Why Do People Ghost? Relationship Experts Weigh In

Here are possible reasons your date went radio silent.

Kelifern Pomeranz, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, survey, Karen Ruskin, mental health, Vinita Mehta, Health Hookup


This is the latest article in Health's column, But Why? Here, experts decipher the psychological reasons behind puzzling human behavior mysteries.

A friend called me in confusion, verging on alarm. She was in the early stages of a new relationship. They met at a bar; they had gone on a few dates and spent a late night or two texting. Then the woman whom my friend initially really liked stopped responding to texts. Emails went unanswered, social media fell silent, phone calls dropped into the black hole of voicemail. My friend was concerned—had something happened to her? Was she in trouble? Then the woman popped up on Instagram posting a photo from a dinner party, and all became clear—my friend had been ghosted.

You know ghosting: it's that modern day disappearing act where someone simply vanishes into thin air like a Vegas magician who left his cell phone behind. “Ghosting is cutting off a relationship by abruptly ceasing all contact and communication with a partner without any apparent justification or warning, as well as ignoring the partner's attempts to reach out or communicate,” explains Kelifern Pomeranz, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert. Ghosting involves one person making a quick exit from a relationship, leaving the other person haunted by questions, wondering what went wrong, and trying to pick up the pieces.

Ghosting is quick, ruthless, and, unfortunately, fairly common these days, enabled by our use of technology to communicate with romantic partners. A study of 1,300 people, which was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2018, found that around a quarter of the participants had been ghosted by a partner. And, apparently, ghosting can be a two-way street: One-fifth of the participants admitted that they had ghosted someone themselves. (Another survey revealed even higher rates: 65% of participants had disappeared on a partner, while 72% percent reported that their partner had ghosted them.)

Ghosting isn't limited to romantic relationships, either. It happens with family (remember those apocryphal stories about dads who go out for a pack of cigarettes and never return? Ghosting!), it happens with jobs where employees never show up to work, and with friends. That same 2018 journal study found that ghosting in friendships is pretty common—31.7 percent of survey respondents had ghosted a friend, and 38.6 percent had been ghosted by a friend, statistics that are not helpful to think about while waiting to see if a friend will return a text message.

The emotional aftermath of being tossed aside

Whoever is pulling the vanishing act, being abandoned is hard. “Ghosting makes the person left behind feel dismissed,” says Karen Ruskin, PsyD, a relationship and human behavior expert in Arizona. “It makes them feel like garbage—and when I say garbage, I mean literal garbage like they feel like they've been thrown away. They've been discarded.”

Being abandoned can lead to feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, depression, self-blame, and low self-esteem. When someone walks away with no explanation, the person left behind can't pore over the remains of the relationship and find out what went wrong and can't learn from the experience, and that can lead to long-term mental health issues.

“The ghosted partner does not get an opportunity for proper closure and therefore may be left with questions about their overall level of attractiveness and sense of worthiness,” says Pomeranz. “It can also lead to increased feelings of mistrust in future relationships, including concerns about the possibility of abandonment.” Being ghosted is painful and has lasting impact on mental health and self-esteem. So who would do this to someone? Why would someone ghost another person?

What motivates people to ghost?

“Very often people ghost because they want to avoid having a confrontation and hurting the ghostee's feelings,” explains Vinita Mehta, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert based in Washington, D.C. She cited a recent study where researchers found five main reasons why people ghost: convenience; having had a negative interaction with a dating partner; lost interest; relationship state (i.e., how close you are with the person); and safety.

While it makes sense that someone would ghost if they felt their safety was at risk, the other explanations could reasonably be chalked up to lacking empathy or just not caring about the other person in the relationship. However, that may not actually be the case. “While for some people it is a lack of empathy [that causes them to ghost], for other people, they're just putting their own emotional needs first, so you can view it as selfish,” says Ruskin. Your soon-to-be-ghost may like you, even empathize with you, but feel the need to put their own feelings first. That may be cold comfort to someone trying to recover from being ghosted.

