Flirting, romance, love — and ghosting. L.A. daters share their stories

Valentine's Day image
(Photo Illustration by Steven Banks Los Angeles Times / Getty Images)

Like many single people, I’m on the dating apps. And over the years, I’ve been on both ends of the ghosting spectrum — a ghoster and a ghostee. Sometimes I just forget to respond and don’t mean to ghost someone. (Sorry!) Other times, I am definitely ignoring a creepy message sent at 2 a.m. (Not sorry!)

Ghosting has become so common that Merriam-Webster added a definition in 2017.

So with Valentine’s Day approaching — Feb. 14 isn’t just for happy couples — I asked Angelenos and Jo Portia Mayari, a conscious-sex and relationship coach, to tell us about this common but painful phenomenon.

First, Mayari explains ghosting

Answers from Jo Portia Mayari have been lightly edited.


What is ghosting?

I do love the actual definition of it. Because it is the practice of ending personal relationship with somebody by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication. I love how direct that is. I love that it also states that it’s a practice because it means that it’s something that people are doing and choosing to engage in. In terms of frequency or when in the relationship it happens, I think it all really depends on the person. Because sometimes it happens after the first day; sometimes after three.

Why do people do it?

I think the real reason behind it is fear of confrontation. It’s a fear of possibly taking responsibility, of your own self or your partner in that relationship. I also think people do it because nobody has ever really been taught how to effectively end a relationship or to communicate that the relationship is no longer what they want to engage with.

I think there’s also a lack of awareness of needs sometimes. We don’t see healthy breakups a lot in media or culture, so I think as a culture, we tend to romanticize toxic endings. It’s the lack of seeing healthy endings modeled, and conscious uncoupling or even just conscious exit strategies.

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How do you recover from being ghosted?

I think what I would just say is don’t feel afraid of getting into a relationship just because you’ve been ghosted in the past. Get curious with yourself and understand what the relationship you have with ghosting is, so that way it can just be something that you’d like learn how to navigate so you feel more empowered versus feeling disempowered. Sit with it. I am a huge advocate of journaling. Some questions you can ask yourself and maybe take some time to journal on are:

  • What does being ghosted mean to me?
  • What relationship do I have to ghosting? How do I see it?
  • Is it a bad or good thing?
  • What does it remind me of?
  • Is there a moment from my childhood that reminds me of this experience?

Is ghosting ever the right thing to do?

I’m such a huge advocate for conscious communication. I think you always should communicate when you’re going to end something. I do think there are situations such as abusive situations where ghosting is definitely permissible. There are going to be a handful of those situations where, actually, just don’t contact that person anymore.

What can people do instead?

Before you try to communicate, quickly check in on why this communication is so difficult. Do you feel like you’re going to get in trouble? I think sometimes people feel like they might get in trouble, which is the reason why they don’t want to actually communicate the thing. They want to communicate, but there’s something shameful about them not wanting to be in that relationship. So I think it’s understanding the sensations and seeing if that reminds you of some sort of experience that you’ve had that had a negative result of being shamed, scolded or getting in trouble for some sort of thing you did when you needed to communicate something. I would probably start there, first and foremost, and then seeing if you can find a way to close the internal stress cycle of anxiety that’s happening before you can actually communicate this with the person.

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Now, readers’ stories about ghosting and being ghosted

Readers submitted their stories from a prompt on The Times confirmed each person’s identity before publication, but we are not including their names.

Ghostee from Silver Lake
Ghosted by someone only to see them at work.

I was not in a committed relationship, but I was dating two guys casually and started falling for one of them. He and I made each other aware in beginning that it was casual, but he was giving signals that he wanted it to go steady. I even met his sister. So I told him I liked him a lot, in person. However, suddenly I didn’t hear from him. Then a few weeks later he comes to a restaurant I worked at in the evenings with another girl. It was a huge WTF moment. I tried to be professional, asked for their order. But my feelings got the best of me. I stopped and asked, “What are you doing here?” (He knew I worked there since we visited the restaurant many times.) I asked the question and tears come running down my face. He looks at the girl and gives her a look that suggested, “This girl’s crazy, huh?” He just smiled and awkwardly laughed and shrugged. I ran to the back to cry it off and tell my co-worker. I was hoping they’d leave. No, they finished ordering, and I was forced to serve them.

Ghostee from Koreatown
Ghosted after an international meet-cute.

So I met this guy in Seoul — we were both visiting, and I wanted to make friends and have someone show me around. (We are both Korean, from the U.S. and Canada.) We ended up kind of fake dating, and right when I realized I was actually falling for him, he disappeared on all social media. He eventually came back — but it was when we had gone back to our home countries. Aside from his explanation, he also said he felt like he was really falling for me too. So we continued chatting, flirting, etc. — then he disappeared again. It hurt a lot because he had said he wouldn’t do it again, but at this point, I’m convinced that he has some sort of commitment issue. He was the first guy I had really, really liked.

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Ghoster from North Hollywood
Ghosted someone after mixing up two profiles on a dating app.

I was messaging two men on Hinge. One was a financial analyst; the other was an architect and photographer. Meaning to message the architect, I accidentally responded to the analyst stating I would like to take up his offer of doing an architecture tour of downtown L.A., adding that I had a DSLR camera and would love to use it. The analyst, playing off the strange, out-of-the-blue statement, went along, saying, “I would love to, but you should know I don’t have a creative bone in my body!” Still thinking it was the architect who was being coy I said, “Your Instagram would suggest otherwise!” Then realizing the mistake, I knew this interaction was unsalvageable no matter how I would spin it. What am I going to say? “I was talking to someone else I was more interested in meeting”? I frantically unmatched him and was subsequently lost in the ether forever to my relief! I also unmatched the architect without saying a word, deciding he was too stuffy and that I didn’t want to pursue him out of some stupid sense of obligation.

Ghoster from Inglewood
Ghosted a love interest after looking at their phone.

I snuck a peek of my partner’s photos on their phone and saw intimate photos of them with another person. We went on one last date, which felt like our most passionate one yet. After a perfect evening, I walked them home and never again responded to another call or text.

Ghoster from Altadena
Ghosted someone before it was even a thing.

I did, about 34 years ago. It is something that bothers me still to this day. We were both young, 21 or so, and we met in a class at community college. We dated for several months and she was a lovely woman. I think we were on the brink of being in love. I still don’t really know why I did it. I think it was a combination of immaturity, low self-esteem and a feeling of settling down too soon. It is one of my deepest regrets. I now firmly fall into the camp of honest, open talks about your feelings. Easier said than done, but I promise you will feel better about yourself and the memory of the relationship that is ending by dealing with it in an honest manner. I think the approach should depend on the situation. For shorter relationships such as a few dates, I feel that a call is better than a text. Anything longer should probably be face to face. We would all rather hear it directly than be left wondering.

Ghoster from Highland Park
Ghosted someone after getting some bad vibes.

For L.A. daters, just communicate. People deal with their own emotions, and sometimes getting closure from who they’re dating is something everyone needs so that they don’t have to second-guess what they did wrong. Just end on a good note if possible. If it’s a no-go from the get-go, then run! Just kidding — try to let them know it’s not going work out. I know rejection is a horrible feeling, but it’s life. We gotta live and learn.

We want to hear your stories about ghosting and being ghosted ahead of Valentine’s Day. Because finding love doesn’t always feel like a fairy tale.

Feb. 8, 2022