Relationships can be unpredictable. One minute, things might seem to be going fine, and the next, it seems as though the world is crashing down around you. Although not every single relationship experiences dramatic highs and lows, the dating landscape is much different now than it was even twenty years ago, and the mechanisms involved in dating, mating, and marrying are dramatically different from those of our parents, grandparents, and even, potentially, older siblings.
Perhaps one of the worst advents in the history of dating is ghosting. Although it seems to have become a fairly standard means of ending a relationship, ghosting is not quite as innocuous as most people seem to believe, regardless of its common use. It may offer a convenient way out for one half of a partnership but can absolutely devastate the other half of the relationship. So why do people ghost?
The term “ghosting” first came into common use around 2014. Although the term’s exact origin is not known, it has been attributed to the parody video, titled “Ghoster’s Paradise,” which described the act of disappearing on a date or a significant other without notice, warning, or, in most cases, a legitimate reason. This video seemed to strike a mighty chord with many people. The term gained popularity from there, as it gave a name to a behavior that many men and women had seen in dating but were unsure how to define or identify.
Ghosting does not apply entirely too romantic relationships, but it is the context in which it is most often used. You can ghost family members, friends, or even employers, as all of these people can go from being a big part of your life to seemingly not existing at all. Ghosting can occur gradually, when someone slowly but surely starts ignoring calls or texts, and fades out of your life altogether, or can occur as a single disappearing act. In both cases, the result is the same: someone is gone from your life, without so much as an “It’s not me; it’s you.”
The act of ghosting is not new, but its acceptance as a reasonable, acceptable, normal part of dating is somewhat recent. Ghosting was once relegated to TV shows and dating horror stories. Someone (usually a man) disappeared after a date or well into a relationship, despite everything seeming to be going well. One minute, the trope goes, two people were having a great time, and the next, one has vanished, and the other is left reeling. Unfortunately, while this was once used as a plotline for a TV show, or described as a negative trait of a certain character in a novel, this has become the norm for many people, who consider their own comfort of greater import than the feelings, health, or understanding of the person they are ghosting.
A simple lack of regard or lack of maturity is usually to blame for ghosting. People who lack consideration for others or the emotional maturity to hold space for hard conversations might consider it easier and more useful to disappear on someone than to actually engage with them and explain why the relationship isn’t working or why they have lost interest forward.
Though it may be somewhat reductionist to pin most of this phenomenon on emotional immaturity and selfishness, there is some support for this notion. Even individuals who regularly employ ghosting in their dating lives acknowledge that it is not done out of a sense of kindness, mercy, or consideration for the person they are ghosting. It makes the whole process easier for them. It allows them to move forward without having to see other people experience unpleasant emotions without sticky complications.
Ghosting might also be done as a sort of defense mechanism. For some, the possibility of rejection is far too much to bear, and ghosting provides a perfect way to avoid rejection: rather than waiting around to be left behind or fallen out of love with, the ghost can take the reigns and initiate the abandonment themselves, thus inoculating themselves against the pain of rejection. This is not a healthy behavior pattern but is another common reason for ghosting within dating relationships.
Ghosting might also be used to respond to a date or significant other who displays unhealthy, abusive, or alarming behaviors. Some people figure that simply disappearing protects them from an onslaught of angry, abusive, or manipulative behavior. In some instances, this can be the correct move; some abusers are extremely clever and covert in the ways that they manipulate, coerce, and control their victims, and simply disappearing without a trace may be one of the most effective tools used to get out of these types of situations.
Why Ghosting Is Problematic
While ghosts often insist that the behavior is simple, easy, and straightforward, psychologists have stated that this is, definitively, not the case. Emotional equilibrium relies somewhat significantly on closure and understanding what happened in any given situation. Ghosting robs someone of the ability to gain closure in a relationship (or fledgling relationship) and can leave a long-term wound in the romantic life of people who have been ghosted. Feelings of inadequacy, difficulty trusting others, difficulty opening up, and fear of being abandoned can all come rushing at someone who has been ghosted and can create a series of unhealthy behavioral and communication patterns within relationships.
Ghosting might feel great for the ghost but never feels good for the person being ghosted. When you ghost someone, you are essentially communicating that they mean so little to you, you cannot possibly spare ten minutes-an hour, even-of your time to break up with them or say goodbye, suggesting that your estimation of their worth is less than that of getting a cup of coffee, or using the restroom-both tasks that take 5-10 minutes, just as a call, text, or meeting to end a new or established relationship can be. Some psychologists have even identified ghosting as a legitimate form of psychological abuse.
How exactly does ghosting equate to psychological abuse? As a whole, abuse is about control, which is usually achieved through domineering, cruel, and manipulative behavior. Ghosting is also about control: the ghost wants to be the one in control of when the relationship ends and how it ends, as they do not make room for the partner (or romantic interest) to say their piece and express their feelings; instead, they consider their feelings and wants the only important ones, and react accordingly.
