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Meet haunting, the opposite of ghosting

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Ghosting, breadcrumbing, orbiting and now haunting. Firstly, who made up these ridiculous terms? But despite the silliness, such phrases are important in distinguishing the nuances of modern dating, because it is wild out there.

As a newly single 29-year-old, I had been warned about the contemporary concept of ghosting before jumping ‘back on the apps’. Yet every time I go on a date I seem to need to breakup with whomever the date was with, as the follow up is so insistent.


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Read the room guys – isn’t it clear after a first date whether sparks were flying or not? These ‘breakups’ have included teary phone calls, songs being exchanged and essay-like text messages.

Here I was preparing for constant abandonment in my new dating life, but rather than being ghosted I seem to be getting haunted instead. If it isn’t clear from the name, haunting is when a former love interest (or in my case, someone you’ve been on only a few dates with), doesn’t get the hint and continues to contact you.

I’ve noticed a cycle of dating app downloading in myself since becoming single a few months ago – a 28 day cycle, funnily enough. It goes like this: feeling heartbroken and in a state of longing, feeling confident and empowered, feeling twitchy, downloading a dating app, chatting away to strangers, arranging a date, the date leading to inevitable disappointment, insistent follow up from the other party (aka haunting), me swearing off dating, repeat. Call me desperate, call me unpractised, just please don’t call me again.

While I certainly haven’t been attracting the right type of man – probably due to my premature return to the dating sphere – I know I’m not the only one to have experienced haunting. I asked a mixture of friends about their experiences with haunting, and online dating at large. We’ll start with my dear friend Liam*.

“Yes, I’ve been haunted, my solution is to block. I’m pretty liberal with the block button anyway, so any inclination of a clinger and they’re blocked on all platforms. Most of them are pretty delicate, hence the neediness, but you’ve gotta be selfish and nip it in the bud,” he told me. I would like to add that Liam is a scorpio – sexy and ruthless!

Another friend, Ella*, had only experienced hauntings in the dating world pre-apps, and now happily lives with a partner she met on Tinder. We discussed the online dating scene as a whole. “It seems like a series of churn and burn. There’s something risk free about knowing you might not have to see the other person again.

“Equally, I think people can get carried away and invest too much emotional labour into someone they haven’t met yet, which means they can get a bit relentless with the follow up. Usually online dates are unsuccessful anyway…”

Basically, a ‘match’ does not a match make, for the most part. I also asked a close friend, Tara*, a millennial single living in the inner city, and a practising clinical psychologist, how she sees haunting impacting people, both in her work and personal life.

“I honestly haven’t had those kinds of conversations raised by my patients, and come to think of it, I’m surprised by haunting! In my own life though, I’ve had a variation of experiences with online dating, some empowering, some deflating. I haven’t really been haunted nor ghosted. Overall I would say that online dating is fun, and I wouldn’t say that it has had an impact on my own mental health.”

Clearly, Tara has the right attitude! But despite it being less common than ghosting, haunting certainly exists, and I’ll tell you an example of it that happened to me recently. After my ex partner dumped me seemingly out of the blue (of course it’s all clear now), I was left feeling rather rejected.

In a bid to curb this new, negative sense of self I drank a bottle of Prosecco and downloaded Bumble for the first time (my first mistake). From there I chatted to a series of strangers and ended up getting along famously with a certain suitor who we will name Ben*. I liked the look of him and gave him my number before we met up (second mistake).

He and I then chatted persistently for days via text and on the phone until we finally met up (third mistake). When we met up I could tell it wasn’t going to work, but I went ahead with the full date as planned anyway (fourth mistake). He seemed like a nice guy who I just wasn’t attracted to in real life – no hard feelings, pardon the pun.

It was a classic case of expectations not meeting reality. I let him down lightly afterwards, honestly explaining that I wasn’t interested and that really it wasn’t the right time for me to date again. His reaction to this was an essay-like text message explaining his emotions and that he was “baggaged” too (excuse me?). We then had to wrap things up with a final phone call. May I add that this was during lockdown, so our date was literally just a walk.

As it is now, I am off the apps. I’ve been feeling so sexually starved that I had a sex dream about Larry David, and I may or may not have fantasised about the carpenter from a chateau restoration vlog I’m obsessed with – the subconscious wants what the subconscious wants. All hope is not lost though. An old flame from Sydney is flying down this weekend and we’re going on a date.

With him the boundaries are already firmly in place, and we shall see where the night takes us. Above all, what I’m trying to say is to be careful. Keep your boundaries up and remember that these people are strangers, regardless of the normalcy of online dating now. Don’t forget your online hygiene, and if someone starts to haunt you, be liberal with the block button.

*Names have been changed

For more on haunting, try this.

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