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Ghosting: Why People Ghost Their Partners & How to Respond to Ghosting



There you're baffled why your ex hasn't contacted you for several days, or even weeks. You'd thought maybe they're busy or something else caused them to be unable to contact you or respond to your calls and/or texts. Perhaps, you'd thought for a moment, something bad had happened to them. Consequently, to ascertain whether they're well or why they'd been silent toward you, you attempted several times to contact them. But as before, there's no response. You don't know what to make of the permeating silence from your partner's end.

There is nothing more worrisome than being left in an unknowing state. You don't know what to make of the silence. Possibly, you've established your partner has ghosted you. Or, you don't have an inkling what's going on - have they ghosted you or has something caused them not to be able to contact you.

Having chanced upon this article, the likelihood is that you're certain your partner has ghosted you. That realisation you've been ghosted is eating you up inside. The prevalent question running in your head is "Why?" You attempt to make sense of how your partner could break up with you in such a manner. You feel like a piece of trash. Like garbage. Dismissed just like that. Like you never mattered to them. Dehumanised is a better word to describe how you feel. I have been ghosted twice. It isn't a pleasing experience.

Before we look at how you can respond to ghosting, let's look at the reasons people ghost their other significant ones.



Why Do People Ghost?

Ghosting isn't a new trend in romantic relationships despite its high usage among people who find it alluring as a means of ending their relationship. This type of break-up strategy has existed since humans started interacting with each other. Unlike in the 21st century, it wasn't so common back then.

The allure of ghosting someone has been mostly attributed to the easiness provided by the materialisation of mobile and computer technology. Ignoring or accessing features in the phone and social media sites e.g. blocking makes it easy to cease communication as a precursor to the demise of the relationship.

Perhaps, another neglected factor that has witnessed an alarmingly spike up of ghosting incidences are the different meanings configured in romantic relationships. For instance, an increasing number of young people engage in a relationship to test whether they're ready to commit themselves to a relationship.



So, what is ghosting?

Ghosting is a form of silent treatment. It's a condition whereby an individual severes all forms of communication as a catalyst to the dissolution of their relationship. The ghoster, also known as ghostee, initiator and disengager, takes away from their partner a means through which communication is possible. A lack of or a weakened communication between partners would ultimately lead to the collapse of the relationship. According to scientific studies on relationships, communication is one of the pivotal cornerstones of a relationship.

The ghoster accomplishes this by not calling or sending their partner any text. Also, they ignore their partner's calls and texts by not answering or replying to them. They know, in time, their partner will get fed up trying to contact them. Ultimately, the relationship ceases to be.

Furthermore, the initiator, where possible, may avoid coming into contact with their partner. If the disengager happens to meet with their partner physically, they'll offer some excuses and hurry off, or engage in less conversation with their partner.

Now, what makes an individual want to ghost their partner, or you, in this case, instead of employing the socially-acceptable forms of direct breakup strategy? Why wouldn't they want to terminate the relationship in-person, through a call, or the least accepted direct breakup strategy, text? Why would they resort to executing the indirect breakup strategy, ghosting?

There are nine major reasons solely attributed to ghosting form-of-breakup.

1. Difficulty in Breaking Up Directly with You

Perhaps, one of the most difficult decisions to execute in a relationship is an individual breaking up with someone they love. Where will they start, and how will they go about it? What of the questions they'll be asked? Will they be able to answer them or will they stammer for an explanation?

Questions such as: Did they love you or did they have ulterior motives for entering into the relationship? Why now? Why did they have to wait that long to break up with you when they could have broken up with you before the relationship had advanced?

With ghosting, there is no requirement of your partner telling you they've broken up with you, no need to explain why they've broken up with you, and ignoring your calls and texts is the cornerstone of this mode of break up.

2. Their Feelings for You Never Matured

Along the way their feelings for you stalled, and instead of their love for you blooming and growing stronger, it rolled back to zero percentage. There are reasons why their feelings for you decreased instead of increasing.

It might have been something to do with you. Maybe you're controlling or possessive. Your behaviour or attitude might've put them off. Or, it might have been something to do with them. Or still, it might be an issue outside of the relationship that affected the outcome of it.

If the relationship was long-distance, their feelings for you might have grown cold if the relationship lacked an offline connection. If you never met in-person or didn't meet frequently, it might have led them to reconsider continuing in the relationship. They couldn't see it working.

3. They Wanted to Avoid Conflict

Relationships can be messy. What if your partner harms you because they've been overpowered by anger? What about the endless arguments and pointing of fingers at each other; blaming the other one for the demise of the relationship?

The possibility that a break up might turn out ugly leads to some individuals ghosting their partners to avoid experiencing it. With ghosting, there is no giving reason for the termination of the relationship, no questions asked, and no answer needed. In short, there is no communication. The cessation of communication won't elicit a response which might lead to a heated argument.

