Ghosting: What It Is, Why It Hurts, and What You Can Do About It
You’re in a relationship. Suddenly, and maybe without any warning at all, your partner seems to have disappeared. No calls, no text messages, no connection made on social media, no responses to any of your messages. Odds are, your partner hasn’t unexpectedly left town because of a family emergency, and isn’t lying dead in a ditch somewhere but, rather, has simply ended the relationship without bothering to explain or even let you know. You’ve been ghosted.
Who Ghosts and Who Gets Ghosted?
Why would someone choose to simply disappear from another person’s life, rather than plan, at minimum, a conversation to end a relationship? You may never know for sure why you were ghosted. While more studies need to be done specifically on the ghosting phenomenon, past research has looked at different types of attachment personalities and choice of breakup strategies; it’s possible that people with an avoidant type personality (those who hesitate to form or completely avoid attachments to others, often as result of parental rejection), who are reluctant to get very close to anyone else due to trust and dependency issues and often use indirect methods of ending relationships, are more likely to use ghosting to initiate a break-up.
Other research found that people who are believers in destiny, who think that relationships are either meant to be or not, are more likely to find ghosting acceptable than people who believe relationships take patience and work. One study also suggests that people who end relationships by ghosting have often been ghosted themselves. In that case, the ghoster knows what it feels like to have a relationship end abruptly, with no explanation, no room for discussion. Yet they seemingly show no empathy toward the other, and may or may not experience any feelings of guilt over their ghosting behavior.
What it Means to Ghost and Be Ghosted
Ghosting is by no means limited to long-term romantic relationships. Informal dating relationships, friendships, even work relationships may end with a form of ghosting. For the person who does the ghosting, simply walking away from a relationship, or even a potential relationship, is a quick and easy way out. No drama, no hysterics, no questions asked, no need to provide answers or justify any of their behavior, no need to deal with someone else’s feelings. Certainly, while the ghoster may benefit from avoiding an uncomfortable situation and any potential drama, they’ve done nothing to improve their own conversation and relationships skills for the future.
For the person who is ghosted, there is no closure and often deep feelings of uncertainty and insecurity. Initially, you wonder “what’s going on?” When you realize the other person has ended the relationship, you’re left to wonder why, what went wrong in the relationship, what’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with them, how you didn’t see this coming.
What to Do If You’re Ghosted
Ghosting hurts; it’s a cruel rejection. It is particularly painful because you are left with no rationale, no guidelines for how to proceed, and often a heap of emotions to sort through on your own. If you suffer from any abandonment or self-esteem issues, being ghosted may bring them to the forefront.
In this age of ever-advancing technology, your ghoster is likely to appear on your various forms of social media and, if that’s the case, this person who is now physically gone from your life, is still quite visible. How do you move on? Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet or proven advice to quickly guide you into recovery from a ghosted heart, but there is common sense.
“Avoid reminders of your ex,” advises Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology and Chair of the Psychology Department at Albright College in Pennsylvania. “They’re likely to cause painful emotions to resurface, and they won’t help you get emotional closure or insight into why they broke up with you.”
After you stop torturing yourself by going over old photos, saved old texts, new social media postings, and anything else you think might give you insight into the mind and current whereabouts of your ghoster (and let’s face it, you’re bound to be doing that even if you’re not normally an obsessive person), try to find a new distraction. Perhaps most importantly, know that this probably isn’t about you or anything you did wrong.
“You should realize that if your ex chose the strategy of ghosting to break up with you, it likely tells you something about them and their shortcomings, rather than indicating that the problem lies with you.” Dr. Seidman adds.
In other words, try to move on as quickly and completely as you can. Maintain your dignity and stay focused on your own health, happiness and future, leaving the ghoster to deal with the ultimate repercussions of their own immaturity and lack of courage in the context of a relationship.
Susan McQuillan, MS, RDN, CDN