Ghosting is a hot topic in today’s dating world. Most people who have ventured into the modern dating pool have experienced it. But why does it happen? Who decides to ghost and what does ghosting say about you?
- What is ghosting?
- What type of person ghosts?
- What Ghosting Says About You
- A note to the casual ghosters out there:
What is ghosting?
First, let’s establish what ghosting actually is. Ghosting is the act of abruptly ending all communication with someone without any explanation. Sometimes ghosting is warranted, but more often it’s not.
What type of person ghosts?
There are many theories about who ghosts and why. Psychologists have only recently started to study the behavior closely.
A 2019 study in the journal Imagination, Cognition, and Personality attempted to answer this question.
They wanted to understand ghosting behavior in emerging adults, defined as people between the ages of 18-29. What’s interesting about the participants in this study is that many of them had been on both the giving and receiving end of ghosting.
In this study:
- 29.3% were the initiator (ghoster)
- 25.3% were non-initiators (ghostee)
- 44.2% were both
- 4.2% were neither
When it comes to ghosting, who ghosts and gets ghosted can be complex, with nearly half of respondents experiencing both.
Why do people ghost?
People ghost for a variety of reasons, not all of them bad. For example, if you’re in a toxic or abusive relationship with someone, ghosting is perfectly acceptable behavior.
Psychologists have some theories about why people ghost. The aforementioned study in Imagination, Cognition, and Personality expanded on a few of these.
It’s important to note that for participants in the study, the nature of the relationship often influenced the reasons for ghosting. Time, method of meeting (online or in real life), and seriousness of relationship all impacted their responses.
Reasons a person might ghost:
- They found a new love interest
- The relationship wasn’t serious and they didn’t feel a need to make an official dissolution
- Fear of conflict –> not wanting to deal with the drama and emotional confrontation that comes with a face-to-face break up
- No longer feeling attracted to the person
- Limited time with the person –> participants were more willing to ghost if they’d only been on one or two dates with someone
Ghosting after an extended period of dating tends to have deeper roots.
- Fear of commitment
- Fear of intimacy or getting too close to someone
- Feeling overwhelmed by life
- Fear of the emotional toll of a face-to-face breakup
Do you notice a trend here? Ghosting is a primarily fear-based behavior. Sometimes that fear is warranted, like in the case of abusive relationships.
Oftentimes, however, ghosting is rooted in self-imposed fears that the person must resolve if they’re ever going to have a happy life.
What Ghosting Says About You
Ghosting, like many other types of behavior, tends to happen on a continuum. Personally, I do think there is a difference between ghosting someone whom you’ve been talking to for a very short period of time versus someone you’ve actually dated.
But even ghosting relative strangers can say some things about you that you may not like.
Let’s explore a few of them.
1. You’re emotionally immature
Harsh? Maybe. But at its core, ghosting is a way for people to avoid direct confrontation, difficult emotions, and responsibility.
None of these are admirable qualities.
Emotional immaturity is actually harmful to your development. Emotional maturity and growth are like any other skill; it takes practice.
This is how you learn to form deeper connections with people, communicate effectively, and grow from mistakes.
All of these are important skills for anyone who wants to have healthy relationships, friendships, and working relationships.
Ghosting can be a warning sign that you need to work on developing emotional maturity.
2. You lack empathy.
When you ghost someone, it demonstrates a lack of empathy and a disregard for the other person’s feelings.
Yes, ghosting is easy and when you hardly know someone, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.
But empathy is another sign of emotional maturity. It shows that you are able to connect with and care about people at a human level.
What does it say about you if you treat people as disposable?
While cutting ties with someone doesn’t have to be a face-to-face ordeal, it’s not asking much to send someone a text or message to say, “Hey, I don’t think we should continue talking, but I wish you well.”
If you want to end your communication there, that’s fine. But at least you don’t leave the other person wondering why you disappeared.
3. You don’t know how to communicate.
Many of us were not raised in homes that encouraged open, honest communication about our feelings. So this skill is an uphill climb for a lot of people, myself included.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Ghosting, especially in long-term dating situations, can be a huge red flag that you have unresolved issues to address (more on that in a minute).
It says you are terrified of talking about your feelings and would rather disappear than force yourself to try.
Think about all the ways in which this problem spills over into other aspects of your life. Being afraid to communicate any difficult emotions will hold you back not only romantically, but professionally and personally.
4. You are afraid of commitment.
Here’s another deep-seated fear that leads to ghosting: fear of commitment.
Maybe you had a parent who up and left one day. Or perhaps you watched family members cut people off without remorse growing up.
Did someone break your heart in the past, and now you’d do anything to avoid getting hurt again?
Regardless of the reason, ghosting can reveal unresolved commitment fears that if left unchecked, will likely lead to a life of unfulfilling relationships.
This can manifest in other aspects of your life.
Do you bounce around from one social group to the next? Do you switch jobs every 1-2 years?
If you notice this pattern in your life, it’s time to talk to someone.
5. You’re afraid of confrontation.
Ghosting can also be a sign that you’re afraid of confrontation – another offshoot of emotional immaturity.
People who are afraid of confrontation often have a hard time expressing their needs and wants in relationships. They might stay in relationships longer than they should because they don’t want to deal with the fallout of a breakup.
They ghost because they can’t handle a messy conversation.
If you find yourself repeatedly ghosting people, it might be time to ask yourself why. Are you afraid of getting hurt? Are you afraid of being rejected?
What is it about confrontation that scares you so much?
Working through these fears is essential if you want to have healthy, long-term relationships.
6. You don’t take responsibility.
Related to a fear of confrontation is an inability to accept responsibility for your decisions.
Ghosting is fundamentally a cop-out, a way to avoid owning your feelings and decisions.
We’ve all been in situations where a relationship loses its spark or someone’s feelings change. It is uncomfortable for everyone involved.
But taking responsibility for your feelings means you tell the person things have changed and you no longer want to date them.
Sure, disappearing is easier than saying something that makes another person cry, but what does it say about you?
Either way, the person is going to be hurt. Don’t you at least owe it to them to say why?
7. You are cruel.
Not everybody ghosts due to emotional immaturity or unresolved issues from childhood. Some people do it because they are cruel and do not care.
These are people who have never stopped to consider another person’s feelings a day in their life. Empathy? What is that?
They use people and then discard them when that use has run out.
Some people even enjoy the idea of hurting others. It makes them feel powerful and in control.
Whatever breaks a person’s brain to produce this behavior is beyond my pay grade, but it’s worth noting that sometimes people ghost because they are bad people who hurt others.
Access should not be a barrier to help.
Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a therapist who has the knowledge and background to help you navigate your specific issues, try BetterHelp. Learn more about my counseling journey with BetterHelp or visit their website below.
A note to the casual ghosters out there:
In today’s hyper-connected world, we have access to more people than ever. This has undoubtedly impacted the way we treat each other.
Ghosting is easy because we can block and unfriend and then move on with our lives without fear of being held accountable by mutual friends (because they don’t exist) or running into this person again (because you met online).
But the act of ghosting says more about you than you might like. Although last week’s Tinder date might not require a face-to-face “break up,” it’s not too much to ask that you let them know you’re uninterested before hitting the block button.
It allows you to save face and demonstrates empathy for the person on the receiving end who at least doesn’t have to wonder where you went. Plus, the karma points will surely pay off in the future.