So you’ve had a few good dates with someone you think you really click with. Maybe you’ve spent the night at each other’s places… Maybe you’ve stayed up to all hours talking about your interests… Maybe you’ve laughed so hard together that your sides hurt. In short, all seems to be going well.
And then, one day… Nothing.
Radio silence. You text them, no response. You call them, it goes to voicemail. You thought you guys had plans for the weekend, but they don’t confirm or show up. What just happened?
You’ve been ghosted.
Ghosting is when one of the people in a relationship (usually a pretty new relationship, but probably one that’s several dates in and likely intimate) suddenly drops off the face of the earth. Rather than tell the other person that they’re not interested anymore or provide a clean, closure-filled breakup, they just vanish. Sometimes, this is unintentional; people do occasionally get insanely busy with work, family, or other distractions. But often, it’s a purposeful cutting of contact with the hope that the other person will simply get the idea that the relationship is over.
On the one hand, if it’s only been one date or just a few hangouts, there’s really nothing wrong with going no-contact if you’ve lost interest. It’s somewhat rude, but not against the social norm. And of course, if you are dating someone and they say they want to break up, they don’t have to provide a list of reasons why or justify their decision; no one has to date anyone they don’t want to, even if it hurts to be rejected. With ghosting, though, there’s usually a bit of history already in place for the relationship, several dates or several weeks/months of togetherness, and then there’s a complete lack of a real breakup, even in the form of a “let’s see other people” text message. The other person is simply there one day, gone the next. Ghosting is a pretty horrible thing to do to someone. It’s lazy and completely uncaring of the other’s feelings. But unfortunately, it does happen. So what do you do if it happens to you?
The better question should be, what NOT to do.
- Do NOT blow up the ghost’s phone with calls and texts. You might be tempted to do this at first; after all, what if the ghost is actually hurt, in a hospital somewhere, or dead?? They might be going no-contact through no fault of their own! Yes, theoretically that’s possible, but it’s not terribly likely. Sending message after message and leaving voicemail after voicemail is not helpful behavior. If they ARE hurt or dead, it won’t help you reach them. And if they are just blowing you off, you come across as desperate, needy and maybe a little stalker-y. Instead, send no more than three messages and no more than two voicemails. The final of each of those should be something like, “Well, I guess you’re too busy to get back to me right now, so if you want to hang out again, call/text me back when you’ve got time and I’ll see if I’m free.” And then leave it at that. That way, you’ve made it clear that you recognize what’s going on and that you are probably still interested, but you’re also not waiting by the phone (no matter how much you may want to). Play it cool, even if you’re pissed. And yes, you have a right to be pissed if you’re getting ghosted. You’re under no obligation to ever speak to or see this person again after they’ve been so rude.
- Do NOT stalk them on social media, contact their friends or otherwise use outside channels to hunt them down. Again, this is pretty pointless behavior. If the ghost was truly sick or hurt and in a hospital somewhere, they’d find a way to get word to you. If you approach their friends and say, “Hey, why hasn’t [ghost] called me? Are they ok?” you’re putting the friends in the awkward position of responding that the ghost is fine, just not replying to your texts. Don’t make other people be the bearers of bad news that you probably already know. It’s awkward and uncomfortable. In this day and age, the availability of so much social media and means of communication leads to the reality that there are just that many more ways someone can reject us or just not contact us at all, and that can feel especially isolating or hurtful. Still, though, using those same means to track down your ghost and see if they’re alive, uninjured, or seeing someone else is just wrong.
- Do NOT think any less of yourself or think it’s anything you did. Being ghosted is not an indictment on you. You did not deserve it; no one does, unless they’re abusive or harmful. It doesn’t mean you are undateable, unlovable or somehow not worthy. Ghosting reflects poorly on the one doing it, not on the victim. Those who choose to ghost someone with whom they’ve had a relationship are, by and large, being selfish. They don’t want to deal with the conflict of a breakup, so they just disappear. Or they have “chased” you until they “caught” you, and now they’ve lost interest. Or they’re juggling so many potential mates that they just can’t be bothered making their intentions clear to the ones they’ve decided to cut loose. Whatever their excuse might be, it’s just an excuse. Mature grown-ups handle a parting of the ways with communication. “Sorry, I don’t think this is working out, but thank you!” or “I’ve enjoyed hanging out with you but I don’t think we’re a good fit. Best of luck!” Yes, rejection hurts, but ghosting — the not knowing what exactly is going on or where the other person went — hurts more. Don’t do it to others, and don’t blame yourself if it happens to you.