Well, we had a great relationship — we’re good friends and enjoyed a closeness. We talked extensively about a future. But he’s never lived on his own and, in between relationships, he slept on his dad’s couch for months. I demanded he get his own apartment because he wasn’t moving into my home. I’m an independent lady who has found my own way in life, and I don’t want or need a dependent man.
After living in his apartment for four months — which I helped furnish and organize since he didn’t have a towel to his name — it all changed. All of a sudden he “ghosted” me — stopped responding to my calls and texts. I’ve now figured out I’m blocked. I even texted his dad after a few days to make sure he was OK and I got no response. I’ve shown up at his apartment building twice and knocked on the door repeatedly; I heard no noise coming from inside, but his vehicle was parked in the lot.
It would be beneath me to camp out there, block his vehicle in with mine, or show up at his work. He knows my number and obviously it’s definitely over for him. I just don’t know why, and for the life of me I can’t figure out what I did or didn’t do. There were some signs of slight pulling away, but that happens with anyone at times. Up until now we talked or connected every day and it was good; now, it’s like he evaporated. There’s a huge hole in my heart and life with zero closure.
Any advice or ideas? We aren’t 20-somethings that just disappear. Thank you for your help. — Ghosted Fifty-Something
I’m sorry for the pain and rejection you’re feeling now, and the frustration of not knowing what you did or didn’t do to elicit such a response from someone you’d grown so close and intimate with. Unfortunately, you will likely never get the answers from Roger that you seek, but I know you can still heal from this, learn from this, and move on with a full and open heart.
There are two things that especially stick out to me from your letter. Well, three things, actually. The first is that you say Roger suffered from mild depression and had some personal issues he talked about and relived frequently. You say you understood that he “allowed this” — I assume you mean the issues he couldn’t let go of — because of poor self-esteem and insecurity. So that is a belief you have about him – that he is an insecure, mildly depressed man with poor self-esteem who can’t let go of negative experiences (that you believe he enabled in some part). That in itself should be enough to explain how you might have been ghosted despite not knowing what you did or didn’t do to prompt such an extreme reaction. You’re operating under the assumption that Roger would behave and function typically even though what you know about his behavior is atypical and dysfunctional.
Then there’s his housing situation — how he’s never lived on his own until you “demanded” (your word) that he get an apartment of his own. Look, there was a reason he hadn’t lived on his own before, and whatever that reason was, it didn’t disappear because you wanted it to. You can’t will away someone’s issues with love and demands. It just doesn’t work that way. It sounds like he tried to be the man you wanted and needed — an independent man — but that, without appropriate support tools in place, he likely failed. That failure may have damaged his self-esteem even more. It’s possible he felt shame, and it’s possible that he blamed you. Either of these emotions — and both together — could explain his sudden ghosting of you.
Finally, you describe yourself as an independent woman who didn’t need or want a dependent man. Well, what you know about Roger’s past relationships is that he was NOT independent at all — he was very much dependent on his significant others for, at the very least, housing. He probably purposefully sought out women who actually DID want to feel needed in that way by a man. Maybe in pursuing you, he was making a conscious (or subconscious) effort to break that habit. Maybe he simply really, truly liked you and very much wanted to be the kind of man you seek and he tried so hard and just couldn’t do it. Again, you mention various issues he was struggling with but you don’t say anything about any professional help he was getting. Without appropriate support tools, it’s really hard for someone to change his behavior, change his habits, change his thinking, and change his life. It sounds like he tried — passively, anyway, allowing you to furnish and organize his apartment — and it sounds like he did it for your benefit because he was afraid he’d lose you if he didn’t make an effort.
That’s one theory anyway. Whatever the truth is, though, I think it’s reasonably safe to say that his ghosting is not a result of your behavior so much as it’s a result of his own dysfunctional relationship with himself. I know that doesn’t ease your grief now and your sense of loss and the sadness you feel as a result of this relationship that you thought had promise suddenly ending. But I hope that it gives a broader perspective of the whole picture and that it encourages you to seek out men going forward who are not at odds with themselves. Pay better attention to red flags when you meet someone (like chronic homelessness despite being “highly professional”), and if you think someone needs to dramatically change something about themselves in order for him to be right for you, save yourself a lot of heartache and move along.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.