By Emerson Karsh-Lombardo
Welcome to your guide to ghosting.
The other day, I met up with a guy I had matched with on a dating app. We did the typical Sunday-night casual date where we hung out, talked, and put a movie on in the background. We ended up having sex and I drove home at about 1 in the morning. In the 10 minutes it took me to drive home, he blocked me on everything. My text messages read as “undeliverable” and the Snapchats became “pending”. His name was unsearchable in all of my social media. His mere existence was gone from my phone. Ghosting. I had been ghosted.
As someone who has been casually dating for the last 5 years, ghosting is a modern dating phenomenon I have become far too familiar with. I have been ghosted more times than I would like to count, some more extreme than others, and I am also ashamed to admit that I have been the one to ghost here and there.
So, what is “ghosting”? Why does it happen? And most importantly: how do we move on from being ghosted?
“Ghosting” is a term that describes the practice of ending all communication and contact with another person without any apparent warning or justification. It also encompasses the act of ignoring someone’s attempts at contact, such as phone calls or text messages. It is referred to as “ghosting” because the person disappears into thin air as if they were a ghost.
Why does ghosting happen?
In a 2019 study, researchers set out to learn more about the practice of ghosting, both from the perspective of those who had ghosted and those who had been ghosted. Participants filled out a questionnaire on their experiences with ghosting and, through this, five reasons people might result to ghosting were identified. These five themes were convenience, loss of interest, negative interaction, relationship status, and safety.
“Convenience” in the context of ghosting refers to the simple efficiency ghosting can have. It’s easy to block a number from your phone. Traces of a person can be gone in seconds thanks to technology. This method of “vanishing” to end communication, and subsequently the relationship, seems more effortless over most alternative breakup strategies. It’s simply more convenient to never respond to a text instead of dealing with the emotional messiness of ending things through text or face-to-face interaction.
The second theme, “Loss of Interest”, is pretty straightforward; People result to ghosting because they just have no interest in the other person anymore. When there is a loss of overall interest, there is also a loss of interest in the person’s feelings. Simply put, once you stop caring for someone, you stop caring how your actions will affect them. This loss of interest creates a seamless transition into ghosting.
“Negative Interaction” was the third theme researchers discovered, which described participants’ loss of interest following some sort of unfavorable behavior on the part of the person they ghosted. The negative interaction then becomes the reason in which people justified the ghosting. The thought process of “they did something I didn’t like so I don’t have to talk to them again”. I think we’ve all been there. One time, I went on a date with a guy who complained about pharmaceutical commercials the entirety of the date and there was never a “thank you for a great date” text sent afterward.
In the context of ghosting, “relationship status” was the fourth theme the team of researchers found. This theme considered the combination of the relationship type and the length of time the relationship had existed for ghosting to be justified. The decision to ghost depends on the amount of time people had known each other. For example, if they had been on only one date, then ghosting was considered to be the justified way to end the relationship. In the eyes of a ghoster, ghosting was the best way of ending a brief relationship as the relationship was not considered significant enough for a formal breakup.
Lastly, the final theme researchers identified was safety. Safety is a reason to ghost as ending the relationship in other ways may be too dangerous. Ghosting offers a safe way to dissolve a relationship without placing the person doing the ghosting in any danger from the person being ghosted. Ghosting for safety reasons may also be the result of continuous decline of advances that are being ignored. Sometimes, when someone does not hear or respect the words “no” or “I don’t want to continue this relationship,” ghosting is the best and safest way to end communication and the relationship. There are other times ghosting is okay — Rachel wrote about it in SHAPE – you can read it by clicking here.
Okay, this all makes sense, but how do we move on from being ghosted?
Moving on from being ghosted doesn’t look or feel the same for everyone. Some situations leave us slightly confused while others leave us absolutely devastated.
One of the best things to do in the aftermath of a ghost is to grieve the relationship and sit with the feelings you’re feeling — whatever they are.. It’s valid to feel emotions like shaken up, anger, sadness, confusion, and grief.
Ghosting robs us of what we view as closure, something that is vital in moving on from a relationship. When we have closure from a relationship, it diminishes the questions that can be stuck in our heads. Ghosting, on the other hand, creates this stream of unanswered questions, “What did I do wrong?” “Was it the way I ate?” “Did I talk too much about my dog?”. We run the date(s) and every conversation over and over again in our minds, picking everything apart to see if there is a clue on why they left without a word.
One of the best things to do in the wake of ghosting is to accept that our idea of closure may not be a possibility — AND, closure can come from within. You absolutely do not need someone else’s story or explanations to decide that you are closing the loop on something. It’s super hard and you can totally do it. Ghosting is much more a reflection of who they are, not who you are. This lack of communication skills is a “them” problem, not a “you” problem.
Ghosting is often an indication that they don’t know the answers themselves, or can’t communicate their feelings properly. Reminding yourself that “it’s not me, it’s them” can be beneficial for the healing process.
The next best thing for the aftermath of ghosting is some good old self-care and self-love. After my most recent ghost, I spent the day in PJs while eating comfort food and watching comfort movies. I was giving myself the day to rest, grieve, and sit with my feelings.
To move on from ghosting, set apart time to grieve and remind yourself you are worthy of love! Surround yourself with love by spending time with family and friends, write yourself a love letter, take yourself on a date, give yourself a day of rest, and continuously remind yourself you are loved. Ghosting can rob us of closure, but it will not rob us of the love we all so deserve.