With new relationship slang popping up all the time, it’s easy to lose track of what’s what. There’s love bombing, orbiting, benching, there might even be sasquatch-ing in there, and isn’t that a scary thought? Ultimately, most of them are new-fangled therapy-speak for patterns of behavior that have always existed.

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Just like all those other terms, you want to avoid being submarined at all costs – it sucks. The basic premise can be inferred, subs disappear deep in the murky depths, and then their little binoculars pop up (they had better still use those) to check the coast is clear for another attempted maneuverer. Replace the submarine with a person, and you start to get the idea…

It’s never one thing in isolation

You might be wondering who in their right mind would think that they can just vanish, cut off contact, and still be welcomed back to any situation without some kind of conflict. The answer is, of course, someone who also does lots of other manipulative things, designed to keep the plausibility of that return as open as possible.

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In other words, if somebody is just going to disappear and reappear, they need you to notice they are gone and will do things like love-bomb you to increase the chances of you accepting their return. These are all manipulative behaviors, whether the feelings the person holds for you are genuine or not.

It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship

Though we often associate manipulative behaviors and dynamics with intimate couples, in truth these actions can be seen across the spectrum of connection. Parents and their children, despite the completely different expectations and responsibilities of their relationship, can ghost each other. There is more of a weight to re-establishing contact, but the basic idea remains the same.

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It’s important to bring this up because manipulative behaviors are bad, regardless of who is demonstrating them and what their justifications are. It sets a worrying precedent if somebody disappears without a trace, and unless they show some kind of accountability in the form of an apology, what is to say they won’t do it again?

Why is it so bad?

While at first glance it can seem like this entire process is just ghosting with extra steps (it is), there’s a level of illogical entitlement in resurfacing in somebody’s life that, at the very least, complicates things. It can be pretty traumatic hearing from a past friend, partner, or family member, and it’s fair to feel offended when their reason for reaching out can seemingly boil down to “I was lonely/I felt guilty”.

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People should apologize when they’ve done something wrong, and that apology has to start somewhere. They’re difficult, and they should be! The submariner has a hard task, and they utterly fail at it more often than not. That’s why terms like this are coined, right? To label the attempts so outrageous that they defy the current body of human knowledge.

Can they ever be sincere?

When life can be so incredibly complicated, you have to assume that somebody can disappear and reappear for, if not justifiable, then understandable reasons. It’s one thing to accept the premise, that whatever explanation you’re offered is honest and as close to objective as our tiny brains can ever get, but it’s another to come around to accepting an apology… If there is one.

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At the end of the day, it will come down to your circumstances and exactly how the relationship panned out, but if you feel like there could be something there worth salvaging, then there is some hope. People can change, and they did reach out to you, that shows they are at least on their mind after all.

Long-term submariners

Sometimes this relationship dynamic can manifest across huge periods, which understandably increases the emotional investment, and usually how tumultuous things might be. It’s unlikely that a Tinder match who stopped messaging you after the first date is going to cause a huge reaction that spins into a life-altering relationship by fire reacting to your story after three years.

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These usually grow out of, or into, unhealthy attachments. They can be damaging to both of you, and it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that it’s in everyone’s best interest that things conclude. Time does heal many relationship wounds, but only if they’re not constantly prodded and poked.

What is your role in the process?

Sadly, none of us can truly read minds, we don’t know when somebody is going to ghost us or try to manipulate us. It isn’t your fault that somebody was cold or cruel to you, and when it comes to any kind of reconciliation, it’s important to remember you have some power. You can choose to accept an apology or not, and you get to decide what accepting their apology means in terms of the practical relationship.

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Don’t let somebody from the past, from when you might have been a different person, with different wants and needs, drag you into a state of regression. You might still not be who you want to be, but you’re closer than you were back then. If they truly take accountability and work to make amends, then you can take it from there at your discretion.