Being ghosted can stimulate feelings of abandonment and questions like, “What happened?” “Was it something I did?” In this article, I’ll explore what to do when you’ve been ghosted.
Clarify the Situation
Before you label what’s happening “ghosting,” make sure that that’s really what’s going on. If someone isn’t responding to you right away, it could be that they are busy, out of town, or are preoccupied with something.
If someone is simply slower to respond, that could be a signal to slow your roll. It’s not an “I don’t want to see you anymore.” It’s more of a “I have other priorities” or “Give me some time to process.” If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification or back up and give them some space. You will figure it out in time.
Once you’ve established that you’ve been ghosted, accept it for what it is. You can’t move forward until you are in the now. “Coulda, shoulda, woulda, maybe” isn’t now. That ship has already sailed, so be here now.
Accepting means acknowledging that they no longer want contact. It also means accepting that they don’t owe you an explanation or a relationship. It’s not pleasant for someone to abruptly cut off contact, but this doesn’t entitle you to a more pleasant ending. There are reasons why they chose this method to sever the relationship that works for them. Accept it, and don’t take it personally.
Ask “What Does This Say About Me?”
The next thing I do in any disappointing situation is ask, “What does this say about me?” This isn’t to assume blame or make everything my fault. This is to take an honest inventory to see where I might improve.
Did I come on too strong? Did I not pay enough attention to the relationship? Was I unclear, wishy washy, disinterested, or abrupt? Was I rude or insensitive? Did I miss something important like a birthday?
Another thing I can ask that might help me to understand is to put myself in their shoes. If I look at things from their perspective, how do I look?
If I can find something that I did to contribute to the ghosting, I will definitely address it so that it doesn’t happen again. Every negative situation is at teachable moment. Whether or not I apologize and make amends depends on the relationship. If the ghosting seems like an “I’m out of here,” I would accept their unvoiced request for space. If it’s vague and we had a connected relationship before, I’d probably acknowledge my mistake (if there was one) and apologize, while still accepting their choice to bow out.
Ghosting can be a reaction to perceived abuse or a slight. If that’s the case, why not own that and correct it so it doesn’t happen again?
When you make situations about you, it also reduces the likelihood that the experience will become about blame. You can’t do anything about what someone else did or what they think. You don’t have that power. Focusing on yourself keeps the power with you, which reduces the sense of hopelessness and shame, and helps you retain a sense of power.
Feel Your Feelings
Accepting the situation and taking responsibility for your part doesn’t mean you won’t have feelings about being ghosted. Honor them. Let yourself feel what you feel.
Be careful not to act on any emotional impulses or let your feelings devolve into self-pity or shame by remaining nonjudgmental. Stuff happens. We make mistakes. Feelings change. Misunderstandings happen. It’s okay.
If This is Triggering, Get Help To Deal With the Triggers
Ghosting can be anxiety provoking because it provokes fears of abandonment or of being unlovable. If ghosting is a trigger for you, get help. Triggers can be reduce your enjoyment of life and your ability to love freely. You don’t have to be inhibited by any fears. This can heal.
Understand the Underlying Causes for Ghosting
Even though I said that it’s a good idea to ask, “What does this say about me?” sometimes it has absolutely nothing to do with you. When someone ghosts you, it really has more to do with them. When you have an idea of why they did what they did, it can take the sting out and make acceptance easier.
Here are some reasons why people ghost other people:
- They lack communication skills. Maybe they are afraid of conflict and don’t know how to ask for what they want or speak up for themselves, so it’s easier to just disappear.
- They are people pleasers. This might sound like a contradiction. Why would someone who is a people pleaser duck out without a word? Because they don’t want to hurt your feelings by telling you good-bye. They don’t realize that honesty is a gift. It’s more respectful to give someone closure than to leave without a word.
- They don’t know how to do intimacy. Some people leave to avoid intimacy because it’s too risky to bond.
- They are playing games. Some people leave to see if you will chase.
- It’s a manipulation tactic. If the silence is The Silent Treatment, this is a means to punish you. This is abuse. It’s best to maintain that silence and let them go.
- They are exhausted and feel unheard. If you argue over the same things over and over, they may figure that nothing is going to change, so there is no point having another conversation about it. They are done.
- They are setting a boundary. If you violated a boundary or threatened their emotional safety, cutting you off could be a way for them to say, “No more!”
- They weren’t connected to begin with. Sometimes we casually meet someone and feel more of a connection to them than they feel to us. It’s perfectly reasonable for them to disappear without an explanation. They weren’t invested. It’s okay. Everyone doesn’t click.
If the other person wasn’t able or willing to have a healthy relationship with you, and ghosting was their way of communicating this to you, accept it. They did you a favor by not dragging it out. You’re both better off in the long run. If you need some time to grieve the loss, take it. Heal. Then invest in relationships that are mutually nurturing.