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How To Handle Being Ghosted



In this day and age, most all people who have online dated are, unfortunately, familiar with ghosting, especially in big cities like San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles with the potential for anonymity. As online dating has spread to smaller towns, the ghosting phenomenon has become popular in these places as well. Whether ghosting has happened to you directly (it likely has if you've online dated for a period of time), or you’ve heard about it from friends, you probably have some sense of what ghosting is. You also may have some confusion as the term refers to a range of behaviors. For example, it may refer to people who have only spoken via an app disappearing and also to someone from a long term relationship disappearing without a word or a trace. In a world where everyone is glued to their phones and connected at all times, someone “going dark” on you can feel like a direct affront and akin to someone ignoring you in plain sight when you wave at them. Even though ghosting has become extremely widespread, it doesn’t make the gesture hurt any less. In this post, we’ll look at what ghosting is, and how to deal with it when it happens to you.

What is Ghosting?

Ghosting, simply put, is communication in which one party has communicated with the expectation of response and doesn’t get a response. Ghosting applies to people you have established an expectation of relationship with. Disappearing after the first few messages of online dating is not technically ghosting, though could still be a rude gesture. 

How Common is Ghosting? 

Ghosting is incredibly common. Apps and technology make it seem like there is an infinite supply of humans - as though humans and potential mates are simply that - supplies. This technology allows people to objectify others and delude themselves that the other person doesn’t really matter and can be easily replaced or easily avoided. 

Why do People Ghost? 

Ghosting is a common reaction to uncomfortable or complex feelings, usually by a person who doesn’t have very good skills for dealing with their emotions or communicating complex feelings (good to deal with this in individual therapy).  At its core, ghosting is an avoidance strategy - a way for the person to avoid dealing with their own feelings and avoid a perceived difficult situation. There are times when the ghoster may actually have feelings of interest or attraction still for the person they are ghosting, but something came up that was too complex for them to process and communicate. They may tell themselves that it is more compassionate to ghost than be direct and criticize the person. In reality, there is a way to be direct always without being critical, and this type of communication is an important skill to learn. 

In some instances, like the silent treatment, ghosting can be an active attempt to manipulate the other person - to punish them or make them want the ghoster more. 

Technology has made it easier to move on from perceived uncomfortable situations. Deleting text messages, blocking people, muting, etc. has created an easy way to avoid confronting all aspects of our lives.

What happens when you are ghosted? Why is ghosting so painful?

We are hardwired as relational beings - we depend on relationships to not only thrive, but even to survive. In this way, ghosting triggers survival instincts. We feel abandoned, and equate abandonment with not being able to survive. Of course, this is just our instinctive response - our mind knows that we have friends and families and other people who are here. But we experience the loss and abandonment when any person who is important to us in some way (even budding), disappears. It an also bring up feelings of worthlessness and shame because in the absence of clear information or communication, or mind will often search for causes within our control - “I must have done something wrong. Something must be wrong with me.” The ghoster is on some level, aware of this, because they would feel the same way if someone did it to them…which is what makes ghosting actually more of an unkind act than the ghoster would lead themselves to believe. 

What are the consequences of ghosting for the ghoster? 

The ghoster imagines they can stop responding and never have to face any consequence. They may imagine they are doing the “kind” thing by not telling the other person something negative. The truth is the ghoster may not have to face their complex feelings and their shame about their inability to communicate in the moment of ghosting. But, the ghoster will eventually feel these feelings. Further more, they feel a disconnected sense of internal burden and feelings of loss of control. Studies show ghosting makes people feel worse in the long run. The ghosters predict they will feel better if they ghost than if they send a direct rejection text, however, studies have shown that people feel worse after ghosting than they guessed they would.  They also lose some of their freedom as ghosters will then go out of their way to avoid the situation that they have created. 

What are the consequences of being ghosted for the one being ghosted? 

Ghosting is painful and can be traumatic. It can lead to mental health issues, damaged self esteem, and even problems in future relationships, including trust issues, fear, and anxiety.

Ok, so the real question: 

How do you Deal with getting Ghosted?

    • Don’t chase the ghoster. They have shown you that they cannot share in a healthy relationship, so treat them as the ghost they are in your life.
    • Talk about it with friends. Get social support and help thinking through what happened.
    • Remind yourself that there is nothing wrong with you. Remember that whatever you did or didn’t do, you deserve respect and a conversation to resolve a misunderstanding, argument, or issue. 
    • Remember the person ghosting has their own problems and issues. Recognize this behavior is part of a pattern and this person wouldn’t be a match for you because they would deal with complex feelings this way in your relationship
    • Don’t normalize the behavior in your own life and don’t let it get to you. Improve your own flexibility and communication skills so you don’t treat others the same way you’ve been treated. 
    • Take self-care steps. Make sure to get regular sleep, social time, and engage in healthy activities. 
    • Go to individual therapy or individual counseling. Talk through the issue with a professional
    • Grieve the relationship. Give yourself time to feel the loss and sadness of being treated in a way that is less than you deserve. Don’t expect to feel ok immediately. 
    • Use empathy to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Think about what issues they have that lead them to communicating this way. 
    • Cultivate compassion. Direct compassion towards both yourself and them. They must be in a lot of emotional pain to act out this way, even if they don’t acknowledge it. 
    • Consider avoiding apps. Consider meeting people IRL, through friends or situations that create more accountability. 
    • Say what you need to say. If there is something that you can say to get inner resolve, give yourself a final chance to express yourself, and move on. Know that the person very likely won’t respond. I.e. “I enjoyed our time together, and I’m not sure what happened. I’d really love to know what happened for you as it would help me to move one without a major question mark in my mind. It doesn’t feel good to be left hanging.”

In summary, move on, practice taking care of yourself, and do what it takes to avoid becoming a ghost yourself. Practice clear communication and compassion, and reach out to friends for support. If you feel hopeless or your feelings don’t get better, find a licensed relationship therapist online or a dating coach for support and help with grieving, effective communication, and conflict resolution. 

Check out our relationship services, including individual counseling services, relationship coaching, and individual therapy for further support. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q.1 After how long is it considered ghosting?

A. Although every relationship is unique, many people start to recognize no response is coming and they have been ghosted after about three days. Everyone has crises or can find a good reason for not replying, but if something goes unanswered for three days or longer, it is often a ghosting situation.

Q.2 Is ghosting disrespectful?

A. In all cases except where emotional or physical safety is concerned, yes. It's rude and not respectful to withhold your disinterest in continuing a relationship. The only exception to not communicating is if a person poses a threat of some type. Ghosting is an unhealthy and disrespectful.

Q.3 Why would a person ghost you?

A.  People may ghost you for no apparent reason, such as convenience, loss of attraction, bad feelings, or safety concerns. Ghosting is a more common act for people who score higher on avoidant attachment scales.



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