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L.A. Affairs: I ghosted him before he could ghost me. Why is dating such a power struggle?

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I asked if he was seeing other people. He told me he wasn’t, but I could sense myself going on the defensive.
(Rebecca Kirby / For The Times)

I met M. on Tinder. When we matched I’d been swiping without the intention of actually meeting anyone. I’d added several sexy photos to my profile, linked the 1975’s “Love It If We Made It” and wrote a disclaimer: “Here to look at your pics and fantasize about the relationship we’ll never have.”

I’d become jaded.

I also didn’t view myself as a good catch because I was still sorting things out — like finding an apartment, establishing a career and generally figuring out my purpose in life.

But back to M. For our first date I met him at his apartment in North Hollywood and we drove to Iroha Sushi in Studio City. I remember one of my friends cautioned me, “Don’t meet at his apartment! You’ll never make it to the restaurant.” But M. seemed different. He was waiting for me in the lobby and greeted me with a Tom Ford cologne-scented hug. “You hungry?” he asked as we walked through the garage to his black Lexus coupe. He was from Israel and spoke with an accent. He wore a red-and-black-checkered flannel, a T-shirt cut low enough to reveal some modest chest hair, and black Vans.

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Over dinner we talked about his mandatory three years in the Israeli army, his family and his two-year marriage that ended in divorce a year earlier. Things were going well, so we continued the date at El Tejano for drinks before heading back to his place. We hooked up but I didn’t sleep over — ironically that was too intimate for me.

As he’d requested, I texted him when I got home and he said, “Next time you should stay.”

“I should,” I replied, making a point to be neutral and noncommittal.

I’d had a great time but didn’t feel a spark. Or maybe I was just used to these things not going anywhere.

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But the next day he reached out to me. He gave me text play-by-plays of his day, complete with pictures of his breakfast spread and a video-pan of the scene of a pool party at the Hollywood Roosevelt. He asked if he could pick me up on his way home. (I said yes because I’d been going through a dry spell before our date and welcomed the new sex.)

He drove me to work that night after we hung out at his place. During the drive we bonded over our similar taste in music while he held my hand. After he dropped me off he continued to text me until he went to sleep. He told me to call him when I woke up. This became a regular thing — us saying good morning and keeping in touch throughout our days.

I kept waiting for him to be a jerk or inconsiderate, but the moment never came. I couldn’t believe I’d finally met someone and we were hitting it off.

Things were going so well it started to give me anxiety.

It felt too good to be true.

I started doubting how worthy I was of M’s attention and affection. I made a conscious effort to stop these thoughts as soon as they came up. I repeated mantras affirming that I deserved to be happy. Another thing I grappled with was how balanced his life was. He divided his time among working, hanging out with friends, being with family and pursuing personal hobbies.

At one point we went 10 days without seeing each other because of his full schedule. It frustrated me, but I also recognized that it was a good thing he didn’t center his world around a romantic relationship. I could learn from that, I thought.

Things got weird when I noticed he’d added a picture to his Tinder profile. We’d been dating about a month. And yes, I was still on the app but I wasn’t actively using it.

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Instead of confronting him outright about the photo, I asked if he was seeing other people. He told me he wasn’t, but I could sense myself going on the defensive.

I started to pay attention to how long it took for him to text back, how often he called me gorgeous or beautiful, and how much time he dedicated to me. One day I noticed — via iPhone’s “read receipt” feature — that he’d opened my iMessage but didn’t reply for three hours. I felt frustrated. I waited until the following afternoon to respond.

I started to feel distance swelling between us.

The final straw was when I could see he was active on Instagram before replying to a text conversation he’d started with me over an hour earlier. Why was he putting social media before me?

When he finally texted me asking, “How are you?” I didn’t reply. I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to leave me on “read.”

At first I felt really strong and empowered, like I was taking my power back and protecting my heart. As the days went on, though, he didn’t follow up to see why I’d gone silent.

I wished I’d been mature enough to flat out ask him if he was losing interest in me. Instead, I just felt sad and empty.

Truth is, I hate the power struggle that so often comes with online dating.

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I may have ghosted him before he ghosted me, but I didn’t win.

The author writes the blog MindBodySex.com, and you can find her on Instagram @TheAshleighGray

Straight, gay, bisexual, transgender or nonbinary: L.A. Affairs chronicles the search for love in and around Los Angeles — and we want to hear your story. You must allow your name to be published, and the story you tell has to be true. We pay $300 for each essay we publish. Email us at LAAffairs@latimes.com. You can find submission guidelines here.


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