The Lost Art of Honesty

An interesting article appeared in the New York Times that talked about “ghosting”. While I wasn’t familiar with this particular term I was well aware of the concept. For those who don’t know, ghosting means, “ending a romantic relationship by cutting off all contact and ignoring the former partner’s attempts to reach out”.

Unfortunately, I work with many people who have encountered this experience. They’re dating someone, either casually or somewhat seriously, and all of a sudden that person vanishes without any explanation. This unexplained disappearance happens in therapy as well when clients suddenly leave treatment. I often wonder what makes it so hard to be honest. I understand endings can be difficult. Endings can also be extremely valuable.

Why ghost someone? For many people it feels easier to leave rather than deal with a less than pleasant conversation. Confrontation isn’t top on people’s list of things to do. I can’t really blame someone for disliking conflict. Even if talking with someone directly about ending a relationship leads to an uncomfortable conversation why is that so bad? The other person might feel hurt, upset, or angry but they’re allowed to feel however they feel about the situation. Similarly, the person ghosting is allowed to end the relationship and have whatever feelings they have.

What effect does ghosting have on the other person? One problem with ghosting someone is that it ultimately sends a message of disrespect. There probably isn’t even intent behind the disrespect. Ghosting someone is saying more about the person committing the ghosting rather than the other person. Only the receiving person probably won’t see it that way. If you’ve been involved in a relationship, of any sort, with another individual you’re going to leave them with a lot of unanswered questions if you just disappear. In most cases the other person is going to blame him or herself and wonder what they did wrong.

What are some of the benefits associated with talking through an ending? Talking things through might seem like the more difficult option but it’s more beneficial for everyone. It allows both people to work on their communication skills. The person ending the relationship is able to express how they feel and explain why things aren’t going to work out. Sometimes the explanation might just be that something wasn’t right or something felt off. While the other person might not be happy, in the end they’ll respect the honesty more than the alternative option where they’re left guessing what went wrong. Both people will experience pain and hurt but this will help prepare them for their next relationship.

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