There’s a new way to break up with a significant other. It’s called “ghosting,” and essentially it involves disappearing from the person’s life suddenly and without explanation.
I said it was “a new way,” but it’s really not new at all. The only thing new about it is the number of electronic ways in which we connect these days, and therefore the number of electronic ways in which the “ghoster” manages to simultaneously shut off communication. And I’m not just talking about someone with whom a person’s had a date or two; we’re talking about an actual relationship here.
I think a person who’s breaking up with someone owes the other person an actual explanation, however short—preferably face-to-face, but on the phone or even by letter (or the lowest of the low, email, if all else fails) will do. It’s what used to be called common courtesy. Those who ghost can rationalize it all they want (and they will, they will), but they are selfish and/or cowards, and what they’re doing is more cruel than a more upfront severing of bonds.
But, as I said, it’s hardly new, and it’s always a nightmare for the one left behind without a word.
When I was quite young I read a collection of short stories by Shirley Jackson. You may remember her most famous story “The Lottery” (the title selection), but another one that made an even deeper impression on me was “The Daemon Lover.”
And presto!—here we have it. It still sends a shiver down my spine—several shivers, actually. Note that in the story it remains unclear what really happened, and what was in her mind.