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What To Do When He Reappears After Disappearing


If there’s any silver lining to being single in 2019, it’s keeping up with the seemingly endless list of dating terms:

Benching: The dating equivalent of being sidelined on a sports team, left on the bench as a reserve or back-up option.

Cuffing Season: A strictly seasonal and mutually beneficial relationship that occurs between fall and winter when people shack up to ward off loneliness.

Freckling: A summer fling.

Kitten Fishing: Catfish lite or Catfish’s younger, more innocent, yet still deceitful sibling. You use very outdated profile pics, say you’re 6 feet tall when you’re actually 5 foot 10 or list “lawyer” as your profession when you’re actually a law student.

Phubbing: Phone snubbing. When your date pays more attention to their phone than you.

For some, this might be new terminology, for others maybe not, but one term most can probably agree to having encountered is “ghosting”. Whether it’s a friend, a job opportunity, or a potential date, chances are you have either been ghosted by someone or been the one to do the ghosting. If you are unfamiliar or fortunate enough to solely socialize with empathetic, emotionally mature people, then let me enlighten you to the “Irish goodbye” of the cybersphere: Ghosting.

One example is if you have ever matched with someone on a dating app, had pleasant banter and then abruptly never heard from them again, this is called being ghosted; or if you’ve ever ceased responding to someone in hopes they will “get the hint" as opposed to saying you’re just not interested, this is considered ghosting.

To be fair, ghosting is a very desirable way to handle undesirable conversations, or in some cases, confrontations. As oxymoronic as it sounds and considering that informal communication is the new norm, it’s no wonder “ghosting” has become a completely acceptable form of … well, communication. As one can imagine, ghosting leaves a lot up for interpretation, so it becomes equally as confusing when you encounter the other end of the spectrum—old flames that come out of the woodwork. Initially, I referred to this as “reappearing”, until I learned a whole host of existing terminology for this behavior.

Zombieing: Someone who resurfaces after ghosting you but acts like nothing happened, or creepily re-follows you, randomly replies to your IG story, or texts a seemingly harmless yet totally unnecessary “Hey.”

Marleying: When an ex hits you up over the holidays just like Jacob Marley’s ghost haunted Scrooge in the movie “A Christmas Carol”.

Submarining: An ex that goes dark for extended periods of time then pops up, out of nowhere, without an explanation, and then gaslights you into believing you’re strange for questioning this kind behavior.

Haunting: The not-so-subtle spy tactic, when an ex creeps on your IG stories and likes your posts, but makes zero moves to reconnect.

Orbiting: Unique to the social media era, orbiting is digitally observing and keeping tabs on a love interest, or an ex, without any intention of real-world interactions.

I’ve experienced this with old flames who conveniently reappear after epic stretches of radio silence. These men range from exes to high school crushes to Bumble dates to first loves. Some can be particularly persistent, and in their defense, in my younger, less wise years, I certainly gave in and met up with them only to be profoundly disappointed not only in the date itself but also myself!

Why is it so hard to trust my gut on someone or accept that we just aren’t a good match? Fear of being seen as bitter? Fear of getting it wrong? If there’s anything I’ve finally learned, it’s that when someone shows you who they are, believe them.

I decided to ask some friends about their approach to individuals who have reappeared in their lives after going MIA. Here’s what they had to say,

“I think haunting can go both ways. I recently noticed that throughout my adult dating life, there are a couple of dudes who resurface randomly. These are guys I maybe went on a couple of dates with, but nothing really happened. Sometimes they will randomly reach out and when I’m single, I tend to respond and indulge the attention. Even sometimes letting weeks pass and then I will randomly reach out to them, because I’m lonely, ugh.

So at times, I’m just as guilty. I also indulge in this knowing full well, I don’t have any intention of meeting up with them. Probably because I know there’s nothing I truly want to pursue there. I’ve made a concerted effort to end this communication because it wasn’t making me feel good. I didn’t like what these guys were doing and I didn’t like what I was doing.” - Alexa in Los Angeles, California, 34-years-old

“I had a situation with an ex who did not take the break-up well, but then reached out a couple of months later wanting to hang out as friends. Both times we hung out, he would ask to get back together.

