Ghosting: The ultimate silent treatment everyone talks about

A woman tries calling someone on her phoneGhosting is a behaviour that is not gender specific, it is the act of disappearing in a phantom-like fashion from someone you are seeing or have just met. More often this refers to the occurrence of ending a romantic relationship by cutting off all contact and ignoring the person’s attempts to reach out. You can also ghost on friends or family members.

Let’s say you’ve been dating someone for a few days, weeks, months, or even years. You like this person, and you’re pretty sure that this person likes you too, until one day you text them and they don’t answer. You call them: no answer. You try a couple more times before you eventually give up. You’ll wonder what happened, and you’ll never know. So, if you are dating or planning to start dating, the chances are that nowadays you will either ghost or be ghosted.

Ghosting is nothing new, it is the new terminology for a pattern of dysfunctional behaviour that has been around for centuries which has become prevalent in today’s dating culture. It is objectively terrible behaviour and is related to ‘love avoidance’ and ‘love addiction’ along with a narcissistic personality style.

This article will highlight whether you are being ghosted, or you may recognise yourself as the ghostee and you can decide to nip this disrespectful behaviour in the bud as it can feel deeply cruel and humiliating for the person being ghosted, as it leaves no opportunity for closure and not worthy of an explanation.

What is ghosting and why does it happen?

The difference nowadays is that it is easier to ghost someone with the availability of social media and ever-changing mobile phone technology. With the advent of dating apps, and online dating, ghosting is becoming more widespread. Instead of trying to build a relationship, ghosters find it much easier to swipe an app to find their next date (or victim).

We can hide behind our mobiles, text messages, and computer screens, which can take the place of actual conversations. Relationships are defined based on a Facebook status or a profile picture. Instead of courting your person of interest, you seem to be courting your phone - constantly checking it to see if they sent you a message, liked your Instagram picture, viewed your snapchat, when was the last time they were on Tinder, did they tweet anything - the list goes on and on. Sad, but true.

Ghosters then cut off contact after they promise to get in touch and have shown a lot of special interest in you. However, when they do, it takes ages for them to text, email, and in the unlikely event call you back, even when you can see that they are online! And you are fighting the urge to text them. These people are immature, cowardly, and rude, but it is somehow becoming an acceptable exit strategy. Some ghosters may come back after a few days or weeks and try to pick up where they left off, only to do it again and again.

I have experienced many clients over the years that come to me confused around this kind of behaviour. The length of time you have been dating does not matter to the person who ghosts you. It can happen after just meeting and a little sexting or after three dates, a few months, or even a year.

This behaviour is not just about being able to tell someone that they are not interested, and ‘you’ve been dumped’, it’s more about a deep-rooted fear about abandonment and intimacy. In the meantime, they can only deserve to be labelled as dodgy. Frequently people who get ghosted wonder what they’ve done wrong to alienate the other person. The answer is nothing (unless you were coming across too needy - see love addiction). The other person (see love avoidant) is a coward, very scared and they don’t even know it.

A woman sits alone in the dark, her face lit up by her laptop screen

It can be a totally devastating experience for the person deeply involved in the relationship. It creates a vacuum of frustration, anger, and irritation, which leads to triggering different defence mechanisms. Some people, who go through such breakups without any self-awareness, try to get into new relationships immediately to fill the vacuum. I have even seen people get into drugs and alcohol after getting ghosted (see co-dependency).

People also make excuses for the ghoster, such as “they’ve been super busy at work”, or “they travel a lot for work and have to be offline”, or “we got along so well, I felt so connected, and then they said they had a friend coming to stay”, or “I feel bereft, they were saying all the right things to me, they knew what I wanted to hear, made me feel really special and I miss that” or even the camera failed on Facebook messenger and your ‘hotline bling’ abruptly ended until the next fix! Let me be clear people: we live in the age of instant technology.

