For years people active in the dating world have found ways to leave relationships that no longer interested them. From having a friend break up with someone on your behalf to saying “It’s not you, it’s me,” there are endless ways to sever ties when you’re no longer into someone.
The latest method of ending a relationship or potential relationship?
Ghosting is the sudden discontinuation of contact with someone with the goal being to end the relationship without saying “I want to end this relationship.”
When someone ghosts you, they don’t say anything at all. They stop responding to phone calls, text messages, and emails. They don’t show up for dates.
A person who ghosts you seems to just disappear. It usually comes out of nowhere and often follows an intense period of frequent contact. Some people ghost a romantic interest after they’ve had sex with them. Others spend several intense weeks together, talking and texting every few minutes, and then suddenly they are gone.
When you’re ghosted, you feel as if you have no idea what happened. There is no explanation and no closure. Ghosting is passive aggressive rejection, and it’s ambiguous, leaving you feeling as if there is no finality or conclusion. You’re just left hanging.
Why Do People Ghost?
People ghost to avoid a difficult situation or uncomfortable feelings. They’re able to get out of a situation they no longer want to be in without having to deal with a stressful or awkward conversation. It’s a passive-aggressive way of handling the situation, but they do it because it protects them even if it hurts the other person.
You might think that having been ghosted would make a person less likely to do so, but it doesn’t. People who are ghosted are more likely to take that same approach when the shoe is on the other foot.
It’s also more likely for women to do it than men.
According to data from CreditLoan, women were more than 150 percent more likely to ghost than their male counterparts. The website polled 1,136 adults of different ages and sexual orientations about their dating habits and found that ghosting had happened to over a third of people. It also wasn’t just a trend among millennials and younger daters. The survey showed an even amount of ghosting among all age groups, including Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.
Why Has Ghosting Become So Prevalent?
People have been ending relationships for as long as there have been relationships, but the approach of ghosting is a newer phenomenon. Many relationship experts believe it comes from the increasing unwillingness people have to admit they were wrong about something or be in uncomfortable feelings.
Some also believe that our modern methods of dating, especially online dating apps, have taken the humanity out of relationships. When all it takes is a swipe to start or end a romantic encounter, it’s tough to actually see people as human. Further evidence that the ‘shopping’ approach to connection is resulting in people being seen as products.
The increase in ghosting has much to do with it being so easy to accomplish. We’re able to hurt people’s feelings without the consequence of seeing them face to face and dealing with the consequences of how we’ve made someone feel.
What Should You Do If You are Ghosted?
Being ghosted doesn’t feel good and it can trigger a lot of negative feelings and a desire to do all sorts of things.
The most important thing to do if you are, or have been ghosted is to realize it’s not about you. The message is clear: the other person is saying they are not ready to treat you as a person. You shouldn’t expect a relationship that involves ghosting to ever work out because it’s starting from a place of dishonesty and mistrust. Any person who ghosts you is not ready for an adult relationship and is using avoidance, denial, and rejection instead of dealing with a problem. There’s no sense in trying to reach out to them to get closure either – they don’t possess the tools to resolve issues or effectively bring a relationship to a respectful end. It just isn’t going to happen.
Of course, knowing it’s not about you doesn’t make your feelings hurt any less. And this type of rejection can also leave long-lasting emotional scars and place doubt in your mind about pursuing love in the future.
According to Loren Soeiro, Ph.D.ABPP, “When the person you like stops returning your texts, the emotional consequences can run from unpleasant to severe. There’s a profound lack of closure to the relationship, an ambiguity that makes it impossible to interpret what went wrong.”
“The social cues present in a traditional breakup – reduction of time spent together, lack of eye contact, a change in the tone of interaction – are absent and dis-orienting. You may imagine your partner has begun dating someone else – or, worse, blame yourself and create a story that they’ve finally recognized the things you hate about yourself. Ghosting causes you to question yourself, which can be devastating to your self-esteem. It deprives you of any chance to work through what went wrong in the relationship.” These are all normal responses to being rejected in this silent way.
What’s the best thing you can do if you’ve been ghosted? Remind yourself that in all adult or mature relationships there is conflict and sometimes separation – and that adults talk about these issues. Ghosters are attached to ‘easy love’ not real love. You can also use your pain to influence how you treat people in the future when you want to end a relationship. Don’t cause someone else the same unfinished anguish you’re feeling after someone does it to you.