Ghosting, unfortunately, happens all too often in the dating world. It’s particularly annoying when you think you have something special happening with someone and then never hear from that person again.
It hurts, and it’s confusing. Why just be upfront and tell a partner what we are feeling and leave the relationship honestly? The thing is, ghosting isn’t new.
“It’s an exit strategy used by many people over centuries to end relationships quietly, it’s just that technology has made it much more obvious,” said Cherlyn Chong, a breakup and dating coach for professional women.
Why people ghost: the dating app problem
It’s much easier to just vanish when you know there won’t be a backlash. You don’t know anyone who knows the ghoster, so it’s easier for them to get away with things.
However, not all ghosting is rooted in this idea that you are definitely not their type or that the potential for a connection just isn’t there. In fact, the new modes of dating with all the apps available, have mutated the mindsets and expectations of people.
Part of the issue originates in the fixed mindset. “Some ghosters think that the future is fixed,” explained Chong. They think, “Hey, if this person and I weren’t meant to be, then we’re just not meant to be.”
They believe that they won’t suffer from karma of ghosting. It’s going to happen anyway, so why bother with confrontation? With dating apps exposing the user to countless options, a fixed mindset is almost a mode of survival. But it is also sabotaging our chances.
In fact, one study showed that people with a fixed mindset were 60% more likely to ghost.
As exciting and trendy as dating apps and online dating can seem initially, they often give people too many options, which can prevent them from making a true connection.
Jolene Beaton, dating coach with It’s Just Lunch.
So while yes, it is easy to take ghosting personally, it’s also important to consider the role of dating apps in normalizing this behavior.
It’s easier to simply go radio silent with one person when you have ten other people waiting in your inbox. On dating apps, users can be talking to many people at the same time, which means that you’re not necessarily the sole focus of their attention.
With the endless possibilities of choice and interaction, the standards of social etiquette inevitably drop.
“Unfortunately, this type of behavior breeds an emotional disconnect that is contrary to finding a meaningful relationship. Thus, people assume they don’t have to say they’re not interested any longer,” said Beaton.
Fear of emotional intimacy?
However, there are some common underlying reasons as to why people do it, the first one being a fear of emotional intimacy.
People who ghost have a tendency to avoid emotional closeness in relationships.
A huge part of emotional intimacy involves honesty. When things are going great, it’s easy to have conversations. However, when you have developed a rapport with someone, it can suddenly become more difficult to sever the connection if it no longer feels right to you.
Ghosters do not want to handle the uncomfortable aspects of being honest with you. If they are not interested, they would rather avoid sharing it. They do not want to deal with your emotional reaction and will rather hurt you silently than make themselves uncomfortable.
But it can also come from a compassionate or more empathetic place.
One thing I hear multiple times a day from my women clients, specifically, is they are not comfortable saying they’re not interested in someone directly to the other person’s face. For some, it’s because they feel put on the spot, and for others, it’s because they feel like it is mean, and they don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings.
Yet, that does not make it any less wrong. Ghosting is not any less hurtful than a direct rejection. In some cases, depending on the recipient, it can have a worse effect. “I often advise my clients at It’s Just Lunch to be honest and direct if they’re not interested in pursuing a relationship any farther,” said Beaton.
Everyone deserves transparency
There’s nothing worse than being on the other end of a breakup and not quite knowing why or if it’s even happening in the first place.
For example, saying something like, “John, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I liked hearing your stories, but if I am being honest with myself, I am looking for a different connection at this point. Thank you for meeting me” will lead to a smoother and cleaner transition.
“Everyone deserves transparency, and most people can handle the truth. In fact, most daters aren’t invested to the point where they’re going to be devastated if you don’t want to see them for a second or third date. I believe the best approach to dating is to align your desires with your actions. If transparency is something you value in relationships, then date that way,” said Beaton.
However, there are exceptions when ghosting becomes necessary.
The only time I believe no contact is acceptable is when someone tries to politely decline advances, and the other person won’t take no for an answer. That’s considered harassment, and it’s completely fine to cut off communication and move on.
What to do when you’re the victim
Bad news: no one can 100% prevent ghosting. But, you can reduce ghosting and you can control your emotions when you’ve been ghosted.
First of all, why does it hurt so much?
Let’s understand why ghosting is so painful. According to professors, it’s a form of ostracism, which is the exclusion from a society or group,.
Silent rejection is physically painful, because it triggers the same pathways in the brain as an open wound would.
“With this type of rejection, there’s also a layer of uncertainty, and it invokes our need for cognitive closure. So we want closure, we don’t have it, and we’ve been kicked out of the social group. That hope of coming back is what also adds onto the pain,” said Chong.
You can reduce ghosting by looking out very early for the signs of the fixed mindset, in which the person is constantly unhappy, constantly harping on the same thing or always “down on their luck.”
And remember that you’ve been ostracized? Well, simply rebuild your connection to society. Grab a good friend or two, and head on out. Talk to people, reaffirm your social status and get those social cues in that people do like you. The sting will go away pretty fast.
The faster you’re able to do this, the faster you can move on from the ghosts to the right people.
More helpful articles: