5 Min Read
- What Exactly Is Ghosting?
- Ending A Relationship By Ghosting Won't Make It Easier
- How Do We Deal With Ghosting?
- What To Take Away
Ghosting in a relationship is really the ultimate silent treatment.
It’s not exactly new, but over the last few years it’s become a far more prevalent way for people to end relationships.
The combination of phones, apps, and online dating has made meeting people less personal, and therefore less worthy of taking the time to communicate how we honestly feel.
What Exactly Is Ghosting?
Ghosting in a relationship is cutting off all communication with whomever you’re with via every channel there is until the person gets the message it’s over.
Because the shutdown of communication is so complete, going from texting throughout the day to suddenly being ghosted can be very confusing and hurtful. The ghostee usually has no idea what’s happening or if they’ve done something wrong.
In 2015 Charlize Therone’s break up with Sean Penn made ghosting in a relationship front-page news.
It was reported that she ghosted him in the middle of the Cannes Film Festival, and that he was mystified as to what was happening (she later said in an interview that she had no idea what ghosting was and that wasn’t what happened).
Technology today makes ghosting our relationships and partners so easy!
It can be easy to view someone as a mere profile if we’ve met them online, rather than a person with feelings. By ghosting we can hide behind our phones without ever taking responsibility for hurting someone whom we supposedly cared about or, even worse, for our own selfish behavior.
Ghosting someone in your life shouldn’t be confused with setting boundaries with someone if you see the signs you’re in an abusive relationship. That’s something else entirely.
Ending A Relationship By Ghosting Won't Make It Easier
As Neil Sedaka famously sang, “Breaking up is hard to do.”
It’s hard for most of us to communicate something that will potentially hurt someone’s feelings, require confrontation, or result in uncomfortable displays of emotion.
So, ghosting in a relationship seems like a win-win, right?
No uncomfortable conversation, no argument, no tears.
Ghosting a partner isn’t the easy way out you might think it is.
Ghosting is an avoidance tactic, allowing a person to avoid taking responsibility for their actions or ending a relationship. Healthy relationships involve accountability and taking ownership of one's feelings and decisions.
It also leaves the person being ghosted with unanswered questions, and open emotional wounds. For those reasons the person being ghosted may seek closure by relentlessly attempting communication (Ironically, the opposite of what the person ghosting wants.)
And if you’ve been with your partner long enough, they know where you live and work, and you likely have mutual friends, etc. They can show up at your work, be at the same events, and there’s always a chance they’ll make a scene demanding an explanation.
It doesn’t get more awkward and uncomfortable than that!
In the long run, ghosting can lead to more complications, including unresolved emotional baggage, trust issues, and a negative impact on future relationships.
While ending a relationship is never easy, it's always more respectful, mature, and emotionally healthy to have an honest and respectful conversation with the other person. This allows for closure, the opportunity to express feelings and provide explanations, and the potential for both individuals to part ways with greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance.
Ghosting in a relationship is really a lose-lose situation.
It shows a total lack of consideration and respect for someone and sends the message that they aren’t worth the effort of an honest conversation.
Ghosting doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships, either.
People can be ghosted by friends and family as well. It even happens in the workplace when colleagues disagree, one person wins a promotion someone else wanted, and some people even literally just walk away from their jobs completely shirking their responsibility to give notice.
How Do We Deal With Ghosting?
If you’ve been ghosted in a relationship it can be hard to know what to do. In addition to the pain of losing the relationship, there’s the added insult of being ignored and disrespected.
But rather than tracking your ghoster down and making a public example of them, consider the following tips for coping:
- Allow yourself to feel sad, angry, and disappointed. Pretending “it’s fine” when it’s not isn’t healthy.
- Reach out – once, maybe twice, but no more than that.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a professional counselor.
- Recognize that being ghosted is not a reflection of your worth or value as a person. It's a reflection of the other person's emotional maturity.
- Stay open to new relationships. One bad apple doesn’t ruin the bushel.
Remember that being ghosted is about the other person's actions and choices, and it doesn't define your worth or your ability to have fulfilling relationships. With time and self-care, you can heal and be open to finding healthier, more respectful connections in the future.
If you’re the one ghosting in a relationship, know that it’s not something fixed with a simple “sorry” later. The message sent when you ghost someone is too painful and disrespectful to be that easily modified.
What To Take Away
When asked for his professional opinion on ghosting in a relationship, Dr. Kurt offered these thoughts,
Most of us want to avoid conflict and hurting someone and ghosting is usually motivated by those desires. But there are better ways to prevent conflict and hurt while still being considerate and respectful. This is a really good time to push through fears and practice the Golden Rule of treating others the way we would like to be treated. It actually feels better when we do this."
So, rather than leaving someone wondering why you’ve disappeared from the relationship, put on your grown-up pants and face the uncomfortable conversation discomfort. It will save both of you grief and allow you to prevent larger, more awkward problems from developing.
Ghosting in a relationship robs you both of the dignity and closure everyone needs and deserves at the end of a relationship.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published September 7, 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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