with him until he graduated (nothing happened), and then my first year of college or so, we spent time together. We didn’t have sex but we were intimate. That ended when I found out he was seeing someone else (which was fair, as we’d never discussed being exclusive) so I went my own way, feelings hurt. Then he moved far away, and we exchanged letters, and basically, we’ve kept in touch for the last 20 years. Often, we’ll be in town (the small town we grew up in) at the same time, and we usually drive around and talk and talk and talk. Once, we checked into a motel, watched TV, and kissed. But it never happened again.

This past Christmas, I knew I liked him and was tired of all the dancing around, so we consummated our relationship, if you know what I mean. I spent the next few days with him, and when I left for New York, I made it known that I would come visit him in the Midwest. And I did, several times. It was always just beyond wonderful and lovely and I really thought I loved him, although it was too early (?) to say that, so I didn’t. He did all sorts of nice things for me as well. One thing that concerned me about him, however, was that he hasn’t really worked at all in five years, although he has skills, and he isn’t trying to. He’s dead broke and refuses to work. But. Love!

So, the disappearance. I’ve taken it.. badly. I have basically been using his text box as an empty Word file, and I keep texting him – almost like I’m talking to myself. ALL I NEED is for him to tell me WHY he disappeared, WHY it won’t work out, WHAT is wrong with him, is he upset? What? And he WON’T EVEN GIVE ME THAT. It’s just cruel.

So it’s been three weeks now. Every few days I call him, hoping that this will be the time that he answers the phone and tells me JUST WHAT THE F HAPPENED.

And he never picks up.

Sincerely,
About My Disappearance

Dear About My Disappearance,

I know this is incredibly frustrating and painful and I’m sorry both for the pain that you’re in and for what I’m about to tell you:

If he wanted to talk to you, he would have done it already. 

Silence in the face of repeated contact may be an unsatisfying message, but it is still a message. It means “I do not want to interact with you.” When someone does not want to interact with you,  it is time for you to stop texting and calling him. Not one more text. Not one more call. Not one more email, or letter, or telegram, or checking on him via his friends. Stop.You are not making the situation better or more likely that you’ll get an explanation. Stop shredding your dignity and your feelings against his silence.

You may never know what prompted his change of heart, but you do have all the information that you need to write the story of the end of this relationship. A rough draft:

“(Name) has been a part of my romantic landscape since I was a high school kid with a crush. We came close a few times but it never quite happened. Then, when we actually got together later in life, despite having a few promising visits and weekends together, it just didn’t work out. I was having a few doubts about the relationship anyway, especially when I learned more about his money and career situation. The final straw was when we had an argument and he completely ghosted on me in a cruel and confusing manner, so I ended* it.”

*You do not have to wait until you get word from him and you do not have to communicate with him to make a break up “official.” Just because he decided to leave first doesn’t mean you don’t also get to decide that.

Whatever this man’s attractive qualities may be, whatever hopes and promises were between you, whatever history you have, in the present moment this man is showing you that he is not the right partner for you. His actions are not the actions of someone who loves you and who wants to be with you. You’re not going to even be friends (this isn’t how people who want to stay friends treat each other, either).

In the end it doesn’t matter what his plans are, or his reasons are, or his feelings are. What he’s left you with his his silence, which is both an answer and a gift if you can let it be one. By which I mean, someday he might try to crawl back into your good graces/your bank account/your bed/your attention. Let the memory of how he treated you now be a shield for you against him then.

Please, take the very best care of yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

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232 comments
  1. Swistle said:

    I loved this answer. Favorite parts:

    1. “Stop shredding your dignity and your feelings against his silence.” Such a vivid picture.

    2. “…but you do have all the information that you need to write the story of the end of this relationship.”

  2. It is really, really, cruel. It shows you that he is prepared to be really, really cruel to you. Do not hang around to let him be cruel to you any more. The Captain’s advice is spot on as ever.

    • Blue Meeple said:

      I agree. Even assuming the most charitable possibilities, such as something happened that caused him to be unable to communicate, there has been plenty of time as well as ample opportunities to rectify this – including via his best friend, who would certainly have told him you were in touch! Instead, he decided to be cruel. That’s so awful of him. You deserve to be treated better than that.

      • Big Pink Box said:

        Yep. It’s a giant red flag with *ABUSE* stitched in fibre-optic strands, and a flashing LED border.

        • OP is Sad said:

          And he is always saying that he is a “kind, genuine and empathetic person.” Like all the time. If you have to say it that much…

          Thank you everyone…

        • neverjaunty said:

          Wow. This comment (and others like it) make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

          But then, maybe not everyone has had the experience of being blamed for setting boundaries when a friend turns obsessive, and being told you’re being MEAN to him and think about his FEELINGS and can’t you just TALK to him (never mind that makes it that much harder to cut things off).

        • Jenn said:

          I have to agree with neverjaunty. I mean how often have we heard the other side of the story. The person who’s freaked out because the admirer/ex won’t stop contacting them. The person who’s worried because they were out of contact for a bit and it wound up triggering a meltdown? He’s not going to win any ex-boyfriend awards but it seems both harsh and unhelpful to whip out the abuse label.

          • Saira Ali said:

            I understand where you’re both coming from, and I too have been on the receiving end of “but whyyyyyyy won’t you just taaaaaaalllllllk to me?” But, the advice given almost always starts with “Did you tell him to leave you the eff alone?” Tell the person once–just once! not more–that you are done and please don’t contact me again. It sounds like this guy never told the LW he was breaking things off or not to contact him, which doesn’t excuse the weeks long barrage and treating the text message app like an open Word document, but I think it does allow for the first few “What is going on on? Are you sick or injured?” messages.

          • pixelwhipped said:

            Co-signing this, just because there have been times where I’ve seen this commentariat wonderfully help abuse victims who never would have described their situation as such, empower themselves to call a spade a spade (specifically—their abuser their abuser). I would hate for someone in a similar scenario brush that off because they’ve seen the term get thrown around when it wasn’t really called for.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        I’m not prepared to go there yet, saying he *decided to be cruel*. We don’t know how soon after the argument he “disappeared.” That is, we don’t know how soon after the argument she contacted him, and how much time she gave him to respond before she went into what appears to be panic mode. I know we’re supposed to give the LW benefit of the doubt, but it’s only been three weeks and if she’s now at the call-every-few-days stage, how quickly was she calling other people to see if he’s still alive?
        I think rather than he’s cruel, it’s equally likely that he’s freaked out by her reaction, or that her reaction made him realize that they had very different opinions of the depth of the relationship, and now he wants out, but doesn’t know how to communicate with her without unleashing even more.

        I’m imagining a letter to the Captain the effect of “after this minor argument, a friend called and suggested an impromptu weekend in the mountains, so I planned to call her Sunday night, but when I checked my phone Sunday night, there were four messages and 11 texts, all increasingly frantic about why hadn’t she heard from me. It kind of weirded me out, so I didn’t call her after all, and when I woke up the next morning, it was like she’s been using my text box as an empty Word file, and she keeps texting me – almost like she’s talking to herself. And then my friend called and told me she’d called him to ask if I was still alive!”

        I think we all know what we’d tell the person who wrote that letter.

        It’s over, and it sounds like LW is better off without him because he does sound kind of jerky, but I don’t think it helps to label a person “cruel” and abusive when there are equally possible explanations.

        I’ve been on both sides of LW’s situation and my hope for her is that she learns why she reacted the way she did, and sorts out her feelings and learns how to manage her emotions in a better way, because even if he’s SuperDick, her barrage did not help. If this happened because he is cruel and abusive, it absolves her from examining her own behavior.

        Jedi hugs, LW. I hope you find healing and happiness.

        • OP is Sad said:

          I see your point and will think about it hard.

          One thing – and I am NOT making an excuse for my actions – is that I’m bipolar. After about a week of no contact I worked myself into a manic lather, and with that comes the impulsivity.

          He is one of the few ppl who knows about my illness, though, so I thought that maybe he’D cut me a *small* break for the texting.

          Anyway, I’ll.never know and must accept that.

          • apricity said:

            OP, it sounds like you have dialled back on the contact, which is a good call. It sounds like you’re in a better place than when you first wrote. I’m sorry things have not worked out with this relationship.

            I also realise that this is hard, but, if you are not currently in therapy, now would probably be a good time to go to therapy and talk about some practical coping techniques for your manic stages. I know, so obvious, and easier said than done, but I think sometimes it helps to have people give you that nudge.

          • valngordon said:

            oh god, I so understand this. being bipolar is such an hourly (minutely?) battle sometimes. regulation is hard enough without mean people – definitely put your phone down and run away but don’t spend anymore time beating yourself about the head over this one. just hold your head up and walk away. what a jerkstore. ghosting is cruel, but the best satisfaction comes from returning the favor.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      That stood out to me, too. This is someone who will respond to an argument by being seriously and deliberately unkind. LW, whatever his reasons, or “reasons,” may be, that is sufficient information by itself for me to say that you have a good reason to be done with this.

      Take care of yourself.

    • Mel Reams said:

      It is really, really, cruel. It shows you that he is prepared to be really, really cruel to you.

      Yep. I am basically the worst at handling uncertainty and really feel for the LW and in a way, there’s no uncertainty here. There is only total certainty that this guy is not good enough for LW.

      • Mel Reams said:

        On second thought, having read other people’s insightful comments about why they’ve ghosted and thought a little more about why I’ve ghosted people, I’d like to amend my comment to “there is only total certainty that this guy is not right for LW.”

        I think it’s plausible, maybe even likely that LW’s ex thought a relationship with her might be nice until he was confronted with the reality of having an actual relationship with a person who had needs and didn’t agree with him about everything, freaked out, and couldn’t find a way to explain that to LW. It’s also possible that the fight wasn’t minor to him or that they had massively mismatched expectations or whatever.

        In my case, I ghosted on a former friend who had a very strong personality and a tendency to steamroll people, and I just abruptly ran out of energy to deal with her. It was unkind of me not even to say “I’m done being an extra on the [former friend] show,” but by the time I regained the emotional energy to even consider possibly trying to explain, I realized I just had no desire whatsoever to open that can of worms, plus I wasn’t convinced it would even do any good to re-open that wound if it had healed over for her. Maybe LW’s ex is like me and just ran out of “can”.

    • MK said:

      Or it could be a case two people completely out of sync with each other. Maybe the argument wasn’t minor from his point of view and maybe he thought whatever was said during it did spell out the end of their relationship, which would make the LW’s subsequent behavior worrying.

      Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether he is cruel or simply too cowardly to break up in words or someone who now honestly considers the LW as his clingy ex. This is someone who doesn’t want the LW in his life, so she is Bette off without him.

  3. Smithy said:

    I completely echo the Captain here on proactively “ending” the relationship in your own mind. That you do not need an official breakup experience for this to be over.

    I’m in the midst of my own “but we’re not really broken up!” thing that at this point has gone on for so long it’s just embarrassing. In my case we were never an official couple, never had the talk, but then he had a few major ghosting periods. Not after a fight or anything, just total disappearance. Well, because we’ve never been an official couple, because we never officially broke up, I’ve let this limp along into a thing that has never quite died. He shows up every so often, I text him and he does respond every so often, and it’s left me in a place where now I just kind of hope he never texts me again.

    I should just say “we’re over and I will no longer engage because his ghosting tendencies are hurtful regardless of what we are or aren’t officially” – but I haven’t. I clearly emphasize with not doing that, but it’s not something I’d recommend.

    • I wish I knew you in real life so I could steal your phone and block his numbers for you. I totally understand that feel.

    • Fudgey said:

      Delurking for the first time ever just to say: I had this experience. This dude would ghost on me, reappear when he was drunk/ horny, vanish again… It was awful for my already not-super-awesome mental health. Blocking him on social media and deleting his number were probably the best things I ever did for myself. I wish I hadn’t waited so long, but that’s a mistake I’ll never make again. Good luck to you Smithy–take care of yourself ❤

    • Ariane said:

      The worst breakup of my life was with a guy I never officially dated. So I didn’t feel like i had the right to mourn it, and nobody treated it like it was serious. But the fact was, we’d had all the time and all the intimacy and all the emotional closeness and all the sex of any official couple out there; he just never respected me enough to acknowledge me as his partner, even to himself. I hope that’s not what happened to you — but it sounds like there are some similarities, at least.

      Don’t be embarrassed. It doesn’t matter what’s “official.” You know what this guy was to you, and you know what he’s done to you, and you have as much right as anyone to feel that pain.

      • Smithy said:

        I would say that in that space, while it’s not the same – it’s similar enough and the feelings are definitely similar. For better or worse, it definitely doesn’t hurt like that now. And whether I’ve actually find a way to compartmentalize it or I’m just postponing some additional hurt, I don’t know – but yeah….I think in the space of “unofficial”, it’s so easy to not let ourselves mourn. And however this does ultimately end, I just hope that going forward I remember that. That letting yourself have that mourning period is both necessary and almost a beautiful way to say goodbye to what was wonderful and what won’t be.

        For whatever reason, I’m just not there yet with this guy. Whether it’s that we’re now long distance so the overall space between us is larger, but I’m more than happy to serve as a cautionary tale. This can go on for a long time, especially if you’re waiting on the other person.

  4. I’ve had pen pals do this kind of thing to me. DIsappear without a word. I begged and begged for them to tell me what I’d done wrong. Then someone suggested that maybe I hadn’t done anything. Maybe they were the ones with the problem.

    Also, as someone who is married to a guy who hasn’t worked in over a decade, and as my therapist once said, “If he hasn’t worked in this long, you may have to face the fact that he may never work again.” Run. Run away.

    The Captain has given you some very good advice.

    • Duly Concerned said:

      I’m ashamed to say that I have been the penpal that ghosted a few times and whoever suggested that it was something wrong with the one who ghosted would have been 100% correct in my case.

      I’ve had problems with depression and PTSD since I was 6 years old. When it gets really bad, I curl up into my shell; since I’m an introvert by nature, I can go a long time without contact with other people. The problem was that when I would claw my way out of the pit again, I would be all hopeful and think “I will never let that happen again” because I thought that it was something I was doing wrong that made the pit open up. I thought this way for an embarrassingly long time. No one will ever think I’m a fast study, that’s for sure.

      I’ve come to realise that the pit is going to be part of my life cycle for the rest of my life. It just is and there’s as much point to moaning about it as there is to moaning because winter is cold. I have come up with some coping strategies to employ around it. The main one is that I now warn everyone I come into personal contact with that I have this problem and that at some point, I am likely to withdraw suddenly, for no reason or fault of theirs. I want them to have fair warning so that they can decide whether they want a relationship with someone like me. Most people do but some people don’t and I completely understand that. Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to have a relationship with me, as well.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        Are you me? From your description, you’re me.

        Jedi hugs! (If acceptable!)

        • Duly Concerned said:

          Jedi hugs most welcomed, thank you.

          It’s a huge relief not to be the only one, even though, as someone’s internet law (Hodson’s? I think) the answer to any question on the internet that begins with ‘am I the only one who (fill in the blank)?’ is always yes. It’s more comforting to know in the specific rather than just knowing in general.

        • Kelly L. said:

          I’m the same way, I started thinking of it as the phases of the moon. The dark of the moon will always come, and it will always pass.

          • Duly Concerned said:

            Thank you for that, that is a really helpful image for me. Since I tend to think better in images and analogies rather than in straight logic, good images have great value for me.

        • The Awe Ritual said:

          Great Scott, we appear to be triplets!

          Wish I could put your screed on a billboard. I have generally stopped reaching out at all, except anonymously. I want to be friends but winter comes so quickly, I get trapped in the ice.

          • BigdogLittlecat said:

            Triplets? It appears to have been a much larger litter!

          • Duly Concerned said:

            It is amazing that my secret shame (I cried when I wrote that post and felt nauseated after I hit send) is shared by so many people whose nom de plume I recognise and respect from years of reading the Captain’s blog..

            One thing I did that helped when someone I knew was sentenced to federal prison for a relatively short term, I felt the pit starting to open. I made a variety of cards and wrote a note in each one, talking about something different in each note. Then all I had to do was post one card a week. I wasn’t exactly all there in supporting my friend but it was more than I was actually capable of doing while I was in the pit. It was meant sincerely and I didn’t want to burden him with my emotional problems at a time when he had more than enough on his plate.

      • Monika said:

        I think you have done very well to recognise this cycle at all. You might not feel like you are a fast study but I think a lot of people experience cycles of various intensity and many never have the self awareness you display in your comment. So well done you.

        • Duly Concerned said:

          Thank you.

          There is a certain peace in accepting that the pit will always be there and will open at random intervals, the same peace there is in the Buddhist morning prayer: I will lose my youth, my health, my loved ones, everything I hold dear and, finally, life itself (my loose translation from the Korean).

          • Roxie said:

            Wait what? Oh god that prayer sounds horrible. I have to find it now.

            I too am one of the disappear-ers. I can go into a hole for weeks and come out just fine, looking at everyone like ‘what?’ when they ask me why I didn’t answer their one hundred fifty five thousand text messages, or voice mails. Because. I turned my phone off. And Facebook. And all other ways of contacting me. Yes, I’m alive. I’m fine. I’m 1000% caught up now on Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Pinterest, Apartment Therapy, and every version of any Jane Austen movie ever made (did you see the one where the modern woman goes back in time and marries Mr. Darcy herself). As a matter of fact, I’m great. How are you?

            It’s not personal. I just go through phases where I Can’t Human. And when I Can’t Human, I go away until I can again. I’ve gotten to where I refuse to apologize or grovel. But my ‘take it or leave’ attitude doesn’t win any awards.

            I’ve been broken up with over it, with some justice. My parent still doesn’t get it after 15 years. You’d think they would out of anyone. No amount of pestering, yelling, asking nicely, showing up, raining me with calls or messages, crying into the voice mail, telling me about your needs, or even strategically ignoring me, will change it. This is part of what I do, and despite any false promises someone might extract after I’ve been made to feel badly, I know myself well enough to know I will continue to do this. Let’s save both of us from the false promises.

            I never connected it with my Complex PTSD from childhood, but that must be exactly what it is. I figured I was just an asshole sometimes. Which maybe I am, but the other might also be true. Thank you for the connection.

          • BigdogLittlecat said:

            Rather than winter or phases of the moon, which accept darkness as necessary and inevitable, I like to think of it as it was described to me in mindfulness training:

            Your emotions are your weather, but you are the sky. The weather is not the sky: the weather changes and comes and goes, the worst storm will always pass, but the sky always remains.
            When you are caught in the darkest, most dangerous storm, remember that the sky is still there and the sky will still be there when the storm has passed.

            jedi jugs!

