Just the Tip is a sex and relationship column hosted by queer non-monogamous kinkster Jera Brown. Here you will find interviews with sexuality researchers and educators as well as smart and compassionate responses to anonymous questions. If you have a sex or love question you’d like Jera to answer, email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM Jera on Instagram or Twitter @thejerabrown.
This is the part of a series of posts Jera is writing for the column about dating while traveling full-time in their RV.
As soon as I saw Corey, I knew I was going to fuck him. He showed up at my house wearing his motorcycle club vest, with broad shoulders and a sexy red beard. And whatever pheromones he was putting off were working for me.
He has a way with dogs and controlled my excitable 150-pound Alaskan Malamute from the moment he walked through the door.
He took me on a joy ride on his motorcycle, which may be the easiest way to get between my legs. We took the long way to a bar where we discussed kink and mental health then made our way back to my house to transfer to my truck and grab my dogs.
We took a hike on my favorite trail, me walking the big guy, while he wrangled the puppy. As we walked, we bonded over how the mysteries of the universe leave room for faith and science.
I followed him to his house, and he introduced me to his own sweetheart of a Shepsky (just like my Murphy). He smoked standing beside my truck while we talked about how he’d enjoy switching with me. My mind reeled with possibilities of me taking charge, then him taking charge … forming visions in my head of all the sexy, kinky scenes we could have together.
Finally, I asked him why we hadn’t kissed yet, and so we did. Intense and hungry. It led to a shower, then sex, then talks while cuddling, then more sex.
Eventually, realizing I had two dogs who probably needed to pee, I told him I needed to go home.
“Are you going to ghost me?” he asked.
I promised I wouldn’t and kissed him again.
Climbing into my truck, he asked me if we could hang out tomorrow if another date I had planned fell through. I made some sarcastic comment and drove away.
He texted to ask if I made it home, and I responded back that I had with a kissy emoji. He responded with his own kissy emoji.
And that was the last I heard from him.
Why is being ghosted so incredibly painful?
Why is being ghosted so incredibly painful? I believe it’s because it feels like a complete denial of our worth, even our humanity. Not receiving a goodbye or an explanation can feel like we don’t deserve one. Like we weren’t worth the effort.
How to respond to ghosting — learn from my mistakes
Folks, this was close to my perfect date. It involved a motorcycle ride and hiking, time with three dogs, beer, sex, kink talk, (and he was a fucking switch!?), mental health awareness … like if he’d been queer, I might’ve proposed. Okay, not really. But that next day, I was definitely very, very excited to see him again. And it took me a long time to accept the fact that it wasn’t going to happen.
I confess I did not handle his lack of communication well.
Around 3 pm, I told him that I didn’t need constant communication, but was feeling vulnerable after sex and could use a check-in.
By 8 pm, not having gotten a response, and considering he’d asked to hang out and I knew he was free … I sent him a long (albeit well thought out, but overly intense) message. Which I shouldn’t have sent.
And I continued to flip out for the next couple of days, continuing to text him and call (twice) just to see if he’d blocked me yet.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that I’ve been ghosted. But it was indeed the most triggering. (More on why later.)
I’ve since done a ton of reflection on what happened. Like I could write a dissertation on this incident. And I’d like to pass on some of what I’ve learned about how I wish I’d handled it. So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned about how to handle being ghosted.
I wish you much better success than me.
1. Stop and reflect before responding
The thing I most regret in my one-sided interactions with Corey is that I reacted when I should’ve been reflecting. And, I feel like this is the ultimate life course that I will never get an A in.
It comes up a lot for me. It’s very possible if I’d chilled out that day, he might’ve responded the next day or the day after. It’s possible my strong initial reactions are part of the reason I was ghosted in the first place.
In my case, I thought I was reflecting. I was giving it time and hiking and journaling. But one thing I’ve learned is that I never give things enough time. I’m easily satisfied with reaching a new thought when there’s actually a deeper, more insightful layer underneath that could bring me more peace or confidence in any further interactions.
2. Check your assumptions
One of the painful things about being ghosted is the mystery of it all — you have no idea of why it happened. It’s like an unsolved crime.
And because of this, it’s common to start questioning everything. “If I hadn’t made that joke” or “Maybe she didn’t want to tell me she wasn’t really that attracted to me.”
The first step to grounding yourself is to question what assumptions are you making about why it happened and check if you’re creating a narrative that probably isn’t there. You have no real idea why someone acted the way they acted. And guessing can lead to an enormous amount of self-doubt and no real answers.
