Ghosting is easy. Think about it. The fast-paced online dating scene allows individuals to swipe past profiles very quickly; it is easy to talk to more than one person at a time, keep multiple relationships going, and ghost when the interest is no longer there. Online dating provides individuals with hundreds of different prospective partners that can be assessed and swiped right/left constantly. With the idea that there are better options out there, I can see how for some people, interest fades after not seeing the partner regularly while other conversations and relationships are progressing. With smartphones, we now can put certain people on ‘Do Not Disturb’ or block them completely- the ability to cut people out of our lives using a phone feature instead of face to face interactions makes it even easier for people to ghost others. I think about this in terms of guilt- some might feel guilty for ghosting, but blocking the texts and calls from coming in might reduce that guilt as there are few reminders of what they have done. It is easy to forget that there is a real person on the other side of the dating profiles, with feelings and relationship history.
Although it might be easy to justify behavior and ghost by thinking that a person is better off or will find someone else, those ghosted do have thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Based on personal experience and the experiences of my friends, it is not necessarily the loss of the relationship that leaves the person ghosted feeling empty. Although you might have felt greatly connected to the person that is abruptly out of your life, it is more of a disruption of the good feelings that you were having and more uncertainty of the situation that leaves you feeling uneasy, sad, and alone.
Within the context of “traditional” relationships, partners can often tell when their significant other is becoming more distant that might cue oneself in for a potential discussion about the future of the relationship. For example, there might be a reduction in physical affection, lack of communication when they are not together, reduced quality time spent together, and maybe even a change in tone of voice. Many cues might cause a partner to pick up on signs, confront the partner, and then try and work on the relationship. With how fast the online dating scene has gotten, this part about working on the relationship does not tend to happen. Instead of working on the relationship, one partner has disappeared. Ghosting prevents those ghosted from gaining closure and often makes them draw their negative conclusions that then impact their self-esteem.
Feeling embarrassed, shameful, sad, and confused are just a few of the emotions that one might feel after being ghosted. You have been talking about your interest in this new person with your friends then all of a sudden you don’t have answers when your friends ask you what happened and where ______ is. This uncertainty and lack of closure is where the emotional distress comes in –rightfully so! When working with clients who have been ghosted, I have found that it is often hard for them to find closure as they try and interpret what went wrong. When you get ghosted, there are often feelings of confusion that come up and thoughts that arise including: “what did I do wrong?” “Is there something wrong with me?” What happened? Things were going so well.” It is easy to let these conclusions about why you were ghosted influence your internal dialogue.
It is hard to tolerate the negative thoughts that come up and even harder to reframe them in a way to reduce your distress. What would you say to your sister in the same situation? Probably something like, “you deserve better,” or “it says more about them than you.” This situation makes it tricky to be mindful and non-judgmental of yourself and makes it easier to sit in your self-criticism.
An exercise for when reframing does not work for you:
- Identify your favorite places, people, and activities that make you feel strong. Who are your go-to people and what are your go-to activities when you’re feeling down?
- Write them down- writing these people/places/activities down on paper will build gratitude for the strengths and support systems you have currently
- Identify what behaviors and habits you have when you are feeling your best (i.e. bath, staying in and reading, cooking with a friend, etc.)
- Write them down
- Make a conscious effort to increase the frequency of these self-care behaviors/habits
- Identifying the strengths you do have in your life and increasing the frequency of activities that make you feel your best will help reduce self-criticism and will make you feel more supported after you have been ghosted