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Ghosting vs No Contact: What’s the Difference?

Relationships can be one of the most emotionally volatile experiences of our lives. And it feels like the advent of technology has only added layers of complication to the whole process. 

So when someone suddenly goes silent or cuts ties, there are a million and one ways to feel it. 

It’s in the unreturned text, the empty seat at the table where you were supposed to meet for coffee, or blocked on social media

In these cases, we hear terms bandied about such as ‘ghosting’ or the ‘going no contact’.

But what do they actually mean? What is the difference? And, most importantly, what are you supposed to do about it?

A woman crosses her arms with a look of concern. The title reads Ghosting vs No Contact
ghosting vs no contact

What Is Ghosting?

Put simply, ghosting refers to the act of suddenly ending communication with someone – a type of ignoring, but not quite. 

Do you remember that freelance client who promised you endless work and all of a sudden stopped replying to your emails? Yes, he ghosted you. 

Of course, we usually talk about ghosting in the context of dating. People ghost at the very beginning of a new romance, but also months into things you thought might be getting serious. 

Maybe you went on a few dates with an amazing girl and thought everything was fine until she blocked you on Instagram, WhatsApp, and.. disappeared from your life.

The situation gets even worse when you get ghosted by someone who you shared years of your life with. 

These people often have avoidance tendencies and rather than facing the problems in their relationships, they vanish.

Make a clean break. 

Sure, they might come back, but the damage is done. 

If you’ve been ghosted, you’re left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out what happened, why it happened, and how to make sure it never happens again. 

What Is The No Contact Rule?

The no-contact rule is usually enacted after a fresh break up between exes to allow some emotional space to heal and move on.

It can also be used in an active relationship between two people who need a break from each other, but generally, it is for breakups.

This is always communicated to the people involved and usually (but not always) lasts for a limited amount of time. 

Now there are also instances when one person implements the no contact rule out of self-preservation because their ex is toxic and the relationship was bad.

The impetus behind no-contact is the same in either case. It’s a way of saying, “I need space to move on from this, and that means we can’t be in contact.”

Not via text, social media, phone, in-person – no contact means no contact.

For more on the no-contact rule, I highly recommend this video:

Ghosting vs No Contact: The Main Differences 

Ok, so what are the main differences between the two? Well, it mostly has to do with why people do it, how they communicate (or don’t) with you about it, and how it all ends. 

The Why

People who ghost tend to do so because they want to avoid an uncomfortable discussion with the other person. 

Instead of taking the time to explain why they decided to leave they disappear. Sometimes they do it to be purposefully spiteful. 

The no-contact rule, on the other hand, is a conscious decision to part ways that is clearly established by one or both parties.

Its not intended to hurt anyone (although that does happen). But the reason people go no contact is all about giving each other space to move on from a breakup. In some cases, the time apart may be used to decide if the relationship is worth trying again, but that’s not the main purpose.

You’re meant to take time apart to heal, move on, and determine what it is you want from your life.


While ghosters disappear without a trace, the no-contact rule is always communicated. 

People who choose this method ideally talk to their partners about their decision.

But even if all you get is a text that says, “I think we need to go no contact for awhile,” you’re still getting more than a ghoster leaves for their victims.

That may not be much consolation, but at least you know.

The end

Ghosting has no end, no finish line. If people decide to ghost you, don’t bother trying to reconnect. 

They’re gone. (And honestly, good riddance). 

On the other hand, the no contact rule can have a set deadline (say 30 or 60 days). It will be up to you to decide when (or if) to reestablish contact with your partner.

No contact is a way to set a healthy boundary in a situation – allowing yourself space to grieve a breakup or work through some relationship-ending problem that needs healing. 

It’s worth noting that no contact can become permanent. One or both parties may find, in the end, that they don’t want to re-establish contact and fully go separate ways.

That’s okay, too. 

Remember, it can also be used as a way to get space from a partner who was bad for you. So I’m not suggesting it is always mature or amicable, but merely that you know what the situation is, even if you aren’t 100% clear about why.

Both people know what’s happening. In ghosting, only one person truly knows, while the other is left guessing. 

What To Do If Someone Is Ghosting You vs Going No Contact 

So, what can you do if you’re in either situation?

If someone decides to ghost you, your mind is now probably full of questions and doubts. ‘Why did he run away?’ ‘What did I do wrong?’ ‘Is it my fault?’ (No it is not.)

The only way to get out of this whirlpool of negativity is by embracing your inner self-respect. 

What your partner did is simply unacceptable. It speaks volumes of their character (or lack thereof). 

You deserve someone with enough maturity to talk about problems instead of running away from them. 

In a no-contact situation, the only thing you can really do is respect your partner’s boundaries (and vice versa).

Both situations can be confusing and hurtful, in which case, it’s always worth taking the time to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through

But this too shall pass, and better days lie ahead. 

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