“I was seeing someone I met online. We went on a few dates and things seemed to be going well. All of a sudden no calls, no texts. I never heard from her again”
Hinge, Bumble, Truly Madly, Tinder and other dating apps now make it easy to quickly wade through choices of partners since many alternatives are available. We can spend our evenings swiping through profiles without considering them as real people. At first glance, this can make us giddy with excitement at the unprecedented number of options.
However, this also means that people have now become reduced to text messages and online posts. This can lead to some significant negative consequences. One of which includes ghosting.
So, What is Ghosting?
Ghosting is when an individual, a friend or a romantic partner, abruptly stops all contact. All communication ceases. This would naturally lead the “ghostee” to experience a host of negative emotions that include shame, hurt, anger, sadness and guilt. Since much of our conversation now takes place through online mediums, ghosting has become extremely easy.
According to a survey conducted in the west on about 800 participants between the ages of 18-33, 80% of millenials have responded saying they have been ghosted at some point in their lives.
Dealing with Ghosting in Relationships
If You Tend to Ghost
If you tend to ghost, you don’t know how to handle the emotions that would come about if you expressed how you really feel. You may feel guilty, but after engaging in ghosting repeatedly, you may become less sensitised to the feelings of the other person, as well as your own feelings. You may they may wrongly believe that this is a way to spare the other person even more heartbreak by expressing yourself.
This could mean that you have difficulty dealing with stressful emotions and you may need support for this. Chances are that you feel stuck. This is can be a difficult experience to deal with.
You may feel like the only way to deal with all this with minimal pain is to ghost. However, not only does this leave the other person with scars, it also leaves you stressed in the long run. You may choose to keep yourself distracted from it, but it is never easy to live with the guilt and even shame that could arise deep down. Then, you have to keep distracting yourself from it and wear a facade as though ‘nothing is wrong’.
What Can You do?
Ghosting or feeling the need to ghost can be an opportunity for introspection. Perhaps it is hard for you to be assertive. You may have difficulty expressing your feelings or saying no. You can use this experience to reflect if you have a tendency to drag relationships to a place where you feel like ghosting is the only option that is left. If you have having difficulty dealing with this, you can also seek help and have a discussion with a friend or a therapist.
The best thing to do for all parties in a scenario like this one is to be honest with the person and admit that this is a relationship that will not work and the reasons behind that decision. This signifies a feeling of respect and compassion for the other person. It also leaves both of you with a greater sense of closure, which is important to move on healthily.
If You Have Been Ghosted
Ghosting can lead to an experience of various unpleasant emotions for the person who is on the receiving end of the ghosting. You can feel disrespected, especially after investing time, energy and financial resources into meeting and getting to know someone. You can also feel hurt, angry, embarrassed.
This can take a toll on one’s self esteem. You may feel unwanted and would sometimes look back for evidence of what they did wrong or which actions may have driven the person away.
Ghosting becomes difficult to deal with because you are looking for answers to questions you may not have answers to. You are left with no opportunity for clarity and closure. If you have been ghosted, it is essential to keep in mind that this is not necessarily indicative of a shortcoming of you. Chances are that other person probably has difficulty dealing with tough emotions and tends to avoid difficult situations.
What Can You Do?
Try not to blame yourself or engage in multiple attempts to reach out. Instead, you can speak to your friends or family about the incident. Take some time out for yourself to recover and recoup.
Be wary of loops of brooding. Brooding can start as a supposed search for answers but can leave your mood a lot lower than it was to begin with, and with no answers. Instead, you could check in with the body about where the difficult feeling is. Whether it is anger, hurt, sadness or fear, or even a mix of all, you can sense it in the body. Just ask yourself where this difficult feeling is. Stay with it for a bit. Breathe into it. You can also support it physically by gently placing your palm on it. All this, not to make the feeling go away, but to direct attention to where the hurt actually is, rather than to thoughts and spirals of brooding. To give support where it is due, in a way. You can also reach out for help from a mental health professional if it gets too difficult. A lot of healing is possible if things are processed rather than just stored.
This blog post has been contributed by Liz Cyriac. Liz is a counseling psychologist and worked with us for a brief while. Some inputs are by Malini Krishnan. Malini is a psychologist and works with adults in individual and relationship therapy at Inner Space.