Ghosting, the act of suddenly cutting off contact with someone without explanation, has become increasingly common in the modern digital dating world. While some defend ghosting as an easy way to end unwanted relationships, others argue that it can leave the person being ghosted feeling hurt, confused, and rejected.
What is ghosting?
Ghosting refers to when someone you are dating or in a relationship with stops responding to your calls, texts, and messages without explanation. One day they are communicating with you as normal, and the next you have heard nothing for days, weeks, or even months. They have basically disappeared from your life without a trace.
Ghosting can occur after just one date or after months of dating. You may have even been intimate with the person. There is no closure or explanation given for their disappearance. They simply vanish by ceasing communication.
Why do people ghost?
There are several reasons why someone might choose to ghost another person:
- They lost interest and don’t know how to politely end things
- They found someone new they are more interested in dating
- They are too cowardly to directly end the relationship
- They met someone else and are cheating
- They are moving away or have other life changes
- Communication was mainly through apps and they deleted the apps
- They are depressed or having personal issues
- They realized the person they are dating is toxic or abusive
While ghosting may feel like an easy way out for the ghoster, it leaves the person being ghosted confused and hurt.
How common is ghosting?
Ghosting has become fairly common in modern dating culture. With online dating apps and social media, it’s easy to ghost someone by simply stopping messaging them or unfollowing them.
According to a 2019 survey by dating site Plenty of Fish:
- 25% of singles have been ghosted
- 20% of singles admit to ghosting someone
- Ghosting is more common among younger demographics
So while by no means does everyone ghost, it is certainly not an uncommon experience today.
Why does being ghosted hurt?
Being ghosted can hurt for several reasons:
- It’s confusing: You are left wondering what happened and why.
- It’s insulting: You feel the person did not respect you enough to properly end things.
- It’s invalidating: It makes you feel like the relationship meant nothing.
- It triggers self-doubt: You start second-guessing yourself and what you may have done wrong.
- It causes anxiety: You obsessively check your phone waiting for a message.
- It’s emotionally painful: It can feel similarly to being broken up with except without closure.
Ghosting can be even more hurtful after an intimate relationship where you have developed an emotional attachment to the person. Being suddenly cut off can feel like emotional whiplash.
How to cope with being ghosted
If you have been ghosted, here are some tips to help you cope:
- Avoid taking it personally. While ghosting feels personal, it likely says more about the ghoster than you.
- Resist the urge to lash out. Vent to friends instead of confronting the ghoster.
- Give yourself time to process the emotions. Confusion, hurt, grief, etc. are normal.
- Reflect on what you learned from the experience about relationships.
- Keep busy with work, hobbies, friends, and family to avoid obsessive thoughts.
- Communicate your feelings to supportive loved ones.
- Be kind to yourself and do things that make you happy.
- Remember it’s ultimately better the unhealthy relationship ended.
While the lack of closure can be frustrating, try to find ways to move forward. With time, the hurt will fade.
Is ghosting ever acceptable?
Most relationship experts argue ghosting is never an appropriate or considerate way to end a relationship. However, some argue it may be acceptable in certain situations such as:
- After just 1-3 dates when little emotional investment has developed
- After initial online chatting but before ever meeting in person
- When you have reason to feel the person may retaliate or become abusive
- When you have communicated your lack of interest already but the person won’t accept it
Even in these cases, providing some closure is ideal if it can be done safely. Overall, directly communicating is mature while ghosting is taking the easy way out.
How to avoid being ghosted
While there is no foolproof way to avoid being ghosted, some tips include:
- Proceed slowly in new relationships to assess character
- Discuss expectations around communication early on
- Learn the signs of avoidant-attachment style
- Pay attention to any red flags about reliability, communication, etc.
- Don’t over-invest emotionally too quickly
Essentially, keeping perspective in early dating and not becoming over-attached too fast can help minimize hurt if ghosted.
Is ghosting emotional abuse?
Most experts agree that ghosting after an established intimate relationship meets the criteria for emotional abuse or psychological abuse. Signs it may be emotional abuse include:
- Relationship was serious and emotionally invested
- Ghosting came suddenly out of the blue
- There was no discussion of problems or breaking up
- All questions and attempts to discuss are ignored
- The abrupt loss leaves you traumatized
When someone who claimed to care about you suddenly cuts you off without explanation, it can feel incredibly demeaning and cruel, like you never mattered. The lack of closure often causes long-lasting trust issues.
Table showing signs ghosting may be emotional abuse
|Signs Ghosting is Emotional Abuse|
|Serious, emotionally invested relationship|
|Abrupt, out of the blue ghosting|
|No discussion of problems or break up|
|Questions and attempts to discuss ignored|
|Leaves you feeling traumatized|
When someone ghosts after months or years together, it can cause similar feelings to emotional trauma from physical abuse since it makes you question your sense of reality.
Is ghosting a form of narcissistic abuse?
Ghosting can also be a sign of narcissistic abuse in a toxic relationship. Signs it may be narcissistic abuse include:
- The person displayed narcissistic traits like excessive self-focus
- The relationship felt emotionally unhealthy or possessive
- You often felt ignored, unheard, or emotionally manipulated
- The person alternating ghosting with hoovering (reconnecting)
Narcissists often use silent treatment or disappearing acts to control their partners. Ghosting can be the ultimate silent treatment. The lack of closure leaves the partner trauma bonded.
Table showing signs ghosting may be narcissistic abuse
|Signs Ghosting is Narcissistic Abuse|
|Person displayed narcissistic traits|
|Relationship felt emotionally unhealthy/possessive|
|You often felt ignored, unheard, manipulated|
|Person alternated ghosting with hoovering back|
When a narcissist ghosts, it serves to punish and devalue their partner. It gives them a sense of power and control. This is why it often leads to trauma bonding keeping the partner trapped.
Should ghosting be illegal?
While ghosting can certainly be unethical, immoral, and cruel depending on the situation, relationship experts tend to agree it should not be illegal. Some key reasons it is difficult to legislate include:
- It’s nearly impossible to prove why someone stopped contacting you
- Making laws around interpersonal relationships gets very complicated
- Criminalizing every bad dating behavior sets a dangerous precedent
- Proving emotional distress from ghosting is difficult
- It would be challenging to enforce or prosecute
Rather than making ghosting illegal, it is better to spread awareness on why it is harmful and unethical. Social pressure rather than laws are more likely to change such behaviors.
Ghosting, while increasingly common, can certainly be a hurtful and damaging experience for the person on the receiving end. Learning to move on and not take it personally is important. Avoiding becoming overly invested too quickly when dating can help minimize the hurt as well. There are certainly situations where ghosting crosses the line into emotional or narcissistic abuse. However, the solution is unlikely to come from legislation, but rather increasing conscientiousness and communication skills in relationships. With open discussion and understanding, ghosting another human being can be recognized as the devaluing and cowardly behavior that it is in most cases.