12 Jul Ghosting
Relationships can be extremely difficult, sometimes never more so than when they are ending. But what about the relationships that do not offer a typical, messy ending? Ghosting is when someone you care about, a close friend or someone that you have a romantic connection with, disappears from your life by discontinuing contact. Not only has a relationship that you put time and effort into ended – maybe with someone that you were excited about or possibly loved – but it has ended without explanation. In an age of primarily digital, commitment-free modes of communication, ghosting is a popular phenomenon. The ghoster begins to limit communication, cancel plans, and ignore messages until it becomes apparent to the ghosted that their friend or partner is no longer interested in the relationship.
Ending a relationship is difficult, and requires a significant amount of courage if it is to be done honestly and respectfully. However, the lack of face-to-face contact between people in many modern relationships weakens the sense of the other as a person who possesses a full range of emotions and the capacity to feel deeply – they are reduced to the text that appears on our screens. If someone has become desensitized to the fact that the person they are ghosting has real feelings that will be affected by the choices they make, it becomes much easier to avoid the mucky breakup part and simply move on. Feelings of guilt may come much later or not at all, but more immediately the ghoster is likely to experience a sense of relief. In such cases, those who choose to ghost their way out of a relationship either do not believe that the relationship is serious enough to warrant a discussion, or are more concerned with their own comfort than giving another what they deserve.
Of course, ghosting may also happen in cases where individuals have been in a committed and serious relationship for a significant period of time. In such cases, the lack of respect on the part of the ghoster is more than desensitization or laziness, but signals a real lack of respect for the person with whom they had a relationship. In such cases it is possible that the ghosted was led to believe the relationship was much more important to the ghoster than it actually was, or perhaps the ghoster has some deep-seated issues with relationships that cause them to avoid confrontation whenever possible. Whatever the reason, being ghosted usually feels awful.
There are a number of reasons why you may be experiencing emotional pain after being ghosted:
- Ghosting gives us no clues about how to respond to the situation. When someone breaks up with you, you may feel hurt or used or angry, but at the very least you know that you must begin to move on and live without the relationship. When someone disappears it can be difficult to figure out how to carry on – do you wait for them to resurface? Do you seek them out or do you let them fade away? Are they not messaging you by choice or has there been some sort of accident that is preventing them from contacting you? You can’t possibly know, and so the difficult work of moving on is delayed and confused – without any cues from them, it can be difficult to tell how to respond and regulate your own emotions.
- When we are ghosted, we are more likely to blame ourselves for the dissolution of the relationship. Rather than looking for signs in the relationship or in the behavior of the other that something was wrong, we look to ourselves. If they could just disappear like that it means we weren’t funny, attractive, smart enough to captivate them. Rejection often has a negative impact on our self-esteem, this is nothing new, but when it seems that the other was so completely uninvested or uninterested that they could just walk away, our esteem takes an even greater hit. We feel disposable.
- Their silences forces silence upon us in turn. They rob us not only of an explanation but also of the option to voice our concerns, frustration, hurt, and anger. We become powerless to ask questions that will allow us to understand and move forward. It is the ultimate silent treatment. Even if you can technically still send them messages, the silence on their end will more likely leave you feeling hopeless and desperate rather than satisfied and vindicated.
When you have been ghosted, try to remember that it has nothing to do with you – sometimes people will not be interested in you, and that is a matter of preference rather than a flaw of yours. The flaw rests with their inability to deal with the discomfort that accompanies ending relationships, and more than anything else it shows that they were not ready for a healthy adult relationship. It can be difficult when our hopes for a relationship prove to be unfounded, but don’t let someone else’s selfish behaviour determine your openness to new people and new relationships. Communicate your needs and desires, keep an open-mind, and recognize that not everyone is ready or mature enough for sincere commitment. If you continue to move forward and treat others with the dignity and respect that they deserve, eventually you will attract someone who will reciprocate.