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These tactics of maintaining unclear relationships and prolonging breakups all produce what I call stable ambiguity. This means you're afraid to be alone but unwilling to fully engage in intimacy building — a holding pattern that affirms the undefined nature of the relationship, which has a mix of comforting consistency AND the freedom of blurred lines.
We want to have our cake and eat it, too. We want to have someone available to cozy up with when it’s snowing, but if something better comes along, we want the freedom to explore.
In this relationship culture, expectations and trust are in constant question. The state of stable ambiguity inevitably creates an atmosphere in which at least one person feels lingering uncertainty, and neither person feels truly appreciated or nurtured. We do this at the expense of our emotional health, and the emotional health of others.
It’s time to bring back relationship accountability.
In situations like Edward’s, the ghostee hopes the ghosted will just “get the hint,” as opposed to having to communicate that he/she is no longer interested. However, inaction has causality. At first, Edward runs the gamut of reasons he hasn’t heard back: She must be having a really busy work week. She lost her phone. She doesn’t want to seem too eager.
At first, relaxed and patient, Edward tries to be understanding, but his attempts at insight soon morph into uncertainty and self-doubt. Am I bad in bed? Did I say something to offend her? Am I unlovable? In the absence of information, he will fill the gaps, and what he imagines is most likely worse than reality.
Ghosting, icing, and simmering are manifestations of the decline of empathy in our society — the promoting of one’s selfishness, without regard for the consequences to others. There is a person on the other end of our text messages (or lack thereof), and the ability to communicate virtually doesn’t give us the right to treat others poorly.
I encourage you to end relationships respectfully and conclusively, however brief they may be. Act with kindness and integrity. This allows both people to enter into their next relationships with more experience and a clear head rather than filled with disappointment and insecurity.
Here are a few ideas the other person would appreciate you addressing in a final conversation: