If you’ve ever been ghosted, you’ve probably experienced the painful cocktail of confusion, uncertainty, and yearning. And you are not alone; one study1https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/02/230213113427.htm found that nearly two-thirds of people have been ghosted at least once.
If you’d like to know how to best get through this situation and understand why someone would ghost another person, then this article is for you.
What is Ghosting?
Ghosting is the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone without warning. The idea is that the person has effectively turned into a “ghost” and vanished.
Usually, when people refer to ghosting, they talk about the end of a romantic relationship. And it can happen at any stage of a relationship: after one date, after a few dates, or, horrifically, even after years of dating.
While people have been disappearing from each other’s lives for a long time, the phenomenon has gained traction recently with the upswing of online dating. If you’ve ever experimented with dating apps like Tinder, OkCupid, or Feeld, you know that it can feel like you’re balancing a handful of potential relationships simultaneously. And when one blooms, it might feel natural to drop the others.
But ghosting isn’t limited to romance. You can get ghosted by a friend or a professional colleague. Regardless of the type of relationship, the closer you are to the person, the more pain you’ll experience from getting ghosted.
Why does this happen? This study2https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/02654075211009308 found that it’s more likely for a ghost to have an avoidant attachment style and a ghostee to have an anxious attachment style.
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4 Tips On Dealing With Getting Ghosted
You know how challenging it can be if you’ve been ghosted before.
Consider these tips on how to navigate your feelings and move forward.
Give yourself closure
Part of why being ghosted is so painful is because there isn’t a trace of closure.
You don’t know why it happened. You weren’t prepared for it to happen. You didn’t want it to happen. It feels out of your control. And hard to accept.
Whew. That’s a lot! It isn’t easy to want closure but not get it.
The ghoster certainly isn’t going to give you closure, so it’s up to you to give it to yourself.
Check out the action step below, where we borrow wisdom from grief-focused psychologists and therapists like Karla Helbert3https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/creating-rituals-to-move-through-grief/, who advise personal rituals to heal.
Action Step: Create a ritual for yourself that symbolizes letting go of this connection. Here are three ideas to spark your inspiration:
- Go on a nature walk. At some point, pick up a rock that symbolizes your relationship with that person. Walk with the rock and reflect on it. At the end of the walk, figure out what to do with the stone (set it down, throw it, bury it, etc…….).
- Write a letter to the other person expressing every possible feeling and thought you want to share. When you are done, burn the letter to symbolize letting go.
- Create a piece of art. Paint, sculpt, or craft something representing your feelings and the closure you seek. Once you’re done, you can choose to keep, gift, or discard your creation based on what feels suitable for you.
Send one final text (scripts below).
It is often best to let go of communication altogether and move on. However, if you want to create some sense of closure for yourself and to get feedback on what happened, you could try one final text.
If you go this route, make sure you have been ghosted and they’re not just away for the weekend. Knowing if you got ghosted depends on how frequently your communication was beforehand.
But if you’ve tried to reach out thrice over two weeks without a response, then you can assume pretty safely that they have ghosted you.
Don’t send anything angry, aggressive, or blamey in your final text. All of those will likely repel the person further away. It’d be best not to share your emotions and to send a brief, respectful text asking for feedback, with a promise not to get defensive.
Action Step: If you are 100% certain you were ghosted, then you could try sending a final text based on this template:
I know you no longer want to pursue a relationship with me, and I respect your choice.
I hope to find a partner one day, and I could use all of the honest feedback and help I can get. I’m wondering, would you be open to sharing why you stopped communicating?
I promise I won’t get defensive or upset and will honor your wishes to part ways.
I’m just guessing all kinds of things about what happened, and I think hearing your truth would be tremendously valuable and clarifying for me so that I can learn and grow.
And I also understand if you’d prefer not to respond to this text, and I will respect that decision also.
Accept your feelings
It’s natural to experience all kinds of emotions after being ghosted, from confusion and hurt to anger or sadness. All of which we’ll dive into later in this article.
