The emotional and physical pain of being ‘ghosted’ – where somebody cuts off contact for no obvious reason and without any explanation – is a very real thing, and not everybody can recover from it quickly. Social rejection of any kind hurts, and ghosting is easily one of the most common. Even if you haven’t experienced ghosting yet, it’s very likely that you will one day, and it can make you feel terrible in the short-term.
The thing is, ghosting isn’t always easy to explain. When somebody chooses to ghost someone, that person usually knows a reason for it, but may not have a way to get it across in real life. Whether you’re a guy, a girl, or something else entirely, dating is hard enough without being ghosted – so why does it happen?
Why Does Ghosting Hurt So Much?
Ghosting isn’t an invention of the modern always-online generations, and people have been ghosted before in multiple ways throughout the years, right down to husbands and wives simply leaving home for another country back before there was a way to easily contact them.
However, now that it’s easier than ever to connect with people and track one another, being ghosted may feel a lot more harsh than it used to, because we expect easy contact with one another. No matter what you do and how much help you get, friends can simply walk out of your life. If it’s an internet friend who only went by a handle or fake name, they could be gone forever.
Ghosting can cause a similar reaction as actually being hurt, especially if you had deep feelings for the other person. Unlike a break-up through text, there isn’t any closure, so it leaves the exact reason up to your imagination.
When somebody ghosts you, they’re saying that they don’t want to interact with you. This can be a huge hit to your own self-perception, especially if it happens multiple times in a row, and you can take a while to recover from being ghosted by an actual friend that you trusted.
Wasted Effort (Without Any Explanation)
For somebody who sees a relationship as a cost/benefit deal, having so many feelings wasted on a person who simply vanishes can also hurt. This is especially true if you stepped far out of your comfort zone to start talking to them, since it can burn you badly and make you want to stay inside your shell for a while, which puts a damper on any chances of you shrugging off their disappearance.
Why Do People Ghost?
Even though you try your best, ghosting can always be a possibility. Getting suddenly ghosted doesn’t have to be a super-complex chain of relationships and emotional troubles: it can be as simple as a single snap decision based on something they know about you, especially if you only just met a day ago.
They’re Not Interested
Whether it’s as a romantic partner, a one-night meetup, or a friendship, some people just aren’t interested. They may not have any interest in you physically, may not want to engage with that kind of relationship at the moment, or might not feel like a good fit for becoming friends with you. Sometimes that person is being harsh on themselves, and other times, they’re being harsh on you.
In the dating world, compatibility is a huge majority of how you’re going to develop a potential relationship. If you suddenly get ghosted, it could be that you offered up some information that confirmed you wouldn’t be good dating partners – maybe you live too far away or they don’t find your general physical shape to be all that attractive.
This isn’t exclusive to either sex: people can have a wide range of standards, even when they’re desperate for relationships, and they’re usually only going to be dating within their own criteria of things they like or find appealing. You might never find out what caused the rejection, especially if you dumped a whole bunch of information about yourself at once.
You’re Too Pushy
Sometimes, people are ghosted because they’re approaching someone too quickly. Knowing when to back off can be an important part of making friends or approaching the idea of a relationship, and if you make somebody uncomfortable, they’re more likely to ghost you and move on to someone else.
Whether it’s a friend, a dating opportunity, or even just a social interaction, it’s better to take your time and put thought into how fast you’re actually replying. An instant text back can be fine, but if you text them messages trying to get their attention constantly until they reply, then you’ll never make them comfortable talking with you.
Awkwardness isn’t always going to make somebody ghost you, but a certain type of awkwardness can make it far more likely. There’s the endearing awkwardness that’s usually easy to handle, since it gives them a feel for you at your most vulnerable, and then there’s the bad awkwardness that you’re never really able to come back from.
This includes things like dumping real emotional troubles within moments of meeting, referring to somebody as a friend without even knowing their name, or bringing up how you hated your previous relationships and are looking for someone to make you feel better. Basically, any kind of over-sharing that puts pressure on the other person is a no-go.
You Aren’t Compatible
There’s no easy way to put this, but sometimes, someone will be ghosting you purely because they don’t think you would work together. This isn’t always the fault of either person, it’s just something that happens in relationships.
