AP NEWS

The rules of ghosting

August 8, 2018
The rules of ghosting

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I read you as calling ghosting necessary at times, yet other times calling it cowardly. How do I know if I’m just enjoying being the victim -- and the person I’m dealing with is not “wrong” -- or if I am truly being abused, thereby needing strict boundaries?

-- Stumped

I don’t call ghosting necessary except in the very narrow circumstance of abuse. If you’re in danger, then you get out however you can.

Virtually everyone else, every non-abuser, deserves some last word, even if it’s to say: “Do not contact me again; I won’t respond.”

It is cowardly to leave people wondering where their friend/partner/relative went and why all attempts to get in touch are ignored. It’s torture for the ghost-ee.

Again -- go silent if you need or want to, but just say something before you go silent: “I’ve spoken to you about [specific complaint] so many times, and nothing has changed, and I’m done.” Or: “I’m really angry you blew off my wedding after I contorted myself to get to your every milestone event.” Or: “I am so tired of hearing every detail of your life without your asking me once about mine.” Anything.

Carolyn, hi!

My parents are determined to call my brother’s newborn by her middle name “Berry” rather than “Apple,” her first name. My parents first claimed they could not pronounce “Apple” but soon revealed they just dislike the name, think the baby will have to spend her whole life spelling “Apple,” and prefer “Berry” because it has a remote family origin.

I am torn between knowing this is not my business, and wanting to protect my brother and Apple’s mom -- their relationship was short-lived and they are co-parenting -- from a precedent of having their decisions undermined by my family.

Mostly, I guess, I am surprised at how much rage I myself feel about my parents doing this passive-aggressive-manipulation act at a time when their support and unconditional love would be so prized by the new parents.

-- Whoa Baby

Then say it. Once. That’s your prerogative. It’s doing your brother a solid, because he stands to be blindsided, and it’s doing your parents a solid because they’re being awful and it will come back to bite them. So, say to them: “How you address Apple is your business, but (1) I think using Berry is presumptuous, and it angers me that you’re being petty instead of just showing support and unconditional love, and (2) Getting petty over a name is a great way to alienate Apple’s parents, which in turn is a great way to make sure you’re not as close to your grandchild as you could be.”

They can do with this what they will.

If there’s a precedent of manipulation and control, then get used to the idea of their undermining no matter what you say -- but I think you’ll feel better for having tried. Plus you’ll make it harder for them to pretend what they’re doing is OK. That’s an important element of speaking up.

Re: Apple/Berry:

In addition, be sure to tell your brother you are on his side. It may be easy to think, “He knows I support him,” but it’s good for him to hear it from you.

-- Anonymous

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