Ghosting is also abusive because it causes literal pain to the people who are being ghosted. The same area of the brain that activates when you feel physical pain is activated when you are ghosted, acknowledging that ghosting is not a simple behavior but an extremely problematic one. Human beings are social creatures, and the act of ignoring or excluding someone is dangerous for someone’s mental health, as it makes people feel isolated and unwanted-two things that can lead humans to unbearable depths.
If you find yourself feeling the impulse to ghost people, rather than having a mature, adult conversation about how you feel and where you want your relationship to go (or not), take some time to try to work out exactly how you feel, and find a way to communicate. This could be through email, text, or even a hand-written letter, but finding some way to communicate is extremely important in every relationship.
If you’ve stumbled here because you have been on the receiving end of ghosting and are seeking answers, the clearest answer is this: ghosting says far more about the ghoster than it does about the ghosted. While you might be ready and willing to engage in an adult conversation, that cannot force anyone else to be willing to do the same, nor can it ever overwhelm someone else’s need to preserve their skin. In this way, ghosting as a behavior says far more about the person engaging in it than ghosting.
If you have been ghosted and are having difficulty moving forward, finding your own form of closure, and have noticed a distinct downturn in your self-esteem and ability to self-soothe, consider reaching out to a licensed mental health professional. A therapist, such as those working through ReGain.Us, can help you develop strategies to improve your self-esteem, create better personal habits and routines, and gain some amount of closure from your past. Ghosting is a painful, hurtful behavior, and one that has very few legitimate reasons for being used. Suppose you can tear apart your confidence and leave you feeling abandoned, afraid, and alone. With help, time, and a bit of dedication, though, you can move past the loss you feel and forge ahead with hope and tools to create lasting, meaningful relationships.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why does he suddenly stop texting?
There are a wide variety of reasons that a person may have stopped texting abruptly. Here are some possibilities:
What do you do when a guy suddenly stops texting you?
If this is the first time it has happened, you might text back a few days to a week later and say, “Hey! How’s it going?” Give it some time. If he never replies again, the chances are that he isn’t interested or that something else will prevent him from replying. Refrain from sending an excessive number of text messages.
Is it normal for guys to not reply to texts?
Men and women alike and people of other genders sometimes don’t reply to text messages. If someone stops texting, it could be attributed to any number of reasons. If there’s a long stretch of time between his texts (for example, he texts you before and after work, but not during), he likely puts his phone down at work. This isn’t the same as a guy who suddenly stops texting. Instead, he may need to put his phone to the side to focus. Some people also need to do this when they focus on family or friends, meditate, clean, etc. You’ll get to know his texting style over time, and if he’s interested, you’ll know it. Texting does leave room for quite a few misunderstandings, so keep that in mind, but use your gut as well.
What does it mean if he keeps texting you?
It depends on the context. If you both text a lot and have enjoyable conversations that don’t feel pressured or overly intense, that’s great! If he’s texting you excessively and it’s making you uncomfortable, that’s a problem. Say that someone you just met sends you a suggestive text that makes you uncomfortable, and as a result, you didn’t text back. Likely, you want to make the guy stop, but now, he’s sending you a dozen (or more) messages to no avail. If the messages he’s sending are intense, controlling, guilting, or even excessively affectionate far too early, your gut feeling is probably right; something’s wrong. Use your intuition. If someone ever starts to threaten you via text, get the appropriate parties involved. Your safety is always the priority.
Will a guy miss you if you stop texting?
It depends on your connection and how he feels for you. If you’re a friend or romantic interest, they’ll almost certainly miss you. If you’re not interested in him and he is pursuing you, don’t lead him on. Make your boundaries clear, and know that you don’t have an obligation to a romantic connection that isn’t genuine. If you’re interested in a guy who stopped texting, reach out once or twice, and if he’s interested, he’ll miss you and reach back out.
Is he busy or losing interest?
If you normally text a lot, but he hasn’t texted you back or suddenly stopped texting, he might be losing interest. Alternatively, he could be busy, or something could be wrong. Some people struggle with confrontation, and if someone suddenly stops texting without reason, that could be the case. If you’re wondering, “why did he suddenly stop texting?” and he reaches out to apologize (if he hasn’t texted, he might say, “I’m so sorry that I’m just now getting back to this - I’ve been busy with work”) and proceed to reply to the text you sent before, that’s a legitimate reason someone might suddenly stop texting. If someone suddenly stops texting when you typically have great conversations and seem to get along, it could also be due to mental health concerns. If a guy stops texting entirely, especially if he suddenly stopped and hasn’t replied to anything since he may be ghosting you. If a guy stopped texting you, isn’t replying to any check-in texts, and ghosting seems to be what’s going on, it may be best to feel your feelings and process or express them away from him instead of expressing your anger to him directly or blowing up at him in a series of excessive texts. Your anger, sadness, or upset are all valid. Ghosting is hard to cope with, and if you had a connection, it could sting big time, but you don’t need to use your energy on someone who won’t reply. Depending on why they ghosted you, it can, in fact, be scary. Speak to a friend or loved one, and don’t be afraid to reach out to a counselor or therapist to process what happened.