One thing that may make someone who is left behind feel better is that ghosting is, in some ways, a sign of emotional immaturity. By walking out, they proved that they can't do the hard work required to be in a healthy, long-lasting relationship. “They don't want to confront what it is that they're feeling or they're experiencing; it's too hard for them,” says Ruskin. “Ghosting allows for an avoidance of conflicts, an avoidance of explanation and self-introspection,” she says. The ghoster avoids having to be kind and compassionate to the other person's feelings.

As Ruskin points out, healthy relationships require healthy communications skills. Suffering through a ghosting episode now means at least you've avoided an extended relationship with someone who doesn't know how to properly communicate or particularly care about your feelings. “If someone is going to ghost, it's better that you know now. Better now than two weeks later or a month later or a year later,” says Ruskin.

Sometimes it’s about protecting feelings—theirs and yours

Citing patients from her practice, Ruskin believes that some people ghost because they don't want to be hurt. “Often it's because they were hurt themselves in some kind of relationship. And so in order to protect themselves from being hurt, they just disconnect when they've decided that they're going to end things; in other words, they just ghost,” she says.

Pomeranz believes that some ghosters cut off ties out of a misguided sense of sparing the other person's feelings, simply disappearing into the ether instead of explicitly calling things off. “Instead, you hope that they will 'gently' receive the message that you are no longer interested through your lack of communication,” she explains.

It’s only natural to grieve a broken relationship

Of course, ghosting is anything but gentle to the person on the receiving end. “Being ghosted is extremely hurtful, especially when the relationship was close and substantive,” says Mehta. “The end of a relationship is a form of loss, and, depending on the circumstances, a period of grief can follow. However, when a person has been ghosted it is extremely confusing as it often involves a phase in which one isn't sure whether the relationship is ending or not, and without the benefit of knowing what brought that about. This can lead to a spike in anxiety in the face of uncertainty and lack of clarity.”

Sadly, it's not just the person who is ghosted that needs to recover from the experience. Ghosting can also have long-term negative ramifications for the person who left, particularly if they end up in a pattern where they repeat the behavior over and over. “If you don't learn to confront your own feelings and the other person's feelings, and then dialogue about both, you may never really gain the long-term connection and relationship that you want,” says Ruskin. “It absolutely could lead down a path of you not getting to have that future because you haven't developed this skill.”

Ruskin has also had patients who have ghosted people in the past and are riddled with guilt over it. “They end up reflecting on what they've done and feel really bad because they realize how much it hurt the other person and affected the other person.”

It’s not you—it’s them

To heal from being ghosted, Ruskin suggests that her patients focus on recognizing that it's not about them, and while you can't control someone else's behavior, you can control your reaction to it and take ownership of your own behavior.

She also recommends focusing on the future. That's what worked for my friend. She moved on to a better relationship with a person willing to do the hard work of staying.

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Health Hookup newsletter

Internet Explorer Channel Network
News Related

OTHER NEWS

Psychosis cases soar in England as pandemic hits mental health

Photograph: Alamy Cases of psychosis have soared over the past two years in England as an increasing number of people experience hallucinations and delusional thinking amid the stresses of the ... Read more »

4 Timeless Tips for Coping With Job Search Anxiety

The “Great Resignation” has a lot of people contemplating looking for a new job. Yet, looking for a job can be stressful and produce a lot of anxiety. This can lead ... Read more »

Spain's 'Crying Room' seeks to banish mental health taboo

By Michael Gore MADRID (Reuters) – “Enter and cry,” one sign tells visitors. “I too have anxiety,” glows another notice in pink. There are phones in one corner with the ... Read more »

‘At once intolerable and addictive': five wellbeing courses and apps, road-tested

Australians are the world’s biggest consumers of health and wellness apps, punching well above our per capita weight in our quest for peak physical and mental condition, according to research ... Read more »

Childcare staffing is 'at a critical point' as workers leave the industry and it can't afford to hire them back. A CEO says it's 'beyond a shortage.'

