Dear Ibby, usually start dating people through casual sex or hooking up, but it seems like every time I catch feelings, the guy ghosts me. Why does this keep happening? Am I doing something wrong?
I have a friend in your situation. She's wonderful — beautiful, funny, smart, knows a lot of great road rage insults. Yet, she thinks something's wrong with her because for the past few years, she's had a lot of hookups and no Daddies to speak of. Usually what happens is that she seduces someone, they have a great time, they express interest in her, she reciprocates, and then they evaporate into another dimension.
Ghosted. Gone. Bye.
However, the problem here isn't her — it's not how she looks, acts, smells or fucks.
The problem is with how she sees her situation. Which, incidentally, is with apathy and uncertainty.
When I ask her what she's looking for from these men, she's always like, “I don't know! I'm down for whatever.”
See that? That's why. She's not sure what she wants. So, she lets the men she's seeing control their interaction and color it with their agendas, which, more often than not, just happen to be of the casual sex persuasion. There's nothing wrong with casual sex, but what I'm trying to word vomit is that if you want something different than that, you're going to have to tell someone.
Circling back to you now, the only thing you may be doing wrong is not being clear with yourself about what you want.
Do you want a relationship? Do you want a fuck buddy? Do you want to stay single? Do you want a submissive furry you can take to conventions on a leash? Or something in between?
To answer the question of why you keep getting Casper-ed, you have to understand your motivations for being with people.
It's fine if you have none. You're allowed to go with the flow and see where things go without any particular agenda. However, if you're just sort of floating and you're not particularly thirsty for relationship blood, then your current approach of fucking people casually is fine because it'll have about the same success rate as if you weren't sleeping with anyone at all.
Think about it in terms of interpersonal relationships in general. Each day you leave your house, you meet countless potential friends, lovers, enemies and pet psychics as you go about your daily routine. But for whatever reason, you don't connect with them. You share a fleeting interaction, then forget they existed. Only rarely do you meet a person out in the world who becomes more than a complete stranger, and even more rarely than that does that person develop into a meaningful part of your life.
It's kind of the same thing with casual sex or hooking up — what you have is a fleeting interaction that, because of the context in which it takes place and the social scripting of one-night-stand-style sex, probably won't be much more than that. Nothing's wrong with you, that's just how casual sex is. Not every guy you sleep with is going to want to empty your colostomy bag when you're 90.
And, unfortunately, ghosting is is the norm now. The increasing acceptance of casual sex and non-traditional relationships have made it so sexual interactions feel almost too cursory to merit respectful communication, like the brief time you spent together wasn't equal to the emotional energy necessary to let someone down. That's sad and dumb, but … it's kind of par for the course. Its social ubiquity means you're probably doing nothing wrong — if it was just a problem with you, other people wouldn't experience it to the degree they do (and trust me, they do).
On the other hand, if you're looking for a relationship (or even a more regular friends with benefits thing), the only thing you might need to work on is being more up front about your intentions right off the bat. Let the people you're seeing know exactly what you're looking for so you're not wasting each other's time. If you state what you want right away, you're more likely to attract people who want the same thing.
However, regardless of what you're looking for, there's a bright side the pattern you're experiencing, and if you look at it the right way, you'll see that it's actually a good thing.
Right away, these people are telling you they're not fit for anything substantial. They're almost doing you a favor by doing that — they're telling you they're not worth your time so you don't have to spend the energy to figure that out yourself. And while a pattern of that happening is understandably unnerving for you, and it would be better if they could respectfully communicate their disinterest, their ghosting tactics do the work of defining your compatibility for you right off the bat.
That said, I'm not there with you when you're casually sexing these guys. I don't know if you have disqualifying habits like insisting “Wall-E” was a good movie or handing them a vial of pigeon blood in preparation for your consecration ritual. I'm assuming you're somewhere on the bell curve, but there's also the distinct possibility that your personality and interests are more niche than those of the people you're sleeping with. In that case, I'd seek out hookups on more nuanced dating or hook-up platforms that cater to your specific personality.
That, and I'd ask your friends. Do some market research using the people who know you best and ask for an honest opinion about why they think this keeps happening to you.
They'll probably say it's because you watch the "Big Bang Theory," but … that's just a guess.