Been Ghosted? 6 Smart Ways to Respond and Recover
“Love did not work with that person. But it can work with another.” — Eva Longoria
You thought it was going so well.
You’d been dating a while, you’d talked about everything — you’d gone beyond the shallow stuff, you seemed to hit it off.
You liked him; he seemed to like you back. Yeah, you thought. I’m ready to take this up a notch.
Then — whoosh. Gone. Just like a, well ghost. No replies to your messages, no contact, nothing. As if he never existed. As if you made him up.
You’re upset. More than that, you’re humiliated. Your confidence is all over the floor. Those self-flagellating thoughts creep in: What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t he like me? What’s wrong with me?
What to do?
Ghosting is the practice of ending a relationship by suddenly (and without explanation) withdrawing from all communication. The ghost ignores your attempts to contact them — it’s as if you’d never had any contact at all.
Because ghosting is a form of rejection it stings — even when you barely know someone or they’re not particularly important to you. It may raise historical issues around rejection or abandonment, as well as taking a swing at your self-worth, which might already be fragile in the relationship space.
Poor form, right? But it’s also extremely common and — in the era of small screens — it’s not going away. So here’s a guide for getting to the other side.
6 Smart Ways to Respond and Recover from Ghosting
1. Don’t chase ghosts.
They’re not coming back and you know it. So don’t try to justify their behaviour or hand them an excuse. Like their mother got sick or they’ve been crazy busy at work or they’re a little bit depressed.
Sadly, it doesn’t matter what was going on for them — the simple truth is you were not high enough on their priorities to rate a call. Or even a text message. So put away your phone. Hide it from yourself if you must. Don’t contact them, even if you’re desperate to know why.
Remember, chasing a ghost is like trying to pin down a shadow. Enough said.
2. Don’t talk to ghosts, either.
Bumping into someone who has ghosted you can be embarrassing and anxiety-provoking. I’ve known clients to have panic attacks when they’ve run into someone who has hurt them.
The best plan is treat your ghost as if they were invisible. Don’t acknowledge your ghost or, if you can’t avoid that, smile and walk on past like they don’t matter at all. Don’t stop to talk or seek an explanation — if you do, that’s a win to them.
3. It’s all about them.
When we’ve been hurt in relationships, it’s tempting to critique ourselves: to wonder what we did wrong and to examine our flaws.
But that’s giving your ghost too much power. Being ghosted is not about you; it’s about your ghost’s values and operating style.
Your ghost has just given you a flash of insight into their style of relating in intimate relationships. If it gets hard, I’ll run. I’ll do only what works for me. Is that what you want in a partner?
4. Ghosts don’t all wear the same-sized sheet.
It’s worth having a think about the type of person who ghosted you.
In the simplest terms, there are four types of ghosts. The avoidant ghost (conflict avoidant; will run away from anything difficult); the lazy ghost (can’t be bothered with anything hard including being fair/decent); the mean ghost (doesn’t care at all about others’ feelings) and the half-ghost (may float back and forth in your life; likes to keep options open).
Ghosts are not necessarily bad people; there’s often no agenda to their behaviour — they’re just taking the easy way out. But all ghosts are demonstrating operating styles borne out of their personal and relationship histories — and their values. And, in the space they’re in, none of them are worth your time, energy and love.
5. Know ghosting hurts.
I know, you’re only too aware of this. Being left without warning or knowing why is painful.
It’s a lesson all of us should carry forward when we want to break up with someone. Ghosting someone can seem the easy — even the kindest way — out of a relationship you don’t want to be in, especially when you’re young and inexperienced. But it’s not: you don’t have to offer a long explanation for why you don’t want to be with someone but you should have the courage to tell them it’s over. Face to face is best, but a phone call or text message is better than nothing.
6. Your future just got brighter.
It may not feel like it right now but if someone disappears on you without explanation, they are not right for you.
They are not invested enough in you (and your feelings) to be worth giving your best to.
So let go — the relationship you had is no longer real and the ghost will never be fully there for you. Now you’re free to find someone who is.
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