Relationship Accountability

Ghosting, icing, simmering and other names for bastardry

Past generations did not have so many names for shitful behaviour. Maybe ghosting existed, but without smartphones and the expectations around keeping in touch 24/7, it was more of a slow fade.

These days we have a veritable tsunami of names of how to behave badly when it comes to our interpersonal, ‘romantic’ relationships. This is my shorthand way of saying relationships that involve ‘more than friendship’, although friends can choose the slow fade as well, but it’s not as pervasive.

In my Glossary, I have a useful collection of terms in case you want to brush up on your online dating lingo. Of course, these behaviours are not limited to dating that originated from an online dating source (eg most modern dating), but they are extremely common behaviours where there aren’t other connections like mutual friendships, community, work or family to help keep people accountable.

This post was inspired by one from Confessions of a Reformed Cad, which reminded me that modern dating behaviours need to come with a users’ manual and a regular, no-kid-gloves reminder of what they mean. Stories that people tell about their dating experiences are littered with these unethical and abusive behaviours.

Some of the names for these modern-day behaviours, in addition to the ones I’ve already mentioned, are benching, bread-crumbing, catch and release, monkeying, layby, and zombie-ing.

At their heart, each of these behaviours is a form of emotional cowardice. Some might call it a dislike of hurting someone else or being the bearer of bad news, but the other – less palatable side – is a lack of empathy or consideration for someone else’s feelings or lived experience. Some people just don’t care about the effects of their behaviour. They can justify it as ‘being too busy’, ‘not really being into them’, or it being ‘all too hard’.

As Esther Perel says, “In this relationship culture, expectations and trust are in constant question. The state of stable ambiguity inevitably creates an atmosphere where 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.”

If you consider the row in the table that gives examples of typical text messages according to relationship accountability I’m certain that you’ll have experienced all of these if you’re seriously giving online dating a go. Just reading those examples brings back uncomfortable memories of when this has been done to me, not because I was necessarily emotionally invested in the person, but because it’s game playing and dishonest. It leaves you ‘not really knowing’ where you stand; it sucks your confidence and if, like me, you’re a generous person who believes in giving people the benefit of the doubt, it leaves you feeling tricked or abused.

More than once I’ve walked away from ‘textationships’  that repeat patterns of building and then dashing hopes  – plans for meeting, plans for sex, plans for dating … plans that involve actual commitment to a time and place. Making a decision and sticking to it seems to be a rare combination sometimes!

Cad says, “I’ve come to realize nearly everything that goes wrong in a relationship can be addressed simply with vulnerability and a change in the angle of approach. I firmly believe now, that if I had better skills when I was younger, I would still have a loving marriage with my ex-wife.”

Wise words indeed from someone who is not afraid to ‘do the work’ and take a good, hard look at their own behaviour and culpability – something so many of us are afraid to do.

Esther Perel believes that ghosting and behaviours of the same ilk are “manifestations of the decline of empathy in our society — the promoting of one’s selfishness, without regard for the consequences of 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.”

Wherever you may sit on the spectrum of relationship accountability, acting passively (or passive-aggressively) and hoping someone will ‘get the hint’ is not a responsible or ethical choice. It’s not easy sometimes, and I know I haven’t always been perfect in the past, but it’s the right thing to do. By recognising others as worthy of the same honesty and compassion that we ourselves seek, we are acting true to our own moral frameworks as well as ‘creating positive vibes’ in the world around us. If you want to read any of my past stories about ghosting, these are a good place to start.

Whatever your relationship status...

Expectations in online dating and the risks of addiction

Another online dating adventure – Ian the octopus

Digital landmines – people don’t treat people like humans anymore

What should I do when the guy I like ghosts on me?

Solstice or festive greetings to you all!

What We Deserve

The search for a significant other occupies the minds and lives of so many people around the globe.

I guess it’s natural for single or restless adults of all ages – the animal desire to mate, breed or create a life together sometimes combined with the very human need for companionship, intimacy and shared goals, even if it’s the yearning for happiness.

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I read so many depressing blogs and articles about modern dating. People ghosting, the endless inane text ‘conversations’, the lukewarm arrangements that never come to fruition, the one-off disjointed sex dates that signal a fresh absence. The abject bad behavior, rudeness and lack of respect.

To be honest, from the vantage point of three months into a blissfully happy, committed relationship, these glimpses into other people’s lives – what my life used to be like – scare me.

I don’t want to go back to that, the toughening of my hide. I don’t want to face up to yet another guy I met on a dating site to make small talk, and try to see where he’s coming from, what he really wants. Trying to guess the subtext or the hidden messages – what he’s not saying. Trying to figure out whether he’s genuinely into me, or just wants a fuck. A clumsy, inarticulate encounter that leaves me hollow and alone.

From the other side of the bunker, I’ve realised how meaningless and unsatisfying it is for me to ‘do’ casual sex. After a long, long monogamous marriage I’d embraced the idea of sex with strangers, sex with anyone – even if I didn’t find them 100% attractive. If they met certain standards and were keen to please me and find a connection, I’d give it a go as long as the signals and opportunities aligned. After reaching mid-life with just one partner, I’d wanted to experience what I’d missed. This is almost a modern cliché these days.

I’d accepted and tolerated more than two years of sex with a much younger partner who unintentionally hurt me, didn’t listen to my needs and who objectified me into the body parts he most wanted.

I’d reveled in and thoroughly enjoyed what I’d thought of as regular, mind-blowing sex with a younger, ‘ugly’ lover, someone who ticked many boxes but ultimately left me cold. I’d thought that those orgasms were the best of my life, that his skill and dedication to my pleasure could never be matched.

All this was part of my preparation for the relationship with the person I see as My Forever Man. This is the relationship I have earned, through hard work, dedication and some fairy dust – the magical unknown that enters our life to wreak havoc or create harmonious bliss.

I am now having the best sex of my life, but it’s combined with intense love, adoration, respect and not only commitment, but a genuine desire to make me happy.

I’d like to inject a little positivity and hope into the morass of fears, frustration and miscommunication that populates the dating world online.

All your dreams can, and do, come true. I just don’t know your recipe, because mine was written for me alone. It was the culmination of many decades of living and learning, of heartbreak, experimentation, laughter, connection, loss, confusion and pain.

So I’m reaping the rewards now. I tell myself that I will never be complacent, never take him for granted, never stop showing him my affection and respect… my gratitude, my adoration, my lust.

I know we’re in the honeymoon period, and I’d be inhuman if I didn’t want this to last forever. I deserve this sublime happiness – and so do you.