What To Do If You Get Ghosted
Getting Ghosted: What It Is, How It Feels, and How to Handle It
Talk to any of your friends who’ve been dating and they’ll most likely have a ghosting story to tell you. Ghosting is an irresponsible and immature response to emotional conflict, and while it should reflect on the ghoster more than the ghostee, it’s hard not to take it personally. Read on to learn more about what ghosting is and how it affects us emotionally, and to find a few strategies to help you deal with the aftermath. What is
Ghosting and Why Do People Do It?
As the name implies, when you’re being ghosted, a person you were speaking to and forming a connection with just disappears. They stop responding to calls and texts, they stop reaching out to you, and in short it’s almost like they died, or just vanished from the face of the earth.
Being ghosted can be traumatizing for a lot of reasons, and can wreak havoc with our self-worth. You may assume that the other person chose to dump us because we weren’t good enough, or because we weren’t worth talking to. It can make you feel small, powerless, even ashamed - what kind of person must I be for someone to treat me like this? However, if you put yourself in the shoes of the ghoster and consider whether you would ever treat someone the way they treated you, you’ll realize that this person does not share your values and is ultimately a bad partner choice for you. A romantic relationship must be founded in mutual respect which demands honesty and clarity. This person is clearly incapable of providing that to you, or to anyone.
People who ghost do so for a number of reasons. The start of a new relationship, while exciting, is also fraught with a lot of emotions. “I like this person, are they right for me? Am I making a good impression? What if I’m not sure?” etc. Emotionally mature people can usually work these issues out on their own and communicate openly with you if they want to stop dating. However, emotional maturity can be hard to come by, especially in a vast digital dating market where too much choice can overwhelm our ability to vet good partners.
An emotionally immature person can exhibit a number of traits. They may be self centered and consider the conflict of a real breakup as an annoying inconvenience. They may feel too emotionally vulnerable to tolerate your reaction, and rationalize that avoiding a confrontation is necessary for their wellbeing, even if it causes you pain. Many ghosters suffer from fragile egos and low self-esteem, and believe they’re just doing you a favor. “I’m not a good person, so I’ll exit without saying goodbye so you know how bad I am.” This is incredibly condescending and immature of them, and will interfere with their ability to form healthy long-term relationships. You are unfortunately collateral in the wake of this person’s emptiness, and you are not alone.
The most important thing to remember when you get ghosted is that it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with the other person. Building your self confidence back up and getting in touch with the wonderful things that make you you is the key to a successful recovery from this painful but experience-building moment.
What to Do if You Get Ghosted
Unless they get back to you explaining that they were literally in the urgent care ward, do not reach out to this person or respond if they try to meet up. If they ghosted you once, they will do it again. Barring a profound spiritual awakening this person is not capable of putting your feelings first and will not be able to support you emotionally. If they’re trying to see you again it’s probably because they just want to see what else they can get from you before they repeat their ghosting performance. It’s important to give and forgive in relationships, but healthy bonds are balanced. You need to be with a person who can give as much as they receive from you. Listen to “New Rules” by Dua Lipa - she summarizes this beautifully.
The podcast Help Me Be Me hosted by Sarah May B has some great episodes about being ghosted including Episode 108 “Ghosting - Why’d it happen and what to do if it happens to you.” She explains the psychology of a ghoster, and presents some great exercises to do while you’re still reeling from the shock.
Connect with yourself, and with your friends. The things that make us who we are and the people who love us because of them are great medicine for a hit to your self esteem. a. Make a list of your top five favorite movies and watch them all, or a list of your top five albums, poems, works of art, and enjoy them all day. In the words of Bjork, “There are certain emotions in your body that not even your best friend can sympathize with, but you will find the right film or the right book, and it will understand you.” Surround yourself with what you love most, and feel free to include some reckless indulgences in your favorite treats.
- Do something you’re really good at, even if it’s just fixing something around the house, painting your nails, or riding your skateboard. Remind yourself of all the wonderful talents you were born with, and new skills you’ve learned along the way. Let your small accomplishments in day-to-day life empower you, and remind you that there is life after ghosting.
- If you can’t be with people you love for whatever reason, look at pictures of them (as long as it’s not the person who ghosted you - that will make you feel awful please don’t do that). Look at pictures of your past vacations and milestones.
Watch old home videos, go through your keepsakes of your past adventures and imagine the adventures you still want to have.
- Write a list of all the people you have in your life from your family to your coworkers to your church group. Look at how many lives you’ve touched just by being you, the relationships you’ve built and the things you’ve accomplished together.
- Talk about your experience and let your friends know how you’re feeling. Many if not all of them have been in your situation and will be happy to listen as long as you need. Don’t be afraid of annoying them or boring them, they understand that you need to vent these emotions so you can move forward. A therapist can be a great help in working through feelings of insecurity, disappointment, or loneliness.
Explore dating mindfully. Once you’ve had a chance to recover a little from your experience and are ready to try dating again, there are strategies you can use to maximize your time and investment, and ensure you’re seeking partners who empower and support you. We recommend the podcast “Love is Like a Plant” hosted by Ellen Huerta and Sarah May B.