Ghosting has made headlines lately. It is a relatively new term for what some consider to be a 21st century dating problem. An informal survey of friends will generate myriad tales of being ghosted, and the ensuing confusion and emotional fallout.
What is ghosting? Also termed the “slow fade”, ghosting is the phenomenon by which one person ends a dating relationship by simply disappearing. They don’t explain what went wrong, they don’t tell the other person that the relationship has ended. They simply stop communicating. So who is ghosting? An October 2014 poll conducted by YouGov and The Huffington Post demonstrated that 11% of adult Americans have ghosted.
In truth, this phenomenon is not a new one. People have been ghosted for ages. Ghosting is painful and confusing for the person on the receiving end. It can cause all kinds of problems for the ghosted party including esteem issues and self doubt. It can even lead to depression.
We live in the era of online dating where potential partners can seem limitless and disposable. With the seemingly endless options, dropping one opportunity to pursue another can seem commonplace. Taking the time to end one situation before beginning another, just a formality. Except it isn’t just a formality. Showing basic respect to others is key to having a functional society.
Why Ghosting is Harmful to Both Parties
What is wrong with ghosting? For the victim of ghosting, there is the uncertainty. When someone you have been on a few dates with and seem to be getting along with suddenly stops communicating without explanation, there are all kinds of things that happen. You wonder if they have been hurt. You wonder if they have gone on vacation. You assume something reasonable has occurred, at first. This prolongs the time you are “in” the relationship and respectively the time it takes you to heal from it. When you are unaware that the relationship has ended, you are not free to grieve or deal with the aftermath, in fact, you are not aware that there is anything to deal with. Ultimately, you can’t move on. The next phase for the ghosting victim is self doubt. You wonder what you did wrong. You wonder what happened. This can be painful. When you don’t know why someone discontinued a relationship, all of your worst insecurities can rise to the surface causing issues of self esteem.
For the person who disappears, the ghoster, if you will, the key problem is that they fail to accept responsibility and grow emotionally. Relationships are challenging and ending relationships even more so. Still, learning how to respectfully discontinue a romance is something adults are required to do. Failure to accept emotional responsibility for ending a relationship you have voluntarily undertaken is immature and can be detrimental to overall emotional growth. Though ghosting happens at all ages, this is particularly true for emerging adults who are coming into their own and accepting all kinds now new responsibilities, avoidance in this core area of development can have lasting effects.
How to Cope with Ghosting
While this phenomenon seems to be becoming more socially permissible, when in actuality, it is unacceptable. So, how do you get over being ghosted? First of all, commit to not ghosting yourself. Popular wisdom states that the only thing you really have any control over is yourself, and that is definitely true when it comes to ghosting. As a young adult in a world where the online dating options are seemingly limitless and expectations are fairly low, make a commitment to being respectful, honest, and mature. Telling someone who seems pretty into you that you are just not interested is never going to be easy, but it is courteous and ultimately beneficial to both of you. Every adult needs to learn how to handle difficult communication, it is a critical part of being an effective communicator. Next, when you have been ghosted, try to focus on the fact that you’ve been lucky to get out early. A person who thinks that falling off the face of the earth with no word about why, it probably not a person you could have had a strong and lasting relationship with. Count your blessings. Finally, after any kind of rejection, it is important to focus on boosting your own self esteem back up. Do things you love and that make you feel good about yourself. Spend time with trusted friends. Take care of yourself. Ghosting is extremely unpleasant and chances are you or someone you love will have this experience. Focusing on the fact that it probably says more about the disappearing party than is does about you, is a good way to move forward.
Dr. Eileen Wynne