We just … avoided each other

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Dear Meredith,

I am single and in my early 40s. Last fall during the lockdown, as winter was closing in, I decided to use a dating app for the first time in my life. After I went on a handful of dates, I received a text from out of nowhere from a gal who I had had a crush on for the past two years but had only talked to maybe three times. I was ecstatic; this type of thing never happens.

We agreed to go on a walk around a neighborhood lake. I was a little nervous but as soon as we met, it was as if we had been friends our whole life. We had a wonderful afternoon. Our discussions went deep right away. One of the things that we talked about was attachment style. I had just learned about it. So had she. "What are you?" "Avoidant" "So am I!" Ironically I felt "secure" in myself with my new knowledge because for the first time in my life I had awareness and the tools!

After a month of creative in-person physically distant dating, we became "bubble buddies" alternating weekends at each other’s apartment. We cooked wonderful meals together, went cross-country skiing, and just had so much fun. We also talked about aspirational stuff of how to make our relationship work. One day in the spring while I was at work, she sent me a text asking if I had left a key for her to lock my apartment. “No, but it will be fine,” I replied. I sent her a picture of what I was doing. Then I said, “Sorry, that was a boring photo. I just wanted to share what I was up to."

Later that night, I started to call her but thought, "I’ll let her reach out to me next." She didn't. After a few days passed and I hadn't heard from her I thought, "Uh oh." That was four months ago – and no communication since on either of our parts. No fight. No discussion. No "getting to the bottom of it." We just dropped off the face of the earth to each other.

Maybe we are both responsible for this strange ending but something about it seems consistent with myself, and so I blame myself. I have theories about what happened but I suppose I was afraid of addressing it with her like … a 40-something adult should do. Clearly I haven't learned anything and lack meaningful partnership skills. Knowing this, I am wondering, is it even ethical for me to date? Is this just what avoidant people do? Or am I a peculiar kind of awful at relationships. I feel stuck with myself and who I am.

– Avoided

Let's start with a deep breath.

First, you have learned plenty because you are interrogating your own behavior, seeking to improve it, acknowledging your questions, etc. You are not a hopeless case.

Second, it takes more than one person to mutually ghost at this level. I have no idea what happened here (nice to know you have theories), but both of you chose to walk away without discussion. The only reason you stopped texting at the time was that you feared that you were seeing her boring messages. Then you got insecure. Then you retreated.

You want to change your patterns and get to the bottom of things, so do it. Text her that you've been wondering about this for months, and that if she's open, you'd like to talk. You can tell her that if she's not into having any discussion, that's OK, of course, but that you wanted her to know this didn't just disappear from your brain.

You can even acknowledge that first conversation about attachment styles. You both avoided a lot – you win a prize! But … what if you took a moment to have a respectful ending (if that's what’s desired here)?

The hopeful thing is that you said "uh oh" when you did. You were attached to this woman and enjoyed your time with her. You wanted her to see what you were doing, and ... maybe you miss what you shared. Now it's about acknowledging that – and learning to say the words. That's scary, for sure, but having transparent, candid talks with a romantic partner is frightening for most people, no matter their attachment style.

Reach out, and maybe as you continue to date others, write down things you think about the relationship. "I want to see this person again." "I’m thinking of them when they're not here." "I'd like to see them one more day a week – or not." Once the thoughts are on paper, they might be easier to say out loud. (Also, this is a podcast episode about ghosting. It might help.)

– Meredith

Readers? Too late to reach out for a real ending?