You’ve probably had this happen before: you go on a few great dates with a person, and you seem to be getting along well, and then, the person stops responding to your calls and your text messages. Sure, it could be that they are busy or dealing with a personal emergency; however, it’s also possible that you have just been ghosted.
Here is what you need to know about ghosting, how it happens, why it happens, and how to avoid it.
What Is Ghosting?
Ghosting is when someone ends dating, or even a relationship, by suddenly cutting off all communication. The term doesn’t apply after an awkward date where you and your date maybe didn’t have a great time or where the conversation was perhaps a little bit more one-sided. Instead, ghosting happens after multiple, possibly great, dates.
Ghosting can also happen with relationships, where one partner suddenly cuts communication. The term can also apply to friendships.
Is Ghosting Common?
Ghosting is a lot more common than you think. According to surveys, 26 percent of women and 33 percent of men admit that they have ghosted a partner or date while also having been ghosted in the past. Likewise, 17 percent of men and 24 percent of women admit to ghosting a partner or date without having been ghosted in the past.
Why Does Ghosting Hurt?
Being ghosted can be extremely painful and will often raise a lot of questions. The longer you know the partner or friend, the more painful it can be to be ghosted. If you’ve felt particularly hurt by ghosting, you are not alone.
In fact, studies have shown that humans are social creatures and that we need connections to survive. For this reason, our brains have developed a social monitoring system that allows us to use cues such as mood, tone, people, and environment as cues to help us navigate social situations. That same need for social interaction, be they interactions between family, friends, or partners, also triggers a pain pathway within the brain that triggers a biological link between rejection and pain.
When a relationship with another person ends due to a fight, or a mutually agreed-upon separation, you have those cues and that logic to help you cope. Yes, it was an ending, but there are reasons for that ending. The reasoning behind other ways to end a relationship can be as simple as ‘hey, we did not click on that date’ or as complicated as ‘I do not want to see you anymore because of these 20 reasons,’ but you ultimately have an explanation.
With ghosting, you have no closure and often no reason that feels understandable. This is why it is very easy to start questioning yourself and fall into the self-deprecating rabbit hole.
Is Ghosting Becoming More Common?
By some accounts, ghosting is becoming an increasingly common problem. Some say this is due to the rise of online dating and the decrease in dating decorum once present around courting. In the past, simply disappearing on someone was considered bad manners. Now, it has become generally more acceptable and given the name of ‘ghosting.’
Why Does Ghosting Happen?
While it is easy to assume that people who ‘ghost’ are simply bad people, this is not always true. There are many reasons for ghosting but, in most cases, the point of ghosting someone is to avoid potential conflict and difficult conversations that come with telling someone that you do not want to see them again. Here are a few reasons why people ghost:
Sometimes, people who choose to ghost potential partners are not the best people. While this is not the case most of the time, some people are simply not going to be bothered to communicate with a date, friend, or partner.
Fear of Conflict
One of the most common reasons for ghosting, and one that is more relatable, is fear of conflict. No one likes conflict, and when you have to tell someone you’ve been dating that you don’t want to see them, or if you want to end a relationship, the conversation will undoubtedly be unpleasant.
While emotional conflict is unpleasant, ending a relationship or saying ‘no’ to someone also presents a risk of physical conflict. This is especially evident for women with multiple stories of being hurt and even killed for either refusing an advance from a stranger or ending things with a potential partner.
Sometimes, people resort to ghosting because they have had a negative previous experience in the past. This could be a partner becoming aggressive after trying to end a relationship or a friend who badmouthed them after they ended a friendship.
Ghosting Versus Escape
Before we go into how to avoid ghosting someone and avoid being ghosted, it is incredibly important to distinguish between ghosting and escaping an abusive or unsafe relationship. If you feel emotionally or physically unsafe with a date, partner, family member, or friend, escaping the situation and refusing to communicate with your abuser is a perfectly valid form of self-preservation.
Should I Ghost a Partner?
It may be tempting to ghost someone, and if you are thinking about it, there may be a good reason. However, if your primary motivation for disappearing on someone else is the desire to avoid conflict, consider other ways of breaking up first.
Studies show that the act of ghosting is one of the worst ways to end a relationship because it takes a toll on both parties. Plus, ghosting someone can lead to more challenging conversations down the line when you happen to run into that person in a social situation.
Ghosting not only hurts the person who has been ghosted but can also hurt the person who is doing the ghosting because it can inspire anxiety and stress over avoidance. Add the chance of a potential future encounter that will probably be more dramatic than simply having a conversation between two parties than simply communicating during a breakup.
In some cases, there may also be lingering guilt for the person who did the ghosting because even if the chances of seeing that other person are minimal, knowing that the one who did the ghosting took the coward’s approach is also unpleasant.
How to Avoid Getting Ghosted?
It can be tough to avoid getting ghosted because people will ultimately do what they feel they need to do. However, having a conversation with a potential partner or even within a relationship that encourages honesty and openness can help. Let them know that if they want to walk away from the situation, just let you know.
How to Overcome Fear of Conflict?
If you are trying to avoid ghosting someone and you’ve identified that your motivation for ghosting stems from conflict avoidance, there are a few things that you can do to avoid ghosting someone else.
- Recognize the Effects: When we are anxious or panicked, we tend to think about our own needs and perspective. Sometimes, recognizing that you are going to hurt that other person more by ghosting than simply having an uncomfortable conversation can be a good motivation.
- Practice Facing Your Fears: Talk to a friend and even practice what you would say to your partner. Rehearsing the situation and having support can sometimes make facing your conflict anxiety easier. If you are ending things in person, you can even have a friend go with you for moral support.
- Ghosting is more common than you think and is done by women and men.
- Often, the motivation behind ghosting is fear of conflict.
- Ghosting is detrimental to both parties.
- It is important always to make the distinction between ghosting and escaping abuse.