In early June, I matched with a tatted writer named Shawn*. He had a smoldering black-and-white headshot that earned my Swipe Right—total Ryan Gosling vibes. After talking for a few days, we decided to meet for happy-hour drinks, and the banter we had via messages translated IRL.
The following day, he texted me: “What’s occupying the Gabster?” Ooh, cute. We’re already nickname offish. I told him I was watching The Bachelorette with my best friend and playfully asked, “What’s occupying the Shawnster?” No response. An hour later, I promised I’d never call him the Shawnster again. Still nothing. The next day, I texted in all caps “SHAWN” and nada. I couldn’t believe he ghosted me in the middle of a conversation that HE initiated. I accepted defeat and moved on from the ghost who could dish out nicknames but clearly didn’t stan them himself.
Cut to a few months later, and I saw Mr. Edgy Author on a different dating app. I couldn’t help but say: “I thought you died!” after we matched. He apologised for going radio silent, then asked me to grab drinks that night. I agreed, because I believe in second chances. Cue the narrator: “And this is the part of the story where Gabi had to learn the hard way.” Let’s just say, after another good date with rosé and IPAs, he ended up basically ghosting me again. Womp.
If this scenario sounds remotely relatable to your experiences at all, you’re not alone. There’s an actual, legit term for this dating trend, called zombie-ing. Beware of the zombie who ghosts you and then, after some time has passed, “rises from the dead” and hits you up again. This can come in the form of a text, DM, phone call, or simply matching on another dating app.
But the question remains: Do you give this person a shot again? Do you become a forgiving person like me and focus on the present with someone like the Shawnster? My answer is no, since that got me nowhere and now the Shawnster is the Gonester.
“You have to be careful if you’re going to date a zombie,” says Jane Greer, PhD, family and marriage therapist. “It’s essential to have very clear plans in place for connecting, when you’re going to be spending time, and how often you’ll text.” Ah, I see.
If you find yourself face-to-face with a zombie, here are some tips and tricks on whether you should let them actually resurrect from the dead:
1. Consider Your Standards
Donna Sozio, author of The Man Whisperer, urges women not to accept sh*tty behavior as the new normal. Just because zombie-ing is a thing doesn’t mean we have to be okay with it because, news flash, it’s not okay. If you’re really hurt by this behavior, no need to take them back if it’s going to cause trust issues down the road.
2. Ask Yourself if You’re Feeling Secure
Listen, you don’t need to be validated by anyone but yourself. If you’re feeling insecure and in need of someone’s presence because, hi, cuffing season, you’re probably going to be more likely to give a zombie another shot when you probably shouldn’t. “But if you create your own sense of security and not look for it in others, then no matter what happens with them, you’ll be just fine,” says Sozio.
3. Don’t Ignore the Red Flags
Besides the whole ghosting thing, were there other red flags you were ignoring? Because the most likely answer is yes. “Dating is when most people are on their best behavior, so if someone is ghosting or zombie-ing you in the dating phase, you better believe that’s just the tip of the problems that could arise,” says dating coach Camille Virginia, author of The Offline Dating Method: How to Attract a Great Guy in the Real World.
4. Was There an Apology?
If there’s a legitimate reason someone ghosted, then okay, yes, maybe it’s fine to forgive. But only if they dish out a sincere apology—yes, literally the words: “I’m sorry.” “If there’s an actual sincere apology attached—not just a lame blanket excuse like ‘work got busy,’ I’d say forgive, forget, and give it another whirl,” says Sozio. Also, work is always busy—that’s why it’s called work. No excuses.
I think the bottom line here is that ghosting, zombie-ing, or whatever cute dating term we’re using to excuse bad behavior boils down to one common thing: lack of respect. If someone is straight-up ignoring you or not treating you right, especially in the beginning stages of dating, that’s 9 times out of 10 not going to change. So keep your ghosts and zombies out of your dating life, but definitely still use them as Halloween costumes.
*Name has been changed.