This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack.
I’ve been ghosted. Tale as old as time, I know. But my goodness, does it feel like a building has fallen down right over my heart all the same.
We met last year, mid-pandemic. I am what you call a chronically single, anxiety-ridden mess. I couldn’t believe my luck when we met. It was completely unplanned, via a mutual friend. We hit it off from the very first moment. Our entire relationship was bit for bit what I had been manifesting for myself for years.
We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s together. I fell hard. I genuinely didn’t know I could still have these feelings. I even worked through a lot of the overwhelming emotions I experienced with my therapist so I didn’t make the same mistakes with him that I had with others. I felt ready for love.
Just a few weeks ago, we talked about moving to New Zealand together. We looked up farmland and decided to adopt goats to run around our kitchen. We’ve been physically separated for a few months because I had to visit my family and got stuck here, but our connection never faltered. Or so I thought.
The last two months, my mental health has flagged. I felt like I wasn’t getting enough support from him. We spoke about it and he was very apologetic and understanding and loving.
The day after, he stopped responding.
It’s been three weeks now, and not a single word. I called, I texted, I tried everything. I checked his Instagram to make sure he was still alive, and he seems to be living his life like normal, as if I never even existed.
I don’t know if I should move on or keep holding onto the hope he’ll come back. I cried the first two weeks, and now I just feel very numb and very small.
Should I make one last-ditch effort, fly over and try to win him back? Should I wait and give it a few more weeks? Should I finally delete and block him everywhere and pretend none of this ever happened?
My first and, until him, only love, passed away nine years ago. After her, I hadn’t been able to open my heart up to fall in love again. This situation is feeling very similar in the worst ways. I never got closure with her either. Except with him, it’s by choice.
A Haunted Heart
To start things off, the worst thing that could happen is him coming back. It may not feel like it, but it’s true. That’s the bad outcome. This is the dirty trick our brains play when someone wounds us. For a while, especially at the beginning, we think the poison is the antidote.
It makes sense on paper. If they would just come back, apologize, and give us the perfect explanation, then, yeah. We’d probably feel a whole lot better. We don’t want to let them go. We don’t want to accept that someone we cared about could possibly injure us.
But consider this, Haunted. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who would do something like this to a person they purported to love. Could you do it?
Could you watch this person continually reach out, and could you respond with silence? Could you sleep at night knowing this person was in pain, that they were confused and scared, and that you could easily mitigate that suffering, but still choose not to?
Even if he no longer wanted to be in a relationship with you, couldn’t he have given you the grace of letting you know? The best-case scenario here is that he is merely a coward.
We could spend days, weeks, many months and many years trying to figure out what made him do this. Perhaps he was fine with the fantasy ride, happy to dream, happy to entertain the dazzling possibilities of your future together, but when you revealed yourself to be a real person with needs, he aborted.
There are people in this world, many people, who are afraid of their own wants. There are people who don’t even know what those wants are. They can’t name them. There are people who, on the cusp of actualizing those wants, retreat when they are complicated by commitments, as anything worth having is bound to be.
In the end, though, this is a labyrinth with little reward for you at its center. The long and short of it, Haunted, is that you’ve been dealt a grievous blow. Moving on will require a certain degree of mourning.
That’s not all bad news, though. I think people tend to see mourning as mere sadness. It’s the crying, the hurting, the breaking. Mourning can definitely involve those things. But it’s also a lot more active than that. It is itself a journey with peaks and valleys.
Yes, there are moments of vulnerability and sadness, but also moments where we are offered glimpses into our secret strength. Some of my most lucid realizations about life have come to me in times of grief, and I find myself greatly enhanced because of them.
You describe yourself as haunted. I can see why you might feel that way. But if the ghost is your grief, then this analogy illustrates a pretty passive relationship with it. In that scenario, you just want it to go away, to stop intruding, to have never happened in the first place.
But grief is no ghost. It’s a process. It’s not an easy one, and it asks a lot of us. Nonetheless, it demands to be undergone, lest we dwell longer than we must. Which, coincidentally, sounds much more like ghost behavior to me.
When I find myself in periods of mourning, I like to remind myself, “I’m going somewhere.” I’m not trapped. I’m not going to be hurt forever. I am undergoing a transformation, albeit fitfully. My world hasn’t stopped. I am still in motion.
I hope, Haunted, that you have good friends you can lean on right now, that you can show yourself kindness and patience, and that you don’t spend too much time drawing up reasons this person might have chosen to treat you this way.
And when you feel low, as you are all but certain to at times, I hope you remember that this feeling isn’t the destination. It’s just a part of getting there.
Con mucho amor,
Originally published on August 2, 2021.
This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, here.