Q. I broke up with my partner five months ago. It wasn’t a heated breakup; we were both just very stressed and we grated on each other. I moved out with no argument from him. Truth was, we were not suited for one another, but I still miss him and he won’t talk to me. I’ve emailed, called and texted. The only response I get is when he returns something that I left behind telling me it’s on the front porch. I don’t know what to do. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. It sounds as if you have made all the usual overtures to communicate with him and if you are not getting a response, it’s a pretty good sign he’s not interested. You could tell yourself that the impulsive way you moved out hurt him so badly that he just can’t talk to you, but that’s usually something you say to yourself to make yourself feel better. It’s more likely he just wants to move on. That’s usually what ghosting means.
For the record, I think ghosting is a lazy person’s way to let someone know you aren’t interested. You don’t have to look at the person or give them a reason. You just stop returning calls, emails or texts. Ironically, it usually works. The person eventually gets the hint and leaves you alone, but it’s still hurtful.
The rules of good ex-etiquette were put in place years ago to help guide people through the process of breaking up and interacting with an ex when necessary. Ghosting in no way follows the rules of good ex-etiquette. You aren’t being honest and straight forward (ex-etiquette rule #8) or empathetic (ex-etiquette rule # 7) and if the ghosting behavior is based on a grudge or spitefulness, that’s breaking rules 5 and 6. There are simply more stand-up ways to handle a breakup, starting with just owning that you are no longer interested and saying so.
I realize that tactic is old school. Most everyone communicates using some sort of technology, but if you were once close to someone, it just seems like they deserve more respect than a ghosting break-up or even a break-up over text. As a matter of fact, ex-etiquette rule #9 is all about offering your ex that kind of respect.
To address your problem directly, couples often break up, reassess their decision and reconcile, but you admitted that you were not suited for one another so it’s doubtful that’s what’s happening here. If someone wants to be with you, they will let you know. He knows how you feel. The best thing you can do is move on, cultivate your own interests and if you hear from him down the road and you’re still interested, make a concerted effort to work together to improve how you handle stress in the future.
All relationships teach us something. Do some soul searching. Consider what you will do differently next time. That’s good ex-etiquette.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at email@example.com.)