One of my favorite songs right now has a line, ‘heal my heart so I can feel again’, and I guess it summarizes perfectly why I decided to take this year long journey to discover what it takes to sustain good health and happiness over the long term. I often write from personal experience and mostly because I am trying myself to figure out what the heck is going on - especially when it comes to dating.
At some point in your life if you haven't already, you will likely suffer from a break up or some sort of loss of love. It seems so weirdly prevalent and misshapen these days, however.
A girlfriend of mine will meet a wonderful guy, but by week 3 or 4 of courtship she cannot get him to reply to a simple, ‘hello, how are you’? …. crickets, you’ve been ghosted.
People have been breaking up with people since probably the dawn of time, but we are living in an interesting cultural moment where dating, relationships and break ups are being redefined. It is as if empathy, feeling and respect for others is slowly being drained and so the institution of connecting with another is beginning to lay lifeless. Nowadays there are several ways relationships end and reasons for the emergence of these types of breakups are directly linked to technology.
The Different Types of Modern Day Breakups
We will start with simmering - psychotherapist Esther Perel in conversation on the Note to Self podcast, explains it best; “simmering is basically I am really busy I can’t see you in the next 4 weeks, but I would love for us to meet again afterwards. Let’s stay in touch, just stay in the ring don’t really go anywhere, don’t leave but don’t come too close - just hoover there. Just simmer like in a pot, slow cooking” (Note to Self).
This is the girl who engages in conversation or text with you, but you never see her, she never solidifies an actual date to see you again.
Then there’s ghosting. Again Esther Perel with a most brilliant synopsis, “it is not new, we have known romantic rejection and romantic disappointment for forever, but there is something in the jarring switch between 250 texts in a few hours in a day and then nothing. Nothing. Five mins before I found you everywhere, I didn’t know where you were, but you were in my phone in my pocket, and now nothing and I write you and nothing, that is ghosting” (Note to Self Podcast).
Last, but not least, enter icing; Perel explains, “icing is a different version of the same thing - you know right now I am going into a big project for the next three months. I will be really busy I can’t focus on my relationships, but I really like you so don’t disappear - be there far away in the background and when the ice melts, when the season changes, I may come back” (Note to Self).
Help What Does This All Mean?! What Should I Do?
Do any of these feel familiar? In our current state of affairs, technology has allowed for a window to the world, a plethora of dating options via apps and right at our fingertips. This paradox of choice where you would think having more choice provides for increased happiness, instead and at some point, only allows for paralysis where we can hardly make up our minds and pick in the first place. If we finally do, we are left in a state of disappointment, regret, dissatisfaction and daydream of another, because when faced with too much option, our mind reverts and reveres that which we could have had.
Read my article from Week 8 about the paradox of choice for more understanding.
This burgeoning of choice has affected how we come together, but it has also affected how we come apart. We have adopted passive aggressive ways to deal with the end of relationships - I think for two reasons. Inflated options from for example dating apps, have allowed for inflated risk; More options, more risk for something to go wrong. As a result, having potential love interests linger, versus decisively cutting anyone off acts as insurance - an ‘I will simmer or ice and keep you there just in case one of my other 15 dates don't work’.
In addition, our modern day lives are led less mindfully; Distraction via cell phone has allowed us to be less present - good or bad, feelings aren't being felt. We are coasting through life. We are numb. What are ghosting, simmering, icing but different ways to avoid encountering emotion.
The Sad and Worrying Implications of Ghosting, Simmering and Icing
Here’s Perel to perfectly explain the implications of letting people down the way it is we do it these days; “what [ghosting, simmering and icing] leave you with is what am I? What do I mean here? What does that mean to be on hold like this? We all know that being on hold has an element of anticipation and a little bit of excitement maybe that comes with that anticipation, but the longer it lasts the more excitement turns into anxiety. Are we ever going to see each other again?” (Note to Self).
In the end and with everyone in an anxious swirl of, ‘is he ever going to text’, the institutions of courtship and respect become highly destabilized and unhappiness, insecurity, and self doubt ensue.
As hard as it maybe, challenge yourself to feel again. It will mean encountering and fully taking in good or bad emotions. It will mean growing up. It will mean you are living life.
Honesty, respect and openness can go along way to fixing what I think is so wrong with modern courtship.
I will close with these wise words from Perel: “Ghosting, icing, and simmering are manifestations of the decline of empathy in our society — the promoting of one’s selfishness, without regard for the consequences of others. There is a person on the other end of our text messages (or lack thereof), and the ability to communicate virtually doesn’t give us the right to treat others poorly. I encourage you to end relationships respectfully and conclusively, however brief they may be. Act with kindness and integrity. This allows both people to enter into his/her next relationship with more experience and a clear head, rather than filled with disappointment and insecurity” (Esther Perel).