© Provided by Business Insider Ariel Skelley/Getty Images Some childcare centers are still having a hard time finding enough staff to meet demand. One childcare CEO and a lead toddler-level ... Read more »

Dunedin couple's love outlasts death sentence: 'They said I was dying - now I'm getting married'

Having someone you love get down on one knee is always a moment to treasure, but for Jade Scandrett-Huriwai, it’s a milestone that represents courage, resilience, and a complete change ... Read more »

Greene County seeks sale tax increase to pay for new jail

Oct. 16—Greene County voters are being asked again to increase the county's sales tax to fund the construction of a $53 million jail and sheriff's office. The levy request on ... Read more »

Healing Space | Best friends, family and bitter rivals: siblings you love to hate

Illustration by Suneesh K. Note to readers: Healing Space is a weekly series that helps you dive into your mental health and take charge of your wellbeing through practical DIY self-care methods. ... Read more »

Adele: I'm in a strong enough place to put my vulnerability out

Adele: I’m in a strong enough place to put my vulnerability out Adele said she was in a “strong place” as she unveiled her new record, saying it “unlocked” the ... Read more »

A Staycation Is What You Really Need

Feeling like you need to catch a break? Feeling exhausted or mentally frustrated? You may be in need of a staycation! A staycation in layman language means getting yourself a ... Read more »

What Should You Do After Your Girlfriend Lies to You?

Catching someone in a lie never feels good, especially if it’s someone you’re supposed to love and trust completely. If your girlfriend has lied to you, it can be tough ... Read more »

Wedding of the week: Elizabeth Tipper and Roderick Bruce had surprise overseas “guests” at their Capel wedding

There has been no limit to the creative ways loved ones have stayed connected while closed borders keep them physically separated. Camera IconWedding of Elizabeth Tipper to Roderick Bruce When ... Read more »

Top scientists reveal death threats and physical attacks over Covid-19

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved Virus Outbreak J&J Booster – Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved A survey by a scientific journal shows that ... Read more »

College students struggle with mental health as pandemic drags on

College students struggle with mental health as pandemic drags on People handed flowers to strangers on campus this week, and wrote encouraging notes in chalk. Students played with baby goats ... Read more »

A Concerning Number of People Have This Pain After Eating, New Study Says

© Provided by Eat This, Not That! Couple having lunch at rustic gourmet restaurant If you frequently find your stomach rumbling and your gut in pain following a meal, you’re ... Read more »

Norway bow-and-arrow suspect in care amid mental health concerns

Photograph: Terje Bendiksby/AP The man suspected of killing five people with a bow and arrows and other weapons in Norway has been transferred to the public health service, a state ... Read more »

Norway attacker sent to health services amid mental health doubts

Norway attacker sent to health services amid mental health doubts – -/- The man who killed five people in a bow-and-arrow attack in Norway this week has been handed over ... Read more »

How to Stop Falling in Love

Whether you’re just getting over a breakup or trying to break negative relationship patterns, there may come a time when you simply don’t want to fall in love. If this ... Read more »

How to End a Codependent Relationship

A codependent relationship can manifest in many ways: you may feed into your partner’s alcoholism or be a people pleaser who’s afraid to say no. The codependency may revolve around ... Read more »

£2m grant to restore nature-rich chalk grassland on South Downs announced

Rare and nature-rich chalk grassland will be restored with a £2.23 million National Lottery grant for the South Downs, the National Trust has said. A partnership led by the charity ... Read more »

Witchcraft is Cheaper Than Therapy

© Ashley Britton/SheKnows. Trying to ride the wave of functional adulthood is a struggle. Between working, mom-ing, and trying to stay sane, it’s easy to lose yourself and get caught ... Read more »

Demand for care rising across the NHS, health service leaders warn

Demand for care is rapidly increasing across the NHS, despite already record-high waiting lists, health service leaders have said. A poll for NHS Providers, which represents health trusts and included ... Read more »

How the brain deals with uncertainty

Dedicated circuits evaluate uncertainty in the brain, preventing it from using unreliable information to make decisions. Read more »

These are the five personality types plagued by ‘imposter syndrome'

People can often feel like an imposter, but there are ways to work through that feeling. Getty Images Everyone will feel like an imposter at some point in their lives. ... Read more »

Hey Bestie: What's the best way to spice up my boring sex life?

