By Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC
Ladies, you are in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and so on looking for the ‘right’ partner to spend your time with and along comes a nice looking, intelligent, romantic, polite, etc. gentleman who seems perfect. You have already dated long term, been married/divorced, have kids, looking to have kids and this guy seems just right. Until, four to six weeks goes by and he quits texting and calling you. He cancels plans at the last minute. He appears no longer into you. You wonder, what happened? You try to get in touch with him and he has vanished without a trace. What happened? This nice man, or what appeared to be, is not in his 20’s or early 30’s, he ‘should’ be more mature about dating. Instead he is ghosting. Clearly, he is not emotionally mature enough to be in relationships; he is unable to have difficult conversations that may place him in a vulnerable state. Or he may not be into you and is not able to verbalize that for fear of hurting you. Whatever the reason may be, you need to ask yourself if he is worth it? Many studies suggest these are types of attachment styles and known as either dismissive avoidant or fearful avoidant.
There are many reasons this man may not be contacting you, and many youtube channels, dating coaches, etc will try to explain what’s going on. Sure, majority of what these relationship coaches are saying make perfect sense, however, rather than sugar coat the reasons as to why these men are ‘ghosting’ women; let’s talk about the brutal truth. These men have some sort of insecure attachment styles, dismissive avoidant or fearful avoidant. Since these men were most likely raised by parents or guardians who were physically, and/or emotionally not present, these men lack in being emotionally present, emotionally available and do not know how to handle situations when a possible love interest is involved. These men may have trauma from their childhood because they were abused, sexually, emotionally, and/or physically and fear being rejected, hurt, and irrationally play scenarios in their minds about their current partner hurting them, so they justify leaving the relationship first and sometimes without warning.
Yes, we can blame it on their upbringing, however these are adult men and should be held accountable for their actions. When men go silent or ‘ghost’ with little to no notice, this is at the very least unfair to their partner who has put time and effort into this relationship or courtship. And let’s not forget, many of these avoidant or fearful avoidant men (And women) are commitment phobic and will not discuss the “C” (commitment) word. It seems when the two of you are having a good time and the courtship seems to be going well; he vanishes or begins to communicate less snd less. Many women are left confused and wonder ‘why’ especially when the relationship seemed to be going well.
Jack (Name and circumstances changed due to privacy) found Jane attractive and interesting. He began to pursue her in the beginning. They would text for hours, talk on the phone and see each other one to two times per week. Around the five week mark, Jane asked him if he was seeing other people. Jack provided a vague answer and said “not right now, I will tell you if I am.” Jane wanted further clarification and asked “what did that mean.” Jack repeated what he said and further added, “You and I are having fun, I do not want a relationship.” Jane wasn’t sure how to respond and became quiet. She went home shortly after and Jack began to text and call less and less. They made plans for the following week and Jack canceled their plans 5 minutes before they were supposed to meet. Jane was left confused, hurt, and upset. She didn’t understand what happened. Jack, on the other hand, felt relieved because he didn’t know how to communicate to Jane that he needed his alone time to regroup. Jack had told Jame he doesn’t like relationships and prefers his alone time. Jane tried to text and call Jack, however, he did not respond; he went silent (Ghosted her). Jane was distraught and confused for days. She thought their relationship was going somewhere, however, after a month of not hearing from him; Jane began to realize he was not coming back. She had tried to communicate through text, email and phone calls and had no response. She had seen him a couple times, but he ignored her. What happened?
Depending on Jack’s upbringing, his prior relationships, etc. may provide more insight what Jack was thinking and feeling. Jack was raised by a single dad who was not emotionally present. His dad worked all the time and other than providing the basics for Jack, he was not able to participate in Jack’s daily life. Jack grew up taking care of himself and learned no one was going to care for him except himself. Jack didn’t have many friends and mainly kept to himself. He had a busy career and during his downtime, he relished in movies, video games, exercise and whatever else he wanted to do. Jack preferred to vacation alone and enjoyed his own time. Jack desired a relationship, however, when he became close to someone he would vanish before they could hurt him. He would unconsciously begin to distance himself from his partner until he no longer could take it and cut off communication so he didn’t have to ‘deal’ with his partner. He really liked Jane, enjoyed her company, and knew he may have been falling for her. Therefore, his brain went into safety mode before this could happen. When he read a text from Jane or heard her voice, he felt sad for the moment and then busied himself with something else. He told himself “it’s for the best.”
Although this is an example of a dismissive avoidant, many may say ‘this sounds so familiar.’ Jack may eventually contact Jane once he feels safe and Jane has moved on, or he may not. Jane may try to reach out to Jack again and they may even go out again. However, unless Jack begins to identify why he does this and begins to move in closer to the discomfort; he will not be able to retain a relationship. If Jane wants to be with Jack. she will soon learn to be self sufficient and not rely on Jack to console her or be there for her because he most likely believes everyone can care for themselves. If Jane wants this relationship, she may be lonely and unsatisfied unless she is an independent woman who is securely attached with outside support. And most importantly, Jack will need to identify his past his is the past and learn how to put his old wounds to rest. He will also need to work on his issues and learn how to move through his discomfort while still being in the relationship with Jane, communicate with her and allow her into his life. Unfortunately, Jack may not realize this consciously and continue old patterns of behavior.
Regardless, one may ask themselves if they really want to be with someone who is dismissive avoidant, hot snd cold, and can disappear so quickly? Some women will say ‘yes’ because they were patient, hung in there, and the dismissive avoidant worked on themselves identifying their triggers and learned how to communicate with their partner. Other women will say ‘no’ because they didn’t want the hot and cold and pain associated with the relationship. It really depends on the person, their connection, whether the avoidant is willing to actively work on themselves and the relationship, and does this relationship bring happiness as a whole regardless of the hard work involved. If you can answer yes to the above, then your relationship may be worth the added efforts. However, if you say ‘not really’ to the above, you may want to think about moving on. Yes, it hurts, however, there will be new opportunities ahead of you. Remember ladies, you are high quality women who deserve the best for you. You deserve to be treated as their queen and nothing less. Never allow a man (or woman) to treat you poorly, leaving you feeling worth little. If these men want to be with you, they will find a way to be with you. In general, when a man finds a woman worthy of his time, he will not let you go. He may disappear for a while, and reappear once he feels safe. The most important thing to take away from this article; if the partner who is avoidant puts in the effort to make changes to his attachment style and learns healthy ways to handle his fears, then the relationship has a chance to thrive into a loving, deep connection. Allow him to go and find his way; all you can do is continue to move on in your life and put your energies elsewhere. As the saying goes, “if you love someone, let them go; if they never come back, they were never yours.”
I hope this article is helpful and useful. I have many couples right now struggling through this hot and cold dynamic and there is hope for this to change. It takes effort and work for these relationships work. There is hope; when these couples work on their issues, and learn ways to cope with past trauma and heal; these relationships are solid.
Thank you for reading,
Rochelle Long, MA, LMHC