The best thing you can do for yourself around your feelings is to permit yourself to feel them. Studies suggest4https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3939772/ that suppressing emotions causes people to die at an earlier age.
Action Step: Write down a list of the emotions you’re feeling (it can be helpful to do this every day for a few days, but even once will help!). Write “I feel _____ because _____” several times for each feeling.
Check out this guide if you could use some support thinking of emotions.
Remember that all your feelings are valid as you write your list.
Unfollow them (and possibly delete their contact)
Yes, it is extraordinarily tempting to check their social media accounts every day—to see how they’re doing, if they’re dating someone new, or if any clues about your breakup might spring forth.
But following their social media accounts is just a form of self-torture and can unnecessarily elongate your healing process.
Action Step: Unfollow them on every social media—even Linkedin.
It’s tough, but it’s for your good.
How Ghosting Can Make You Feel (w/ My Personal Story)
Getting ghosted stings. And that sting can last a while. If this is your first time getting ghosted, then you might feel something like this:
While I’ve experienced plenty of heartbreak, I’ve had the good fortune of only getting ghosted twice—once by a professional contact and another time by a new friend.
The latter happened about two years ago. We met randomly at a museum, had a fruitful conversation, and then engaged in long, thoughtful texts for a few weeks. We finally made plans to meet in person again. But when the time rolled around, poof. She was gone.
I felt confused, disrespected, and sad. And let me tell you, I came up with many theories about what happened.
That ghosting happened with someone I hadn’t emotionally invested in yet, and still, a few years later, I think about her occasionally.
In more profound, long-term relationships, ghosting can create intense emotions.
Here are some of the most common emotional reactions people experience when they get ghosted. See which ones map onto your experience.
When someone ghosts you, you get no explanation or closure—which can confuse you about what happened.
You might first feel a flash of panic. “Are they okay?!” you care about them, and their abrupt absence might have you fear they got hurt. But eventually, you might check their social media account and realize they are fine but just stopped engaging with you.
This is when the confusion sets in. Why is this happening? Was there a misunderstanding? You might re-read old texts, desperately trying to understand where things went wrong or if they missed any signals.
You’ll probably come up with leading theories about what exactly happened or when they got turned off. But the brutal reality is that you can never know for sure.
Just know that if you feel confused, this is a normal response.
Hurt or rejection
Ghosting feels like rejection because it often is. It’s a total dismissal of your feelings and emotions. You might feel hurt, low self-worth and self-doubt. You might question your value in the relationship or even more broadly in social situations.
These feelings aren’t permanent, and you can heal and work through them. But if someone disappears on you, it’s natural to feel acute hurt and rejection.
Once the reality sets in, frustration and anger might bubble forth.
You could feel that you deserved better. Or you might feel livid that the other person didn’t have the courage or decency to offer an explanation or formal goodbye.
It likely feels unfair. Indecent. Disrespectful. All triggers for anger.
It can be incredibly frustrating because there is nowhere to direct your anger. The person who incited it is gone. So you are left to fume.
Experiencing anger is a normal and valid reaction to being ghosted.
Grief and pain
Loss of a relationship, even one that hasn’t been officially defined, can lead to feelings of sadness, grief, and even depression. You might mourn the potential future that the relationship could have had, or they might feel sorrow over the loss of a connection that felt meaningful.
And when we don’t see a loss coming, we can’t brace ourselves for it. Our defenses are down, and it hits us in a deep, unprotected spot. This is one reason why sudden bereavement5https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4119479/, the sudden and unexpected loss of a loved one, can be so psychologically debilitating.
Part of the sudden and unexpected loss from ghosting is so challenging that you get no closure. You had no say in the matter. You didn’t even know why it happened. One study6https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/02654075221149955 suggests that those with a higher need for closure are most negatively impacted by being ghosted.
Ghosting creates an insatiable longing.
To understand why that lack of closure is so difficult, let’s envision the following analog:
Imagine you’re watching a riveting new Netflix series. Your eyes are wide open, suspensefully mesmerized by the screen.
The second to last episode just finished, and you are in shock. Your heart aches with the characters, your palms sweat at the intensity, and your stomach has dropped. Your attention is gripped.
