Brandy Jensen, The Outline’s associate editor, has made a lot of mistakes in her life. Has she learned from them and become a wiser person as a result? Hahaha oh gosh no. But it does leave her uniquely qualified to tell you what not to do — because she’s probably done it.
My boyfriend of two years ghosted me. We’d been long-distance for about six months. We’d been having problems, and rather than talk it out like adults, he stopped responding to my texts and calls entirely. I was forced to end a relationship with someone I thought I was going to marry with a text and an email. And I’m fucking pissed.
It’s been a month, and I recently found out that he’s seeing someone and might have been seeing her while we were together. I confronted him about it over text and he denied it, but he still refused to engage in any sort of conversation that resembles closure. It was just a couple of mean texts, sent back and forth. I’m angry. I’m sad and hurt and feel absolutely gutted. Maybe most of all, I’m furious at the injustice of not having any sort of end-of-a-relationship talk. How did the person I told everything become the person who ignores me, probably forever? I don’t think the dynamic is going to change. But I don’t want to accept it. How do I become okay with the toxic silence between us?
Ghosted and Gutted
The philosopher Gillian Rose wrote a line I think about a lot. In her book Love’s Work, she says, “There is no democracy in any love relation: only mercy.” It is a very beautiful way of articulating a hideous truth: that we do not consent to be hurt or abandoned by those we love, and that the most we can hope for is they do it kindly. Your ex couldn’t even give you that. What he did to you was awful; he is cowardly and he is cruel. But what happened isn’t simply unjust, it points to something much more frightening — that love itself exists outside the framework of justice. There is no court at which to plead your case, no authority who can grant you recompense.
This is a terrible thing to contemplate, and naturally the mind rebels. After a particularly surprising break-up we all prefer not to know this, just as we prefer not to know that the person you loved does not love you back. Not enough to stay, and in your case not even enough to be gracious as they leave. This knowledge is a rupture, and so we grasp at the fiction of closure.
And closure is a fiction. It is not real, at least not in the way you want it to be. What you actually want is something impossible: for this not to have happened or, at the very least, for him to be crushed under of the weight of it. Wanting impossible things isn’t necessarily bad; it’s a core component of being a person. We basically have to keep wanting the impossible right up until the moment we cease wanting anything at all precisely because that moment will come and we do not want it to.
Perhaps the most impossible thing we all want is for the things that happen to us to make sense. Our most tragic impulse is the one to make meaning when life is just a series of contingencies. It leads some people, like myself, to have a hard time getting over being wounded. I fixate, I wallow, I simultaneously feel humiliated that I could care for someone so obviously unworthy and convinced I will never find anyone as good again. “How do I get over someone?” might be the question I get most regularly, and I have not answered it yet simply because there is no real answer.
This is a cold comfort, I know, but it is worth remembering this: Your ex sucks shit and the silence between you isn’t toxic, it is necessary. There is nothing you can say to him to make him feel sufficiently guilty, nothing he could realistically say to you to take back the fact that he made the choices he did, no adequate combination of the right words in the right order to make any of this okay. Give up on closure and focus on other things, like being motivated by spite. I’m not entirely kidding here — the first piece of writing I was ever paid for I did because I hoped a man who hurt me would notice it and remember I existed.
Go do something you always wanted to but he thought was stupid. Cut your hair. Sell every piece of furniture he so much as sat on and redecorate your apartment. Write the meanest, most brutal letter you can and — this is key! You must listen to this part because in the past I have not and it was a mistake — do not send it. Keep it and reread it from time to time to track how differently you begin to feel.
Because you will feel differently, in time. I sometimes think that in all of human history the only truly good advice is “this too shall pass.” How you feel now is not how you will feel tomorrow. Of course, the agony of love without justice is that other people’s feelings can change without reason, but there is comfort in knowing that yours will too.
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