Rejection and breakups are hard enough, but being ghosted can be traumatic. It can leave you with unanswered questions that make it hard to move on. Although ghosting also occurs in friendships, it’s usually associated with dating. More devastating, but less common, is when a spouse disappears after years of marriage. It’s like a sudden death of the person and the marriage. But even the unexplained, unexpected end to a brief romantic relationship can feel like betrayal and shatter your trust in yourself, in love, and in other people.
It’s a shock to the heart whenever you care about someone who suddenly cuts you off without any explanation.
If you insist on knowing and get a response like, “I just don’t feel it anymore,” it isn’t satisfying. You still want to know “WHY?” We are information-seeking animals. Our brain is wired to wonder and search for solutions. Once we pose a question, it looks for answers. This is compounded by the fact that we’re also wired to attach and to experience rejection as painful. We try to reconnect―why babies cry fiercely when they need their mother. Rejection can cause obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior, like stalking your ex’s social media, which fuels more pain and more questions.
In a romantic relationship, breakups are always harder during the early stage. It's devastating to be ghosted during the romantic phase, but that's usually when it occurs. You don’t know your partner that well and are still in a blissful haze of idealization. Your hopes for the future may be abruptly and inexplicably dashed. Normally, a relationship progresses from the romantic “ideal” stage into the “ordeal” period when couples struggle with ambivalence and conflicts. If that ends the relationship, at least you have an understanding of why it didn’t work and perhaps agree.
If couples can communicate and accommodate each others’ needs and personalities, they get to the “real deal”―a real relationship based on mutual understanding and acceptance. This takes two people compatible and committed to making the relationship work. They must also have enough self-esteem and autonomy to give without feeling unappreciated or robbed and receive without feeling unworthy or smothered.
In dating, often there is less accountability, depending upon various factors: The way you met (a chat room or hook-up app), the individual's maturity and values, length of the relationship, and frequency of face-to-face contact. Technology promotes less emotional involvement. If instead you met through mutual friends, there’s more incentive to be on good behavior or other friends will hear about.
Ghosting might start with an unanswered text or call, or long silences between replies, until there are none. Here are eight reasons why a person might ghost instead of communicate:
If you've been ghosted, the main thing to realize is that in the vast majority of cases, ghosting behavior reflects on the other person not you. It’s time to let go. Here are some do’s and don’t's to follow.
The other person has decided to move on for whatever reason. Accepting that is more important than knowing why. The ghost is also demonstrating that he or she doesn’t respect your feelings and lacks essential communication and conflict resolution skills that make relationships work. Your feelings aside, consider whether you really want a relationship with them.
Realize that you can’t figure out the ghost’s motives in your head. Let go of obsessive thoughts, and allow yourself to feel both sadness and anger, without falling into shame. Give yourself time to grieve. Open your heart to yourself with extra doses of self-love―all you wanted from the other person.
Deal with ghosting in a healthy way. Rejection can be painful, but you don’t have to pile on unnecessary suffering. Don’t blame yourself or allow someone else’s bad behavior to diminish your self-esteem. Even if the ghost believes you weren’t what he or she was looking for, that doesn’t mean you’re undesirable to someone else. You cannot make anyone love you. You simply might not have been a good match. He or she is not your last hope for a partner!
If you’re tempted to write or call, think about how the conversation will go, how you will feel, and whether you would even get a truthful answer from the person. Often times, the person ending a relationship won't be honest about the reasons or may not even be able to articulate them, because they're just going with their gut feelings. Men tend to do this more than women, who analyze and ruminate more. In addition, the odds are you’ll be rejected a second time. Would that hurt more? To heal faster experts advise no contact after a breakup, including all social media. Read more tips on how to recover.
If you find it hard to let go of your ghost and pursue a conversation, resist any temptation to lure him or her back. You may later regret it. Instead, communicate that his or her behavior was hurtful and unacceptable. In other words, be resolved that you’re now rejecting them. Then, move on. Beware that if you’re still hurting and vulnerable, contact may prolong your grief. If you don’t feel strong, such a conversation may not help you let go, Also, remember that anger isn’t always strength. It may be a temporary stage of grief, followed by more missing the person.
Get back into life, and plan activities with friends. You may need a break from dating for a while, but socialize and do other things that you enjoy. Don’t allow yourself to fall into depression, which is distinct from mourning.
© 2019 Darlene Lancer
Darlene Lancer is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, author of Codependency for Dummies, and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You. She's an expert in relationships, codependency, and addiction, having worked with individuals and couples for 27 years. She maintains private practice in Santa Monica, CA and coaches internationally. For more information, see http://www.whatiscodependency.com to receive a FREE Report, "14 Tips for Letting Go," and find links to her books and ebooks, including: "Dealing with a Narcissist," "How to Speak Your Mind - Become Assertive and Set Limits,""I´m Not Perfect-I´m Only Human"- How to Beat Perfectionism and "10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Self-Criticism." Watch her Youtube, "Codependency: What It Is and What It Feels Like."
You can follow her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/codependencyrecovery