You MUST see what happens next.
But when you scroll your mouse to play the last episode, Netflix spontaneously exits. Crap!
When you re-open Netflix, the show is nowhere to be found! It has vanished from existence entirely!
You are left with a gaping incompletion that you will not soon let go of.
The purpose of this story is to illustrate our need for closure. When we are left hanging—even with something as simple as a TV show, something in us gets hooked and cannot let go.
It makes sense that it’s’ hard to let go of a ghosting. Ghosting hits us in a deep, human, existential place. Alongside our need for closure, it strikes our need for connection, a sense of safety, and certainty.
Behavioral scientist Michelle Drouin7https://ideas.ted.com/why-ghosting-hurts-us-psychology/ writes that “people who are ghosted sometimes resort to desperate measures to fill their gaps in uncertainty. They might reach out multiple times to the ghoster, even when continually ignored. They might start to surveil the ghoster on social media… Ghosting hurts us where we are most vulnerable.”
Insecurity and self-doubt
Researchers6https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/02654075221149955 at the University of Georgie Athens explain that ghosting “threatens a person’s basic psychological needs for belonging, self-esteem, meaningful existence, and control.”
Ghosting can trigger insecurities and corrode self-esteem. The person might wonder if they said or did something wrong if they weren’t attractive enough, smart enough, or good enough in some way.
There’s no way to know what happened, so endless rumination and over-analysis can ensue.
As thought leader Simon Sinek says, ghosting creates a “massive amount of insecurity… it destroys someone’s self-worth.”
And because being ghosted can feel so out of our control, researchers have also found that when folks get ghosted, they are likely to feel more helpless and lonely8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7037474/.
You might feel something like this:
Why Do People Ghost?
Okay, so we know getting ghosted sucks. So why do people do it?
Here are some of the most common reasons someone might ghost another person.
This first point isn’t a reason why the person ghosted you per se; it’s more a descriptor of the type of people who tend to ghost others.
This study2https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/02654075211009308 found that it’s more likely for a ghoster to have an avoidant attachment style and a ghostee to have an anxious attachment style. So it’s possible that the ghosting was an expression of an anxious avoidance dynamic between you.
It might be worth pondering how attachment styles played out in your relationship and if the ghosting felt demonstrative of them. Was their ghosting behavior another act in a string of avoidant tendencies?
The same study also found that ghosters were likelier to hold “destiny” beliefs about relationships than “growth” beliefs. These are psychological terms from Implicit Theories of Relationship9https://academic.oup.com/edited-volume/38162/chapter-abstract/332982681?redirectedFrom=fulltext, where, as this study10https://conservancy.umn.edu/handle/11299/226290#:~:text=Proponents%20of%20ITRs%20argue%20that,survive%20hardship%20in%20order%20to puts it, “people adopt one of two belief systems relating to relationships; those who endorse destiny beliefs agree that relationships are either meant to be or not whereas those endorsing growth beliefs argue that relationships must incorporate ongoing communication and survive hardship to succeed.”
Those who believe relationships are meant to be or not are more likely to ghost. So, the other person’s ghosting was also a reflection of how they view the relationship and perhaps a shortcoming in their understanding of the need for growth and communication in partnership (as growth relationships are shown to be healthier and more satisfying).
Beyond those two possibilities, here are a few more specific reasons why people opt for ghosting instead of breaking up in a conversation.
Fear of confrontation
Many people dislike or even fear confrontation. It brings about intense emotions they don’t know how to deal with. They might struggle to express their feelings or hold space for another person’s emotions.
Instead of having a difficult conversation about why they want to end or pause a relationship, they might find it easier (at least in the short term) to disappear.
According to psychologist Royette Dubar11https://www.psypost.org/2022/11/when-texts-suddenly-stop-study-investigates-why-people-ghost-and-its-consequences-64306 at Wesleyan University, “some students admitted they ghosted because they lacked the necessary communication skills to have an open and honest conversation–whether that conversation happened face to face or via text or email.”
