Picture this: you’ve had two great dates and you’re feeling a third one on the horizon. Yet, days go by and your text messages and phone calls go unanswered.
You start to realize you’ve been ghosted.
According to Urban Dictionary—and firsthand dating knowledge/experience—ghosting is “when a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice before hand. You’ll mostly see them avoiding friend’s phone calls, social media, and avoiding them in public.”
This maneuver has become increasingly common. It is estimated that approximately 50 percent of men and women have been ghosted and, at a similar rate, admitted to ghosting someone.
Ghosting evokes that feeling of having the rug ripped out from under you. The devastating ambiguity of the situation can leave the ghosted person uncertain of what to do next. Should you be angry? Sad? Should you come up with reasons why? Maybe they’re busy? Maybe they’re going through something and need some space? It leaves little room for you to know if you should grieve the loss of the relationship or be understanding and assume positive intent.
My curiosity on this subject led me to conduct a not-so-scientific survey through my Instagram followers and I gained some interesting insights.
A whopping 88 percent of those who participated were ghosted by either a friend, romantic interest, or partner.
- 66 percent of those surveyed said that their ghoster actually returned, also known as zombieing
- When asked if they would take their ghoster back, only 12 percent said “yes”
So you think you’ve been ghosted. At what point—and how—can you confirm you’ve been ghosted?
Our survey responders had different thresholds for this question.
- after a few hours
- after a few months
- after a mix of unanswered text messages, phone calls, and handwritten letters
There are a variety of reasons why people actively choose to ghost. Some fear intimacy. Some fear confrontation. Others feel it is an efficient way of letting someone down easy without outright rejecting them.
Others simply get fed up and disappear.
“I don’t condone ghosting but sometimes like, no entienden que se les ha dicho y no cambian,” said Lisa*. She had been dating a guy she met online for three months and they were in seemingly-obvious relationship territory. He was calling her babe, they were spending time together every day, and he posted about her on his social media. They even decided to take a trip to Cabo together. Yet, he still wouldn’t confirm or define their relationship.
“I enjoyed dating him but at the time, it was clear he was afraid of the commitment. We did practically everything together. So, during our trip, I decided if he didn’t officially ask me to be his girlfriend that I would break up with him. And it did not happen. We got back from the trip, took a shuttle to my place, and I dropped him off at his place later that day. Then I ghosted him.”
She decided she tried her best to let him know what she needed. Even though he said he loved her, he wasn’t giving her the commitment she deserved. Her decision to ghost him stemmed from the strong feelings she had for him. She feared getting strung along in a relationship that only benefited him and showed no promise for her. He eventually realized what happened and wrote her an email apologizing for not stepping up, confirmed she deserved better and that he ultimately wished the best for her.
It is important to note that the impact of ghosting affects both your emotions and brain chemistry. According to Dr. Jennice Vilhauer, “social cues allow us to regulate our own behavior accordingly but ghosting deprives you of these social cues and can create a sense of emotional dysregulation where you feel out of control.” This type of social rejection can activate the same pain pathways in your brain as physical pain.
Simply put: ghosting hurts.
If you are ghosted, your self-esteem may be damaged so make sure to take the necessary time to reflect and heal.
“It’s really important to remember if someone ghosts you, that behavior says more about them than you,” Dr. Vilhauer said in a New York Times report.
Melanie* was ghosted a few months ago. To cope with it she journaled, worked out, and went on walks. “That type of stuff really messes with self-esteem, and it also hurt my inner child because I felt abandoned and rejected.”
“My ego was hurt, and I needed to focus on my spiritual self. My soul told me it was okay, that I hadn’t done anything wrong, and he disappeared because of his own reasons. But it took a lot of self-talk and reflection to get back to me. Just had to come back home to myself and remind myself my love for me is big and strong. And that I don’t need anyone by my side who would be willing to just leave me like that, after building a relationship, and opening myself up emotionally.”
A recurring expression when writing this was, consistency. Did the consistency of communication shift? If so, you could very well be in ghosting territory. While it is painful and unfortunate, make sure you claim some time to recover, regroup, and—perhaps most importantly—try again! Your next love might be a swipe away.
*All names have been changed for privacy