If you’ve never been ghosted, consider yourself one of the lucky few who haven’t experienced what is rapidly becoming the de facto way to exit a dating relationship.
Ghosting is the practice of refusing to respond to texts or phone calls from someone you’re dating or in a relationship with as means of terminating that connection.
In short, it’s ignoring communication from the person you’re dating, hoping they’ll get the hint you’re no longer interested.
And it sucks.
Earlier this year, I posted a short video on TikTok about what to do instead of ghosting, and that video has nearly 4 million views and over 3,000 comments.
The video went viral because of how divisive it was; it was clear that I’d struck a nerve.
Half the people agreed with my advice to send a gentle text letting them know you’re no longer interested in them, and the other half felt that ghosting to be the kinder option.
I was floored.
As a love coach working in this field for over four years, I was embarrassed to find I didn’t have a good pulse on some of the dating practices that are so common these days.
And ghosting is a huge one that I’d underestimated.
While I found it more common for people in their teens, twenties, and thirties, it was still prevalent for folks dating in their forties and fifties.
I’d also misunderstood why people ghosted.
I’d considered doing it when I was dating because I didn’t want to have a potentially awkward conversation and because I didn’t want to hurt the other person, but that only explains a few of the reasons people ghost.
According to therapist Nedra Tawwab, there are eight reasons why people ghost, and I’ll shed some light on each of these:
The 8 Reasons People Ghost
1. They fear the other person’s reaction.
Unfortunately, there are violent and abusive individuals in this world (I wish it weren’t the case, and rejecting these people is reason enough for them to hurt you.
Some people ghost because they fear for their safety. They’re scared that if they reject someone, that person will retaliate, stalk them, show up at their workplace (or worse, their home), and somehow harm them.
If this is you, please know that ghosting is a valid way of dealing with someone like this.
A note to the reader: If you suspect the person you’re dating to be violent, abusive, or harmful to your health, then ghosting might be the best course of action to keep yourself safe.
Please, take good care of yourself and do what you need to do.
2. They want to hurt the other person.
I want to think that, on the whole, people are generally good. And unfortunately, that’s not everyone’s experience. Some folks like to cause harm and chaos, and ghosting is an excellent way of doing that.
Ghosting leaves the other party with a sense of confusion about why the relationship ended and might even lead them to believe they had something to do with it. It prevents one from getting closure for why a relationship ended.
3. They want to avoid confrontation.
Some folks don’t want to create a scene, are terrified of conflict, and don’t know how to deal with confrontation. Most of us didn’t grow up in healthy family systems that modeled healthy conflict or disagreement.
If you did, thank your parents for giving you a massive leg up (and saving you many years and thousands of dollars worth of therapy).
4. They fear being perceived as mean.
Some people think that letting someone down or rejecting them is mean, and ghosting is the kinder option. I’ve heard this reason time and time again as an explanation for why people ghost.
These people generally prefer being ghosted over having the person they’re dating tell them directly they’re no longer interested.
In their words: “Receiving any rejection is brutal, and I’d rather you just ghosted me. I’ll get the message”.
5. They are overwhelmed with thoughts about how to end the relationship.
Some folks struggle with anxiety, and the thought of exiting a relationship overwhelms them completely.
“How can I do it nicely? Should I do it over the phone or text? What if they cry or get mad? Their birthday is coming up; isn’t that so insensitive? We said we’d go on holiday next month. I can’t possibly do it now. What about their family? I like their family. Do I have to unfollow them on social? What about their friends who are now my friends. Do I have to stop seeing them? What do I say?!”
For these people, ghosting is the simplest solution and leads to less anxiety (until you run into them a month later in line at the grocery store checkout).
6. They don’t want to have an uncomfortable conversation.
I get it. Ending a relationship is almost always awkward, even one where you’ve been dating a few weeks or months. There’s no easy way around it: it’s going to be uncomfortable.
No one likes hurting another person, and if you’re going to break up with someone, there’s a good chance they’re going to be hurt.
These people aren’t up to the task of having an uncomfortable and awkward conversation where they might have to sit with someone’s pain.
7. They are done and don’t want to explain themselves.
It’d be great if when you ended a relationship with someone, they reacted by saying,
“I’m sad to hear that, but I totally understand. I wish you the best. Take good care, and give your family a big hug for me.”
Some people can’t handle rejection and won’t respect your decision to end the relationship.
They’ll want endless closure conversations, try to convince you to change your mind, or badger you with questions about what they did wrong or could have done better.
Or worse, they’ll beg you to give them another chance.
Breaking up with these people is exhausting, and ghosting can be an easier solution.
8. Ghosting was the only way they knew how to leave the relationship.
They have never seen or had p[eople model what ending a relationship with presence, clarity, and compassion looks like. The idea that there’s another way to end a relationship is hard to fathom.
Before I share my simple go-to way of ending most casual relationships with you, let’s get one thing out of the way.
What Ghosting Isn’t
Ending a relationship is a boundary. You’re telling someone you’re no longer interested in them in the hopes that they’ll understand and begin to disconnect from your connection with love, care, and respect.
If you’ve told the person, you’re dating that you’re no longer interested in dating them and they harass you, demand answers, and ignore communication to end the relationship, disconnecting from that person is not ghosting. It’s self-care.
Remember, ghosting is refusing to return texts or calls from someone you’re dating rather than letting them know directly that you’re no longer interested in continuing to date them.
If you’ve told them and they harass you, ignoring and blocking them isn’t ghosting; it’s a self-care strategy.
The Antidote to Ghosting
Unfortunately, I think ghosting is here to stay.
If you’ve ghosted and are looking for a different way, let me invite you to do it differently.
As soon as you know the relationship is over or the person you’re dating isn’t a good fit, tell them.
Doing it over text is fine if you’ve been on a few dates, but over the phone might be more appropriate for anything where you know the other person really likes you or if you’ve had sex more than a few times together.
Some people would prefer getting that information over text to save themselves the embarrassment, and others would think it’s best to do it in person.
There’s no manual on which medium is more appropriate because everyone, and all relationships, are different. I’ll leave it up to you to decide. Regardless of how you choose to end a relationship, doing it directly is most likely better than ghosting.
Instead of ghosting, say (or text this):
“Hey, I’ve had a nice time getting to know you.
Unfortunately, the connection you and I have isn’t
the connection I’m looking for. I wish you the best
of luck with [insert the upcoming thing you’ve
talked about before]. Take good care of yourself.”
Obviously, this message isn’t appropriate for all circumstances and all people, but 99% of the time, it’s undoubtedly better than ghosting.
Good luck, you got this.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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Photo credit: Jonathan Rados on Unsplash