Difficulty setting boundaries
Many people have yet to practice noticing when a boundary arises and how to communicate that boundary. As a result, when a boundary does start to get encroached upon, without the proper skillset, it can cause someone to panic and run.
They might bolt if things become too emotionally enmeshed faster than someone is ready for. If things become sexual too quickly, it could scare them off.
Regarding ghosting, some research suggests12https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0736585323000333 that folks who ghost a romantic partner tend to experience communication overload before ghosting.
In other words, there are too many or too involved texts or simply things that need to be faster. A boundary of theirs has slowly crept past. And they’ve caught it too late, so their impulse is to run and get out.
Digital communication, particularly in online dating, lacks the face-to-face interpersonal cues that foster empathy and understanding. It’s easier for people to disconnect abruptly from someone they’ve only communicated with via text or online, as it gives a feeling of anonymity that in-person communication lacks.
In other words, online dating can mute our empathy. So while getting ghosted hurts like hell, the ghoster may be blind to this.
At least in Dr. Dubar’s focus groups11https://www.psypost.org/2022/11/when-texts-suddenly-stop-study-investigates-why-people-ghost-and-its-consequences-64306, about half of the ghosters felt guilt or remorse, and the other half felt no emotion. However, it is worth contextualizing that, in general, those who end relationships feel markedly less distress than those who get broken up with.
They feel unsafe
There are situations where ghosting is an act of self-protection.
Suppose someone feels unsafe, threatened, or controlled in a relationship. In that case, ghosting can sometimes seem the safest way to distance oneself, especially if one fears that ending the relationship could provoke aggression or hostility.
This is all especially true in a toxic relationship, where manipulation, gaslighting, or emotional abuse is prevalent.
Dr. Dubar11https://www.psypost.org/2022/11/when-texts-suddenly-stop-study-investigates-why-people-ghost-and-its-consequences-64306 writes: “A 19-year-old female put it this way: ‘It’s very easy to just chat with total strangers, so [ghosting is] like a form of protection when a creepy guy asks you to send nudes and stuff like that.’
This may not be the situation you were in. However, it might be worth some self-reflection on the levels of safety or toxicity that developed in your relationship and the part you both played in either.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ghosting
Ghosting is the act of abruptly cutting off all communication without explanation, and it means that someone has chosen to end a relationship without confronting or informing the other party.
People choose to ghost others in relationships because they may want to avoid confrontation or emotional discomfort or feel overwhelmed or unsafe by the situation.
Yes, ghosting is more common in online dating and digital communication due to the impersonal nature of these mediums and the ease of disconnecting. When relating online, it’s much easier to communicate without empathizing.
Ghosting can negatively impact the mental health and self-esteem of the person being ghosted, often leading to feelings of rejection, confusion, self-doubt, anger, and grief.
Yes, ghosting can have long-term consequences on trust and communication in relationships, making individuals more cautious and wary of forming deep connections in the future.
To cope with the emotional impact of being ghosted, feeling your feelings, giving yourself closure, and unfollowing the ghoster on social media can be helpful. It can also help you turn to your friendships for support or even to a psychotherapist. And remember to engage in self-care and reflection to process and move past the experience.
To prevent misunderstandings and promote open communication, individuals should regularly check in with their partners, establish clear boundaries, and prioritize honest discussions about feelings and concerns.
Takeaways on What To Do When You Get Ghosted
Getting ghosted hurts. It’s very likely you’ll feel some, if not all, of the following:
- Hurt and rejection
- Grief, pain, and longing
- Insecurity and self-doubt.
As you’re moving through this period, here are some of the best things you can do:
- Send one final text (if you choose) where you respectfully ask for feedback and promise not to get defensive
- Accept your feelings. Write them down at least once to see what’s happening inside you and give permission to it. The more you do this, the better
- Give yourself closure by creating a ritual to let go of the relationship.
- Unfollow them on social media—no need to torture yourself.
Best of luck navigating through this uncomfortable experience. You got this! And if you ever find yourself in a position where you need to end a relationship, here are a few considerations on how to approach that dynamic skillfully.
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