          • Duly Concerned said:

            @Roxie, I’m not really an educated Buddhist. My father was born in a country where Buddhism is the prevailing religion, he spent his two years as a monk (expected) and he raised us kids Buddhist. Which means that I don’t really know sources, etc, for a lot of what I know and what I know is only Buddhism as practiced in Korea.

            The prayer is not meant to be depressing, even though it seems like it. It is meant to remind one to pay attention and value all of those things because they all have expiry dates on them. Enjoy them but do not become so hooked into them that when they eventually fade and disappear, the loss is acceptable and the memories sweet.

            In a gloomy way, it is very comforting to me.

  5. Hi LW

    Something very similar happened to me once, and I made a lot of mistakes that basically meant the person in question would never want to be friends with me again. Which was a real shame, because we had known each other a few years and clicked incredibly well and had so, so much in common.

    The biggest of these mistakes, I’m sorry to tell you, was to believe that he owed a reason why he’d broken up with me and to try and try and try to get that out of him. Although I didn’t mean to be, I was actually being really cruel both to myself and my ex. He couldn’t articulate a reason why he didn’t want to be with me any more, so he just felt guilty and miserable and frustrated. And I was not going to get an answer, so I was picking at a fresh, bleeding wound and expending a hell of a lot of emotional energy on something that was never going to pay off.

    The thing is, the fact that he doesn’t want to be with you any more is reason enough for him to end the relationship. He doesn’t have to explain and it isn’t fair on either of you to expect him to. To be honest, you probably don’t want to know the answer to that question anyway. Chances are it won’t help you.

    I am so sorry you are going through something so hurtful and confusing, LW. Please do what I didn’t do: look after yourself. Go to new and fun places with your friends! Take up a new hobby that needs you to concentrate on Other Stuff! Cook yourself meals you love! Do exercise if that’s a thing you can do! I wish I’d done all of that instead of sitting and poking at my hideous emotional wounds and concentrating on nothing but how much it hurt. You’re in a horrible place right now, but you can make it that bit easier.

    Give yourself the closure you need, as the Captain says: decide that as of now, YOU have ended this relationship even though that may be the last thing you want to do. She’s right, if he wanted to speak to you he would have done by now, unless he is deliberately leaving you hanging to scare and upset and disorient you and thus manipulate you into never again doing whatever you did that pissed him off. And if that’s the case, you can nope right the hell out of that sort of emotionally abusive relationship.

    • Anne On said:

      Before I learned to do this, back when I decided I needed closure (that just wasn’t going to happen), I would just make up a reason. Nothing to beat myself up over, more like “he just doesn’t feel the spark anymore” or “he’s going into the witness protection program” or “he’s in deep training for that stupid hobby I always hated.” It was a way for me to break through spiral thought patterns by having an answer. Nowadays I’m just glad I don’t have to spend my energy on someone who doesn’t care enough about me.

    • No one is owed a reason for the breakup. That said, I think in most cases we’re owed … the breakup. As in, “I’m breaking up with you. We are no longer a couple.”

      • crooked bird said:

        Yeah, if the guy planned never to contact her again, it would’ve been nice for him to say so. I don’t underestimate the maddening aspects of “but who knows, maybe he’ll call me next week and explain everything.”

        • TO_Ont said:

          I think I assumed reading it that it wasn’t an instant plan, rather started off as just not calling her back right away and gradually becoming a decision.

          But I mean, does it matter? Is it just that it makes it feel easier to move on if the guy is ‘obviously a terrible person who acted in a deliberately jerky way’? Or is it that one person has to be ‘the one who acted badly’ for the other to feel like they’re NOT a terrible person?

          It may never feel like it makes sense… Trying to make it all make sense and have a tidy narrative with a good guy and a villain and everyone acting consistently in their proper role seems like it might be as difficult as ‘getting closure’.

      • crooked bird said:

        P.S. to my last comment: I mean, he won’t. That’s clear at this point, so please don’t think that, OP. But it was mean to leave you hanging.

      • It’s hard to say, though–they had a fight, she says it was minor but maybe it wasn’t to him. Also, maybe the fight was about him trying to break up with her and her refusing to be broken up with. We just aren’t given that information and at this point considering the subsequent harassment, I think we have to consider that maybe A) we aren’t getting all the info and B) he may know her better than we do and assumed (it turns out, correctly) that going no contact was going to be the best route for him to protect himself.

        • piny1 said:

          The number of totally baseless speculative scenarios you and neverjaunty et al are spinning out of this is increasingly disturbing. Like, unless we’re just going to decide that LW is totally untrustworthy and delusional here, we do actually have good reason to assume that their argument was not about his stated desire to break up with her: she tells us in the letter that she was blindsided. That actually does tell us that the words I, Want, To, Break, and Up never entered the conversation.

          And that is a totally plausible scenario! So is the one where he just decided it would be too much trouble to break up with her. That is common. It may be an experience all of us have had at some point, and being upset about being frozen out is not at all unreasonable. It doesn’t make her unreliable.

          And no, I don’t think it’s fair to assume, given assholish behavior, that there must be some justification for said assholish behavior that we simply haven’t heard from the target of said assholish behavior. I think you’re being really unfair here, and responding to LW with an unwonted level of suspicion.

        • Kelly L. said:

          Yeah–there is a guy many years past who, I’m pretty sure if you asked him today, would say I ghosted him. What happened were a long series of conversations where I’d say “It’s not working out for me, I want to break up” and he’d say “You’re confused, let me know when you make up your mind,” and then lather rinse repeat and have the same conversation the next night. I was young, and maybe didn’t have all the communication skills available to me now, and finally to stop the endless circling of the topic, when two friends offered me a place and a job in a different town, I just up and went. (This arrangement also went down the tubes, for unrelated reasons, but that’s another saga entirely.)

          Didn’t have a cell phone back then, and didn’t give him the number to the new place. I changed to a new email account, because the old one was full of daily FEELINGSMAIL.

          And when he turned up in my life again about five years later, I realized something: I considered the end of our relationship to be the moment I first said I wanted to break up, while he considered my move to be the end of the relationship, hence he considers me to have ghosted him, though it wasn’t called that yet. I saw it as an impulsive move to reboot my life after a breakup; he saw it as the breakup itself, and a cruel one. And soon enough our conversations started going down the same hole again anyway. He would ask me to get back together with him, I’d say no, and he’d tell me to let me know when I made up my mind. It didn’t count as making up my mind unless he liked the answer. Reader, I ghosted him again. There was just no healthy pattern of conversation I could find in this. To this day, I feel bad about it–I really wasn’t good to this guy, and I hope life treated him better after that. But I just couldn’t do it.

          • That is sadly a thing that can happen. Still, the LW is around and responding to posts, some of which refer to this kind of thing, so I think she would’ve mentioned that at least in a comment?

  6. Celeste said:

    I’m so sorry it ended like this; I think you would have been more comfortable with even the worst Goodbye spoken aloud. But the Captain is right, you have to practice Goodbye even if you don’t get to say it to him. My suspicion is that he maybe has someone who may be propping him up financially to some degree, and he didn’t want to tamper with that. But of course, we’ll never know for sure. If there is one thing you can take from this, it’s that you need someone who is more in tune with you, who would desire and pursue you, and who would never ghost you. That’s who I hope you’ll find, someday (soon, I hope).

  7. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, he will not tell you. Continuing to text him will not inspire him to communicate with you. What he did was shitty and cruel (or incredibly spineless and/or passive aggressive) for sure. But you can’t make him explain things to you, and I doubt his explanation would do any good. What purpose would it serve?

    Delete his number from your phone. Block it if you can. Block him on all social media. Block him everywhere. Dive into doing things you enjoy doing, and hanging out with people whose company you enjoy.

  8. He is never going to give you the closure you want. There is no reason that is going to make this pain go away. The Captain’s advice is the best advice. You have to write your own end to the story, or it will never end, it will just be you waiting for the ending. There is no answer that turns this no into the yes you were hoping for.

    (And I know you’re saying you just want “closure” but I really think that a lot of the times when we tell ourselves we want that, our brain is tricking us into giving us hope that there could be another answer.)

    I have several other friends dealing with LDR breakups, and one of the things they also struggle with is the technological aspect. No longer do they get the dopamine boost from a text or a skype or a whatever. So keep that in mind as well. You may need to find some distractions to fill the space that once filled your “checking for texts” mental box. I don’t know how frequent your contact was, but the more frequent the harder this will be. You might want to start a tumblr or get more active on twitter or reddit or some other community to help you fill your time.

    Ghosting is SO hard to deal with, I know that feeling, I’m so sorry.

    • Katt said:

      What is LDR? I read it as Lana Del Rey but obviously know that’s not it.

      • LDR = Long-Distance Relationship

      • tawg said:

        LDR = long distance relationship.

    • olives said:

      I agree with all of this – closure just doesn’t come, often, and it’s so easy to hope for things to be right again in the world.

      After much dwelling on the thought, I’ve come to decide that there can indeed be such a thing as closure. A few highly empathetic people in the world, who are particularly sensitive, who have learned the nuances of how to say goodbye and live through the sadness and still feel the good parts in their hearts: these are the people who can offer closure.

      But they are few, and far, far between. Most of us don’t deal with hurting that well, especially when our hurt means someone else is hurting as well. We hobble off sometimes to tend our own wounds and don’t fully process the damage we leave in our wake. Or we explode in desperation and need in a way that makes someone else feel they’ll never quite be enough.

      So here’s the great irony of the universe. The people from whom you desire closure the most – the ones who have hurt you the most deeply, who have been the most cruel, who you still hold anger in your heart about as the years go by – are absolutely the LEAST equipped to give you that kind of closure.

      Give yourself kindness. Give yourself closure. Be that empathetic person for yourself that you seek for them to be. And that, alas, is the best we can do.

      • “So here’s the great irony of the universe. The people from whom you desire closure the most – the ones who have hurt you the most deeply, who have been the most cruel, who you still hold anger in your heart about as the years go by – are absolutely the LEAST equipped to give you that kind of closure.”

        That is pure genius. How did I not see it before? And I guess it works the other way round, too. If someone carries out an incredibly shitty break-up (or worse, one of those long and drawn-out non-break-ups), that’s probably the sign of a lucky escape, anyway: who wants to be deeply emotionally involved with someone capable of such cruelty, callousness, or emotional neglect?

        • Emma said:

          Oh man, this. I had a FIANCEE, who was working in another state, but was leaving to drive back to me. He never got to my house. I waited three days for him to arrive. He never phoned to tell me he had changed his mind. I finally had to track him down through his roommate. Then he turned me over and dragged me BACK over the hot coals for another month. God, I still very occasionally think about revenge and it has been over 30 years.

  9. I’m so sorry, LW. That hurts. I hope that you can come to terms with it. The uncertainty is so painful, but sometimes we don’t get answers even though we really, really want them.

    Whatever his reasons, it’s not actually going to make a difference going forward, though. Even if you knew why, the fact is that he’s not a good partner for you. In my breakups, it was actually kind of harmful for me to know why, because I got the idea in my head that if I could just change whatever the other person didn’t like, it would all work out and everything would be great! I ended up twisting myself into knots because I was trying so hard to be what the other person wanted that I ended up not knowing who /I/ was. Meanwhile I was constantly stressed that if I didn’t do everything “right”, they’d leave me, so I was doing all this changing and being uncomfortable which gave them all the power and very little responsibility to meet me halfway.

    As tough as it sounds right now, it’s much more effective to be yourself and hang out with people who are interested in you for who you are, not for who you can pretend to be. Finding out who you are might be a good way to help get your mind off this guy; try new things and pursue interests that you’ve put off, not with the goal of meeting someone, but with the goal of meeting /yourself/. Try something creative that you’ve been curious about but never actually did. Learn more about an interest that has intrigued you but you’ve held back on. When you find out who you are, it’s much easier to like yourself and to not need to know why other people do things that they do, because it’s not so much about you, it’s about who they are and what they need, and if what they need isn’t you, that’s ok.

    This probably sounds all kinds of weird and nonsensical from where you are right now, because it would have been nonsensical to me even a couple months ago. I hope it’s something that can eventually help somehow, though. I mean, it took me 37 years to get to this point, so I’m certainly not throwing stones!

  10. I’m so sorry, LW. That hurts. I hope that you can come to terms with it. The uncertainty is so painful, but sometimes we don’t get answers even though we really, really want them.

    Whatever his reasons, it’s not actually going to make a difference going forward, though. Even if you knew why, the fact is that he’s not a good partner for you. In my breakups, it was actually kind of harmful for me to know why, because I got the idea in my head that if I could just change whatever the other person didn’t like, it would all work out and everything would be great! I ended up twisting myself into knots because I was trying so hard to be what the other person wanted that I ended up not knowing who /I/ was. Meanwhile I was constantly stressed that if I didn’t do everything “right”, they’d leave me, so I was doing all this changing and being uncomfortable which gave them all the power and very little responsibility to meet me halfway.

    As tough as it sounds right now, it’s much more effective to be yourself and hang out with people who are interested in you for who you are, not for who you can pretend to be. Finding out who you are might be a good way to help get your mind off this guy; try new things and pursue interests that you’ve put off, not with the goal of meeting someone, but with the goal of meeting /yourself/. Try something creative that you’ve been curious about but never actually did. Learn more about an interest that has intrigued you but you’ve held back on. When you find out who you are, it’s much easier to like yourself and to not need to know why other people do things that they do, because it’s not so much about you, it’s about who they are and what they need, and if what they need isn’t you, that’s ok.

    This probably sounds all kinds of weird and nonsensical from where you are right now, because it would have been nonsensical to me even a couple months ago. I hope it’s something that can eventually help somehow, though. I mean, it took me 37 years to get to this point, so I’m certainly not throwing stones!

    (Apparently my comment didn’t go through even though I’ve posted before? So I apologize if this shows up more than once.)-

    • winter said:

      Comments sometimes get stuck in the wrong folder. The Captain encourages commenters not to double-post because she’ll get to the misplaced ones eventually and it’s hard to clean duplicates out.

      • Ah, ok. I hadn’t run into it before, and I wasn’t sure if it was something on my end.

  11. SingHallelujah said:

    Wow, this sounds incredibly painful, I’m so sorry. One thing that has helped me in such a situation is to pretend that the person doesn’t exist. Delete his number and all texting history, phone calls, emails, etc. (or at least move them into a folder where you don’t ever have to look at them). Unfriend him from social media. The fact that he is long-distance makes this easier, as it’s super unlikely that you’d ever run into him in a public place. Make plans with friends and/or do whatever else will be healthfully distracting (gym, movies, books, your favorite TV show, etc. etc.). It sucks but it will get better over time.

  12. Oh, LW.

    No. No, no, no. He’s never, ever going to contact you. He’s never going to give you an explanation. This is the time, for your sanity, for the preservation of your dignity and self-respect, to stop trying to make fetch happen.

    Stop. Block him on ever social media outlet and other avenue of communication. Do not accept messages from him from other people. Treat this situation as if he were dead, because at this point, it would be a lot easier on you if he was dead to you. Dead people don’t communicate. So, don’t allow other people to act as mediums and give you messages. It just gives you false hope that it was all a “miscommunication”. It’s not a miscommunication, he ghosted you because he could.

    And be glad that he did it now, before you got guilted into supporting him. Think about that for a moment. He’s not been working for five years, but he’s not starving or destitute. Someone is financing him. Would you like that someone to be you? Would you want to work hard, even doing something you love, while you have someone leeching off you, and possibly complaining because you’re not home to dance attendance on his every need?

    LW, you described a situation in which you were pining for Jake Ryan. And finally, FINALLY! You got to date him! And it was awesome! Until you found out that Jake Ryan never really left high school. You left high school. You moved on. You moved to New York! You have friends! And a career! You are doing stuff! And Jake Ryan is still in the same town, doing the same stuff, and is unemployed by choice, and letting someone else support him.

    That’s not a life I’d want. I suspect it’s not really a life you want, either.

    • This. “Pretend he’s dead” – what a great idea. You need to mourn your loss and move on.

      • I disagree. Pretending he’s dead lets him off the hook for awful behavior. People mostly end up dead against their will and even the ones who made the decision on their own usually had other problems not under their control.

        What has happened here is that this person has communicated that he has decided he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with LW and has done it in one of the most rude and thoughtless ways possible. I am of the mind that people don’t owe others an explanation of why they don’t want to be in a relationship anymore, but to let someone worry that something bad has happened rather than give them at least a TEXT or something… it’s just jerky, and makes a screamingly loud “I have not one iota of concern for your well-being” statement.

        So I say the hell with a framing that lets you forget he’s been a crappy person. Don’t dwell – that doesn’t help anything. But don’t use a coping mechanism that might leave the door open for this person to be hurtful to you again in the future. It bears remembering that he was shitty.

        • neverjaunty said:

          As we’ve talked about in umpty-ump letters before, responding to a stalker just teaches them the number of times they have to bother you before you respond.

          Sometimes ghosting is cruel and thoughtless. Sometimes it’s survival.

          • Mary said:

            Yes, I agree with your comments here. I do feel like there’s a bit of a double standard here: it’s not uncommon for the Awkward Army to recommend ending contact with someone if a relationship starts going badly, especially if someone has concerns about how their ex will react. It seems weird to immediately label it cruel when it’s being done to one of the Awkward Army.

            LW, I don’t know what your ex’s experience of your relationship is. I don’t know what his mental health is like. I don’t know whether something in your argument tripped his “OMG panic” switch and whether he cut contact deliberately or freaked out and didn’t know what to say and maintained his silence beyond the point where he felt comfortable contacting you, whether he’s a total asshole who really doesn’t care how bad he makes you feel. What I do know is that at this stage, if he asked me what he should do, the ONLY thing I’d recommend is sending a one-time message saying nothing more than, “Stop contacting me.”

            Whatever his reasons were, you get to be angry and disappointed. You get to grieve the relationship you had and the future you were hoping for. It sucks and that’s totally true! But I really think you ought also to look at your reaction here, and talk about it with a therapist. Somebody you care about suddenly vanishing is a startling and unpredictable and headwrecking experience, but you need to find a more appropriate way of handling that pain and figure out the line where “reasonable attempt to get in touch” turned into “attempting to managing my feelings by bombarding him with messages”, because that behaviour is unhealthy and unhelpful and potentially very scary for the person on the other end.