Believe me they’re getting your texts/voicemails/emails and your FB camera works, it always did! It takes about 15 seconds to hit reply and send a message back. Stop making excuses for your ghoster. If it’s been a few hours, days, a week and no text, email, call or contact of any sort, there’s a 99% chance you’ve been ghosted. Yes it hurts. If it feels too good to be true, it probably is. But you know what feels really good?! Hitting the delete button on your phone right now.

Become more self-aware and continue to develop your self-esteem, and the more likely you will begin to see this behaviour more clearly in others and begin to not feel so let down by others.

What to do if you are ghosted

1. Maintain your dignity. If you want to reach out to see if they are okay, text, call, or email them once. If you get no response or a cold response or one or two word answers, do not contact them again! Go back over your conversation and check who has been doing most of the chatting and what it trails into towards the end, one word responses, and excuses? If you feel something sinister, remove them from your contact list, so, you are not tempted to contact them again. Let it go! Trust that you’ve made a lucky escape.

2. Feel empowered and proud of you. A person who ghosts does not want confrontation and cannot fundamentally have real relationships, they live in a fantasy world. Be thankful that you did not waste any more time on this relationship. If you get ghosted often, go away and find what lies in you that keeps you attracting the same kind of person. You deserve respect. It is not nice to be ghosted; you deserve more from a relationship. Don't chase after someone who has so little to give.

A man sits alone in the woods, resting his chin in his hand, lost in thought.3. You are not the problem. It is normal to go over your last date and last conversations to see what you said or did wrong. More than likely, you did nothing wrong. However, it is important to explore your own unconscious thoughts and beliefs about feeling abandoned, hence the compulsion to repeat the same pattern of your behaviour, which leaves you feeling humiliated and let down, time after time.

4. Resist the urge to ghost someone back. Better to be brave and make a clear statement at the start about your boundaries and values when it comes to relationships. Believe me, when someone likes you they will call and want to spend time with you and most importantly keep you in mind, and it will feel right.

5. If they do come back into your life, they owe you a very sincere apology. Maybe there were some difficult circumstances in their life at the time and they are sorry for how they ended it. It's doubtful though so don't hold your breath waiting for an apology.

6. Become enlightened. The more you begin to care about the way you feel and make that the utmost importance, the quicker you will move on each time. The minute it does not feel good, stop the scenario in its tracks and question what’s going on and end it... pronto.

7. Set boundaries. If you meet someone and sexting starts straight away or the relationship becomes sexual very quick, put boundaries in place fast. Ghosters can be bewitching and very charismatic and like a drug can make you feel high very quickly (read ‘love addiction’). Tell them you will not engage in this behaviour (however desirable - it’s going to be hard) but explore other forms of intimacy. If this person can’t or won’t respond to your requests, or you find their requests difficult or inappropriate, leave it and find someone else.

8. Question yourself. If you feel highly attracted to someone the first time you meet them, question this with yourself before you jump in, especially if you have never explored your own internal process around relationships.

9. Develop yourself. It’s fun to be spontaneous and go with the flow, but if you are looking for a serious relationship, an authentic and transparent one, first develop that within yourself then you are more likely to attract the right person to you.

So, as an end note, being dumped discourteously with no explanation, taps into our deepest fears of abandonment. It can make even the least obsessive people behave obsessively. It’s not the apps fault. Not even the technology's fault. It's simply people who don't want to face their decision and choose to escape. Even before the smartphone days, people used to do it. The technology is just an excuse.

If you've been with a 'ghost' that left you out of the blue with no explanation - just know that you're lucky that this person is out of your life. In the moment of truth, they would do it with bigger issues, so just say thanks that it happened sooner than later.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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West London, Middlesex, TW13 6LA
Written by Rizwana Virdee, EMDR PSYCHOTHERAPY -BACP Reg
West London, Middlesex, TW13 6LA

Rizwana Virdee is a therapeutic counsellor. She provides a range of services including relationship counselling for couples and individuals as well group therapy for love addiction. She specialises co-dependency, addiction, and intimacy. She is also a qualified purebioenergy therapist.

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