“You know you just got ghosted,” my BFF, Janet, informed me over a much-needed cocktail. “What we’ve got here is — sorry, friend — a dismissal. It looks like you didn’t rate a text breakup, which we thought was the worst, two years ago.”
Janet is hard.
And I was green — again.
Out of the loop in a year-and-a-half-long relationship that went belly-up, I rejoined the online dating "world of possibilities” seven months ago. One month in, I met my charming, well-mannered 55-year-old English gent (a finely-educated businessman from the posh side of the tracks), a text-enamored lover for the past five and a half months, and he seems to have had just — poof — ghosted me???
It seems he did.
But, wait! He’s 55! And our courtship was nearly six months. Does ghosting have no age — or time — limit?
It seems it doesn’t.
Scary Ghost Stories
I blame The Shape of Water. That movie lured me back into the world of the romantic, who-knows-what, open-to-it-all attitude. I couldn’t resist his love-bomb texts (that came creepily early on), the fawning, the chase. I was lapping up what I had sorely missed after my former blasé partner. And maybe that’s why I ignored the red flags — not amber but red — of a man who tends to go absent. On our first date he shared, “I want to be with someone but not be with someone at the same time — does that make sense?” It sure does now, darling.
Now that I'm an expert, here are some signals that ghosting might be on your horizon.
- Is he more comfortable on the road than in his own home?
- Does he even have a home?
- Was he an absentee spouse or parent?
- Does he talk with his kids?
- Are there living things in his home (plants, pets)? If so, does he take care of these things himself?
- How does he talk about the future? Are specific plans made with you ("Let's go ice skating this winter."), or is everything vague and nonspecific to you? ("I love ice skating.")
- Are weekend plans derailed by mysterious trips not previously mentioned? Hmm…
- Is he well trained at being a husband but doesn’t know how to “date”? This is the one that clobbered me. Watch out for it. He’ll vanish once you get comfy because it is simply — too soon.
Fall Into the Age Gap
The ghosting age-scale statute of limitations to live by, according to me:
- The age limit for ghosting should be 50 and set for a relationship of two months. Over two months and you are a 50-year-old adult, you definitely do not ghost. You talk — like the adult that you are.
- If you’ve been dating for under a month, no matter your age (from 30 to 80), it is fine to ghost. No matter how “meaningful” your texts may have been, it is nearly a one-night stand. Remember one-night stands?
You do need to add in some wiggle room with age and time, and here is why. We have to consider the difference between their actual age and what age they are acting. My 55-year-old wanted to be a 35-year-old. He felt he could ghost me any old time. And with 35-year-olds, forget it — anything goes…
- So for every 10-year difference between actual age and the age your mate is acting, add a month to the ghosting scale. It's math, people.
Grow Up or Get Out
Ghost alarms: Is dating today really the same across all age groups? Must we accept ghosting? It's good to know the signals in case it does start to happen. But later-in-life relationships carry more weight. We know what happens if we throw sand, and we know what happens if we cut a person off with no explanation — neither action is kind. Or acceptable.
And that's the point. We can — and should— expect dating partners and ourselves to be grownups after a certain stage in life. If not, get out of the damn sandbox.
Maryjane Fahey is the editor of Disrupt Aging.