Lovers as ‘ghosts’

Published August 3, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Jun Ynares


Dr. Jun Ynares

“If you ever leave me, I’ll die.”

No, that was not a quote from a letter from one whose lover left and who now threatens to take his or her own life. Those words are the last line of a song which made it in the top 100 hits of 1968 and popularized by American balladeer Jack Jones.

We chanced upon this song on an internet music app. The lyrics made us curious about the theme of the songs of that era. We discovered that many hit songs of that era had to do with the heartache of people left behind by their lovers, of lovers parting ways, or lovers who parted ways and are now missing each other.

So, music fans of that era listened to songs like “He’ll have to go,” “Please, Mr. Postman”, and “Where did our love go?”

It appears that, during the teen years of our parents and grandparents, people resorted to writing songs

to express the pain of being left by those they love.

Today, some people are looking at the possibility of taking legal action against their lovers who disappear from their lives and cause them pain.

In the language of today’s generation, that act is called “ghosting.”

“Ghosting,” as it was explained to me by the millennials in my staff, happens when someone’s significant other suddenly stops communicating, severs connections becomes absent in his or her life – for no clear reason, no warning, no advance notice.

Recently, one of our esteemed legislators filed a bill seeking to make “ghosting” a punishable criminal offense.

According to Negros Oriental Third District Representative Arnolfo Teves, Jr., “ghosting” is an act of “emotional cruelty” because it creates feelings of “rejection and neglect.”
It is a “form of emotional abuse and happens once a person is engaged in dating relationship with the opposite sex which affects the mental state of the victim,” Congressman Teves said in the explanatory portion of the bill he filed.

The bill, many noticed, has not yet explicitly provided for the penalties for “ghosting.”

We believe, however, that this bill would trigger an interesting debate. There will be many questions asked, particularly regarding the specifics. For example, at what stage of “dating” should the couple be for one to be able to claim to have been “ghosted?” How long should the partner’s disappearance be before one can complain of having been “ghosted?”

It is also interesting to know why in this bill Congressman Teves limited to right to complain about being “ghosted” to “heterosexual couples.” The bill used the term “opposite sex” in describing the dating relationship. What about same-sex couples?

Congressman Teves’ legislative initiative, despite the apparent gaps, shows the honorable solon’s understanding of modern-day romantic relationships. He understood that many of today’s relationships stay in the “dating” mode for long periods of time. Many prefer to never get married despite living together. This is called “living in” or “cohabitation” in legal parlance.

Congressman Teves’ bill appears to be underscoring a principle: That “commitment” must be present even in romantic relationship outside of marriage. He implies that “being present” to each other and for each other is important even in such relationships.

It appears Congressman Teves’ bill recognizes the fact that relationships outside of marriage create strong “emotional dependency.” This could be due to the fact that such relationships are not protected by legal and formal covenants. Couples involved in these relationships can only count on each other’s “promise” to be there for each other.

In marriage, its version of “ghosting” has legal consequences under Philippine laws. It is called “abandonment” and it happens when a spouse departs with “an avowed intent never to return, followed by prolonged absence without just cause and without in the meantime providing for one’s family although able to do so.”

In “abandonment,” it seems that what the law is concerned about is the fulfillment of the duty of a spouse to provide for one’s family, in the material sense of the word.

“Abandonment” is a ground for legal separation. Because we are not an expert on things legal, we do not know if there are other penalties for the commission of an act constituting “abandonment” under Philippine laws.

What Congressman Teves’ bill wishes to guard against and to penalize is the failure to provide emotional support, not material.

We do not know if the bill would ever become law.

However, the filing of the bill has served a good purpose. It has served as a reminder that all those relationships – at whatever form and level – must be valued and respected.