        • I dunno. I see where you’re coming from, but I’m not sure how constructive that approach would be to the LW. Do they need to spend hours dwelling on and stewing over what a horrible person their ex was to them? I don’t think “pretend he’s dead” involves telling other people he’s dead, LW would still hopefully have opportunities to rant about what a bastard this guy has been. But in the privacy of your own head, it’s all too easy to get caught up in spiralling rage-thoughts that just build up with no satisfactory outlet.

        • seralphia said:

          Nah. Pretending they are dead has nothing to do with “letting someone off the hook”. It has to do with getting artificial closure when you need some but wont get it any other way.

          When my dad left my mon in the meanest, worst possible way (as in berated and insulted and blamed her for everything wrong in the relationship with the phoneline open to his long term secret affair so she could listen in) I cut ties completely. The guy I idolized and loved growing up (and whom I adamantly defended when my mom had doubts he might have an affair because “he’s not that type of person”) just “dropped dead” one day. And I got my much needed closure. Because here’s the thing: When people die it’s over, and instead of worrying and moping and wondering what you did wrong (which my mom did for the longest time and landed her in hospital on suicide watch on one point because she had gotten home one day after drinking with friends barely conscious and repeating “I just want to die, I’m dying”) you accept these people are gone from your life, let time do her thing and heal (most) wounds, and then move on.

          And since I’m not a fan of the notion that you cannever speak ill of the dead you can still acknowlede a person was shitty while living your life as if they are dead to you.

          • Alli525 said:

            My dad did something very similar, and he’s been “dead” for 6 years now (almost to the day). It was the only way I was possibly going to be able to move on with my life – my mother tried getting closure and she just got even more hurt when he wouldn’t give it to her.

            This “my dad is dead in my mind” thing DID cause a minor panic attack earlier this year when he somehow got through to my new email address that he doesn’t know about and sent a life-update email (he sent it to the entire family, so presumably one of his brothers gave him my email address – who knows)… but overall I think it’s a decent coping method in urgent/dire circumstances.

            Another word to closure – my college bf and I did not have a good breakup, and I stopped speaking to him or attending events where he would be in attendance, but when I found out he was moving away, I reached out one last time and lined up coffee after work. I spent the entire day thinking about what I was going to say to him, and ultimately when I saw him, I told him I wasn’t looking for an apology or ANYTHING from him, but I needed him to listen and really hear how deeply his actions had hurt me. So I talked for about 15 minutes straight, got up, and left. I’m sure he said -something-, but it wasn’t an apology, and I didn’t expect one. THAT was my closure – I gave it to myself – I said what I needed to say, after a year of reflection and healing, and then I moved on. Now we see each other once every couple years at weddings, and I’m able to be genuinely friendLY, even though we’ll never be friends again. Find your own closure, however you can, because no one will ever give you exactly what you need.

          • Alli525, when I was 22, I broke off my engagement with my college boyfriend. I was not as kind as I could have been, I am sure, although I don’t know how you do such a thing kindly. He called for months, wanting to talk, so I would talk. But I never really thought about how awful it was for him because I was so relieved.

            A few years later, my grad-school boyfriend ditched me in a pretty cruel way. (I had left for a semester abroad but came back in less than a week because I missed him so much, only to discover he had already asked out a friend of mine.) I was miserable for an entire semester, which was when it struck me how awful my college fiance must have felt.

            College fiance was going to be in town for his wedding (to one of my college roommates – the statue of limitations on dating your roommate’s former boyfriend/fiance had long since expired), so I arranged to meet with him to apologize.

            Which I did, telling him I had never understood how awful it must have been for him until now I had been through the grad school breakup.

            Which I did not realize until later was also a stupid, cruel thing to do: “Oh, I never really loved you enough to suffer BUT NOW I GET IT.”

            Honestly. I. Was. An. Idiot.

            Not that I should not have apologized, but there for sure was a better way to do it.

        • Sheelzebub said:

          How is pretending he’s dead letting him off the hook? This whole obsession with the hook is one of the reasons why the LW keeps calling and texting this dude. It’s just not on.

          He’s dead to her. Or he should be. If he just ghosted for no real reason, it’s shitty. If he did because of the LW’s behavior, continuing to call him and demand explanations, etc. is not going to work. It doesn’t matter why he did it or if he was “right” to do it. He did it and the LW has to move on. Stewing about him won’t help matters.

        • I’m pretty sure that pretending he’s dead doesn’t leave the door open for him to be hurtful again in the future, nor does it require forgetting that he did a bad thing before he died.

          “Hello, OTP is Sad! I am back in town for–”
          *cue shrieking, escape, and prompt and forceful application of rock salt/shovels, as modern culture has told us is appropriate in the face of animate corpses*

          That’s just not going to let him get his hooks back in.

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      Your third paragraph really hit what probably happened; his wife/SO found out about this little dalliance of his.

      Unless he’s independently wealthy, I don’t see how he’s not starving in a ditch after five years of not working–the only other options are Living With Parents or I Forgot To Mention I’m Married.

      • tawg said:

        There’s also Living Off Dwindling Savings, Some Kind Of Assistance Payment, Having An Income That LW Doesn’t See As ‘Work’. A mix of everything?

        But, whatever his means, it sounds like they’re not super-compatible with LW’s pov on financial security. And also he’s a huge jerk who ghosts after a small fight, so they’re super-duper non compatible.

    • Goat Lady said:

      Ah yes, people who aren’t working are definitely nothing but lazy leeches on their significant other. Thanks for reminding me, I’d almost started to believe I had some worth as a human being.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        Offer of jedi hugs, and YAY! goats. Anyone who goes by Goat Lady is prime in my book.

      • Duly Concerned said:

        Goat Lady, thank you for speaking up; I was afraid to.

        • Goat Lady said:

          ❤ The idea that someone who isn't working is just a whiny financial drain is so freakin repulsive.

          • If you are not in a partnered relationship where you and the partner have agreed on who works and who doesn’t, it does raise a question: How is an unemployed unpartnered man paying the rent?

          • Kelly L. said:

            @The Gold Digger: Inherited house? Subsidized housing? Who knows?

          • @The Gold Digger: not wanting to sound snarky, but who cares? It’s none of our business. Speculating about whether he could have been secretly in another relationship is really not helpful to the LW.

  13. B. said:

    It’s not my intention to be mean, everyone, but would you react in the same way if it were a man who said “I have basically been using her text box as an empty Word file, and I keep texting her – almost like I’m talking to myself. ALL I NEED is for her to tell me WHY”?

    LW, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be cruel to you (you’re having a hard enough time with this already), but you need to stop. Sending incessant messages to an unresponsive person is something stalkers do. Radio silence means “I don’t want to talk to you”, and there’s nothing you can say to change that. Sorry 😦

    Nothing you can say will make him go back to you. Could you write a letter to him in which you lay out everything you feel about this situation and burn it or bury it? Or any other ritual that will give you closure? That way you can have a clear break-up, and hopefully move on, without contacting a person who has clearly stated that he wants nothing more to do with you.

    Best of luck, LW. Take care, be gentle with yourself, but please process your feelings somewhere he doesn’t have to read about them. Either he’s cruel, and doesn’t deserve your honesty, or he’s scared/uncomfortable, and would rather you stop contacting him.

    • JenniferP said:

      You’re not being mean.

      Sometimes what we call “ghosting” is what happens when a person has tried to say “slow down” or “no” in lots of ways and has no reason to think that another attempt will be listened to. I don’t know if that is the situation in the letter, but soneone with one foot out the door isn’t gonna come back because you texted them infinity times.

      3 awful & parallel truths: You cannot convince someone to stay in love with you if they aren’t, you cannot convince someone who doesn’t want you to leave them that your reasons are good enough, and people avoid you when they feel guilty. It can create a truly awful maelstrom of avoidance & anxiety. The only way to solve it (to a point) is to stop trying to work it out.

      Whatever ghosting is, it is not how you behave toward someone you’re invested in.

      • B. said:

        You’re right. Whichever kind of ghosting this is, the best course of action is letting the ex go. This man is not reciprocating the OP’s feelings or investment, which are important things that should be returned in any relationship.

        Thanks for the reassurance, by the way 🙂

    • OP is Sad said:

      I have stopped. You are right. I stopped two days ago. It gets easier as time goes on, even a little bit of time.

      • B. said:

        I’m glad to hear it’s getting easier. I hope everything gets better for you, OP *offers jedi hugs*

  14. MsM said:

    LW, I will admit to having ghosted on a long-distance relationship back while I was in school. To this day, I do not have a good explanation for my behavior. Even at the time, I didn’t have a good excuse. Depression and immaturity were probably a factor, as was a general uncertainty about where things were going and whether we were ever going to stop being long-distance, but when it really came down to it? I just didn’t feel like talking to him.

    I did reach out a couple of months later to apologize (he was very polite, but understandably uninterested in talking further), so it’s not impossible you’ll hear from this guy eventually. But whatever’s going on with him, he’s not in the right place for a relationship right now. Let him go, vent the questions elsewhere, and move on.

  15. Jill said:

    Yep to all the advice so far. We’ve been conditioned to think that we must. have. closure. But you really don’t need it. Of course you can spend some time mourning this loss. You had decades with someone that disappeared and wont’ tell you why. You get to grieve that loss. But you don’t need an official response from him to do that. When stuff like this happened to me I developed a “well, F him anyway ‘cuz it’s HIS loss” mentality. I hope you can, too, because anyone too cowardly to face someone they’ve been with for decades doesn’t deserve a minute more of your time. Don’t waste a minute more of yours on him!

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Yes! so much! to not needing closure.

      And also–in my experience, finding closure is very often like finding the end of the rainbow. It looks like it’s right over the next hill! And then you get there, and oops, it’s actually in that clump of trees another hundred yards on! And then you get there, and oops, it’s actually just past the next ridge! Because what you’re seeking is not in fact a pot of gold, but an optical illusion.

      I’ve found the same thing with closure, often–and not even just romantic closure. But “if I only find out why X is angry, then I’ll have closure,” becomes “well that was vague, if I can only get the SPECIFICS of what about it made X angry, I’ll have closure,” becomes “okay, well, but now I need to know how to avoid doing that in the future in order to have closure, so I need more details, and more time spinning on this topic,” and on and on forever. I’ve been there myself, and seen friends do it–in romantic relationships, familial relationships, friendships, even careers.

      One of the longest and most painful-to-watch attempts to get closure I’ve ever seen was someone who had an artistic project not take off with popularity/publicity the way she wanted it to, and instead of moving on to the next thing, she sank years and years and years of her life into trying to figure out the whys and wherefores, tracking down and analyzing every review–and every lack of review, because what if it was the lack of word of mouth that did it? and of course the list of people who didn’t write a review of your work is effectively infinite!–and so on and so on, for years. I don’t know that she would have done better if she’d grieved the failure and then moved on to new work; it’s possible she never would have gotten the success she wanted. But I do know that staying stuck in one place, analyzing every detail of her ‘failure,’ living perpetually in that moment of disappointment, because she had convinced herself that she needed a closure that she could not find, was excruciating for her and agonizing for her friends to watch. I wish I had had some compelling way to tell her, “You don’t need the perfect answer that will give you a magical feeling of resolution about this. You don’t need closure. You do need to keep moving.”

      • That story makes me so sad, but it is so so true.

        Closure is really just YOU deciding to accept something is over. It’s not something someone else can give you. There may be actions that will help you complete that process, but there is nothing anyone else can do or say to you that will give you that feeling of “This is over, time to move on.” You have to give it to yourself.

        • Yes. This is the conclusion I came to after relationships that ended in ways that meant there could never be what the LW talks about as “closure” (because the people I’d had the relationships with were dead). Closure is something you do for yourself. You reach a place of peace about whatever it was, and for me that place always ends up popping up like an unexpected shop selling something you don’t need by the side of the road on your way to something awesome. You left in the morning to go to the museum, and you are totally stoked about the museum, and you dressed for the museum and bought your ticket on line and wore comfortable shoes and have money for a snack in the dino-themed café so it’s nice that there’s an unexpected cheese shop on the way, but you don’t need cheese right now, so you’re like “oh, well, if I ever need some cheese when I’m out this way, I know where to go!” and then you file it away and don’t think about it again, because who needs cheese in a museum?

          I’m happy/sad that I learned that at such a young age, because as tough as it was, I have rarely since needed cheese on my way to the museum, and if I think I will, well, I bring it, I don’t rely on there being an unexpected cheese shop.

          • Maswala said:

            I love this comment both for its wisdom and for the dino-themed cafe.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        I pretty much hate the entire concept of “closure,” because it’s a false promise, like “soul mates” is a false promise.

        Closure makes sense in the context of finding the body of a missing person, because then the family can stop hoping and carry on with grieving, but most circumstances where people talk about “closure” what they’re really talking about is healing, and answers rarely help heal.
        People seem to seek “closure” as if it were a magic cure for emotional pain: all they need is this one piece of information, and then the pain will stop. It’s trying to cure an emotional wound with facts. Emotions don’t work that way.
        There’s nothing more definite than the closing of a coffin lid, but even then questions remain and it sure doesn’t close the pain. If you put off “closure” until you have all the answers, you will never heal, never stop grieving.
        At best, closure is the acceptance that a chapter is over and it’s on you to live your life in your new reality.

        When my 16 year old kitty became very ill, the vet mentioned three or four tests we could run. And what would they tell us? Whether she had X, or Y, or Z. And if she has X or Y or Z, what can we do? Nothing that we weren’t doing already.
        For me, seeking “closure” would be like ordering all those tests to find out exactly why my kitty was dying, in a vain attempt to “do” something so I could delay the inevitable: sooner or later I was going to have to accept that my kitty was leaving me, and knowing exactly what was happening in her body would not delay her death nor lessen my grief.

        • I hate it, too! And I hate it when there is a tragedy and the first thing you hear is that there are counselors available!

          COUNSELING DOES NOT STOP THE PAIN OF LOSS.

          You never get over a death of someone you love. There is no closure. You just learn to live with it. There is no such thing as closure.

          • BigdogLittlecat said:

            *Good* counseling helps people learn to process their emotions and take the path to healing.
            I hope no one thinks it will magically make pain go away. Anyone who says that is not a good counselor.

          • slythwolf said:

            Counseling allows you to have someone to help you go through a traumatic experience. It doesn’t fix the situation, but if you can’t deal with it alone, counseling means you don’t have to.

      • Finding closure is very often like finding the end of the rainbow. It looks like it’s right over the next hill! And then you get there, and oops, it’s actually in that clump of trees another hundred yards on! And then you get there, and oops, it’s actually just past the next ridge! Because what you’re seeking is not in fact a pot of gold, but an optical illusion.

        Oh.

        Not just me, then? 🙂

  16. B2 said:

    Oh LW, I’m sorry this happened to you. It is hurtful.
    But this guy has made his intentions clear. As the Captain said, you may never know why. That feels wrong. But he doesn’t want to talk to you anymore and for your sake (but also his) its probably best to stop trying. He has your number and if he ever wants to get back in touch he can do that.
    You say you two have known each other for 20 years. Sometimes we have people that we view as a sort of back-up, or “If the timing had been right, it could have been us”. A “What if” person – basically a dream. If that was the case with you two, it is possible that the prospect of moving from that dream state to an actual relationship made him realize that wasn’t actually what he wanted. Or it was never something he really intended to do.
    A fight is an unavoidable consequence of a relationship. But if you’re more interested in a distant fantasy about someone you met in high school – then a fight, even though it might seem insignificant, might break that dream illusion.
    LW – you are worth all the puppies in the world. Take care of yourself.

  17. JA said:

    this exact thing has happened to me (the abrupt ending, anyway), only with a friend rather than an SO. i raised my voice for the first time ever, she hung up on me. i thought maybe we were disconnected b/c really, it was no big deal! i was just speaking up for myself! (which, at the time, i was just learning to do.)

    we’d been close friends before that for years, talking for hours all the time, all that. but we haven’t talked since. she found me on facebook years later and seemed to want to pretend nothing happened. i was civil to her and let the conversation die.

    i was upset at the time, but someone who will cut off a relationship at the slightest sign of conflict? nah, don’t want to be friends w/that person. maybe there were other things that i wasn’t aware of straining the relationship, and i’ll never know. it hurts to lose a relationship/friendship, but so it goes. i have better friends now.

    • olivia0330 said:

      This sort of abrupt ending had happened to me twice now- once with my best friend of many years, and, more recently, with my Mother in Law. With the best friend, at least there was some conflict (super mild and no big deal, I thought), but with the Mother in Law, things were peachy keen on my end at Easter, then, nada. Total Radio Silence. After a while she, too, wanted to pretend like nothing happened. (That was one of her stipulations of us talking again, actually, “We never mention it again!”)

      At what point is it ghosting for self preservation? At what point is it The Silent Treatment and emotional manipulation. I don’t know. It all hurts like hell. (One of the things that hurts the most is that I can inspire this reaction in the people I love the most in the world. I try to be nice! I try to be kind! I try to radiate love and calm and acceptance! Will my husband ghost me? Will my kids ghost me? My granny? My favorite aunt? What the fuck am I doing wrong?)

      But this thread is helping.

  18. In combination with everything else, this way of ghosting strikes me as very CHILDISH. He’s not ready for a relationship if one disagreement is that damn dramatic to him.

    • neverjaunty said:

      We don’t know that it was ‘one damn disagreement’. We don’t know what the disagreement was, or whether it was as minor to the ex-bf as it was to the LW. How many times have we all agreed with LWs that they don’t owe an ex Here Is Why I Dumped You, and that the person who says “but all I want is for you to tell me why” probably wants more than one final goodbye text? Surely many of us have talked about being on the receiving end of explaining that we don’t wish to be in a relationship anymore or that there is a serious problem, only to have the other person unable or unwilling to hear what we are saying because they don’t want to?

      Yes, it certainly would have been kinder to the LW for the ex to say “please do not contact me again, I wish you well” rather than vanishing. But it ultimately DOES NOT MATTER whether the ex-bf is a terrible, childish person, or someone trying to get away from an ex who won’t let go, or something in between. The LW is asking for help, and her problem is that she needs to walk away from this dude.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Yes, this.

        The behaviour the LW is describing is harassment, as far as I can see.

        He has your number. If he ever wants to call you, he will (and if does, you may very well choose to have moved on and to no longer be there waiting for him). But either way, spamming someone with vast quantities of texts and calling them multiple times a week when you know they have received your calls, have your number, and simply don’t wish to talk to you is not OK.

        If you want the catharsis of it, how about writing letters and NOT sending them? Or a diary?

        • OP is Sad said:

          I mist disagree. We have known each other 20 years. “Harrassment” is making a giant leap.

