We all know the story too well. Meet someone, have a blast, and then they fall off the face of the earth. Sometimes we shrug and move on, other times we sorely touch the ding in our ego, and there are those times when the pain of being ghosted lingers like a bad spirit.
What Does It Mean To Ghost Someone?
Ghosting isn't just linked to romance; you can be ghosted in any kind of relationship. From friends to professional relationships, a connection that ends in radio silence can be confusing, painful, and cause a dramatic dip in our self-esteem as we mull over whether we did something wrong.
When we talk about a ghosting situation it often means when someone you have had a relationship with (in whatever capacity that means) cuts off communication without explanation. That can mean no texts, no calls, no emails, and no conversation or acknowledgement or prior warning of this silent treatment. When you have been ghosted there is usually no goodbye, there is no warning, and there is no organic closure. For those on the receiving end of the ghosting experience, this can be really disconcerting.
Let's be clear, for those who are escaping harmful abusive situations and relationships or dealing with stalking behavior, you have every right to find a safe way out that doesn't involve any further communication with the person who is putting you at risk.
How Ghosting Became the Norm
Nowadays, ghosting seems all too normal; if someone physically and digitally disappears we don’t go into panic mode. We live in the time of the sideswipe, of dating apps, social media, and endless new connections. Because our ‘social’ worlds have cracked open, we don’t always feel we have the same level of accountability to more recent connections.
How To Tell If You've Been Ghosted
With so much of our relationships filtering through technology, the rise of the dating app, and texting, not to mention changing conversations around how we connect, it may feel unsure as to whether or not you have been ghosted. You may not recognize for a while that it's even happening or you may have an idea something is going on without knowing when to call it ghosting or not. Delayed messages, lost replies, and short responses can sometimes be innocent as not everyone is attached to their device. Here are some hints that you could be getting ghosted...
- Zero communication from their end - even though you have sent a few messages.
- Being stood up or having them bail on plans without letting you know in advance.
- Deleted or blocked from their social media apps.
- An inability or interest in keeping the conversation going (one-word replies, vague responses, disappearing)
- Always referring to how busy they are when it comes to responding or meeting up.
- Their interest in you seemed inconsistent - sometimes really into it, other times zoned out.
How To Deal With Being Ghosted
We accept avoidance culture. In some ways, it makes sense. Most people don’t dig confrontation and don’t enjoy hurting other people’s feelings. We think by not having the awkward conversation someone will get the message and move on. But sometimes it's harder to move on without the closure of an honest-to-god conversation and the person who was ghosted can be left feeling the rejection without any explanation. Studies have shown that this disposable form of social rejection can activate the same pathways in the brain that are responsible for telling us about physical pain. It also has an emotional pain price too and can feed into someone's mistrust in another potential partner in the future.
We all think that our modern world and our way of life with dating apps and smartphone connections means that ghosting is just part of the norm. It's the price we pay. But it shouldn't and doesn't have to be that way. Ghosting isn't good for anyone and it's about time we normalized the need for mutual respect in any personal relationship and any future relationships - romantic or not. It's time we swapped out emotional cruelty for compassion.
Ghosting sucks and for those who have suffered the specter, we have a few short sharp tips to help you feel your way through how to deal with ghosting.
Give Yourself Time
Ghosting has become such a social norm that we seem to expect ourselves to brush down and get back to business. This doesn’t allow time and space for feeling all the feels and processing whatever it is you need to process. Take some time out for self-care -whatever that looks like to you. Feel free to weep, be disappointed, binge Netflix and practice self-soothing. However, do try and agree on an inner time limit on how long you can mourn so you don't get bogged down or attached to the narrative or stories of rejection and embarrassment.
‘It’s not you, it’s them’ it may be a tired cliché but in the world of ghostbusting, it rings true for a reason. If someone ghosts it shows up a lot more about their character than it does yours.
It’s not that someone is necessarily a terrible person for doing the disappearing act but it does mean that they may have problems with boundary setting and communication, or they may just not be compatible when it comes to comfort levels.
Ask yourself honestly if this sounds like someone who will bring positive energy into your life. If someone doesn't have the mindfulness to consider your well-being and feelings then this probably isn't someone who would be a good romantic partner or even a good friend for you.
