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If You've Ever Been Ghosted, You've Probably Been 'Submarined' Too

“The reason people behave like this is because they think they can get away with it."
06/18/2018 05:46 AM ET
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Updated Jun 18, 2018

Another day, another buzzword to add to the ever-growing list of dating terminology.

Currently on our radar is “submarining,” which is when a person ghosts you but then re-emerges months later like nothing ever happened, with no explanation as to why they disappeared in the first place.

When I first sat down to write this story, I texted a couple friends to conduct a small, informal poll. Is this really that common? Turns out, it’s very much a thing. Resounding responses included, “That’s DEF happened to me and DEF happened to my friends” and “100 percent. Has happened to me many times.” 

One even had the screenshots to prove it: 

My friend and this guy casually dated for several months. Then, one day, the guy ceased all contact with my friend and stopped making any effort to talk or hang out. Three months later, he re-emerged to inquire about her Fourth of July holiday.
(HuffPost)

Submarining is a term coined by U.K. writer Rebecca Reid, who, in a story for Metro, wrote that it happens after the ghosting phase (when a suitor suddenly vanishes from your life without explanation). A submariner will pop back up months later, “much like an olden days sailor who shipped off, went under the sea and then came back triumphant from his mission, he returns.”

In the story, Reid differentiated submarining from another insidious dating practice called “zombieing.” 

“When you get zombied, the person who ghosted you comes back from the dead and hits you up again,” Reid wrote. “But at least they’re aware that there’s been some distance. They might blame work or a personal drama, but they’ll acknowledge that they bailed. A submariner will not.”

Reid, now happily married, dealt with a garden variety of dating B.S. back when she was single. 

“When I was dating, I was big on telling people who tried to ghost that they were being rude,” she told HuffPost. “Writing a message to say, ‘Lovely to meet you but I’m not ready for a relationship’ takes seconds. There is literally no excuse not to.” 

To understand why so many people submarine, you first have to understand why people ghost. Ghosting someone is a painless (though cowardly) way to indicate that you are not interested in seeing or speaking to this person anymore. But to make contact again, without explaining why you vanished is confusing, not to mention inconsiderate.

The vast number of prospective partners on dating apps makes it far too easy to discard a potentially promising date in hopes of finding someone “better.” Then, later, when the submariner feels dissatisfied with their current prospects or lonely and in need of attention, they will inevitably reappear. Unfortunately, they lack the decency and emotional maturity to acknowledge why they cut off contact to begin with.

Therapist Kurt Smith, who is based outside of Sacramento, California, likened the experience of looking for love on Tinder, Bumble, Hinge and other apps to a fishing expedition.  

“You throw your line out in a number of places, but since you’re never sure where and when you’ll get the best catch, you don’t commit even when you do get some bites,” he said. “I hear more complaints from female patients than males about a lack follow-through or commitment to pursuing a relationship from people they’ve gone on dates with. While this pattern is nothing new, app dating certainly has amplified it.”

Alex Williamson, chief brand officer at the dating app Bumble, told HuffPost that a fear of commitment and confrontation may lead some folks to behave this way. Instead of addressing their feelings and communicating them honestly, submariners avoid the potentially awkward task of explaining their behavior. 

“What makes dating so difficult is that expectations aren’t always defined, and the communication isn’t always clear,” Williamson said. “We are taught to play it cool, which sometimes leads us down a path where we hurt someone’s feelings without fully realizing it.”

When you do inevitably encounter a submariner, don’t be afraid to call them out on their lame behavior and ask what their intentions are. 

“The reason people behave like this is because they think they can get away with it,” Reid said. “It’s healthy to be called out.”

And remember, just because someone ghosts or submarines you, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with you. Try your best not to take it personally. 

“Treat other people well, and don’t blame yourself for something that isn’t in your control,” Williamson said. “There are times we just don’t click with another person. Dating is tough enough – don’t forget to treat yourself the way you would want to be treated too. Self-love and self-respect can get you much further in life.”