My boyfriend ghosted me during lockdown; Here’s what I learnt about myself
By Fabienne Lang
It was painful, but transformative.
Fifty percent of people have either been ghosted or have ghosted someone. Apart from haunting your dreams at night, the term has nothing to do with the supernatural. The Collins English Dictionary describes ghosting as “the act or an instance of ending a romantic relationship by not responding to attempts to communicate by the other party”. And, for me, my ghosting came from someone I was more than just dating. I was ghosted by my boyfriend. During a pandemic. It doesn’t get much more brutal than that.
For context, we bonded the moment we met and I fell head over heels for him after a year of friendship. When we finally decided to shift our friendship into a relationship, I was over the moon! But that joy only lasted a few weeks. His radio silence arrived at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown. As the world was turning upside down, crippling self-doubt and panic took over my already over-thinking mind. The lockdown created an island of isolation devoid of comforts or distractions for me to turn to.
My once-cosy studio flat turned into a prison cell, and my mind went haywire.
Questions bumped into my head: “was it me?” and “am I too stupid, too fat, too [insert your insecurities here]?”. With a lockdown happening simultaneously, you can add another layer of questioning: “has he caught COVID-19?”, “Is he scared lying in an ICU bed?”. And, more morbidly, “is he alive?”.
The lack of closure would have been hard during “normal times”, but now it was maddening.
So, I did what any rational mind would do. I called (unanswered). I texted (unread). I left voice notes (unopened). I emailed (unreturned). It was as if I was reaching out into the void.
If you’ve also been ghosted, you’ll be familiar with the thought process. I kept thinking that he’d get back in touch today, or tomorrow, maybe next week. That day never came. A month and a half later, my birthday, and I still had no news. His articles were being published online, so I knew he wasn’t in a dire medical situation, he was simply choosing to ignore me.
Enough was enough. So, what did I do? I went walking.
Transcendental, eh? Hear me out. It was the only activity we were allowed to do during the lockdown, so after writing my articles in the morning, I’d bundle up and head out. I’d start the walk with the same discouraging thoughts ping ponging through my brain as before, but as I slowly forced myself to count my breaths and focus on what was around me, something changed. I was becoming more present. I noticed the fresh breeze caressing my face, the bird songs around me, what the stones felt like beneath my shoes, and how the sweet smell of the budding flowers was growing stronger each Spring day. I felt lighter; even calm (something I’d not felt in nearly two months).
Then, I added 10 minute meditations to my daily routine. Images of him kept elbowing their way into my mind, but I persevered until they slowly faded.
I won’t lie, it took every fibre in me to not look at photos of him or keep reaching out to him. But, I held onto the thought that I had to do what was best for me. Other coping methods involved writing him letters and recording voice notes. None were ever sent to him, but it was a way for me to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper. I also wrote in my journal every day, focusing on three positive things I’d achieved that day, no matter how small they seemed. I was learning to boost my self-love and self-care.
Initially, I was reluctant to tell people that he had ghosted me. I feared they’d think I’d done something crazy to push him away, or that he was a terrible person.
But now, I’m grateful that I reached out to close friends and family, as the love and support I received kept me going through the heartbreak and the lockdown without feeling alone.
As I began adjusting to this new lockdown and love “normalcy”, I began to notice my emotions rather than be transported by them on an unwanted ride. I pushed myself to become curious about them, voraciously reading books such as The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle (which I highly recommend).
I focused on the present and learnt to plunge into my thoughts without self-criticism.
Now, I was asking myself questions like “am I really missing him, or am I missing the idea of him, and his potential?”, and “do I truly want to be with someone who makes me feel this way?”. Instead of focusing on him, I was starting to focus on myself. I realised that his actions, or lack thereof, were not a reflection of my worthiness, they showed that he was incapable of dealing with the discomfort of his own emotions, or mine.
I miss him as a friend, but instead of cursing him or crying over him, I now silently wish him well.
Just like the coronavirus, this confusion hurtled into my life inexplicably. It took me six gruelling months of self-work to realise the invaluable lesson I’d gained from this experience. If I’d managed to love someone so unavailable, imagine how well I’ll be able to love the “right” person. And guess what, I’ve met someone new! Let’s see how Love in Lockdown 2.0 (and however many more) carries on.
Image by Priscilla Du Preez.