          • OP is Sad said:

            I’M a writer by trade as well, so I have, in fact, been writing it out, as you suggested.

            I just bristle at the word “harrassment.” You don’t know me well enough to know that I am not that kind of person.

            I thank you for your reply, tho. 🙂

          • I’m SO on your side, and I want you to move on from this and heal in the way that you need to. But sometimes it is hard to see ourselves and our behavior objectively. Of course you don’t want to think of yourself as a harasser. But that is what we call repeated attempts to contact someone with no reply.

            I am pretty sure that very few people who harass or stalk someone think of what they are doing as harassment or stalking.\\

            I have a good friend who I once told I needed some space, at the time we had been friends for nearly 10 years. She called me over 30 times in the span of an evening after that conversation, and texted me and others trying to find out where I was. That was harassment, and stalking. Do I think she was a bad person? No. Was she dangerous? Probably not. But her behavior was upsetting and did not make me eager to renew the friendship.

            (She was treated for a medical/mental condition a few years later and I was the maid of honor at her wedding.)

            If you’re not talking to a therapist about this situation, it might be a good idea. Just to help you process this, it seems like you’ve been holding on to your affection for this person for a long time. And letting go will be a difficult process. I hope that you can move on from him and find someone who can be your true partner.

          • I’m sorry to be harsh, OP, but what you were doing met the legal definition of harassment; whether it counted as criminal harassment would depend on where you & he live. You clearly weren’t acting out of malice, but Intent Is Not Magic.

          • neverjaunty said:

            OP, I understand that term is hurtful, but the fact that you have known him for 20 years doesn’t matter to what YOU are doing.

          • DesertRose said:

            Elsewhere in comments you have mentioned that you have bipolar disorder. I do too; I also have on my diagnosis some Cluster 2 traits that are not quite borderline personality disorder but are in that ballpark. I preface my comment with that information for a reason.

            It’s not fun to think about, but the fact is, your behavior as described does constitute harassment. You continually contacted someone who expressed (by not responding in any way at all) that he had no interest in communicating, and you did so over the course of several weeks. The length of your acquaintance with one another is quite immaterial.

            It actually isn’t all that helpful to think of this sort of thing in terms of “what sort of person you are” when you have realized that you have done something like this. A much more useful framing is “I have engaged in behavior that is unhealthy and counterproductive at best, and I should probably work on myself to change that behavior pattern.” It’s a lot easier to change something you see as “behavior” than it is to change something you view as part of “the sort of person you are.” From other comments, I see that you have already embarked upon an excellent first step, namely stopping the behavior.

            That being said, it it’s an option, perhaps it might be a good idea to seek therapy (or talk to your therapist if you already see one) to deal with the truly shitty feelings of realizing that someone in whom you had invested a lot of time, energy, and emotion did not invest as much in you or the relationship; that situation SUCKS! It is a world and a half of no damn fun.

            Best wishes! Time usually helps this sort of suckitude, if nothing else.

          • Sheelzebub said:

            It is possible to harass someone you’ve known for 20 years. You aren’t entitled to keep at someone who has made it clear they don’t want contact, no matter how long you’ve known them. It’s not a giant leap at all.

            I don’t know why he ghosted. Maybe he was being shitty and cruel, maybe he had a good reason. It doesn’t matter. He did it and now you’ve got to accept it and move on and stop harassing him. I know that it sucks–I’ve been ghosted and it was hurtful. I’ve also stopped contact with people who refused to hear my no’s or who got downright scary. Insistence on further contact from their end was frightening. I wasn’t about to cut them slack for any mental health issues (or other issues) they might have had because I was legitimately frightened.

      • To call that “kinder” sort of sets the calibration off, I think. This sort of unexpected disappearance guarantees someone will worry and expend effort on a follow-up; it’s not like he’s a random one-time hookup or someone she saw a few times. “I want out, bye” is kind of the bare minimum effort. This crosses over into overtly harmful/hostile in my not so humble opinion. It’s a way to hurt someone on the way out the door.

        I agree that the course of action needed is to be done with it, but I think there’s healing value in recognizing that this was a hostile act. People do not treat people this way if they care at all about their well-being, and I’d classify this as less caring than what a normally-adjusted person would feel about a random person they pass on the street. The best possible interpretation of it is he was completely oblivious to her feelings.

        After the initial pain is over I think this fact should be somewhat comforting; being shed of someone this unfeeling is a gift even if it doesn’t feel that way yet.

        • Anothermous said:

          “This sort of unexpected disappearance guarantees someone will worry and expend effort on a follow-up.” Bingo. The LW and her boyfriend were in a committed relationship. Ghosting without a single word or communication articulating “our relationship is over” is nasty in the extreme. It’s absolutely an invocation of the power dynamic of “he who cares the least wins.” Ex-boyfriend now gets the satisfaction of witnessing the LW’s distress; it probably makes him feel powerful and in control. There are ways to compassionately end a relationship; this is not one of them.

          • Maybe. But maybe he’s feeling freaked out, not satisfied. Maybe the unremitting texting and phone calls and whatever else are making him feel threatened and hunted, rather than smug.

            I have been on the receiving end of incessant demands for communication and I certainly didn’t feel satisfaction at witnessing someone’s distress, even when distress was clearly the motivation. I felt alarmed and sometimes actually terrified, and the last thing I was going to do was respond, because when you respond after two weeks of badgering, all you do is teach the person that it takes two weeks of badgering to get a rise out of you.

            LW, I’m sure you don’t think you’re badgering, but damn. You are badgering this dude, and if it were me I’d be TERRIFIED.

          • BigdogLittlecat said:

            @Novel deVice- out of nesting.
            All we have to do is switch the genders in the letter and it all becomes clear.

            I hate to say it, because LW is in so much pain, but even if he was total Biggest Asshat of the Universe for going silent on her, she’s justified his staying silent.

          • @bigdoglittlecat: yeah. I think there’s definitely an imbalance of power that means that men engaging in this behaviour are more immediately identifiable as a threat, but that doesn’t mean that men aren’t also alarmed by this kind of behaviour coming from women.

          • OP is Sad said:

            Thank you.

          • Anothermous said:

            (Out of nesting)

            Look, I’m not saying that sending lots lots of FEELINGSTEXTS is a good idea. It’s not, and the LW has already said she’s stopped. But the tagline of this whole website is use your words which the boyfriend NEVER DID. That is FUCKED UP. There have been plenty of letters to this very site talking about the impact of the silent treatment and how nasty it is, how it’s the kind of thing that’s crazy-making by design. That is what the bf did, by the way–the silent treatment. When the boyfriend decided he didn’t want to date the LW anymore he should have sent a goddamn text or email or something to communicate “we are done,” and refusing to do so from the outset was shitty behavior on his part. I cringed hard at the part of the letter where the LW described “using his text box as and empty Word file” because that is unacceptable and poor behavior, and, yes, she should have gotten the hint sooner. But holy shit I cannot believe the amount of defensive comments that have popped up in this thread basically calling the LW a liar and assuming she must be abusive because she reacted badly to being treated badly.

          • Never did THAT WE KNOW OF. We don’t know what the fight was about–maybe he was trying to break up with her. We don’t know for a fact that he didn’t say “please don’t contact me”–but even if he didn’t, TWO TEXTS MAX. Two. Not two a second. Not two hundred unanswered texts being treated like a stream of consciousness wail into the darkness. Two texts.

            If the LW hadn’t gone on to harass this dude, I’d say “well, he’s a jerk and that sucks, but you are awesome and you will get through this”. Given what she tells us about her own behaviour afterward, he may well be a jerk, but she proceeded to harass him with multiple texts going up until LITERALLY TWO DAYS AGO, multiple unanswered phone calls, contacting his friends–if I wrote in that a dude was doing this to me, would you tell me I owed him one last contact just to explain?

          • Anothermous said:

            No, I wouldn’t, and for the record, I’m not saying that Dude owes LW “one last text to explain” at this point and I never meant to imply that he did, so my apologies if I did. I do feel like he should have said “I am breaking up with you, we are done, don’t contact me anymore” as soon as he decided he was done (which was probably weeks ago at this point). I feel like that’s just… common decency. You seem to feel confident that he already did this, or something close enough that the LW should have been able to figure it out earlier, and maybe that’s the case, but as I said below I also have no trouble believing that someone would be an asshole enough to just decide to never speak to their SO again out of pettiness, because I’ve seen that happen. We all bring our own experience to the table.

            For the record, commenters (not me) in Letter 849 DID tell that LW to contact her harasser and tell him to leave her alone “one last time” and… that advice was well-received, so I don’t even know what to think anymore.

          • piny1 said:

            I’m with Anothermous here. LW was very up-front about the cascade o’ texts, and it sounds very much like she came to Captain Awkward for validation that she’s (a) been dumped and (b) needs to stop investing emotional energy into the anti-dumping digital threat display that is so viscerally appealing to so many dumpees. There’s no reason to assume that she’s being unreliable – especially if you’re only extending that assumption to statements like, “Our relationship was going pretty good,” and, “We have been friends for a while,” and “Our contact was intermittent and casual, but also fairly intimate and trusting,” and, “I didn’t have any reason to believe he would cut me off without a word.”

            Also – I think that Captain Awkward’s overall point is correct: the answer here is the same. No matter what his rationale or his damage, it’s pointless to keep trying to communicate with him. The relationship is over. That is his decision to make, unilaterally.

            However, this really is a fucked-up thing to do to someone. There are broad exceptions, like refusing to be dumped and threatening to become abusive, but that doesn’t seem to be the situation here. She deserved clear communication to the effect that they weren’t dating anymore, and it was cruel to just cut her off and expect her to connect the dots (after the intermediate steps of, “r u ok?” “r u dead?” “r we fighting?” and “am I a paranoid bitch?”) and eventually figure out that the relationship was done. That is not how you treat your partners or your friends. Your friends and lovers deserve to know what the fuck is going on with you, and you ought not to refuse to give basic information like “I never want to see you again, ever, or speak to you at all.”

            I also think it’s unfair to assume that he must have some good reason to mistreat her because he mistreated her, and I think it’s unfair to extrapolate her poor response to his behavior to her behavior or character overall. I think this is especially true given the intermittent and long-distance nature of their contact. Like Anothermous said, that is a recipe for confusion and upset, and I think this guy knew that perfectly well. I also think that this is something men love to do: deflect the tsuris of a breakup onto the hysterical woman so that they can remain cool and above it all; I think mind-reading is one more form of emotional labor women are commonly coerced into performing. Again, the answer remains the same, but LW is right to feel that this is deeply disrespectful.

          • @Anothermous There’s a difference between a situation where you need to prove to your graduate secretary and the head of your department that you really really did tell someone to leave you alone and so the pro forma GO AWAY message is indicated for CYA purposes, and this situation, in my opinion. For LW 849 to make things happen in her department and university, she needs to be able to point to a very clear demand for no contact. It sucks, but that’s how it is with that sort of thing.

            Maybe he had good reasons for ghosting. Maybe he had bad reasons. Maybe he had no reasons at all and it just felt like a fun Saturday night to him. Regardless of why he did it, and at this point, regardless of what he actually did, nobody deserves to be harassed in the way the LW was harassing him up until two days ago. I’ve been harassed like this. I don’t care if the person harassing you is halfway across the country, it is still scary, and behaving like this is not okay.

        • Out of nesting

          @Anothermous

          I’m happy to believe the LW when she says that they were friendly in high school, stayed in contact personally and via email, and finally started dating a few months ago.

          It’s sad that the break up went weirdly, but it was a breakup.

          No answer is an answer.

          Maybe the ex is a lying dung beetle, maybe he’s questioning how a friendship turned horrible. Who knows? Not us, not the LW.

          I believe that the most helpful information for the LW is that he is her ex boyfriend and probably her ex friend, and that her behavior should reflect this change.

          No more contact. Period.

          • Anothermous said:

            I am legitimately mystified because I do not understand what the disconnect is. YES, LW should stop contacting Ex (and should have earlier. Honestly, the whole “using his text box as a Word file” is NO, GOD NO, STOP territory). I’m not arguing that and if it seems like I have been, I apologize. After the conversation with the best friend reassuring her that Ex was still alive and well, the LW should have stopped seeking contact, no excuses.

            I just don’t feel like it’s unreasonable to expect that the Ex should have said, once, “we are broken up” when he had decided he didn’t want to speak to her anymore. Because it just seems like basic decency that you break up with someone by telling them you are broken up? Not by disappearing and offloading the break up responsibility to your friends and hoping the now-ex figures it out eventually? And I find it disconcerting that so many commenters are sitting here going “maybe he did and LW is willfully ignoring him” because that constitutes calling the LW as liar which… sure, maybe she’s a liar but is that a precedent we want to set? To assume that LWs are liars? Or has it already been set and I’ve missed something? I mean, maybe I have shitty experiences but I have no trouble believing that someone would break up with someone else by just dropping them wordlessly, and I think that’s a really cruel way to do it, and I also don’t think that thinking that’s a cruel way to break up is especially unreasonable? Though, shit, I’m definitely re-evaluating that stance now.

            It’s also really disturbing to read all the comments along the lines of “well, maybe LW was wrong about them being in a relationship. Maybe he wasn’t the LW’s boyfriend” (again implying LW is a liar) which, okay, maybe that is the case but maybe the LW is also the expert on her own life and knows how to correctly evaluate her own relationships? And even if she was wrong in her interpretation that’s not for us to judge or guess?

          • I suspect we were both unclear to some degree, because I read your comments as implying that LW’s actions were a reasonable response to her ex BF’s lousiness. I’m glad I’m wrong!

            Yeah he should’ve said “we are broken up” in words that LW heard.

            But he didn’t.

            He gave her a soft no, for whatever reason.

            And I think the disconnect is that some of the commenters (e.g. me), figure that speculating about his motives and actions is pointless now, and that getting the LW to move away from him, is more useful.

            I hope I made sense.

            I also hope I don’t sound like an apologist for the ex.

      • TO_Ont said:

        Exactly. We don’t know if it was ‘a minor disagreement’ to him, and anyway it doesn’t matter. We just know that he broke off contact abruptly and without explanation, and that the LW is now stalking and harassing him. (The first day maybe the LW genuinely didn’t know if he was injured or something – this has been three weeks of relentless text messages and phone calls).

        • King's Rook said:

          Yeah, this has been bothering me – you’re the first person in these comments to use the words “stalking” and “harassing”. Sure, dude’s a jackass for breaking it off with no explanation, but can we please name this what it is? It is CLEAR that this dude does not want to talk to LW, and continuing to initiate contact for WEEKS is NOT OKAY.

          • noooope said:

            It strikes me that the only person who thought that this was a committed romantic relationship was the LW. They had a casual friendly relationship for a long time. They had a brief sexual relationship (and given that the LW has already been harassing the guy for three weeks at the time of the letter-writing, that means that the actual romantic relationship had only existed for about three months, give or take).

            Then the dude ghosted, and then she started harassing him.

            To be honest, everything in this letter indicates that the guy just isn’t into her (or committed relationships, or whatever) and has never really been that into her.

          • The first but not the last. I just said this above, but if LW did this to me I’d be terrified. Especially if the most readily identified cause was a fight.

          • Helbling said:

            Nooope, I agree with you. I have seen this scenario before, and it was nothing more than a casual hook up for one party and resultantly when life became busy and interactions with said hook up required more energy than they had, they focused on other stuff for a while because, hey, they were casual, nothing else was required.

            The response they got was scary overwhelming, as it became rapidly clear that the other party *had* thought it was more, hadn’t owned up to that fact, but proceeded to flip their shit and demand all sorts of explanations and contact as if it was the closure of a decades long marriage with children and mutual assets, not a few months worth of casual and sporadic sex. ‘Ghosting’ at that point was not some manner of cruel mind game, it was survival.

            Op, I’m sorry this is happening to you and I’m sorry this is hurting. But when the pain has lessened and you feel less drowned by your emotions, it might be worth stepping back and honestly truly asking yourself if this was a committed, involved relationship on both your sides, and that was a fact that had been verbalized clearly and agreed to, or if this might be, again, he had written this off as casual and uninvolved (and you kept going to him! Hey, sexy times on delivery!) while you had thought differently.

            If it’s the former, he’s a ratfink (apologies to the lovely rats out there for grouping him in with them) and the next time he goes looking for a booty call, I would take my time to laugh myself breathless before hanging up. But if it’s the latter, it might be something to bear in mind for relationships in the future.

        • Myrtle said:

          I’d hit a moment of sanity in my “But I just want to know what’s happened!!!” even asking his friends- when I thought, “Is this stalking? Am I doing something illegal?” And I looked up the laws in his state. -Yes, I am.
          Full stop.

        • OP is Sad said:

          Stalking? I don’t even live in the same city as him. Harrassing? I think you are taking it too far. I’ve stopped the texting and have had no contaCT in a few days.

          He is (presumably) an adult. I’d he had ended things in a proper manner, I would not have tried so damn hard to get in touch with him. (Which I know I shouldn’t have done, I know).

          The chorus of voices crying “harrassment” is a little much for me. I am taking all your advice to heart and I appreciate it, but I would stop quite short at describing my actions as “harrassment.” Misguided, annoying, confused? Yes.

          • hqb said:

            I understand that you don’t want to think of yourself as a harasser, and that you felt justified in some way in sending all those texts and making all those calls. However, many repeated attempts (at short intervals) to draw a response from someone who does not want to be in contact with you *is* harassment. In many legal jurisdictions it is also stalking (although unlikely to be prosecuted unless threats are involved) even if the two parties are in different cities.

            I don’t think you are a bad person, and I don’t think the other commenters are saying that – even those of us who say your behavior did constitute harassment. I don’t think you did what you did with the intention of harassing this guy. But I do think you quite clearly did harass him.

          • Roxie said:

            Oh Jeebus every body. Can we stoooooop calling the OP a harasser?

            Trying to get this woman to see the error of her ways or whatever is *patronizing* in the extreme.

            Even when we admit to stories where we did something harassy, and then figured out we were being harassers, in an attempt to make it OK for her to say she’s a harasser. That’s manipulative you know, trying to make it OK for others to say what we want them to say about themselves by telling leading stories.

            ‘Ohhhh, well maybe he was trying to break up with her and she wouldn’t let him, so he ghosted. Mmmm, very suspicious.’

            ‘Ohhhh, maybe it was just casual on his part but she was in denial. Mmmm, poor silly thing, tut tut.’

            ‘After all, we don’t have the rest of the story.’

            No. No we don’t. And we’ll never get it because this dude clearly doesn’t communicate. So we’re filling it in with our assumptions, we’re writing into the gaps beliefs and biases that allow us to pass the judgement we seem to want to pass.