If you aren’t going to get along well, then most people would rather have ghosted their potential friend or relationship partner. The time investment and emotional weight of any relationship can be a huge burden if it’s not going to work out, and a lot of signs are easy to spot: disagreements, distances that you’re never willing to cross in order to meet, or even just the way that you take each other’s jokes.
On top of that, as somebody gets to know you and your life well, they might discover things that act as a deal-breaker to them. Ghosting someone because they’re bouncing out of a bad relationship or don’t have time to properly care for a partner are both fairly valid options to most people, and they may only become aware of that stuff once you’re already talking regularly.
They Feel Uncomfortable
Someone can be uncomfortable without it being your fault. Maybe it’s the content of the dating site they’re on or the amount of other creepy messages they get, but someone may end up going through a complete rethink of what they’re doing and delete their accounts. If this happens, know that it may not be your fault at all.
Sometimes, this could be because they regret putting so much information on the internet. In other cases, perhaps they realize that they aren’t ready to date, or that they don’t want to face online rejection and would prefer to date in their local area first.
Most of the time, we’re taught that people who suddenly use ghosting to get out of a relationship or friendship are doing it out of selfishness, but that isn’t always the case. There are plenty of reasons that might mean that ghosting was the right thing to do, or other reasons that gave them no real choice in the matter.
They Lost Contact
People who are content with using their phones to communicate are fine until their phone breaks. Whether it’s a damaged phone, a stolen account, a lost email address, or a lack of stable internet access, there are plenty of reasons that people “ghost” by not being able to continue the relationship or constant communication.
This is rarely the fault of the person doing the ghosting, but unless you have enough information to contact them on another site or in another way, you would never know that. If they can’t get access to that account and have to make a new one on the same site, there’s also no guarantee that they’ll find you again.
They Have Mental Health Concerns
Sometimes, being ghosted isn’t something that a person has thought out. Mental health issues or other similar problems can cause someone to act in specific ways, which can lead to things like temporarily ghosting friends or deleting social media pages. Depending on how severe their conditions are, they might even be doing it to save people from having to stress about them.
Some people may even see ghosting others as a form of self-harm, a way to deny them things they want or cause them emotional pain in the same way that self-harm leads to physical pain. They might come back once they get a clear head, but that’s not always a guarantee.
They’re In An Abusive Household
There’s always a chance that a person may be under the watchful eye of abusive parents or a controlling partner. In that case, the idea of them being forced to ghost friends or delete social media accounts is a very real problem, and one that you can’t always do much about unless they give you enough information to help.
It may be the case that you can connect back up with them at a later date, and they can probably explain the ghosting then, but it’s not always easy to know for sure. Don’t assume that people ghost purely for selfish reasons – they might be trying to protect themselves, or protect others that they’re associating with.
They’re Not Who They Say They Are
Catfishing is a real problem, but that doesn’t mean that all catfishers are actually trying to be horrible people. For some, they try to become another person to manage poor self-esteem, rather than scamming or manipulating people. Unfortunately, since they aren’t the person they claim to be, relationships are downright impossible under that pretense.
This means that a catfish might develop feelings towards somebody they meet under their fake identity, but have no way to follow up on what they’ve learned. A smart catfish knows that revealing themselves can break the other person’s heart even more than just vanishing, so sometimes ghosting is actually done to get away from feelings that can’t be followed up.
It’s worth noting that this can also be the turning point for many “innocent catfishers” who were just trying to meet people under a different identity, and will often get them to rethink what they’re doing. If a catfish really wanted to manipulate people for malicious reasons, they wouldn’t have that change of heart.
What About Real-Life Ghosting?
In offline life, ghosting is still entirely possible, and happens more than you might think. Most of the above can still apply, especially after the first date, and you won’t always have the time or desire to set up a second one. There can be plenty of reasons why your date suddenly won’t return your texts or arrange another night together.
You’re Different In-Person
The value of a face-to-face date means that you don’t have a site to hide behind. If a person says everything confidently online, but then says the exact same things in an incredibly awkward way face to face, then a date who was expecting the confident persona can be turned off. The memorable things you’ve said online will definitely come up again in conversation if your date found them funny or interesting, so they’ll have a way to compare how you’ve said it all in person.
Remember that everybody says things differently face to face. If a friend says things with an obvious snarky attitude online, that doesn’t mean that the same friend says it all that way when you meet them for real.
