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9 Harsh Things Ghosting Says About You

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?

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 the respondents experiencing both.

A distressed woman looks at her phone. There is a graphic of a white ghost. The title reads "Harsh things that ghosting says about you"
What Ghosting Says About You

Why do people ghost?

People ghost for a variety of reasons, not all of them bad. For example, ghosting is acceptable if you’re in a toxic or abusive relationship with someone.

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 the relationship all impacted their responses.

Common Reasons for Ghosting:

  • 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 breakup
  • 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. Here are a few reasons a person might ghost after an extended period of time:

  • Fear of commitment
  • Fear of intimacy or getting too close to someone (also known as an avoidant attachment style)
  • 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.

For an engaging discussion on the ins-and-outs of ghosting, I recommend this clip:

What Ghosting Says About You

Like many other types of behavior, ghosting tends to happen on a continuum. I think there is a difference between ghosting someone 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; they take practice.

This is how you learn to form deeper connections with people, communicate effectively, and grow from mistakes.

These are important skills for anyone who wants healthy relationships, friendships, and working relationships. When you ghost people, instead of having those difficult complications, you stay stuck in immature patterns.

Ghosting can be a warning sign that you need to work on developing emotional maturity.

2. You lack empathy.

Ghosting someone demonstrates a lack of empathy and a disregard for the other person’s feelings.

Yes, ghosting is easy, and it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when you hardly know someone.

But empathy is another sign of emotional maturity. It shows that you can 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 encouraging open, honest communication about our feelings. So this skill is an uphill climb for many 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 how this problem spills over into other aspects of your life. Being afraid to communicate difficult emotions will hold you back romantically, 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 signify 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 a 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 people have never stopped considering 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.

8. You have an avoidant attachment style.

This one is closely related to #4, but people with an avoidant attachment style are more likely to ghost other people. But why?

An avoidant attachment style is a pattern of attachment where a person tends to avoid close emotional attachments and intimacy. Avoidants often seek to reduce their dependence on other people. It’s a defense mechanism, usually born from childhood trauma and abandonment issues (but not always).

Avoidant people are hyper-independent and can get spooked by intimacy in ways that make them run away or ghost their relationships.

If this is you, it’s important to seek therapy or counseling to work through the root causes.

9. You suffer from black-and-white thinking.

Black-and-white thinking, also called dichotomous thinking, is when you tend to see things in absolute terms.

Everything is either this or that. People are good or bad. Things are right or wrong. You succeed or you fail.

There’s no room for nuance or gray areas.

Black-and-white thinking ignores the complexity of life and makes people rigid and inflexible. This is terrible for relationships which are often filled with ups and downs, nuance, and yes, gray areas.

As it relates to ghosting, people who struggle with dichotomous thinking will view any conflict or disappointment in a relationship as a failure or a sign it’s time to split. So they do – often without saying anything.

Until you break those patterns of black-and-white thinking, no relationship will ever be able to live up to your standards. People will always disappoint us, but it doesn’t mean the relationship is a dud.

What Ghosting Does To Someone

If you’re not entirely convinced by the negative things ghosting says about you, it’s also worth noting what it does to the people on the receiving end of this behavior.

As we’ve seen from studies, this issues is complicated as a large number of people have both ghosted and been ghosted on.

The following are common impacts of ghosting:

  • Feeling rejected and confused: Ghosting leaves feeling people disrespected, disposable, and used.
  • Low-self esteem and self-worth: Ghosting makes people question their self-worth. If somebody could just disappear without a word, what does that say about my value?
  • Avoidance of future vulnerability: Ghostees may avoid future romantic relationships and shy away from making meaningful connections in an effort to shield themselves.
  • Depression: The sudden loss of a relationships with no closure or explanation can trigger depression symptoms.
  • Anxiety: Ghosting can increase anxiety. It can cause people to ruminate and worry over what they did wrong and become hyper-focused on what they need to change about themselves.
  • Trauma: Ghosting can be traumatic for some people and trigger things like flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, and intrusive thoughts.
  • Trust issues: Ghosting makes people develop trust issues which can lead to negative behaviors like self-sabotage and a deep-seated fear of vulnerability.
  • Fear of Abandonment: Ghosting can also trigger abandonment issues in people, particularly for those who are wrestling with abandonment issues rooted in childhood trauma.

In short, ghosting can have a wide range of psychological consequences, unintended and otherwise.

Sources:

  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-forward/201511/why-ghosting-hurts-so-much
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghosting_(behavior)
  • https://www.morningcoach.com/blog/the-effects-of-ghosting-on-someone
  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/some-assembly-required/202208/the-mental-health-effects-of-ghosting

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.

What to learn more about ghosting? Check out these resources:

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3 Comments

  1. I am a chronic ghoster and this describes me perfectly. I like to wait for a milestone in the relationship and then block them like I basically died.
    Then I have my ex wife tell them they’re crazy and make them think I’m back with her.
    Something to do I guess

  2. Absolutely true about ghosting being a sign of deeper issues when you’ve been dating someone months (or heaven forbid years). Ghosting early on in dating has become more common I think because of the ubiquity of dating apps/online connections. But the people who ghost after protracted dating are the same kinds of people who disappeared since time immemorial – those with troubled childhoods, difficulties with attachments, and (much more rarely) cruelty and a use/discard mentality.