Eric and I had a fantastic first date. I’d even go so far as to say it was one of the best dates I’ve had in, well, ever. Unlike other dates I’ve had over the years, Eric and I actually got dressed up, and he took me out to dinner. We had drinks, we laughed, we were on the same page about politics, feminism, and the world at large. I even went home with him, breaking my newly instated “no more sex on the first date” rule. After that, I never saw Eric again.
According to Eric, he was in Barcelona, where I’m currently living, to look at apartments to buy. I knew he was going back to the States eventually and accepted it, especially since I’d be returning to the States in a couple months, too. When Eric abruptly left Barcelona the day after our date, he said it was because his mother was suddenly in hospice. Then, before he could even return to the States, his mother died. At least this is what Eric said.
But the funny thing about 2019 is everything is everywhere. Eric had told me his mother’s name, a very obscure name that couldn’t possibly belong to anyone else, and because I didn’t 100% buy his story (it just seemed so out of left field), I did some investigating. It didn’t take long to find out his mother was alive and well — and very active on Facebook. It also didn’t take me long to find out that he didn’t live in Boston and wasn’t divorced, as he had said. No; Eric was a married man who lived in Indiana with a mother who was very much alive. When I discovered the truth, I was halfway between utter disbelief and zero shock at all. I guess one could say that I was numb. But I did have one question I kept asking myself, “Why didn’t he just ghost me? Why did he kill off his mother?”
The Immorality Of Ghosting
“I think it’s morally worse to ghost,” says Gabrielle, 29, a New-York-City-based publicist. “As humans, we should value that other humans don’t want to be treated like they don’t exist. You know that scene in ‘The Princess Diaries’ when Mia is like ‘somebody sat on me again today?’ It’s like that; ghosting makes you feel invisible — like you’re so insignificant that you don’t even warrant an explanation. If someone takes the time to tell you that they don’t want to see you again, even if it’s a white lie, you at least know that they see you as a human being with feelings.”
In some cases, I might agree with Gabby. But in this case, I can’t. Many of Eric’s stories turned out to be untrue, and the effort he must have gone through to lie seems like it would have been exhausting. It also seems indicative of other issues — not that I’m in the market of psychologically diagnosing people. If Eric had just ghosted me, he could have saved himself the hassle. He also could have saved himself from me confronting him about it. When I did, he doubled down on his mother’s death, until presented with proof.
“Lying shows a lack of respect for self and others,” says Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist, relationship coach, and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method. “The liar thinks they are upper-handing or dominating, but really, they’re discrediting and subjugating the person they are lying to. Ultimately, lying is really self-deception where someone doesn’t want to take responsibility for their actions or shortcomings.” In contrast, she explains, “ghosting oftentimes creates doubt within the person who is ghosted.” It also allows the ghoster to avoid confrontation, and ghosting even once can lead to it becoming a habit.
Silva did her own research into ghosting, which has, without a doubt, become a dating trend. For the Your Happiness Hypothesis study, Silva conducted in-depth interviews with men and women between 28 and 73 years of age who were active dating app users. A whopping 80% reported it was easier “to ghost, bench, gaslight, or breadcrumb because of the lack of communication and face-to-face interaction.” In turn, 80% of millennials and reported being on the wrong side of all these dating “trends.”
The takeaway? Ghosting is incredibly common. But lying still has its place in modern dating. Just look at Eric and me.
The Immorality Of Lying
“Lying is worse,” says Lena, 26, a Barcelona-based language teacher. “I think that when I lie, I’m cheating on myself because I’m not able to tell the truth to someone, even if that person deserves the truth. When someone lies, that person has made the effort to build a whole fake story. I think that’s kinda more painful… I would prefer if someone just chose to disappear from my life and did that, consciously, instead of not being brave enough to tell me that he doesn’t want to see me anymore so he has to lie to my face. I feel more humiliated in the case of lying.”
Kiley, 30 agrees. “I would say lying is worse,” she says. “Can we all be adults and just tell the truth, and with that, not ghost one another? Be an adult and let the other person know why you don’t want to continue getting to know one another or dating. Don’t ghost, don’t lie — just be an honest, verbally open adult.”
The reality is, though, that while plenty of people are capable of being “honest, verbally open adults,” most daters will experience being ghosted or lied to. The statistics prove it. Neither are fun, but according to Silva, ghosting can take longer to recover from.
“Ghosting creates more doubt and lowers self-esteem more than lying. Lying creates more anger than ghosting, but it is more easily dealt with. Generally, people have a specific tolerance for the number of lies a person will tell them before they terminate the relationship. Ghosting can take months for people to finally want to [move on from] the relationship.”
Still, not everyone is convinced. “I would prefer someone tell a lie,” Andrea, 39, says. “A lie clearly communicates it’s over. Ghosting is just disappearing.”
Some Things Have No Right Answer
No matter how you slice it, both lying and ghosting are forms of rejection. But, more than anything, it has to do with how we want to be rejected: to our face or left to wonder.
“I think, for most of us, our impulse is to ghost, which, for so many of us is a way to justify doing it,” Gabrielle says. “We feel like it’s more natural; that it is less disruptive, less anxiety-inducing. So we do it and retro-justify it to ourselves as sparing the other person emotional turmoil. We’re letting them down ‘easy,’ by not letting them down at all. Lying isn’t a great alternative; ultimately you’d just tell the truth… [but] I’d rather feel rejected (even falsely) than invisible.”
As someone who was ghosted by her husband but lied to by a potential new love, I’m split down the middle. For others, it’s either more or less black and white. How we experience and interpret things has to do with who we are, where we are, and where we’ve been. In other words, there’s no right answer. Even I, a seasoned receiver of both, can’t decide one way or another.