Easier said than done but dealing with perceived rejection can offer a great opportunity for growth. If this bout of ghosting has hit you particularly hard then it may be worth taking a closer look at the reasons why. Not the reasons why a potential romantic interest has ghosted you (hunting for these kinds of answers doesn’t help), but rather why it smarts so much or why you may have been drawn to this romantic relationship in the first place.
The psychology of being ghosted taps into our deep-set human fears of not being seen or heard and recognized. It takes us back to our primal fears of being ‘too much’ or ‘not enough'. If you notice you are carrying these beliefs, do a little digging to see what you upturn.
While you can’t control or shape other peoples behavior, you can modify who you choose to spend time with. It’s not always easy to spot a ghost, but you can start by looking at how people you like treat those around them.
Early on, you will see signs that someone isn’t a great communicator – not initiating conversation, not being responsive, and those who just put in enough effort to keep things going but no more. Keep a mantra in your head not to stay at the table if you are only being served crumbs.
Call it Out
There’s no shame in calling bad behavior out. If someone has ghosted you, of course, you can take your lessons and let it go. But if you feel the need to let that person know that their behavior has hurt you and is unacceptable, go right ahead.
We aren’t talking about hounding someone or indulging in negative behavior but feeling like you have a voice and can speak up for yourself is always a positive lesson.
Even if you don't approach the ghoster, it may still help to talk to someone about your experience. Being ghosted can be one of those experiences that come loaded with shame, embarrassment, and a whole mix of potentially toxic emotions. Whether it's a therapist or a close friend, talking about it and getting advice can be a helpful part of the process.
Be the Change
Ghosting isn't good for anyone - not even the ghoster. We get it, being in an uncomfortable situation and wanting to avoid a difficult conversation is always preferable but when you don't ghost and you choose to be upfront and vocal about your desires and feelings rather than just bowing out, you can actually build up your own confidence, strengthen your communication skills, and have a positive impact on your own mental health.
In a world where we are trying to eliminate ghosting, don’t be a ghost. It’s easy to disappear, but what’s harder to practice (and infinitely more rewarding) is having the courage, empathy, and boundary control to have those awkward conversations.
The Biggest Questions About Being Ghosted
Why is ghosting so painful?
Your feelings are valid. Ghosting hurts! It can be even more painful than a talked about breakup in many ways as, without any explanation or guidelines, you are left sifting through the rationale on your own. This can make us internalize things that may in reality have nothing to do with our own personality. As many of us do also grapple with abandonment issues as our life traps, they can also be triggered. Ghosting brings a lot of stuff to the surface.
Is ghosting my fault?
Not at all! Unless you fall into the category of someone who has been unhealthily obsessed or controlling around a new person or in a long term relationship and your partner had to cut communication for their safety, then no, ghosting is not your fault. In many cases, a relationship expert will tell you that ghosting is not about you but more about someone else's inability to have a confrontation or to allow themselves to lean into discomfort. But discomfort is part of life and something we shouldn't avoid particularly if we want to grow as a person.
How long before it is considered ghosting?
There's no hard and fast rule when it comes to these things but maybe a three-day rule is a clue that a ghosting service could be coming your way. If you have sent more than one message and not heard a peep for three days or more, it could be best to prep your mind for the possibility that this is over. If they come back to you after three days with no explanation as to the delay in response, you may want to ask yourself if this thing is worth pursuing as it's a clue to the kind of communication you could be facing with each other. That's fine for some people but if you know that it will drive you crazy, it's not worth the emotional energy and constant interruption to your life that waiting on that text will cause.
Should I text him if he hasn't texted me in 2 days?
We are big fans of avoiding playing mind games as we don't think anyone really benefits from connections that aren't totally authentic and in keeping with who you really are. If you want to text him again after two days, then go for it. It's worth remembering that sometimes people get busy or may have a different communication style so don't take the two-day silence as a ghost tale just yet.
Whether it's two days or two weeks, the bottom line should be that you deserve to be with a guy or a girl or anyone who helps your self-esteem rather than hindering it and that can mean something very different to each individual. When it comes to your own boundaries, only you can draw the line that feels good.
Have you been ghosted before or have you ghosted? We’d love to hear your haunting tales.
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