Things have been going great: you’re texting daily, flirting over social media, maybe even Netflix and chilling every now and then.
At least, you were. Recently, the texts have slowed to infrequent, one word responses. Your DMs don’t seem to be going through. You caught up on Making a Murderer alone last weekend.
To the objective observer, it’s clear what is going on. He (or she) is just not that that into you and wishes you would take the hint. In other words, you’ve been ghosted.
But attraction turns even the most logical individual into an optimistic idiot. Maybe he’s just really, really busy. Perhaps she had a family emergency. You’ll hear back when everything gets straightened out -– but let’s send another text just in case the previous 15 somehow weren’t received.
While attempts to rationalize the situation after weeks of radio silence might be foolish, those feelings of hurt and betrayal are not. The act of ghosting is a growing phenomenon that can be confusing and painful for the person left wondering what happened.
But with growing reliance on digital means of communication, ghosting is becoming a popular strategy for ending a relationship while avoiding conflict. Here’s what to do if it happens to you.
1. Stop trying.
Sure, it’s possible there are exceptional circumstances preventing the person in question from getting back to you. And the more time that passes, the stronger your desire becomes to find out what’s wrong.
Just stop. If they really wanted to talk to you, they would find a way. A sudden, prolonged halt in communication is a strong sign they not only want to break things off, but don’t respect your feelings enough to tell you.
And real talk: they’ve probably moved on to someone else (who they will likely end up treating the exact same way).
In the long-run, you’ll come away with your dignity intact if you stop trying to make contact after one or two follow ups. They’re not worth your energy, so stop giving it to them.
And if it turns out they were trapped in an abandoned mineshaft for two weeks with no cell service, I’m sure you’ll get a call as soon as possible.
2. Understand it’s them, not you.
“It is a form of avoidance,” said Lisa Bahar, a marriage and family therapist based in Newport Beach, CA. Bahar explained that ghosting is a behavior meant to communicate that the person doesn’t want any more contact for now – without actually having to communicate.
In other words, the act of ghosting is one of immaturity. A person who ghosts is overwhelmed by either a crippling fear of confrontation, or a shameful lack of empathy for others.
It’s important to understand that being ghosted is nothing personal; people who ghost simply lack those basic social skills that dictate we show consideration for others.
3. Focus on yourself.
So screw them. You are no less attractive, intelligent, or interesting because someone didn’t have the balls to speak to you directly and honestly. That’s their problem and it’s not your responsibility to fix it.
Bahar recommended processing your feelings with a therapist or trusted confidant, while giving the ghoster space.
“Avoid asking for explanations,” she said, and instead find healthy outlets for releasing your frustration and anger.
Then move on with your life. After all, what’s greater payback than not giving a shit?
Adult relationships are hard. They require candor, compromise, and the acceptance that sometimes it’s just not going to work out. But the hardest things in life also tend to be the most rewarding in the end.
Ghosting happens, but that doesn’t make it okay. Don’t give in to the temptation to go dark on someone just because you’re afraid to talk to them. Treating others with compassion — even if the actual passion is gone — is the easiest way to receive the same in return.