I’d like to spice up my sex life with my partner and was thinking about introducing toys or dress-ups, can you tell me how to broach the subject and what ... Read more »

‘I'm 33 and have never had an orgasm — what's wrong with me?'

The problem is more common than many realize. Getty Images/iStockphoto Clinical psychologist Jo Lamble of Body + Soul answers your questions. “I’m 33 years old and I’ve never had an orgasm. ... Read more »

Train passengers given live yoga classes to help ease stress of travel, pandemic

Train passengers given live yoga classes from the comfort of their seats during journey. SWNS A train operator has made traveling more tranquil – by hosting live yoga classes during ... Read more »

Wind power: what flatulence can signal about your health

Usually, flatulence isn’t a cause for concern – Peter Glass Wind is one of life's inconvenient truths – even for the elite. Take the sports coach Joe Wicks, who accidentally ... Read more »

Omega-3s Can Majorly Benefit Your Cycling Performance—Here's How

It’s very likely you’ve heard of omega-3s—often called “the good kind of fat”—with subsequent images of fish, nuts, and oils popping up in your head. © Olesia Shadrina – Getty ... Read more »

Black musicians are ‘overlooked' due to ‘systemic racism' in the UK music industry, survey finds

© Getty Images Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock released her own documentary about racism in the industry – Getty Images The UK music industry has a systemic racism problem particularly ... Read more »

Cancer survivor, 21, back to running and hiking, and into yoga, as she celebrates beating lymphoma and plans how to help others overcome the disease

Audrey Kwan was an active 20-year-old studying hotel management at the Chinese University of Hong Kong when, in June 2020, she noticed something odd on her neck. “The mark was ... Read more »

‘It's housing, stupid': More than half of Bay Area residents plan to move out, report says

© Getty Images More than half of residents in the San Francisco Bay Area plan to leave, according to a new study – Getty Images A majority of residents in ... Read more »

Biden uses Trump-era policy to expand health care for transgender Coloradans

The Biden administration approved a request from Colorado to compel many private insurance companies to cover transition-related procedures. Read more »

Shona Hendley: What it's like being the secret child from an affair

The majority of families have their secrets that are covered up, or not spoken about. In my family, for my first seven years of life, I was this secret. To ... Read more »

A crypto collapse is 'plausible' and regulation of the market is urgently needed, Bank of England's deputy governor says

© REUTERS/ Jonathan Brady/Pool Britain’s Deputy Governor of the Bank of England Jon Cunliffe. REUTERS/ Jonathan Brady/Pool A crash in the crypto market is “plausible” given the volatility of the ... Read more »

Mental health crisis as 300 people a day go to A&E because of depression

A&E – David Cliff/NurPhoto via Getty Images More than 300 people a day are attending A&E departments complaining of depression, according to NHS figures, amid concerns over access to GPs. ... Read more »

Mental health declined during the pandemic but some people with depression improved – new research

a35mmporhora/Shutterstock Depression and anxiety disorders increased by over a quarter globally in 2020, according to a recent review of 48 scientific papers. But although there’s been an obvious negative trend ... Read more »

Feeling depressed behind more than 300 A&E trips per day, analysis shows

Feeling depressed is the main reason behind more than 300 trips to A&E every day in England, new figures suggest. NHS Digital data shows that, in the year to March, ... Read more »

Family doctors are swamped, accessibility in the balance: survey

Photo: Darnyi Zsóka via Wikimedia Commons Lack of staff and locums is increasing pressure on family doctors, a survey by the national association of family doctors LHV has shown. The ... Read more »

How to Respond to Wyd Text from a Girl

Texting a girl is a great way to get to know her without any awkward in-person interactions. But when she texts “wyd,” it can be hard to figure out what ... Read more »
On free-english-test.com you will find lots of free English exam practice materials to help you improve your English skills: grammar, listening, reading, writing, ielts, toeic