Be it a friend or person you’re dating, when someone you care for “ghosts” you, or abandons you out of thin air without an explanation, it’s an awful, awful feeling. Yet ghosting happens so often, the term has even inspired a Halloween costume this year.
Ghosting is nothing new — you’d be hard pressed to find a person alive who hasn’t been ghosted at some point in their lives. But now it’s commonplace to forge connections with potential friends and partners remotely through a phone, ghosting is easier to do than ever. Here’s some proof: this oft-quoted, alarming, 2016 statistic from the dating site Plenty of Fish reveals that 78 percent of 800 millennials surveyed between the ages of 18-33 claim they’ve been ghosted.
“Swiping culture reduces humanity to something quite basic,” says author Rosie Walsh, who was inspired to write her best-selling novel “Ghosted” after a friend’s boyfriend went from planning a vacation with her to vanishing from her life without a trace. “When you’re rejecting 200 people a night, it dehumanizes the dating pool in which you stand,” she says.
When you’ve been ghosted, you might go through a few emotional stages:
Shock and Denial
Once you’ve gone through the trouble of emotionally investing in someone, it can be shocking when they suddenly decide to opt out of your life. “On the surface, ghosting always sends the message that says, ‘Not only am I not interested in having a relationship with you, but I am not interested in talking to you, or I’m unable to talk to you about this directly,’ Walsh explains.
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At a deeper level, ghosting suggests a problem with the person doing the ghosting, but instead the person being ghosted might think there is something wrong with them,” says Scott T. Wilson, a clinical psychologist and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology at Teachers College Columbia University.
Social media can abbreviate any denial period about whether or not, or why you were ghosted, and all that wondering about what could’ve possibly happened can quickly turn into feelings of humiliation. Walsh says "ghosting isn’t new, but what social media does is it gives us 20 ways of being in contact with each other... If they’re still not choosing any of those 20 means to contact you, and you can watch them on social media and see they are, indeed, alive and well, you have to acknowledge that the person ghosting you is being rude and disrespectful.”
Feelings of humiliation can easily turn inward, and it can be easy to start questioning what you did to prompt the ghosting. “Your immediate thought is 'what’s wrong with me?,'” says Walsh.
“The lack of explanation leads the person being ghosted to attempt to figure out the other person’s motivations,” explains Wilson. “Regardless of the length of the relationship, many people would be more likely to explain the ambiguity (of the situation) with what I would call the worst-case scenario explanation: there must have been something wrong with them (for the ghost to leave). This explanation can lead to feelings of shame, guilt, or self-blame, and can lead a person down the path of trying to figure out what they might have done wrong. It can make that person less confident in their next relationship and perpetuate any self-esteem issues.”
Anger and closure
Eventually, those with healthy self-esteem will likely get angry at the ‘ghost’ for putting them through all of these changes and write them off as selfish and/or immature. But even so, the healing can take some time. “The longer the relationship lasted and the stronger the attachment, the more difficult this is to do, and the more of a sense of loss a person would experience,” Wilson says.
How to get over being ghosted
It might take some time but if you’ve been ghosted, closure is the best gift you can give yourself. “Complete cessation of contact” is Walsh’s primary ghosting recovery recommendation. “As soon as you suspect you’ve been ghosted, don’t reach out,” Walsh advises. “Even if the person ghosting you has been in a coma, they’ll eventually get in touch if they want. No matter what they do, how many times they come back, you have to just take the pain all in one go and stop looking for closure. When someone ghosts you, you’ve got closure — it’s just a rude disrespectful version of closure. Nothing could be clearer. Being ghosted is humiliating enough, but if you’ve behaved in ways that you find shameful, it compounds the misery. If you walk away with all of your pain and refuse to chase them, you’ll recover more quickly.”
Besides, you’re better off without someone who doesn’t respect you enough to end things face-to-face. “The most important thing to remind yourself of, is the very fact that the person who chose to end their relationship with you in this way suggests there is some problem with them, rather than you. Whether it is a difficulty dealing with emotional issues, difficulty with commitment or just callousness, the presence of these sorts of issues suggests they would not make a very good relationship partner and that you might be better off without them,” advises Wilson.
And what if you're tempted to ghost someone?
Though ghosting may seem like an easy trap door escape from any relationship, think twice. “Despite the fact that it occurs relatively frequently, ghosting should really never be considered an appropriate way to end a relationship,” says Wilson. “The best way to end a relationship for all parties involved is for the person ending the relationship is to explain their reasons for doing so to the other person. This shows the other person respect, helps them understand the situation and if needed, can help them to address whatever the issue is that led to the end of the relationship.”
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