            Dear god why is everyone seemingly so invested in making OP *realize* what an unhinged stalker-harasser she is? This post is hitting some kind of strange nerve in the CA community.

            She’s stopped contacting the man. She channeled her FEELINGSMAIL here, to the Captain and the community, because that was a constructive action. Instead of screaming into a black hole, she reached out for help to a place known for it’s smart, strong, kind, on-point, politically conscious advice. She’s gotten a lot constructive feedback. She’s clearly thinking through things. She’s taking better actions for herself. OP is in fact doing everything RIGHT.

            Please, everyone, stop.

            Stop requiring her to ‘admit’ she’s a harasser. Of course she’s defensive, because this kind of behaviour from the CA community is uncalled for. Once or twice is fine, but she’s gotten the point, and the repeat requirements for her to self-examine and admit her terrible terribleness is verging on cruel and weird.

            She doesn’t owe us her penance. She doesn’t owe us an ‘oh god, you’re right, I’m a stalker.’ She doesn’t owe us anything.

          • JenniferP said:

            Agreed. Time to close this one down.

            Be well, OP.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        This this this.
        My heart is breaking for LW, because I see so much of myself in her letter, but fact is, if her BF had written the Captain, we’d be telling him to fly like the wind.
        She needs to accept that it’s over, take care of herself, and live her life without him.

        • I feel like we have been given very little detail about this relationship, and it’s probably deliberate. Would this dude say he had been LW’s boyfriend, do you think? Would he say the fight was minor? There’s a lot of details about their ancient history of not having a relationship, and very little about the recent state of actually having one.

          • OP is Sad said:

            I gave little detail because of space. I did, however, say it was wonderful.

          • OP is Sad said:

            Yes, he would have said he was my boyfriend.

            I read here often, and I haven’t really seen the commenter ganging up on the LW like many are now.

          • I’m not really seeing a dogpile. A lot of people are being kind and compassionate, and a few people are pointing out that in at least some jurisdictions what you were doing is against the law, and also would scare the hell out of them if it happened to them. I’m in that latter group, having had an instance where, on ending a long-distance relationship, I was besieged with phone calls and emails (this was before texting) just wanting to know WHY?! Even though he was in a different time zone, it was awful. I felt like I was being hunted, and it was frightening and exhausting.

          • Veekhr said:

            @OP is Sad. I remember a question from last year where the LW was a mother who didn’t approve of her daughter living her own life. Both Captain Awkward and posters made it clear that the LW was out of line. The posters are going after the behavior, not you. Thank you for stopping the messages, I encourage that and think you are doing good so far now. Keep taking care of yourself.

      • Duly Concerned said:

        neverjaunty, I think you are right.

        Something I have learned that helps me deal with other people is that each person brings their own context to a relationship. That context means that the exact same words said can be kind, loving, funny, hurtful, bullying, frightening, etc. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to explain their intent clearly and no one would end up feeling hurt. I hear the sky in that world is a lovely shade of red-gold, too.

        Frank Herbert wrote: “Arrakis teaches the attitude of the knife – chopping off what’s incomplete and saying: ‘Now, it’s complete because it’s ended here.'” Sometimes that is the only solution.

  19. BigdogLittlecat said:

    LW, the reason for his silence doesn’t matter. The real reason is that he doesn’t want to talk to you. Why he doesn’t want to talk to you, you’ll probably never know, if only because chances are *he* didn’t know why. Chances are very good that after your fight he was taking some time to think things over.
    If he was still thinking things through, if he had any doubts, and then he got hit with a flood of texts and phone calls, that might have settled it for him.
    When I’ve had people pull weird shit that leaves me baffled, I try to run the numbers on the various reasons why it might have happened and what I should about it, and invariably, the answer is the same, regardless of what happened:

    Reason: He’s deliberately being cruel and fucking with you. Result: He’s an asshole: it’s over.
    Reason: He decided to end it because the fight really upset him:
    – he can’t stand people who don’t agree with him. Result: you’re lucky to be rid of him: it’s over.
    – the subject matter was far more important to him than you think. Result: incompatible: it’s over.
    – he’s emotionally incapable of dealing with disagreement in any form and now is a trainwreck of teh sadz. Result: he is incapable of an adult relationship now: it’s over.

    Reason: He was thinking about things, and the deluge freaked him out. Result: Bad roll: it’s over.
    R: He’s decided you’re too good for him and he’s acting this way to make you mad at him and forget about him. R: you’re too good for him: it’s over.
    R: His bankroll pressured him to cut you off. R: You’re lucky to be rid of him: it’s over.
    R: He’s embarrassed. R: he’s avoiding you: it’s over.
    R: He’s an insensitive jerk who doesn’t care about your feelings. Result: He doesn’t care about you: it’s over.
    R: He had a psychotic breakdown. R: you don’t need that in your life: it’s over.
    R: He was abducted by aliens/possessed by demons. R: you really don’t need that in your life: it’s over.

    No matter the reason, it’s over.
    Like shinobi said above, a lot of the time when people pressure for “closure,” what they’re really hoping for is a different answer. I have the feeling that what you’re really looking for is not closure, but something that you can “fix” so you can have the relationship you want with him.

    Take the Cap’s advice, lick your wounds, learn from this experience, and take care of yourself.

    • neverjaunty said:

      This is a very good way to look at it.

    • hrovitnir said:

      This is excellent. I tend to agree both with the people saying that based on the information given this guy was probably being pretty cruel* AND those saying the continuous texting is harassment and needs to stop yesterday.

      Your comment hits it on the head, really. All the luck for you LW, I’d pick a stance and try and work on accepting that you’re not in a relationship. Also cementing that this whole episode was pretty awful for you so if he *does* try and weasel back into your affections you bear that in mind.

      (*I’m somewhat less fond of ghosting on serious relationships unless it’s really bad than some people here, though certainly I support anyone’s right to do so if they don’t feel safe to communicate more clearly.)

    • I like the reasoning to your reasons, and agree with the results. Yep, it’s over

    • Polychrome said:

      LW, this was helpful to me when I was hurting after a relationship ended that I did not want to end: I reminded myself, over and over, that I really had done my VERY best already and there was nothing more I could add to turn things around. I hadn’t held some special magic trick back. Like, I think what is hurting you about people calling your behavior “harrassment” is that it’s very shaming, and unreciprocated love is very shaming, like, the whole thing can be an incredible shame spiral. and one of the things that then happens — and in fact is often recommended in the aftermath — is like “oh examine yourself more closely for everything you DID WRONG” and while the intent is “so you can do better next time with the next person” when you are in that place it often turns into “if only I had done this or that instead of being bad and shameful maybe I could have gotten that person to love me” and like, “oh no if only I HADN”T texted too many times then I would have been cool, everyone agrees that was not cool, ERGO if I had been cool maybe I would have been loved by this person, hey I know I’ll text them again about how I can now BE COOL.”

      and that shame/regret/shame spiral is horrible, really anguishing, and can lead to digging in deeper and deeper — like frantically wanting a do over (and then attempting to make do overs happen, around and around and around).

      Something that makes our bad shameful parts less awful is hugging them, not rejecting them. You gave it your all, you tried hard, you climbed every mountain, you left no stone unturned — I’m not the best with sports metaphors, but think of yourself in the locker room of love. You gave 110%. You left it all on the field. Have a shower. Have a rubdown. Sit with towel draped over your head in a steamy room breathing slowly till your heart rate comes down.

  20. Saint Clair said:

    What this guy has done is incredibly cruel. There is no good excuse (aka “explanation”) for his doing this.

    It sounds like you have liked this guy for a long time, but there has been a lack of mutual reciprocation. This has probably happened to everyone at some time. You can’t fix it, or force it, or change it. This just is. There isn’t anything wrong with YOU. For a little while, recently, you were amusing, useful or convenient, for him.

    This kind of disappearance/cold shoulder/silent treatment is common with people who are abusive. This should not be confused with a person who has suddenly cut someone out of their life for ___________ (insert serious reason here).

    The only reason this is happening is because dude is on a power trip. It is extremely humiliating to consider that a person you cared about is getting sick enjoyment from your concern, anxiety, anguish.

    There’s a bunch of red flags about this fellow. Please heed them and take a wide detour around and do not look back. A person who cares about you will not intentionally cause you pain like this.

    • neverjaunty said:

      As has been pointed out elsewhere in these comments, there are LOTS of reasons other than deliberate cruelty that dude could have gone incommunicado.

      • piny1 said:

        Sure! For example, maybe he was in a tragic accident and his hands and tongue have been severed from his body. Perhaps he is lying in a hospital bed somewhere. Maybe he decided to become a Cistercian, and they confiscated his cell phone before he could give LW the news. Maybe he was kidnapped by mole people who wanted him to become their king, and they get really terrible reception in their underground caves.

        Look, no. I mostly love your comments here, but you’re projecting a whole lot onto a scenario that doesn’t really hold much. There isn’t really anything in this letter to indicate that the LW is obsessed or that their relationship or disagreement is anything other than what she said. She – as another commenter said – responded really angrily to really poor treatment from someone she was dating, someone who seemed invested in dating her.

        And just like it’s delusional to expect that there’s some happy ending on the horizon, it’s also delusional to read a lot more into this guy’s behavior than is actually there. The most likely explanation by far is that he didn’t have the stones to break up with someone he was dating, so he just disappeared. He was being deliberately cruel – or, at least, unkind in a way that should have been obvious to anyone over the age of ten. This is a pretty common way to be mean to someone, for reasons that are entirely bound up in being dickish and lazy, and it’s really unlikely that there was some other secret motive besides the fact that he is kind of a jerk who doesn’t care about her feelings very much.

        And the fact that she sent too many texts in the aftermath of that terrible behavior is not an indication that she is inclined to engage in harassing or controlling behavior in general, or that she’s wrong about every other aspect of this relationship. You and everyone else are right that she needs to just step away, for pragmatic reasons if nothing else, but her behavior here is normal and her read of him is sensible. We also spend a lot of time on this site talking about how people, meaning women, tend to drive themselves round the bend second-guessing their own utterly rational interpretations of other people’s, meaning men’s, behavior. Stop doing that to the LW.

      • Saint Clair said:

        Except for the part when his friend you contacted to ask about him told you that he was alive.

        There was no mention of an acute illness/car crash/devastating death in the family/relocation for a perfect new job or other reasonable explanation. The friend didn’t make excuses for him (bro code ? Or is this a regular pattern with this dude where he tortures the women who care about him by doing exactly this?).

        It was also obvious to him, and to his friend that you called that you were concerned about this guy, and very upset by the sudden silence. This = cruel.

        Disclaimer: I ghosted on a dude I dated briefly when I was 17, who I just wasn’t into after a few weeks of tepid dating. And I was 17. And I made myself unavailable to a friend after the friendship began to disintegrate and I felt increasingly unnerved/violated by her bad boundaries and shaky ethics. But I did try to talk it out with her one last time.

        I have a big long story about my abusive ex, who I was with for a decade and half. We owned a house together. There was a bunch of unresolved and ridiculous stuff, mostly tied to the house. His refusal to participate in a resolution was his way to continue to control the situation. We had been separated for some time, but went through periods of talking on the phone several times a week. Dude went on a long trip with a group. He called me several times at the beginning of the trip, then freaked out on me over some triviality(ie yelling, swearing, very mean things said to me), then stopped calling. I had no way to contact him. Shortly after this upsetting phone call, several people on this trip died in an accident. This was on the national news. Dude did not check in with me, and did not contact me for six MONTHS. Around the time that his trip was over I looked online, and saw that yes indeed he was back. I felt unnerved by his silence – but this hateful cold shoulder was not new behaviour. I emailed him once and left a voice message once about a month later regarding some house stuff that required his input, but received no reply. When he finally contacted me, it was because he wanted something from the house. There was no explanation for this long silence, and when he came by to pick up the thing he brought another dude, and just acted like he was a friendly, normal guy. This was to put on a show for his witness, and in no way reflected his feelings or opinion of me.

        (Meanwhile, I had the experience of reading the news online that people from this trip, who came from this area, had DIED. This was before any names were released. I was very frustrated and angry with my ex due to our last conversation. I had a big rush of conflicted emotions about the possibility that he was one of the dead. It was several hours until the names were released publicly.)

        It could be argued that this person was my ex – and didn’t owe me any sort of check in. However – since we were still enmeshed due to unresolved house stuff – this person was not completely separate.

        There’s a bunch of other details – I had a very long history with this person. The short version is that he is a very abusive guy, who has a bunch of rationalizations for why he abuses people. Mostly it comes down to a person does something which offends or challenges him, then this is his greenlight to punish and abuse his victim. Withholding information, exclusion, social isolation and plain old lies were familiar tactics. Bloodless, but potentially devastating to his victims.

        TLDR: I stand by my opinion that, within the context of the letter writer’s situation, that 37 y/o dude’s actions were cruel and intentional.

        • aebhel said:

          I’m sorry that happened to you, but it doesn’t sound like the LW’s situation is really comparable.

          • Saint Clair said:

            I am not comparing these situations. I am saying that I know how strange, unnerving and painful the sudden wall of silence – without explanation – can be.

            Abusive behaviour should be named as abuse, not euphemized, minimized or excused. It took me about 5 years into that shitty relationship to understand that my ex wasn’t just a super-sensitive special snowflake, who I failed to properly communicate with.

            LW sounds like she really liked this guy, and his actions have twisted her up and over, where she is scrutinizing her behaviour. The focus should be squarely on the person who is intentionally causing hurt.

            As someone above said, if 37 y/o dude had sent her a text that said “Leave me alone” or “Not interested, stop calling” and she persisted – that’s a different problem. But dude said nothing, and her concern and hurt and confusion is painful.

          • CommanderBanana said:

            Agreed – if you live with/share property or children/pets with/have a financial obligation, I think you do owe it to the other person to resolve it, and if you don’t think you can do it safely, you should do it through an intermediary.

            The more I read through the LW’s letter, the more I think this relationship was very one-sided. I definitely have had the experience of going on a few dates with someone and then realizing they are way more into it than I am and kind of freaking out a little (including one dude who told me that we couldn’t stop hanging out because of the CONNECTION we had, didn’t I feel it, the CONNECTION?? The connection existed pretty much only in his own head).

            I have nothing by sympathy for the LW because I have been there and it fucking sucks, but I think CA’s advice in previous letters holds here, in that if you try to reach out to someone a few times and get nothing back, the ball is in their court.

            A year or so ago I had a very intense, few-weeks-long involvement with someone who then went to visit his parents and dropped off the face of the earth with no explanation. I sent two or three texts to check in, got nothing back, and then sent a final note saying I hoped everything was okay and let it go. It really hurt my feelings, because I did really like this person, but also, him being the type of person who would ghost made me realize that he must be kind of a shit person, and I don’t have time for shit people.

            You don’t know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Maybe he met someone. Maybe he was dating someone else and it got serious. Maybe he realized he just wasn’t into it after actually spending time IRL with the LW. Ghosting is a shitty, cruel, and cowardly way to handle ending a relationship*, but it also tells you that this person is not worth wasting one more iota of emotion or brainpower on.

            *caveat that if you are afraid for your safety it is okay to vanish on someone

            LW, here were a few things I did when I got ghosted on by someone I genuinely liked:

            1. Made it harder to contact them. I erased their number, their voicemails, and my phone log so that I couldn’t contact them if I wanted to.
            2. Asked a friend to let me call/text when I started feeling really obsessive or down or really wanted to contact them on social media
            3. Gave myself permission to be angry and time to mourn, BUT put a time limit on it
            4. Distracted myself. I scheduled a ton of friend stuff and me stuff so I wouldn’t sit at home and rage
            5. Self-care, and kept an eye on how much I was drinking/what I was listening to (the combination of wine and sad songs is, uh, not good for me)
            6. Reminded myself that someone who would be that callous with my feelings didn’t deserve any of my time or energy
            7. Made a conscious effort to redirect my thoughts when I thought about them. The brain is plastic, and wallowing in those thoughts can feel good in the short term, but it can be way to easy to make it a habit
            8. Started thinking seriously about some not-great habits I was getting into WRT to dating people and began thinking more about what I really wanted and how I wanted to be treated.

            At the end of the day, some people are shitty and cruel and callous people. Some people are cowardly. Some people can’t handle being honest about how they feel and will take the easy way out, which is to protect themselves at the expense of others. I don’t know this guy and I don’t know which one he is, and I know this hurts so much right now, but I urge you to stop throwing energy and time down that particular bottomless hole.

    • aebhel said:

      I don’t think we know enough about they guy in question to extrapolate all of this. Or any of it, really. The initial ghosting was unkind and not a very mature way of handling an argument/break-up, but failing to respond to a deluge of text messages from someone who describes themself as ‘using your inbox as a Word file’ to process their feelings is not in and of itself evil behavior, and is attributable to a lot of things other than the ex here sitting in a dark room cackling over how he’s destroying the LW’s emotional stability.

      I get the impulse to go ‘well FUCK HIM, he’s clearly a COMPLETE MONSTER’, and if that helps the LW move on, then so be it–but nothing the LW describes here makes me think that this dude is the antichrist.

  21. Kai Lowell said:

    Oh LW. Jedi hugs for you – all the hugs, if you would like them.

    Previous commenters are right – he is being cruel, and that is something you do not need.

    I too have been ghosted – I too wished The Other would just talk to me, let me know he was not dead, let me know things were okay (at least in terms of nothing earth-shatteringly horrific happening.) Just like you, LW, I yearned for even just the smallest bit of communication. We basically had no mutual friends – online relationship – and so all I could really do was sit and stew and be terrifically upset.

    Three months later, he finally came back. Just what I wanted, right?

    When I asked him WHY he had vanished, his reply made me suddenly realize it was far kinder that he had stayed away.

    “I got over an addiction.”

    I was the addiction.

    If he did speak to you again, would you be prepared to possibly take an utterly heartbreaking answer – or would it be better for the silence to continue? That may be something to think about.

  22. Kate Monster said:

    Here’s another thing you might add to your draft: Things were difficult in his life, and he hadn’t been working for a long time.* I brought him a reminder that someone could like him for who he was, and we had some good times together. But we were not on the same page, and he didn’t (wasn’t able to?) provide what I needed for a healthy relationship.

    *It’s a fairly safe bet that he had difficulties causing and/or caused by not working for so long. (You probably would’ve known if he had proudly chosen a different path, or pivoted toward something rewarding or necessary, like caretaking.) LW, I’m guessing that he did not discuss this with you, because the letter (admittedly, with a word limit) does not give a very full picture of him. Was he private? Closed-off? Ashamed??

    LW, my guess is that your companionship has been helpful to him, and perhaps a balm or a distraction to him. But that he does not have the bandwidth for the kind of relationship you need and deserve. He ghosted after your first fight–perhaps the first time you seriously asked him for anything or relied on him for anything? Or maybe it revealed to him an incompatibility (in expectations, values?) that he takes very seriously. In any case, he showed that he cannot and will not be there for you when you need him.

    Also, I don’t know if this will resonate with you, but I read a lot of myself into your letter. I moved to NYC and it took about 2 years to find my people (through friends of out-of-town friends). The dating scene was really imbalanced and dispiriting, and it was an easy place to feel lonely. I spent a lot of time thinking romantically about largely unavailable friends, especially those who lived elsewhere. (In hindsight, it would have been a good time to better understand myself and build confidence that didn’t rely on others’ perceptions of me. To embrace vulnerability and imperfection. Easier said than done, I know.) But your guy SEEMED to be available till recently–don’t be like past me and hoard crumbs of stale hope; free yourself and move on.

    Jedi hugs, LW.

  23. Maybe it’s time to switch from writing to him to just…writing. Write him a letter on paper and then ceremonially burn or shred it. Sign up to an online journalling service like 750 Words and just write and write about how you feel. It seems as if writing is a helpful outlet for you – let it be an outlet without also being a way of trying to reach him.

  24. TO_Ont said:

    I think by not responding for weeks to all your attempts to contact him, he’s actually communicated something pretty clearly. He doesn’t want to talk to you. I know it seems like a rude way of saying so, and maybe initially it was confusing.

    But it’s pretty clear now, and I think you must know that your deluge of texts and phone calls is unwanted. Besides all the wonderful things others have already said about how it hurts you, it’s also something you just have to respect, I think, even if you wish he’d communicated it better and differently.

  25. neverjaunty said:

    LW, I hope you will take care of yourself and listen to the Captain’s advice.

    And having been on the other side of you (that is, where your former friend is – trying to deal with someone who refuses to be cut off), everything you are doing right now is going to have the opposite effect of what you intend.

  26. onyx said:

    I’m so sorry, LW. I had this happen to me on a much smaller scale–with a friend I’d met a few years prior, and become fast besties with. We’d do everything together. As someone with few local friends, being able to hang out with people in the flesh was awesome. Then… silence. I’m still not sure what I did wrong. But whatever it was, it made my “friend” completely ignore my emails and texts–even ones about an item she had planned to sell to me, for money. It came right before a big convention we and a bunch of other people were going to share a room at, and suddenly I was without hotel space and a pariah for reasons I didn’t understand, so it ruined that for me too. I ended up not going. I lost every other friend and acquaintance that was in her friend group. The ones that stayed in touch did so awkwardly, and only online.

    When she ghosted me, I was undiagnosed with depression, so I may well have said something out of line, but I can’t remember anything and it drove me crazy. There must be something terribly wrong with me. I’m horrible. No one wants me. No one can stand me. I sent so many emails and texts asking what happened, what did I do, how can I fix it, I’m so so so so sorry… even if you don’t want to be friend with me, can you please just tell me what I did? I had never been dumped by a friend before, EVER, and it wrecked me.

    …Then I found out weeks later that she had done the same thing to a few other people before, for no discernible reason.

    And then once I got help for my depression, I realized that even IF I’d been acting out of character and mean, the fact that she dumped me like a pile of trash instead of asking what was wrong or at least confronting me with whatever I did that bothered her… made her not the best kind of human to spend my time with, and certainly not someone I could count on as a friend.

    Still don’t know what I did. But she has every right to cut people out of her life, fair or not. It doesn’t make it less cruel or bizarre, but it’s still her right. And all I can do is remind myself that someone so unreliable and callous and capricious is not someone I want to have any kind of relationship with.

    This was a short-lived friendship compared to the history you have with this guy, but the principles remain the same. It’s horrible to have this happen to you because it sets off every panic center imaginable, but resist the urge to flail around and get closure. Stay still for a moment. Really ask yourself…. is it okay to ghost on someone you love? After ONE FIGHT? What does this behavior suggest about the guy, about any relationship you had or might have in the future? Do you really want to waste time with someone so cruel, cowardly, and selfish?Someone who seems unable or unwilling to communicate with any level of maturity? Don’t you deserve better?

    You do.

  27. This letter was so painful to read on so many levels. I hope she takes all the advice here and stops trying to communicate with him. You cannot make someone love you.

  28. thebewilderness said:

    I call it going no contact when I disappear from the lives of people who refuse to take no for an answer. Ghosting is an excellent term also. The bottom line is that your former friend is saying no to you about as loudly and clearly as it can be said.

  29. I love this part of the Captain’s Advice:

    “What he’s left you with his his silence, which is both an answer and a gift if you can let it be one.”

    Because you are probably saying to yourself this is a mistake and we can fix it but in reality it is not. This is who he is.

    When we get together with a long-time crush, it can seem like a dream come true. Just as we fantasized for so long, all those years ago! At last, at last!

    So often, though, we find out that the person really isn’t crush-worthy. What you need to get over is the dream that it seemed he cruelly snatched away from you. But it never really existed. He’s not a good person to do this to you, which means he’s not treating you right, which means you can stop doing What-If and do Now-I-Know, instead.

    Which is not nearly as much fun but will let you grieve and get over it, at least.

  30. Reblogged this on The Monster's Ink and commented:
    You may think you want to know the reason why someone just broke up with you.
    Truth is: you don’t want to know. Hearing their reasons may end up making you more angry than hearing nothing at all.

    • Kelly said:

      Yeah, any time I’ve seen something like this happen, it’s not a miscommunication, but the ghoster did something bad (i.e. having multiple girlfriends, lying about something major) and wants to keep on with his life without having to deal with what he did to the ghostee.

  31. attica said:

    The Captain’s advice here is awfully close to what I tell the radio every time Adele says “Hello.” Adele, sweetie, you need to stop calling a dude who never picks up the phone.

    I agree about closure being something you give yourself. A bf broke up with me with the old softener ‘we can still be friends’, so I proceeded to treat him like a friend, occasionally calling and checking in. Finally, during one conversation, I could hear the ‘omg so not into this’ in the silences between the words. And I rang off, never to call again. Because I got that it was over — for me.

    • God, I hate that song. It’s stalking and harassment. Adele, your ex does not want to talk to you. Stop calling him. You must have called a thousand times? Why hasn’t he changed his phone number by now, or blocked you, or something?

      That song is So. Much. Nope. And it gives me the creeps. Probably because I am still getting the occasional text from someone who I very clearly communicated that I do not want to hear from them, and I will not be speaking to them again, we will never be friends again. It feels very stalkery and very violating. I have to turn it off every time I hear it come on the radio. I suspect that song is probably part of the reason for the most recent round of “why won’t you talk to me” texts I got.

      Why won’t I talk to you? Because I very clearly told you I didn’t want to talk to you ever again!

      • MadameNitsune: I totally agree. I even posted on Facebook to Adele that after three calls, you need to FIND SOMETHING ELSE TO DO. lol

      • Anothermous said:

        I am here for the “Hello” hate. Such a gross song!!

      • Neuroturtle said:

        I read somewhere that it’s supposed to be Adele talking to her younger self. Most of it makes sense like that, but some lines just cannot be interpreted in any way other than “she’s stalking this person.”

      • THANK YOU. My son likes the song, probably for the melody, and he gets so mad when I start yelling at the radio. “HE IS NOT INTERESTED IN TALKING TO YOU, ADELE, STOP CALLING HIM.” Like, why is this even a celebrated concept? He knows how to get in contact with you, caller ID is a thing, he is CLEARLY AVOIDING YOU. THAT IS A MESSAGE.

        I hate that so many people (apparently) think that it’s so romantic and whatever.

      • Duly Concerned said:

        It gives me the creeps whenever someone plays “Every Breath You Take” on a sentimental occasion like a wedding. Don’t they realise that Sting wrote that song from a stalker’s point of view? And is rather aghast that it has been misinterpreted as a romantic declaration?

        The first time I heard it on the radio (within weeks of the original release), I thought it was a song about how abusive should-be-exes think of their victims (stalking was not a widely used term back then).

        • jaynn said:

          There’s a series on YouTube called Major to Minor, and Every Breath You Take is one he did. I think the tone matches the lyrics better. (I also like All I Want For Christmas)

          • Duly Concerned said:

            Thanks for the Youtube, it was interesting.

            It certainly ups and makes explicit the creep factor! I can easily imagine a movie about a stalker using the Police version as the theme for the early part of the stalker’s period of stalking and then shifting to using the Chase Holfelder version as the theme for the later part of the stalking. Just before the victim is finally killed.

        • BigdogLittlecat said:

          Not long after the song came out, a police department put out an anti-drunk driving poster that had the words to the song over a photo of a group of cops looking appropriately tough.
          It was brilliant.
          IIRC, they had gotten permission to use the words and Sting had confirmed that it was not supposed to be a nice song.

      • HOBBITS! The Musical said:

        Since I started reading CA posts I’ve been thinking about song trends, how sooooo many songs especially from the 50s and 60s are actually scary when you think seriously about the lyrics – like “I’m gonna knock on your door, tap on your window frame […] ’til you come back to me, that’s what I’m gonna do-o-o.”

        We’ve been culturally indoctrinated to NOT take no for an answer. I’m sorry LW this is something you need to actively stop yourself doing. Even though the “no” is silent it’s still there.

  32. efmather2006 said:

    I’m sorry, LW. Something similar happened to me once – the guy ghosted after a few months of dating. I really thought that if I found out what was behind the disappearing, I could put him behind me. When he suddenly popped up again, I thought I’d be fine with being casual sex buddies if only I knew the rules. …except that he was telling me what his rules were by only getting in touch so often, and by flat out saying “no” to us getting together more often. Then my question became “why doesn’t he feel the same way I do?” And on and on. My need for answers kept mushrooming into more questions, all as a reason to kept myself hooked, and because the ghosting was a very painful answer in itself. Please don’t let that happen to you.

  33. H.Regalis said:

    Being ghosted on sucks. It really, really, really, really, really sucks. Sometimes it’s deserved; sometimes it’s needlessly cruel. I’m sorry this happened to you and I’m sorry that you feel so awful right now.
    There is nothing this guy can say to you that is going to make this better. Even if he messaged you right now and was like, “Here is why” you’re either going to want to argue it with him because you think it’s a bullshit reason, or you’re going to tie yourself in knots thinking about how if you had just done X, Y, or Z then things would have been just fine. Mourn your lose, lick your wounds, but you have to let this go. He can’t be what you want him to be.

  34. CommanderBanana said:

    LW, I am so, so sorry. This is an incredibly painful way to end a relationship and I’m sorry it happened to you.

    This is so hard to hear, I know, but the only thing I can tell you is that you have to find a way to make peace with knowing that you will never get your questions answered and you may never know what happened. Give yourself permission to let it go, to mourn it like a death, and to move on.

  35. farther and happier said:

    I am currently going thru the ghosting from a good friend. It has been 5 months since she told me, and 6 months since she ghosted. The text from her 5 months ago is all I ever knew what was happening.

    What I know is this. Grieve. It is a loss. It will feel pretty terrible every day for awhile. Just like any form of mourning you will feel less ache the longer you let it be.

    Nothing you can do can change his mind to talk to you. And, nothing you can do can change your mind that you are grieving. Do all the things you need to do when you lose someone. Go out of your way to seek happy things. Surround yourself with people and crowds. Or if you need quiet and reflection, go on long hikes or a special vacation just for you. Basically: pamper yourself. Why? b’c no one is a mind reader and they cannot tell how devastated you are. You don’t have to tell them either. But you need to take extra special care with yourself for a little while. Do some fake it until you make it, if that works for you. But if it takes too long (and only you can know what too long is) seek help with a therapist.

  36. Turquoise Dragon said:

    I keep thinking about a situation last week, where a guy stopped coming into work. Office environment, small company, it was not normal and very noticeable. We called him, we called his emergency contact, we checked social media. Finally got through to him by email, to be informed that he had resigned, and ‘forgotten’ to send us notification.
    Here’s where the situation is different from the LW’s. We pay him. We owe him cash in return for his labor, and if he’s not giving us labor, we need to not give him cash. We still have no idea *why* he ghosted, and frankly I don’t think we ever will get an answer. But we needed ‘closure’ to establish the status of his next paycheck (and benefits).
    LW, I’m sorry, this guy owes you nothing, and you owe him nothing. This sucks for you, and is hard, but there is no reason for him to respond to you, and bashing down that door can only hurt you. All the jedi hugs if you want them.

  37. LW I’m so so very sorry. I have a lot of empathy because I’ve been in your shoes more times than I can count, and I’m 40 now. A few ghosted relationships immediately spring to mind:

    The loser I dated. He never gave me the key to my apartment and left stuff in my apartment. His ex wife came and picked it up. I honestly think I probably called him close to 200 times in a span of a week or two. I was so angry. I was calling to try to get him to pick his stuff up. He never answered.

    The bestie I had. We did everything together, then one day she stopped talking to me. Our mutual friends told me nothing. I asked them to speak to her. I left messages EVERYWHERE. I JUST HAD TO KNOW WHY. Friends felt incredibly uncomfortable because I was asking THEM why. I think I ended up messaging her once a year for 3 years. I just couldn’t drop it.

    My take on what happened: these were people who were simply much more subdued/submissive than I was. They were not comfortable “standing up” to me. I would inadvertently get my way all the time. I would make them feel like they had no voice or no say. Instead of saying something, they let it build up until finally they one day said “Enough” and ended things for good. It wasn’t one thing, it was the relationship itself. It was who we were.

    Here’s what I realize now:

    1. I have zero interest in putting energy into assholes. Someone dropping our relationship like a hot potato is, in my world, an asshole. If you’re that unkind and show that little regard for what we build together, I honestly don’t want you in my life. If you haven’t given me any kind of heads up, it means you weren’t interested in us improving our relationship. Instead, you decided “enough” without even a conversation. I don’t want folks like this in my life. Truly. I want people who care about me, themselves, and us. I want people who are interested in improving what we have and are willing to risk being uncomfortable to help get us there (meaning – trust that I will listen to you and want to hear what’s hurting/bothering you rather than feeling too uncomfortable to say anything).

    2. My personality bulldozes people. I know this. I’m a Leslie Knope. This means that weak-willed people feel bulldozed, crushed, and helpless around me. Without realizing it, I end up picking all the movies and activities, dominating the conversation (My friend told me that he called me, I started talking, said goodbye, and he hadn’t even said why he called), and more. This means one of two things need to happen: I need to be sensitive that I do this, and give people room. It also means that I need to pick people who are comfortable saying their opinion and who are not afraid to talk about their needs/wants.

    3. The “stuff” is not actually important. That book you want back – think of it as asshole tax. That stuff they left in your house? Asshole tax. You turn the things into a gift. It’s a gift because it then gets to go away and be not important rather than the “omg I’m fine if they don’t talk to me, but now I MUST email them to get my stuff back!!” It’s really an excuse. Cut it. Get a new thing.

    The first was helpful for cutting the wheat and chaff. The second was helpful for how I went forward conducting my relationships. I also realized that not everyone communicates the same way. In general, people are not eager to say to a former friend “I ended our friendship because I thought you were an asshole who didn’t give a shit about me.” Why? Well, first, they don’t want to use those words. Second, they feel like it might open the door to someone arguing or defending themselves. They want things to just be done. Third, they want to “avoid confrontation”. They might be afraid of you, or afraid in general. Fourth – they just want to move on and are done with the relationship.

    Break it off with him. Be with someone whose words and actions match. Be with someone whose words and actions make you feel special and loved.

  38. hqb said:

    OP, I know you are hurting now, but you need to stop trying to contact him. Not just for yourself, as the Captain mentions, but because you have passed the line into harassment – multiple texts per day, multiple calls per week, after he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to be in contact is definitely out of bounds; one tenth this level would still be inappropriate. I understand you are in pain, and that’s why you are doing this, but you need to stop.

  39. Myrtle said:

    LW, this is an awful ending to your hopes and I’m so sorry it ended like this. I’ve been there too. What do you think of the thought that he knows things about himself that you don’t?

    I wish someone had told me that I needed to act as if he’d said goodbye, and move to my next steps.There was flat out a lot of shocked mourning. In the silence, I was forced to examine my side of the street and I learned quite a bit about myself. I came to view his disappearance as a gift, but it took over two years of doggedly hard work to get my head there.

    After that, I happened to learn that his lack of caring in fact started with himself- he was a tobacco addict who didn’t eat properly and had a serious illness needing vigilence that he wouldn’t take medication for. He’d been hospitalized at least once for it after his silence. I realized if I’d had my way, I’d of gotten the job of nursing him and burying him and actually I think he may be gone from life now. With another charismatic person I’d once cared about who’d disappeared, I found him in an online arrests database. The bleary mug shot was a sad end to my wondering and reminded me we all live our choices.

  40. Frost said:

    LW, honestly, you probably don’t want him to respond at this point – he’s proven that he doesn’t care about your feelings, if his own barely hurt (if at all) feelings are enough for him to completely ghost on you like this. He has shown that he is not the kind, caring person you deserve to have in your life. This silence, as Captain has said, is a gift – take it as the gift that it is, and return his silence with your own. Block his numbers, don’t respond to anything, cut out anything that reminds you of him. Delete all old messages – make it as if he never existed. You do not deserve to have someone who treats you so callously in your life.

  41. ebe51 said:

    Oh man, it just hurts to read this. Something not too dissimilar happened to me, although with an in-person boyfriend. After dating for 7 or 8 months (and after knowing each other for a few years), he just stopped responding, and I was unclear as to why. Unfortunately, even while we had been dating, he was inconsistent about returning calls/emails, so I didn’t quite catch on as soon as I might have.

    I won’t go in to details, because otherwise I’ll end up writing a novel, but I did eventually manage to see him in person, and he admitted that he did that on PURPOSE, because he knew disappearing would hurt me the most. I was just recovering from suddenly losing my father, in addition to some other major life changes, and unsurprisingly, I handled the whole situation quite badly. To this day, I still have no idea what the reason for the breakup was, and it really doesn’t matter. This is not someone that I could ever depend on, even if, in the most optimistic fiction that I had written in my mind, this had been a fluke once-in-a-lifetime mistake on his part. I would still never be able to trust that he could be depended on. Ever.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      “…he did that on PURPOSE, because he knew disappearing would hurt me the most” HULKSMASH I’m so sorry he did that to you.