Eventually, we both made the decision to let more time pass before seeing each other again. Six months later we coincidentally happened to be traveling to the same city and actually had a wonderful coffee date as actual friends.” - Paige in Manhattan, New York, 28-years-old

“I realized I was more nostalgic about who I was with the person than who they were. And also that I am nostalgic for a time in my life that, were I to return, I would feel claustrophobic because I’ve outgrown it.

Like when parents are like, ‘Aww, you used to love reading that book, why don’t you still read it?’ and it’s like, ‘Well, I’m no longer eight-years-old.’ Some books (and people) are good for a point in time in one’s life. Foundational, even. But they serve a purpose. I just have to stop seeing them, cut all ties and move on.” - Harper in Austin, Texas 38-years-old

“I saved a screenshot of an email my ex sent to a girl he met in Vegas (while we were dating) that he loved her. If I ever started feeling sad about him with our mutual friends I would pull it up and look at it. My sadness would then turn into motivation to never be with a loser like that again.

I feel like I am not a ‘let’s be friends post-breakup’ kind of gal. I’m more of an ‘I’m going to have all my friends and family hunt you down so I never see you kind of gal’. #Mature.” - Charlotte in Hanover, New Hampshire, 32-years-old

“In general, I’ve noticed the easiest way to vault a relationship is by giving or receiving career advice.” - Sophie in Brooklyn, New York, 30-years-old

“I ask myself if this were just a regular acquaintance, would I be responding to each and every text immediately or feeling guilty about not joining in on a dinner? The answer usually is no. I am close to a bunch of friends who I will text back days later and or cancel on without guilt (I’m not a monster, I give advance notice).

So I force myself to treat the ex the same way, and after a point, by treating them as friends in action, they become friends in emotion. Like, actions infirm emotion or whatever.” - Alina in Nashville, Tennessee, 36-years-old

“I had a guy ghost me once we talked about me moving away. Understandable, I suppose. But like a month ago, he followed me on IG and likes my stuff, watches all my stories. It’s annoying so I followed him back with the intent to ask wtf he’s doing but then I decided it would be best to just leave it alone and not let it bother me.” - Mariah in Los Angeles, California, 27-years-old

“He didn’t ghost me, but he broke up with me pretty suddenly after he had taken me to his hometown the week before and showed me around, which he said he never had done with a girlfriend before.

After a month, he started booty calling me a few times which I gave into because I was still not over him, but strangely, it actually helped me get over him because each time we hung out, he became less and less impressive. Things just fizzled out after that.” - Kendall in San Diego, California, 31-years-old

“Ghosting is cowardly, selfish, and cruel. I learned that no answer is an answer the hard way, you certainly can’t rely on them for closure or anything else for that matter! People who treat other people like that are trash, keep far far away.” - Nina in Miami, Florida, 35-years-old

“My college relationship was my first big love. I had the hardest time getting over our breakup. Ultimately, I could not trust him. A couple of years later I bumped into him and I froze and bolted. He texted me saying how much he missed me, etc. I knew he was dating someone new but still responded in a flirtatious way.

The next day, after some hungover reflecting, I realized he had the ability to make me a person I wasn't proud of ... even if we weren't dating. Since when did I become someone who couldn't say hello? It made me sick that I was sending him texts that would hurt the new person he was dating, I knew that feeling. I’d love to say that I can be friends with my exes, but I know it’s just healthier for me not to be in contact.

I did make a promise to myself that I would suck it up and say hi if we bumped into each other again ... and not have too many drinks while doing so, because we all know what kind of disaster that can be!” - Laurel in Chicago, Illinois, 32-years-old

I wish there was a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with complicated feelings, but that’s obviously just not the case. Personally, I think dating apps and the social media era we live in cater to our default of being indirect. Daily scrolling can become a test in discipline and self-control rather than just casually keeping up with friends.

In the past, I used ghosting a lot because I didn’t trust that what I felt was really valid, or that I could handle what someone might say to me in return. So, every time the person resurfaced it was an exercise in stuffing my feelings even further.

I don’t know if it’s maturity or experience, maybe a combination of both, but for me, learning to express how I feel has gone far beyond what I thought I was initially trying to do—make the other person take responsibility for something they did to me. I’ve found that it’s really about me taking responsibility for me and how I feel. When I am direct with someone about my wants, needs, and boundaries, it gives me confidence in myself.