They Find Somebody Else
Sometimes, you’re ghosted because your potential partner was meeting up with multiple people around the same time, and they found somebody that was a better suit for them. This is quite common if they used a site to meet you: the thing about dating sites is that they help people find others that they may be interested in meeting, but they’re able to talk to them independently.
If this happens, it can be a confidence blow, since most people would at least have said why they weren’t going on another date. Even so, getting used to this kind of thing can be important if you’re new to online dating as a whole.
How Do I React to Ghosting?
It’s okay to be upset when you’re ghosted, but you still need to manage how you feel. No matter your sex or your dating situation, there’s no excuse to pin all of your anger on the people that ghost you, since that makes it harder to deal with each thought that enters your head.
While there are definitely times where you’re the “good one” in a ghosting situation (like if you get ghosted and insulted by somebody because of a physical attribute you can’t control), trying to make other people feel awful is never a valid solution to how you feel. Getting abandoned like this hurts, but it’s part of modern life, and it’s something that usually has a reason to happen (from the perspective of the ghoster, anyway).
DON’T Guilt-Trip Them
You may want to send follow-up messages asking why you’ve been ignored. The content of those messages could be entirely innocent, but that doesn’t always mean that they’re okay. If you don’t receive a proper response, then don’t press them for one, because that can cause more problems.
A completely innocent message can still carry weight. For example, if you decided to ghost people but one of them says “Where are you? Are you still up for a second night out?” daily for over a month, it would start to take a toll on you. The content you include in a message is more than just content to create a sentence, and it can carry unintentional double-meanings.
Another good example is any message with content designed to poke them for a positive answer, or a message with content that uses their own information against them. If they told you where they plan to move to in the future or where they live, don’t keep suggesting dates in that area – it makes it seem like you’re desperate to find them, regardless of their own feelings or preferences about meeting you.
DO Take Your Time
It’s okay to feel bad, and you’re going to over-think the situation for a while until you can become content with what happened. Find help from a friend or spend time meeting new people instead: the more you dwell on what may or may not have happened, the harder it becomes to start dating again once the sadness wears off.
With that in mind, still try to take your time. You may feel obligated to rebound, but that’s not always a good idea: it can work, but if you rebound, you may end up in a relationship that doesn’t work for you. The more attachment you the people that left you behind, the harder you can bounce off them, so listen to what a trusted friend says and try to accept the situation if you can.
DON’T Offer and Beg
If you find that you’re being ghosted, don’t become desperate. This isn’t a pick-up trick or a method of getting their interest again, it’s a tool to help yourself let go. You need to be content with what really happened, regardless of whether you know the exact context behind why you were ghosted, and have to be able to move on when the time comes.
If you can only restore somebody’s interest through things like offering sex, then the relationship may already be a risky situation. Of course, some people may like a connection based purely on sex, and that’s fine, but for people who want more, it’s better to just keep trying until you can be content with a relationship that doesn’t require that kind of bargain to work.
DO Keep Trying
You can’t force anybody to like you or want to talk to you. Every generic dating playbook says that you should react to getting ghosted by pressuring him or her until s/he says yes, but that’s not fair on anybody. However, just because a certain former partner says no doesn’t mean that the next potential partner will, and it’s really in your best interests to just carry on as normal.
There isn’t a single, patented, all-rights-reserved trick to meeting somebody who says yes to a relationship. In the same vein, there isn’t an all-rights-reserved method that makes you able to seduce anybody with a single technique. If somebody says no, you may never be able to change that, and that’s just how life is.
Instead, move on, find other people. Somebody else who says yes to your offer of dinner or some time alone at home will eventually turn up, and obsessing over a lost cause is never healthy.
DON’T Assume Based on Sex
A lot of relationship advice may boil down to stereotypes, such as the idea that a woman only says no to men who aren’t rich or confident enough to her, or that men only want sex and can be won over with nudes or other incentives. If anything, following this advice can sometimes turn away potential partners or friends faster if they notice any sexist attitudes or obvious red flags.
Being able to attract people well, then being able to keep them interested, are all down to the kind of partner you are and how open you are about yourself. There isn’t any hard rules for how any group of people will act, and that’s especially true for a subset as large as a single sex. Move things along slowly, work out how much chemistry exists between the two of you, and then see how things go from there.