  42. I like CA’s advice to fire the guy for relationship abandonment. You gave him umpteen chances to give you the courtesy of an explanation, sufficient time has passed for him to have responded…do yourself the favor of consciously declaring that it’s over and that you’re dumping him for being a ghosting jerk. You don’t have to wait for him to answer you and tell you in words that he’s done–you can declare the relationship dead yourself. I suggest that it might make you feel better to reclaim that agency and do so.

  43. Thanksforallthefish said:

    TLDR: He has been cruel to you, now accept it as the gift that it is and know he’s not right for you. Don’t make the mistakes I did. Cut him out of everything. Then forgive yourself if you run into him someday and feel all the old feels, but don’t give into the impulse to renew connection even if he initiates it. That’s where a horrible cycle starts.

    Storytime: Instead of LDR mine was a casual acquaintance who worked near me, turned drunken one-night standish, turned my obsession, turned multiple-night stand, turned slow-fade, turned my super-obsession. At which point he kept pulling farther and farther away but couldn’t escape fully because I worked near him and had the sound of his vehicle memorized. I ruined a good potential friendship with my own powerful wishful thinking lens. I drove him away with my constant contact vs his emotional detachment.

    One time he asked me to chill for a month or so because he wasn’t in a good place and I counted the moments until it had been 2 months and I showed up at his work to ask why he hadn’t circled back to me. I crossed so many lines I thought myself incapable of crossing. I was addicted to his attention. I had to go through withdrawal. I did over a matter of months, thought I was all better, then he asked me to join him for beers randomly and kissed me at the end of the night and I was soo pissed and giddy because he withheld his physical affection for so long only to just return it now!?! but I went along with it and got re-hooked.

    Finally I knew I needed to detox fully, rationally, I couldn’t accept it yet emotionally or physically. I had to keep telling myself the bad truths like we only ever hooked up when he was drunk. I know he is fully emotionally unavailable to me, rarely responsive and I never actually saw him vulnerable or %100 straightforward and I want and deserve someone in my life who can be all that. He sent clear messages in his avoidance that I WOULD NOT SEE.

    Even when I saw it and tried to pull myself away I had this hours-long loud crying jag one night over what I couldn’t have. It’s hard. I cringe at what I did. I am now multiple years away from it and in a better place and STILL if I run into him randomly (once a year basically), I get happy and smiley and talk to him and he’s so gracious and I can’t stop saying hi but I know I need to do him a favor and avoid him if I ever see him again…the last time I encountered him in a totally unexpected spot and he didn’t see me but I started talking near him I saw him flinch and look in my direction.

    • Becky said:

      “I know I need to do him a favor”

      You. You are doing YOURSELF the favor!

      (I have so been there)

  44. Muffin said:

    LW, I want to underscore all the zillions of wise comments above that say you should just let this guy go and declare that it’s over instead of waiting for an answer. And I say that because when this happened to me — twice — I actually got the answers, much later, and those answers were TERRIBLE.

    The answers were: the person I was dating, in each case, was untrustworthy and abusive, and they were lying to me about a lot of things. Knowing those answers made me feel justified in having already broken things off, but… they didn’t solve anything or change anything. They didn’t make those people dateable again.

    I see that you’ve responded to some of the people who are telling you that what you’re doing is harassment. I think those people mean well and are right to tell you to stop texting, but I want to be a counterpoint to that voice, because I wish someone had said this to me: you are not a bad person for wanting answers. You are not a bad person for asking someone you were dating to explain why he hurt you. YOU ARE NOT BROKEN OR EVIL OR CRAZY.

    I agree that you should stop communicating at this guy, however, for your own health and happiness.

    Good luck, LW, and solidarity. ❤

    • TO_Ont said:

      Yeah, I don’t think awknowledging that you’re going over a line or crossing boundaries or even stepping into harassment means saying someone is a terrible person or broken, and certainly not evil. One way of thinking of it might be as evidence that the relationship is unhealthy or broken, though. Or that the dynamic between the people has become unhealthy.

    • neverjaunty said:

      Of course LW is not a bad person for wanting answers! And it is precisely because LW is not a bad person that people are saying hey, your actions are not cool and could actually be illegal and it is not helpful to your pain to keep them up. Bad people wouldn’t care.

    • Mary said:

      the people who are telling you that what you’re doing is harassment. I think those people mean well and are right to tell you to stop texting, but I want to be a counterpoint to that voice, because I wish someone had said this to me: you are not a bad person for wanting answers. You are not a bad person for asking someone you were dating to explain why he hurt you. YOU ARE NOT BROKEN OR EVIL OR CRAZY.

      I find this kind of concerning? Like, it’s very binary thinking to think that “this is harrassment” = “you are bad, broken, evil and crazy!” Being a good person doesn’t mean you never, ever do anything that could be could upset someone else or make them feel threatened: it means that when you become aware that what you’re doing could make someone upset or feel threatened, you go, “OMG, that absolutely isn’t what I wanted to happen! I will stop this behaviour now, and go away and think about what I need to change so I don’t do this again!” If you equate “your behaviour could have a negative impact on other people” with “you are a terrible evil person”, you make it incredibly hard for anyone to recognise that they need to change their behaviour.

      • Theaz said:

        Hm, I think this binary thinking is out in the world rather than being invented here though. Acknowledging that one reason people resist the label is because it seems to accepting you’re a bad person, rather than being useful information about how you can treat people better and about what is happening with your own emotional state, all of which is in your power to change and move away from, seems like possibly a helpful move.

        • Mary said:

          Yeah, what I mean is that I don’t disagree with the statements “this could constitute harassment” or “[the LW is] not a bad person for wanting answers … broken, evil or crazy.” I just read Muffin saying “I want to be a counterpoint to that voice” as meaning that it’s possibly either/or, whereas I think it’s really important to say that both can be true. “You are not bad, broken, evil or crazy” is not a refutation of “this could constitute harassment”.

          • Likewise. I am one of the ones calling it harassment, and I don’t think that the LW is a bad person for it. The idea that only Bad People ever do bad things is both extremely common and really harmful, because it means that many people, if told, “That thing you just did was bad,” respond with, “But I’m not a Bad Person!” As Jay Smooth puts it, it’s the difference between the “what you did” conversation and the “what you are” conversation.

            The LW does not seem like a bad person. The LW does not seem broken, evil, or crazy. But the LW did do a bad thing, and has now stopped doing it, which is good.

  45. Clarry said:

    You know you shouldn’t contact him, but right now the desire to reach out to him is great and making the sensible no-contact rule hard to follow. This advice is to help you maintain no-contact. First, could you find a buddy? Ask a friend to be your dumping ground. This only works if you’re upfront about what you need from the start and get your friend’s consent. You say something along the lines of “I have a desire to call Ex the way an addict desires a drug. I need someone I can call who will listen and let me get the weepies out of my system.” A good friend will say “sure, I’ll take the calls as long as you don’t call me at work or when I’m asleep” (or whatever boundary s/he wants to set). Then, when you feel the desire to call or text Ex, you call or text Buddy instead.

    Another thing that can help is writing a different fantasy scenario in your head on what Ex is thinking when he gets your messages. Right now you’re imagining his listening to your tearful pleadings and feeling kind of bad about what he’s doing, but what if you imagined him cruelly getting off on how pathetic you sound. Play that up in your imagination for a while. Put a good sneer on his face. Doesn’t that make you hesitate when you reach for your phone? Make it a little harder to leave that message? (In my case, I used to imagine my mother feeling bad whenever she abandoned me somewhere; I imagined she minded when she was late and left me waiting for her. When I rewrote the scenario in my head to one in which she loved it when I screamed at her and complained about how she left me waiting for her for hours because that made her feel so wanted and needed, I had an easier time blithely saying “oh, were you supposed to be here 4 hours ago? I hadn’t noticed.” That’s sort of what you need to do. You probably won’t hear from him ever again, but if you should in 20 years run into the guy, you want to affect an air of “oh, did we go out once? You couldn’t have made much impression on me.”)

  46. tillamookie said:

    This happened to me. Same thing, roughly the same age. We dated in college and reconnected through FB (ugh, I know) 16 years later and I would see him every time I went to visit my parents. Eventually we officially started dating long distance. Had one visit after that was amazing, wonderful, everything it should be. Next visit and we’re talking/texting right up until the day I get there. I’m staying at my parents’ house. He tells me he has to work late the first night so we postpone getting together until the second night I’m there. He’s apologetic and swears that he’ll make it up to me. I see him the next night and he’s acting a little weird but I thought maybe I was overthinking. I text him the next day, like we agreed, so we could schedule our next hang out. No response that night. Or the next night, and so on. I though maybe he was dead but he added friends on FB during that time so I knew he was alive. After a week I texted again to ask him to at least explain what had gone on. He never did. He just fucking disappeared. I tortured myself for weeks thinking of all the things I probably did wrong. It sucked. He did reappear again, drunk, and I suspect yours probably will too.

  47. Hi LW,

    I agree that the solution to this is to draw a line under your relationship with him, but I think it’s worth acknowledging why this might be harder for you that it evidently has been for him.

    What I see in your story is this: you’ve had feelings for him your entire adult life. That means you’re going to have to change a lot about your personal narrative. And one of the things you’re going to have to find a way to live with is the fact that, from your story, it looks like those feelings weren’t entirely returned.

    Here’s your story as I read it:

    In high school you were in ‘puppy love with him.’ It’s very unlikely he had feelings for you then – nothing happened, and while the romantic difference between 34 and 37 is nothing, the romantic difference between 14 and 17 is HUGE. You had a crush on an older boy (we’ve all been there!), and for you it was a big thing, but it might not have registered with him at all.

    In college you spent some time together. You still had feelings for him; he was seeing somebody else. He wasn’t nice enough to be honest with you about it: you were the person he was cheating on his partner with. But he was at the centre of your romantic life, and somebody else was at the centre of his.

    In your adult life, you’ve kept in touch and had a little bit of physical stuff. You wanted more. Meanwhile, he didn’t take the opportunity to have more, even when you rented a motel room together. You still wanted him; he was prepared to enjoy your company when it was there.

    Finally, you made a move. You say ‘we consummated our relationship.’ Now, it sounds like to you, that was the consummation of twenty years of ‘dancing around’ … but was it for him? In the past twenty years you’ve had a lot of feelings for him, but his actions towards you suggest that for him – I’m sorry if this sounds harsh – you weren’t so much a relationship as an option he never quite felt motivated to take until you made an explicit offer.

    After that, you had a few days together. You moved apart. You visited him. He doesn’t seem to have made the effort to visit you.

    Finally you have a fight. And at the first sign that in this ‘relationship’, you’re actually prepared to bring confrontation and conflict rather than making all the offers and all the effort, he drops out.

    I’m sorry, but what I hear is twenty years of a relationship that’s always been kinda one-sided.

    That would explain why flooding his messages doesn’t seem so strange to you. You’re used to the relationship mostly being made up of your own hopes and thoughts and feelings and not getting very much back. But things have changed now: you were together briefly, he ghosted on you, it’s out in the world now. You put it to the test, and it turned out you’d hoped for, and maybe believed there actually was, more than was really there.

    And that’s a humiliating idea to consider, so you need to find another way to live with it. ‘I always had a crush on him, he gave out mixed signals, but finally I realised that he wasn’t the kind of guy prepared to make the effort to be with me I deserved.’ Try that.

    I think you also need to spend some time reminding yourself – by doing things as well as thinking about them – of everything else in your life that’s Not Him. You’re looking at a situation where it’s easy for your brain to tell you that you thought your whole life was building towards this and then he just vanished on you, so you need to focus on what you’ve actually built in your life, who you are without him, all the stuff that’s YOU, your own story that other people can’t take away.

    Nobody likes being rejected, but you’ve got a lot riding on this because his disappearance is basically taking away something you’ve hoped for since you were a kid. I’m really sorry about that. Remind yourself of all the ways you and your life are awesome that have nothing to do with this guy. You have a lot of capacity to love; it just turns out he wasn’t the right person. Don’t be ashamed of being able to love, though. Just spend some time remembering to love yourself.

    • Helen Huntingdon said:

      “Now, it sounds like to you, that was the consummation of twenty years of ‘dancing around’ … but was it for him?”

      I think Ice hit on a few important points here. To you this felt like the consummation of a long epic building to this point. From what you describe, that’s not how he felt about it.

      When you carry a torch for someone for 20 years, for most of those 20 years they’re not even really aware of it, more often than not, because they assume you are too awesome and out there living life to focus on them that much.

      You also make it sound like this consummation was to you a Massive Turning Point Into Serious Couplehood, but then you describe the ensuing visits as happening because you announce they will, then make them happen. As many a Captain Awkward column will attest, the lack of reciprocity on making visits happen can be an indicator of radically different expectations about what is going on. If this were also a Massive Turning Point Into Serious Couplehood FOR HIM, he would have been doing more to orchestrate making that happen — it would have been more reciprocal.

    • Shanny McLee said:

      This is the impression I got reading the original letter as well. And I’ve definitely been there – I still get tingles thinking about some of my high school/college crushes. Few were ever “consummated,” as the OP put it, but if they had been, I don’t doubt that they would have ended in disappointment because things were very one-sided. Even if the person had genuine feelings for me in the now, I would still be bringing decades of feelings into it that would send things off-kilter.

      I’ve also been abruptly dumped with zero communication, though I was much younger. It was a brief but passionate affair in first year uni, and it ended with him just not speaking to me one morning (…while in bed together). I barfed my emotions all over him for the next couple weeks while he stayed mute, and it was crappy. It was crappy what he did, but it was also crappy that I wasn’t able to find a different way to process those feelings. I wanted closure, but I sought it from the wrong person. In the end, the only response I ever got from him was that he hooked up with me “because I was someone who liked him,” but his heart wasn’t in it. That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, even though it was absolutely valid.

    • BigdogLittlecat said:

      LW, this is exactly what I was thinking, but didn’t have the brain cells to write: this relationship was much more important, much more significant to you than it was to him.
      You said above that he would have called himself your boyfriend, but would he, and would he have meant it? He sounds to me like he might be the kind of person who takes the path of least resistance and will take what is offered to him, and isn’t very engaged in adulting. The kind of person who might say “boyfriend” but for him, it’s really friends with benefits. When it was LDR, he didn’t have to do any emotional work, so it was fine by him to be your “boyfriend.”

      Then you had a minor fight, and for whatever reason he didn’t communicate with you for several days, and then you flooded him, and he hopped on his nopetopus.

      LW, you made a mistake flooding him like you did, but it’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes, everyone has to learn how to manage their emotions.
      As painful and humiliating as this experience has been, it has a great big shiny silver lining: it’s opened your eyes that he, and your relationship with him, are not what you thought they were, so you can stop chasing that dream which was more in your head than in reality, and you can focus your life on creating happiness for yourself in the here and now, with real people who really care about you.
      Ask yourself, did you really love him, or was it an image of him you’ve been carrying in your head for years? We’ve all done that: fallen in love with someone, then found out that we’ve been projecting our wishes on the human in front of us, who is not the same as the beloved in our head.
      I think you were starting to realize he’s not the man you wanted him to be. But we fight hard against admitting that our loved ones aren’t what we thought, if only because we don’t want to “start all over” and find another beloved. So we ignore the signs given us by the real human, and try to hang on to the beloved image.

      Your letter resonates with me for so many reasons and I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did, so I’m encouraging you to examine this episode with a therapist to sort out what he really meant to you and why you acted the way you did. It hurts like hell, but you can learn and grow and come out of this so much better, and able to have a real relationship with real adults.
      You can do it and you’re worth it. Please don’t make the gravest mistake of all: please don’t give up, please don’t believe humiliation and pain if they call you a failure and tell you you’re not worth it. Please don’t let this episode derail your life.

      Jedi hugs and wishes for a brilliant future.

    • bad at screen names said:

      This, so much. The only thing I would add is that (I suspect) part of the problem with moving on is that you are still seeing him through the lens of your 14-yr-old self. You aren’t ready to let go of finally getting Jordan Catalano.

  48. resili0 said:

    I am sorry that you are going through this, OP.

    I want to reassure you that it is possible to have a fight and still be respectful and true to your partner. So you haven’t done anything *wrong* by arguing with him and expecting to resolve it. You’ve trusted someone and acted according to what you were led to believe. It isn’t acceptable for your ex to just disappear the moment a conflict arises without addressing it. I spent most of my life in abusive/unhealthy relationships which left me confused about what I could expect from a romantic partner. Being with my Mr has been a chance to learn how healthy folks do things; simply dropping someone for daring to have a ordinary argument is not cool. A partner who loves you and cares about you as a person still finds it in themselves to be kind and loving even when they have felt mad at you. I wanted to remind you of that because it sounds like you have taken your cues from him and waited around, fitted yourself around his desires but you don’t have to do that.

    A healthy partner might be mad during a fight but they are mad because once they vent – the goal is to restore the peace. The goal is not to shut down dissent or punish their partner. A healthy partner is capable of expressing their boundaries. They communicate fairly and dont manipulate you into apologies. They end the relationship only after some thought and with words. This was all new to me and it took some time to adjust to. I was used to fights that got very insular and unfair quickly and were always EVERYTHING IS BROKEN IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT I HATE YOU GOODBYE. Thus I tip toed around trying not to start a conflict.

    What your ex feels about this, his intentions or his excuses, they may tell you one story. But his actions tell you another, he is not capable and willing to stay with you through an ordinary conflict. So even if he turned up today with an epic chick flick type speech about why he ghosted, even if he was drenched in rain and was Ryan Gosling, you’d know that this man cannot give you what you want.

    What you deserve (and from your letter, what you want) is someone who can handle ordinary life and build an extraordinary love story with you. One where you can argue and survive it. One where you can relax. One where you don’t get left behind.

    So congratulate yourself that the healthy concept of conflict resolution: you got it, you can spot the unhealthy from the healthy. You are ok.

  49. Anonymous lurker said:

    I’ve been the ghoster in an established friendship before. I had a friend who had some serious mental health problems and who wanted to be around me, often talking about these problems and wanting support or reassurance from me, all day every day. I felt guilty about needing more space than I was getting and didn’t know how to establish boundaries yet, except by blaming my therapist for imposing limits on our communication, so I ghosted when I could. It was a messy situation and I regret the way I handled it, but it was also what I needed to do to protect my own mental health.

    I’m sharing this story partly because all the commenters saying that the LW’s ex-boyfriend was cruel kind of got to me. What I did was definitely cruel, but it was also a product of sheer panic and desperation, and each time my friend tried to contact me it made me more terrified to answer.

