Welcome to Sex and the River City: your progressive, sex-positive sex and love advice column.
I’ve been single for about six years now. I’ve had one actual “official” relationship in that entire time that lasted eight months, but I’ve had “relations” with many different women. A lot of the time, they didn’t really consider it “dating.” It was more just hanging out that oftentimes involved us having sex.
I think these girls didn’t feel any sort of obligation to me in these situations, and things would just fizzle out through some combinations of “I’m busy” messages or just plain ignoring my texts altogether.
At first it really hurt me, but after a while, I almost felt like I didn’t have a right to be upset. I mean, we never entered into any agreement so weren’t they allowed to do what they wanted?
So, at what point do you owe someone an explanation as to why you don’t want to see them anymore?
Stuck in Ghost Town
Dear Ghost Town,
First, let me tell you that ghosting–or unexpectedly ceasing all communication with someone you are dating, either casually or seriously–is the de facto standard for breakups in the current world of so-called “hook-up culture.” I’ve been both the ghoster and the ghostee in my dating career, and the underlying reason a lot of people choose to ghost comes down to this: open, honest communication scares the shit out of most folks.
Ghosting is “dine and ditch” dating–enjoying all the benefits of intimacy and companionship without having to muster up any of the communication skills it takes to conclusively end a relationship. Communication is one of the most important relationships tools. It’s a skill that you have to practice to become good at, and then use it constantly to make it a healthy habit.
Let’s break down what I consider “dating”–a committed, monogamous or ethically non-monogamous, relationship where both parties have established expectations around desired communication and levels of intimacy.
With the women you’ve had casual sexual relations with, I assume that these conversations didn’t happen. And because you didn’t establish a practice of having these dating boundaries talks with partners, you found yourself in the familiar position of a hot and heavy flings fizzling into lukewarm feelings over and over again.
You mention that eventually you stopped feeling hurt because you hadn’t set any expectations with these women in the first place. I think that your reasoning here for why the ghosting happened is on the right path, but you don’t need to build up walls to protect yourself from the emotions caused by unhealthy communication skills just to operate in today’s dating culture. You can be angry and hurt.
When you set firm boundaries around how you want someone to communicate with you, you are showing them exactly where the line of respecting you begins and ends. No one can read your mind–you truly need to tell people exactly how you want to be treated.
My advice: let a girl know how you expect to be communicated with on the first date. If you both start off wanting just a late-night booty call but you are getting more intense butterflies every time that hotline blings, speak up so she can know how her actions are going to affect your emotions.
And don’t ever feel petty calling out a ghoster. People will keep doing shitty things if they’re never held accountable.
In radical pleasure,
Got a burning desire, a burning sensation or an issue that’s about to burn down your house? Email Kenna for sex & love advice at firstname.lastname@example.org.