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He broke up with me by text. But I wish he had just ghosted me

Illustration of hearts that read, "Ghost me"
(Sarah Davidson / For The Times

)

I stared at the text one more time, turning my phone slightly as if reading it from a different angle would give me some kind of clarity.

Hey I’ve been thinking a lot. I’m not ready to be in a relationship again. I just never got a chance to heal from my last relationship. I tried to push it aside and move on, but it’s affecting me.

It had been three months since J. and I met on Hinge, and things were going unusually well.

After a solid two-year streak of picking emotionally unavailable guys — the ones I would catch on Tinder despite being “exclusive,” the ones who didn’t want to put a label on things after seven months, the ones who didn’t tell me they were separated but still married — J. was a refreshing change.

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I thought back to that Dodgers game we went to. It was only our third date, and he deleted Hinge in front of me without me asking him to. (And not just deleting the app off his phone; actually going into the app to deactivate it, a true knight in shining armor.)

“You really don’t have to do that,” I said, not wanting to scare him off.

“Well, I don’t need it anymore because I have you,” he replied, grabbing my hand.

We were spending three days out of each week together. It didn’t matter what it was — window shopping in Beverly Hills, walking on the pier in my hometown of Hermosa Beach, or sitting in traffic on the 110 — we just liked being with each other.

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When I told a group of girlfriends J. had been cheated on by his ex just four weeks before we’d met, they weren’t concerned.

“We can tell he likes you,” they said. “Four weeks is enough time to get over it.”

So his text came as a surprise and really didn’t make sense to me. Why did it take him three months to realize he wasn’t over his ex? Why wasn’t I enough to make him forget about her?

There were questions there that couldn’t be answered with the explanation he had given me. Which leads me to one logical conclusion: This text was total BS.

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It was clearly a lame cover-up for some other thing wrong in the relationship. Maybe I wasn’t fit enough, or maybe he didn’t like that one time I got too drunk in front of his friends. Maybe his brother didn’t like me?

I was driving to work on the 405, still thinking about it. What could be the real reason? Why would he choose to glaze over it with this mushy, polite text instead of saying what he meant? And why did I care so much? Did it even matter?

The relationship was over.

My mind kept going back to one thought, though: I wish he had just ghosted me.

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When you date someone for three whole months in your late 20s, an in-person breakup is probably warranted, or at least a phone call.

But ghosting gets a worse rap than it deserves.

As both a former ghoster and a ghostee, I find it way more merciful than a text filled with stupid excuses. It’s a clean break. It leaves breakup victims with an open-ended finality that gives them the power to fill in the blanks while providing enough fault on the other person’s end to allow everyone to move on quickly. In a sentence: “He must’ve just stopped talking to me because he didn’t really like me. What a jerk.”

By then, I’d missed my exit and was trying to get back onto the freeway somewhere near Culver City. New plan: I was getting Tito’s Tacos.

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As I waited in line at the tiny stand, my mind went back to the men I’ve ghosted. Most of them got the hint. Some of them kept sending texts, demanding my rationale for the silence. But the silence is the answer.

If I don’t care enough to even move my fingers to reply to your text, I’m not worth it anyway. There’s no uncertainty there. In that way, ghosting is a more authentic breakup than a superficial explanation in a breakup text.

It doesn’t serve me well at all to know I wasn’t enough to make you get over your cheating ex and that it took you over 20 dates to determine that, like I didn’t pass some test. That doesn’t provide me with any kind of closure, so why say anything at all?

Save me the “It’s not you, it’s me” cliches to spare my feelings. My feelings are going to be hurt during a breakup either way. Might as well cut it off so there’s no further communication to dissect and painfully analyze.

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The best kind of breakups are the ones where there are no more words left to say, whether it was your choice or not.

I got to the front of the line and the cashier asked me what I’d like to order.

“Two chicken tacos,” I say. “And do you happen to have a boyfriend for me back there too?”

He’s unsure how to reply and goes silent. I smile.

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The writer is a journalist and author of several books, including “Everyone’s Been Hacked!” and “Becoming a Networking Ninja.” She is on Instagram @danielleradinMMJ

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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