With that being said, I think there is some benefit to creating new space for the unknown. It’s in our nature to start with all the things we could’ve done wrong or problems with ourselves. But what about things that aren’t our fault? In this situation with Corey, I think It’s very likely that he decided not to reach out again because he knew I was skipping town in a month. Remember this is part of my dating while nomadic series, and part of the ramifications of dating while traveling full time is the people I’m getting to know also have to be okay with bonding with someone they might not see again … or for a long time.
I do very much wonder if Corey woke up the next morning having decided not to invest in someone that was only around for a month.
My point here is that we’ll never know why someone ghosts us and because of this, we shouldn’t just jump to the worst possible scenario — whatever it is that makes us feel the worst about ourselves.
3. Investigate what fears it triggers
Most assumptions we make are related to pre-held fears, which are often tied to past wounds.
For me, being ghosted triggered my fears that I’m unworthy of being excited about and that I’m not “enough” to hold someone’s attention. And how do I know these are my fears? I journal and I pray out loud until my throat and chest tighten. Then, I know, I’ve reached an open wound.
Once you have a sense of what your fears are, the first step is to investigate them with curiosity and non-judgment.
But I know from experience it’s easy to wallow in these fears and feel helpless against them. But the problem with this is that when you give in to the fears, you can easily put every new person in a position where they’re supposed to prove or disprove your worst fear for you.
This means you’re starting a relationship from a place of insecurity, and you’re giving that new person responsibility that they probably didn’t ask for.
It takes a healthy amount of bravery and faith in oneself to work through these fears on your own. And, especially, if these fears are rooted in past trauma, it’s not easy.
Until Corey, I hadn’t realized how much hurt I was still holding onto from past relationships. Corey didn’t just trigger legit trauma I felt from my two most recent relationships. He also brought up hurt I still felt around Suresh, a motorcycle-riding friend-with-benefits who decided we couldn’t really be friends because “friendship plus sex = girlfriend” in his book. And the loss of Cody, someone I dated with the same mental health diagnosis as Corey who wouldn’t get help for his disorder.
This realization that I had so much unprocessed grief and trauma sucked, because I’d done so much self-work to attempt to heal from each of these relationships. But that’s life, isn’t it? Everything meaningful takes way more work than we expect it to. And, the reality is, even if I’ve made progress, I’m simply not done healing. Which leads me to my next point …
4. Forgive yourself for how you respond
I forgive myself for reacting so strongly. In fact, anytime I did reach out to Corey, it felt like tapping out. Like I reached my pain quota, and I needed to do something to mitigate it. Part of what this taught me is that he triggered some underlying trauma, and I didn’t have the coping mechanisms in place to handle the trauma on my own (more on this later).
And I want to make a big deal of this. If, like me, you’re not happy with how you handled being ghosted, rejected, whatever … it’s ok to forgive yourself. Beating yourself up over your response isn’t going to help a damn thing.
5. Have coping mechanisms in place for being triggered
What would’ve been helpful for me would have been to realize I was going through a trauma response. Because if we know we’ve been triggered, we can take appropriate measures.
I’ve since questioned what are my coping mechanisms for when I’m triggered. Hiking helps. Hot tubs. Things that return me to my body and get me out of my head. But what I need most of all is to not feel alone in it.
6. Reach out to loved ones (and your therapist)
Two days after my date with Corey, when I realized he wasn’t going to respond and I was not handling it well, I texted my therapist and unfortunately couldn’t get an appointment for a couple of days. It sucked.
Finally, I reached out to a loved one who is also a therapist and asked for his help. He calmed me down to the point where I was able to delete Corey’s number from my phone.
7. Approach the situation with compassion
Of course, it’s quite possible the person that ghosted you is an asshole that doesn’t care who they hurt. But they could also be otherwise decent people who are going through something or are wounded and dealing with their own trauma?
Sometimes it takes a lot of courage to face someone and reject them. And, let’s face it, most people aren’t all that brave.
8. Be grateful … you probably dodged a bullet
Like I said earlier, besides the mystery of it all, being ghosted hurts because it makes us feel unworthy of basic decency. And whoever doesn’t offer you that basic decency isn’t someone you want in your life anyway.
But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel it. So often people’s advice is to just let it go because it’s not a big deal. But that’s not how healing works.
For weeks afterward, I’d hear a motorcycle and wonder if it was him. It was just one date, but months later, it still hurts a little. Why? In part, because I think our bond was real. Our chemistry definitely was.
But also because he’s now a part of my wound. My fears.
Corey hurt me because I was already wounded. So many of us are. And the more we keep doing the self-work to learn to love ourselves completely and to trust our intuition, the more we can accept who comes in and out of our lives without such intense pain. Being ghosted will almost always hurt. But maybe, the more we nurture self-confidence and intuition, it’ll hurt less because we’ll know that anyone who would give us up isn’t worth our tears.