    I’m not trying to say LW was like my friend or that her ex-boyfriend was like me. I just think there are a lot of reasons someone might behave the way he did. We’ll never know for sure, so in a way I don’t think it matters. I think LW should pick a story that makes it easier for her to move on (because he isn’t going to say anything, and if he does, do you really want to hear it?) and believe that. Best of luck, LW; I wish you a less painful journey and an exciting life without this guy.

    • Mary said:

      Yes – I think we have to be able to acknowledge that ghosting is a hurtful act, but that doesn’t tell us anything about the ghoster’s motivations. Ghosting can be done with cruel motivations and the intention to hurt and control. It can be done by someone who is hurting and confused and panicking, who doesn’t want to hurt the ghostee but isn’t able to prioritise them in their decision-making. It can be done by someone who makes a deliberate decision that their own self-care or safety needs to take priority over the ghostee’s pain. And we have no idea which the LW’s ex was!

      None of these changes the fact that it’s incredibly painful and confusing for the person who has been ghosted. It’s completely legitimate pain, and it’s completely legitimate to describe the act as cruel, I think. And it’s totally legitimate for the ghostee to be upset and angry and I think it’s fair enough if the LW doesn’t want to distinguish between “what he did was cruel to me”, “he was cruel to me”, and “he was cruel”. But I think condemning everyone who has gone silent on someone as a cruel person or an abusive person is way too big a generalisation.

      • jonesy said:

        “None of these changes the fact that it’s incredibly painful and confusing for the person who has been ghosted. It’s completely legitimate pain, and it’s completely legitimate to describe the act as cruel, I think. And it’s totally legitimate for the ghostee to be upset and angry…”

        I think herein lies the rub for those of us who have ghosted in order to get away from people with toxic behaviors.

        I ghosted a friend because they joined forces with my boyfriend to perpetuate crippling emotional abuse for two years. They thrived on my anxiety and self-loathing and was a non-stop simmering rage volcano to a very disturbing level, so I decided I did not owe them the courtesy of a goodbye, since they clearly did not believe they owed me the courtesy of Not Being Abusive.

        So when people say that ghosters are cruel, terrible people and that the ghostee has the right to be upset and angry, it produces a bit of a kneejerk reaction, at least for me. Because to paraphrase you, Mary, I think my self-care and safety DOES take priority over the well-being of someone who thinks it’s okay to cruelly take their pain out on others. Frankly, when it comes to someone who tried to argue that verbal abuse and sexual coercion was a totally understandable way for my partner to treat me, because he “never really liked [me] that much” but wouldn’t just break up with me because he’d lose his free emotional support, I don’t think that someone’s feelings matter at all. And at the kneejerk/impulsive level, I don’t see why I should have to accept that I did a cruel thing in ghosting, because on my Scale of Cruel Things, ghosting does not really compare to “invalidate and argue justification of abuse to victim’s face” among other gross things.

        If I take a minute, yes, of course, I can see that ghosting hurts, and that it’s not a good way to handle relationships. But when someone else has already so fundamentally destroyed the integrity of that relationship, it’s still pretty crappy that I (and others like me) have to accept that we can be called cruel for choosing self-preservation.

        There’s also the issue that in situations like mine, the ghostee can claim pain and devastation that is quite real to them…not from the loss of a wonderful relationship, but from the loss of their gross abusive behavior fuel. If “hurting other people” was my only coping mechanism, I am sure I would be very upset and angry if one of my best punching bags just walked away. So then, when we are urged to consider and validate the feelings of the abuser we ghosted, it’s a pretty tough thing to swallow. We’re pretty sure they don’t miss us at all, just us being easy targets, and then we’re shamed for being “inconsiderate” or whatever.

        I sincerely doubt that the LW is one of these people. But I wanted to maybe shed some light on why some commenters are taking exception to the ghosting-is-a-mortal-sin generalization.

      • CommanderBanana said:

        Have to agree – I have ghosted on people because they could not accept that I was not interested in having a certain type of relationship with them, and interacting with them had become dangerous and damaging to me. For some people, radio silence IS the only way to handle it. I am sure it was hurtful and I wish it could have been different, but I can only say “I’m not going to be your girlfriend, please don’t call me at 2 am, please don’t write stories about me and post them online, please stop calling my work, my house, my cell, my parents, etc.” so many times before realizing that some people do, in fact, need to be removed from my life and sometimes the only way to do it is to go dark.

    • Ros said:

      Your story about ghosting on a friend rings true to my experience.

      I had a friend who was very physically ill/hurt/in a lot of pain/unhappy with her life (bad relationship, bad job, etc), and she reacted by… lashing out, being unpleasant, being hurtful, etc (no joke, when I told her I was getting married to my long-term boyfriend, her reaction was “why would you do THAT”, in a super-disgusted tone). I made excuses for her, and then made more excuses for her, and then started arranging our hang-outs to be in public places because she was more pleasant there (seriously, when you have to counter ‘let’s hang out for coffee’ with ‘why don’t we go out for a pedicure!’ because it’s the presence of the person giving the pedicure that will ensure pleasant behavior, it’s time to cut your losses). And ANY hint of questioning her behavior or saying ‘exCUSE me??!” or asking to be treated differently was met with either a complete meltdown about her childhood messing her up, or a flare-up of temper about how life isn’t FAIR and this is how she is.

      After realizing that I’d been coordinating public hang-outs for A YEAR to ensure not being treated like complete crap, I ghosted. Completely. Because I couldn’t deal with the blaming and the fits and the processing of her childhood, and I couldn’t deal with being treated like crap anymore, and I couldn’t see another way out.

      Cruel? Possibly. Probably, even. But also basic self-preservation.

      There are times when it’s your only option.

      She recently tried to get back in contact with me. Friends inform me that she’s doing better, she’s better physically, she’s in a better relationship, she has a job she likes, and she acts nice again. But I don’t trust it, and I’m NOT signing up for a repeat.

    • Tonia said:

      Yes! Ghosting is incredibly rude, but I’m not convinced it’s deliberately cruel. I think it’s often about a lack of (mental, emotional) resources to deal with the issue in an appropriate manner.

  50. ItsNotEasyBeingGreen said:

    I’m a frequent reader but rarely comment here.

    LW, this has happened to me twice and my heart goes out to you. The first time, I dated someone long distance for a year or two with really intense summer long visits, he came over, kissed me on the forehead, I fell asleep, and he disappeared. I too called our mutual friends and no one knew what happened to him or if he was alive. I was distraught and confused and tried to commit suicide. Two *years* later I got a one word email saying “I’m sorry”, then another year or so later I finally heard he had fallen very hard into a deep depression (literally overnight….drugs were involved), “because he realized he didn’t love me”, dropped out of college and moved back home with his folks. The second time eerily reminds me of your situation. We had been flirtatious friends for 15 years or so but the timing was never right, there were some….I don’t know whether to call them *red* flags, but they were certainly flags, like he worked part time and had even more trouble with crowds than I do, and these were intense struggles for him. I knew he was locked up for awhile but he explained it like a ‘pray away the gay’ camp his folks sent him to and I didn’t ask much more beyond that. We dated for two years, I wanted to marry him, move next door to him (we both liked our space), integrate our lives and then he suddenly cheated on me (hard to do as I’m a relationship anarchy sort of poly person), and stopped talking, and then vanished. The gal he cheated on me with made my life a living hell bullying me online and turning our friends against me, but it was at least a small comfort of confirmation that he was alive. Again years later, he and I reconnected, and I found out he was dealing with severe mental illness (schizophrenia as far as I understand though he doesn’t want to put a label on it) and couldn’t handle confrontation. For the record I hooked up with both of them after they resurfaced and it was just…empty. In the end I decided that the first guy I had fallen in love with never actually existed, and the second…there is love there but we are not good for each other, and out of love we give each other space and distance.

    So none of those details change the fact that ghosting is extremely cruel. I wish people understood that there is a huge difference between someone saying “I am leaving you” and then silence, vs. just silence. I don’t agree with many of the sentiments in this thread but I do agree with one of the things the Captain said: “Stop shredding your dignity and your feelings against his silence.” What helped me during those dark times was to tell myself a variety of possible stories/explanations like ‘maybe there was a car crash on his way to pick up a ring, maybe he’s an asshole, maybe he fell in love with someone else and felt like he couldn’t tell me…’ but the two hardest things to admit were that *I may never know* and that I was, in fact, shredding my dignity like the Captain described and I lost a lot of friends over that alone. I hope you can engage in the very best of self care and give yourself permission to write your own ending to the story with him.

  51. Vicki said:

    I suspect that the information you already have–he’s not dead, but for some reason doesn’t want to talk to you anymore–is as much closure as you’re going to get.

    It doesn’t feel like a lot, but it’s something: this person you care(d?) about is still alive and more-or-less well. He has broken up with you, however awkwardly. He might or might not be able to state his reasons, but that’s between him and whoever he is confiding in now: what you know is that he was the wrong person for you, and didn’t treat you in the way you wanted and needed.

  52. I’ve had someone disappear on me too. It’s weird, and sad. And sometimes, they come back and act like nothing had happened. Which is why I’m writing this comment because I worry this may happen to you. If he does this (I know part of you wants him to come back still but would you ever be able to trust him again? I know I wouldn’t!) then make it so, by then, you have already ended the relationship in your mind and heart, and put it into the ‘mourning a good friendship and relationship’ category. Then he will be less able to mess you around emotionally if he does come back.

    I would recommend you make an anonymous blog, give him a codename, and every time you want to write to him instead write a post addressed to [codename] on your blog.

  53. Dear LW,

    I’ve read some of the replies and note that you have stopped contacting him. That’s really good!

    It feels lousy for a while, but does get better.

    I think that you’ll find your life develops more texture and richness as you finally leave behind the boy you had a crush on in high school.

    It is wonderful to have a friend or lover who has always known you, but it’s also wonderful to expand your life to include new loves.

    Along with other commenters, I think that seeing a therapist to work on coping strategies for the manic times, and maybe to explore medication, could be very helpful.

    LW, I’m sorry you’re having a rough time. I firmly believe that your life will improve lots, and in the meantime, Jedi hugs if you want them.

    • OP is Sad said:

      Don’t worry. I’M all medicated up and I REALLY need to talk to my shrink about this on Thursday. 🙂

      • Glad to hear it!

      • Also, one other thing: this would have happened with him no matter what. By which I mean that at some point his response would be withdrawal, and he’d completely ignore the contact you need.

        So you continue to work with yourself and your friends and your shrink on your awesomeness.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        Oh good!
        This is the kind of experience that is a treasure trove of personal insight and understanding, if you’re willing to mine it.

        Forgive yourself, learn, and be free of this. You’ve got this, girl!

        jedi hugs, if acceptable.

    • Kate Monster said:

      Mrs Morely, I’m not the OP but loved this reply. Like you just invited her over for an empathetic, grandparental cup of tea. Like you were Mr. Rogers and just invited her to be your neighbor. It warmed my soul.

      • Thank you! That’s really nice to hear.

  54. Helen Huntingdon said:

    OP, based on your letter, it sounds like he thought you two broke up during that fight.

    Given that, your attempts to contact him as though you hadn’t broken up, followed by the extreme escalation of attempts to contact, would have been deeply frightening. Under those kinds of circumstances, the gold-standard advice is not to respond at all to the person attempting to force contact.

    One time an SO and I had what should have been a minor disagreement, but he used tactics that to me were 1) verbal abuse, and 2) completely different from how he’d ever spoken to me before, so I was deeply shocked. I was also adamantly clear that this behavior was unacceptable, and that if he was going to hold it as acceptable, we were done. He didn’t back down, so as far as I could see, we were done.

    I was pretty hurt, but I realized the relationship must have really dwindled in importance to him if he was willing to hold out for treating me badly as a condition of keeping the relationship, so I was fairly philosophical about it.

    He was later astonished to find out I thought we had broken up. He thought we had a minor fight, and that his behavior had not been out of the ordinary. He was horrified that from my perspective, he had dumped me rather than give up the right to verbally abuse me. I was pretty surprised that he was surprised, because the words were there in the written record that this was a relationship-ending issue.

    I can’t help wondering if something similar happened here. That’s what it sounds like, based on your letter.

    • CommanderBanana said:

      THIS.

      I dated a guy for a few months whose MO (learned, I am sure, from watching his mother’s extremely dysfunctional relationships/marriages implode over the years) when we had a disagreement was to go ballistic, threaten to leave, yell things like “well if you won’t X, Y, or Z, I’ll LEAVE” and then dramatically march out the door (usually to return a few moments later).

      I was supposed to magically understand that when he threatened to leave/left/said we were done, he didn’t really MEAN it, and I should know what he MEANT, instead of paying attention to what he actually said or did.

      It is probably not surprising that that relationship did not last long. I am a pretty literal-minded person and tend to take what people say at face value, so if you’re telling me it’s over, it’s over, right?

      I remember talking to a friend about this and being completely blown away when she told me that her boyfriend did the same things, but she “knew he didn’t mean it” and “that’s just how they fight.”

      Maybe so, but that is not something I can live with, nor can I have a relationship with someone who thinks that every disagreement = WE MUST END IT because they don’t actually know how to disagree with someone without pulling the nuclear option.

    • Paulina said:

      Given the history this guy has of jerking the OP around (prior not-really-a-relationship-maybe well-he-hadn’t-said-exclusive while he was seeing someone else unbeknownst to the OP; having the OP do what looks like all the effort of getting together), I’d go less for “he took the fight as a breakup” and more him cutting and running because he wasn’t really interested in doing the work of the relationship. Whether that ghosting would have been temporary if not for the flood of texts, who knows, but the overall sense I get is that even if the relationship had resumed, the OP would have been on uncertain footing. He may even have picked the fight to push her away. Silence can be self-preservation, but it can also be a potent tactic:it allows people to both avoid the breakup conversation and try to come back later without having a discussion about what happened.

      I don’t think the OP needs to worry that she scared him off, or somehow earned the ghosting.

    • I’ve had a similar situation. In my case it was a reasonably casual thing, but he literally said the words “I don’t want to be your boyfriend”, and I assumed, I think reasonably, that things were over. I said “Oh! Okay.” because it really was a very casual thing, and I wasn’t going to try to talk him into being with me. I found out later he thought he’d just been telling me how he felt! He didn’t want to break up, and I just disappeared! It was so hurtful and confusing! But dude, if you express a feeling and use breakup language, you really can’t blame someone for listening to what you said.

      • BigdogLittlecat said:

        Wha–? Did he think being Boyfriend is like being King? You might not *want* to be the king, but if you’re the king, you’re the king.

        My inner dog is tilting her head so hard it’s making our neck hurt.

    • piny1 said:

      This kind of speculation strikes me as really, really, really unhelpful.

      Look: LW does not indicate that anything like this happened. They do not mention any ultimatums or any language like, “We’re done,” or “This is over,” or “This isn’t working for me,” or “I can’t put up with this” or anything that implies a desire to cut off contact. They don’t even remember the fight as being particularly severe.

      And I suspect that, if there were anything to foreshadow this freezeout, we would have heard about it. Probably in inflated terms, because I suspect that LW has spent the past few weeks poring over every interaction they ever had for the tiniest, most negligible clue to his motives.

      I think these comparisons to situations that are distinct in crucial ways – actual abuse and/or criminal stalking, elaborate ruses including faking one’s own death, the possibility that he actually broke up with her in as many words but she somehow didn’t notice (?!?) – are not relevant or constructive. They turn a very simple series of events entailing one very straightforward response into some sprawling Choose Your Own Emotional Hellscape through which LW can wander for all eternity. I think she needs that like a hole in the head right now.

      It also constitutes a lot of second-guessing at a really deep level – like, up to and including the implication that she’s lying about some facts that would pretty significantly impact our sense of all this – and I really don’t see why that’s necessary or helpful, either. Especially for someone who just won an all-expense-paid trip to Paranoid Bitch Island (“Velociraptors? We Got ‘Em!”) courtesy of a guy who couldn’t be relied on to send a four-word text to mark the end of a twenty-year friend/fuckship. He had his chance to explain himself, and he didn’t.

  55. RSVP said:

    It’s time to let him go. Really. Surely there are other men out there that have expressed interest in you? Is it possible you passed up a chance with another man because you were still holding onto the fantasy of being with him? The fact that you didn’t “consummate” your relationship until fairly recently tells you that he has never really been interested.

  56. Theaz said:

    LW this has also happened to me. One thing I would say is it is really difficult and tempting, especially if you run to the obsessive and anxious as I do and it sounds like maybe you do to, to get caught in the “WHAT IF WHY” piece of it. If only he had ended it properly, if only I had information, if only there were reasons etc. it wouldn’t feel like this… I think it’s important to push against that as much as possible – I felt like it would have made an enormous difference and changed everything about the way the breakup was happening. But the reality is it it might feel different if you’d had one more clear conversation but only slightly. If he sat you down and said “I’m sorry, it feels wrong, it’s over” it would still make no sense based on the way you feel, leave you with a million questions because your view of things is so different. It would still feel like a devastating hole in your heart. My experience was that it was a little easier to get suspended in denial longer because of the lack of closure (why is this happening? I am so confused, if only I just had one more piece of information, if only I just got one more thing I would be able to deal with this better etc etc etc). You sort of have to force yourself into the next pieces of grieving. You have to be the one who says “this relationship is over because he does not want to be with me anymore and that is the only fact that matters.” Write some very final letters to him and burn them. Put them on a boat in the river. Have your friends over to drink wine and watch movies because you got broken up with. Act like the relationship is over because that is what happened but there was no one there to deliver the news and so it feels unreal.

  57. thebewilderness said:

    One of the things about people who won’t take no for an answer, or sometimes do not recognize what they are hearing is a no, is that they often expect others to be the same with regard to things they say in anger or irritation or distraction. I suspect that for many it is a family dysfunction passed down through the generations.
    One time I was at a friends greenhouse working with her on her plants and I asked her advice on a particular cultivar’s hardiness. She told me to go home and look it up, in a rather sharp manner. So I did. She called later to ask why I had left. She said she didn’t mean it and I should have known she didn’t mean it and so I should have stayed. WTF. It is way too much work to try to have a friendship, or any other kind of relationship, with a person who won’t take no for an answer and thinks you should disregard it when they say no.
    This may not be the case for the OP. It is just what came to mind when remembering the pain of broken relationships through the years.

    • akwhitney said:

      Wow. Your friend sounds like a treat. Way to treat someone who’s helping you. Good for you for leaving.

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