When I left Paris in mid-July, my husband and I agreed that he'd spend the next month getting his life in order before he'd come and join me in New York City. We had been dividing our time between NYC and Paris for the past few years, and due to immigration issues and visa statuses, we had gotten used to spending some time apart.
But when he called me at the end of August to tell me that he thought we should maybe get a divorce, I was dumbfounded. I was even more dumbfounded when, after that short conversation, he said he'd call the following day to discuss things further. He never did.
Despite hundreds of attempts via text, email and Viber to get him on the phone, he was just gone. It was like he dropped off the face of the Earth.
I only heard from him two months later when, after some major Facebook research to try to locate him and see what was going on, I came across a photo of him. It was from mid-July, just two days after I had left Paris. He was without his wedding band on, and he was posing with a much younger girl.
After two months of trying to reach him, he decided to respond to my demands for answers and come clean about the affair he had during that month when he was supposed to be getting his life together. He had started sleeping with a girl 28 years his junior, a 20-year-old woman who later sent me a poem defending her love for my husband. You could hardly blame me for what I did afterward. (I sent him a pile of shit.)
Although my reaction might have been extreme, my situation was not unique. As often as we hear about people being ghosted after a few dates, aside from Charlize Theron's ghosting of fiance Sean Penn, we never really hear about people being ghosted by their spouses, their fiancés, or even serious live-in partners.
Of course, when you live with someone it's very difficult to ghost them, but in certain situations it can be also fairly easy. For instance, when Colleen*, 31, was ghosted by her fiance, a member of the Air Force, he initially told her that he was given a change of station. "Then he claimed he was being deployed all of a sudden, deleted his social media, and never spoke to me again," she told Mic.
At first, Colleen believed him. "I remained faithful about three months after the ghosting, just in case he HAD been deployed," she told Mic.
Then, a friend told her she had found his OKCupid profile, which indicated that he was in Georgia. To rub salt into the wound, the profile featured a photo that Colleen had taken of him.
"I sent him one last email telling him he was a piece of shit coward and that if he wanted to break up with me, he could have been honest," she told Mic. But he never responded to the email, and she never got an answer. That was almost five years ago.
Mary*, 35, had a similar experience with a man she lived with for years. "He went on a trip and never came back," she says. "I eventually found out from his mom several months later that he had met someone and he was 'deeply in love.' She told me, 'Her name is Linda. In Spanish, that means beautiful.' Thanks for the Spanish lesson, bitch."
In what is perhaps the understatement of the century, Mary said she found being ghosted by her live-in lover "totally confusing and befuddling." But the emotions that arise when you're the one being ghosted (particularly if it's by someone you're legally committed to) go far beyond that. You go from being in a committed, loving relationship, to being a woman staring at her phone, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
"Am I single now?," you wonder. "Am I supposed to wait for that phone call that may or may not ever come before I move on? Exactly what am I supposed to do with all this shit he left behind, the physical and emotional shit? Is burning it too dramatic?"
While ghosting has typically been thought of as a modern phenomenon, the truth is that it's been around for hundreds of years. Orthodox Jewish women who were ghosted by their husbands, for instance, were known as agunot, meaning that no matter the circumstances, they were literally "chained" to their husband. Until they had proof that their husbands were either dead or had granted them a divorce (called a get), the women could not remarry or move on with their lives in any way.
Back in ancient times, husbands went missing all the time, so those women were simply trapped in their marriages to phantom men. Luckily, in 2015, women whose spouses simply disappear without warning have other forms of legal recourse.
Katherine Eisold Miller, a mediator and collaborative lawyer at the Miller Law Group, said that spousal ghosting (legally referred to as "abandonment" or "desertion") is far from unheard of in her practice: in fact, she sometimes gets calls from people saying that they haven't seen their spouse in 30-odd years and are finally requesting a divorce. She said that while the law varies from state to state, there are ways for the ghoster to get closure from the ghostee, albeit on the legal level.
"If you can't find them to serve them divorce papers, then you need to get a substituted servicer – someone who works with them or lives with them, or you can even mail them to the ghoster," she told Mic. "If you still don't get a response, you need to need to make a 'diligent effort' to find them" by placing an ad online or even checking hospitals, prisons and morgues.
If your spouse is still M.I.A., Miller said, then you can make an application to the court asking for a divorce, "but you need to have all the proof that you tried to find them," she said. As for what to do with their belongings, that's largely your call: "You're under no obligation to keep that stuff and lug it around with you by marital law. However, if they show up 10 years later looking for their stuff and you've tossed it, then you could deal with them demanding compensation for it," she said.
"You're under no obligation to keep that stuff and lug it around with you."
Shortly before I was informed of my husband's cheating, he reached out to my father via email. He explained that his ghosting of me (yes, he admitted that he was indeed ghosting me) was "tactical" and that he thought it would be much easier if he were to disappear forever, as if moving on without closure is something people can just easily do.
Had I not been forced to sleuth around looking for information about him, I would have never discovered what he had done, he would have never been forced to admit to the cheating and I really may have never heard from him again. It makes you wonder if there was ever love there at all, or if it was all some elaborate scheme. It's scary, the things that go through your head, day in and day out, as you wait for some sort of answer as to what had happened that will never come.