Just as I was about to swear off dating forever, I met a (seemingly) great guy. It wasn’t fireworks and butterflies, but we were really compatible and got on like a house on fire, so I was excited. I wasn’t looking to jump straight into a long-term relationship. I was just happy to take my time and get to know him. Unfortunately, that process got cut short when I became a victim of soft ghosting.
What is soft ghosting?
While “normal” ghosting implies a complete lack of respect and consideration, soft ghosting is for those with some semblance of a conscience. They would feel guilty for disappearing from your life without a word, but they’re also not interested in having a relationship with you. Instead, they’ll stay in touch, but you’ll quickly start to notice that things aren’t quite the same.
As Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn, told Cosmopolitan, soft ghosting isn’t quick and brutal. Instead, it’s a gradual process in which communication slowly but surely reduces. For example, they used to comment on all of your Instagram Stories without fail. However, that slowly begins to transition to only the occasional ‘like’ or emoji before they eventually stop reacting at all. It lacks the harshness of ghosting, but it can be just as painful.
What happened when I got soft ghosted
Things were going pretty well with the guy. We went out a handful of times and kept in touch via WhatsApp and Instagram DMs when we weren’t hanging out. We had been dating for about two months, and while we were both happy to keep things casual still, it seemed obvious (to me at least!) that we were potentially building something great.
We were both busy but always made time to see each other. Even if we only got to go out once a week, we always made time in our schedules to get together face-to-face. We both had a lot going on at work and in our personal lives — he was training for a half-marathon and I was taking night classes at the local community college — but that never made a difference. We liked each other, so we made an effort.
He suddenly seemed distant. He would go hours or even a day or more without answering my texts sometimes even though I could see that he saw the messages and was online. Then, he canceled our weekend date a couple of weeks in a row. Because I had no idea that soft ghosting was a thing, I initially worried that he’d met someone else or that I’d done something wrong to piss him off.
I did the unthinkable: I asked him what was up. Sure, that wasn’t the coolest move in the book, but I don’t have time to waste and I like to be direct. He immediately apologized for being distant and said things were just hectic at the moment. He said his crazy schedule was getting on top of him but he would do better.
He did start texting again regularly. He would occasionally forward me a meme every now and then or ask me how work was. For a little while, I thought things had gone back to normal with us. However, if I was honest with myself, it wasn’t quite the same. His messages were shorter and more infrequent, which I wrote off as him being busy.
He never wanted to hang out. The weird thing was that, even though he was texting again, he never wanted to go on our weekend dates. He literally never asked to get together anymore. And even worse, when I’d mention something fun going on over the weekend that he might like to do together, he would totally blank me. Suddenly, he would stop texting back for ages. When enough time had passed in his mind, he would message again about something completely unrelated. He didn’t even acknowledge my invitations to hang out.
Eventually, he stopped initiating contact. He wasn’t rude and would eventually answer my texts if I messaged him, but only if I reached out first. When he did respond to me, it was always something like “lol” or “i know, right” — the great conversations we used to have were just gone and they weren’t coming back.
I stopped messaging him. I’m not desperate and I’m not a fool, so I decided to back off. I figured that might make him miss me and realize that he had to put in the effort. However, that wasn’t the case. In reality, it seemed to be the opening he needed to cut me off completely. About a week later, he unfollowed me on Instagram and I could never see him online on WhatsApp anymore. I literally never heard another word from him again. I was the victim of soft ghosting and it seriously sucked.
Why it’s so much worse than regular ghosting
It makes you super paranoid. When you’ve been ghosted, there’s no question about how the other person feels. They clearly weren’t interested in you and don’t want to be with you, which is why they exited your life without a word. With soft ghosting, however, they’re still kind of there, so you don’t know if they just have other stuff going on at the moment or what’s going on. Plus,
It wastes your time. At least when someone cuts you off, you know it’s over. With soft ghosting, you’re just hanging on in case they really are still interested and you’re overreacting. I literally wasted an extra month or two with this guy because he insisted that he still liked me and was just overwhelmed with life stuff. He should have just told me it was a no-go so I could have moved on.
It erodes your ability to trust. When I date a guy, I want to be able to take what he tells me at face value. I don’t want to have to wonder if he actually means it or if he’s full of s**t. Granted, women already have to do this plenty in the dating world, but this just adds to it and I’m not feeling it.