4. They Don't Want to Hurt and/or Be Hurt

It's not an exciting scenario an individual witnessing their partner hurting as a result of receiving the news of the breakup. Their facial expression and their voice convey how they feel in their heart. And for the initiators who truly loved and cared for their partner, they'll feel guilty for breaking up with their partner.

Additionally, the initiator might not want to be hurt. Maybe they don't want to be told the truth about themselves during the break up which will hurt them. Perhaps, they want to avoid conflict that may ensue in the relationship which will pain them later on. Or, perhaps, they don't want to witness their partner hurting which in turn will pain them.

5. They Found an Alternative Partner

It might be your ex had fallen in love with another person while still in love with you. Later on, they felt they were better off with their other partner than you.

It might even be your ex is juggling many partners, and you happened to be one of them. In such a case, your ex may have not developed intense feelings for you and thereby ascertained you weren't creates for them to spend your life together.

6. You Never Mattered to Them

You were just another static to them. A toy to play with. An tool to satisfy their sexual pleasure. A bank to elevate their personal and social lifestyle, or a number of other things.

You never, for once, crossed their mind, even if they told you numerous times they loved you.

If an individual doesn't engage in the relationship with the possibility of settling down with, it is easy for them to ghost their partner since they never had feelings for them.

7. They Were Hurt

DI'd you repeatedly cheat on your partner? Were you possessive? It might be you'd hurt them at some point in the relationship, and they forgave you, but they never got over the hurt.

While forgiveness doesn't require forgetting the wrong done, not forgetting will leave the person still feeling hurt. Your partner might have felt that being in relationship with you was intensifying the pain. They couldn't bear it anymore.

8. They're Afraid to Commit Themselves in the Relationship

Your partner might have heard genuine reasons for engaging in the relationship. But along the way, they became increasingly resistant in diving deeper into the relationship. They felt they weren't ready to commit themselves to you.

9. It's a Short-term Relationship

A study conducted by Rebecca B. Koessler, titled, 'When Your Boo Becomes a Ghost: The Association Between Breakup Strategy and Breakup Role in Experiences of Relationship Dissolution,' established that relationships that didn't last for long ended with one partner ghosting the other one.

A relationship that spanned for a month might lead to an individual to ghost their partner because they didn't develop strong emotional bonding with their partner. Their feelings for their partner faded, and love that was supposed to grow from the feelings never had a chance to find a room in the ghoster's heart. As a result, for lack of having had feelings for their partner, they didn't think of the consequences or ethical considerations of employing the indirect strategy.

The Problem With Ghosting

Remaining silent isn't a full-fledged tactic to use despite the reasoning behind it.

When you've been ghosted, you don't know what to make of the silence. Has something happened to your lover? Is your partner doing fine? There are no cues to provide a glimpse of why your partner has remained silent by not contacting or responding to your calls or texts. Worry and concern register in your mind because you're not used to the silence.

As time goes on, it dawns in your mind you have been dumped. Your partner ghosted you without providing the reason(s) for the breakup and not allowing you to respond to his/her decision.

Hurt, anger, hatred, rejection, set in. You feel it isn't fair. It isn't justifiable. You feel that person used you. More questions and uncertainty flood your mind without being certain of the answers you've thought about as the cause of the break up. You'll blame yourself for having fallen in love with your ex, or for being the cause of the break up even though you aren't certain you're the cause.

Unable to know the reason for the silence (breakup), you dig into the relationship for cues that might have led to the breakup. You're tortured psychologically because you don't have the answers, you were never provided with any explanation, and the person walked out of your life as if it wasn't a big deal.

Your partner didn't give you a chance to express your emotions or respond to their decision to break up with you. It comes outright as a lack of consideration on their part. You feel your partner didn't respect you enough to involve you in their decision. Why, you ask, did they treat you as if you're nothing to them?

Doctor Janice Vilhauer states in her article, 'Why Ghosting Hurts So Much' published on Psychology Today, "For many people, ghosting can result in feelings of being disrespected, used and disposable. If you have known the person behind more than a few dates then it can be even more traumatic. When someone we love and trust disengages from us it feels like a very deep betrayal."

Furthermore, she states, ghosting "essentially renders you powerless and leaves you with no opportunity to ask questions or be provided with information that would help you emotionally process the experience. It silences you and prevents you from expressing your emotions and being heard, which is important for maintaining your self-esteem."

This type of treatment is considered by health professionals as a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse.

Who are More Prone to Ghosting?

Some people have no problem with ghosting. They can do it again without giving a second thought to it. According to Dr Theresa E. DiDonato in her article, 'The Truth About Ghosting to End a Relationship' published on Psychology Today, she remarks some people who subscribe to destiny beliefs tend to think ghosting is a preferable way to end a relationship. Destiny beliefs refer to preconceived thoughts that being in a relationship with a person was meant to be the case and by breaking up with the person, the two were never meant to be together.

While it's difficult to know which people are prone to apply ultimate silent treatment, several predictors can indicate a person is heading in that road. One such predictor is when people lean on destiny beliefs. She says, "If someone has strong destiny beliefs underlying how they think about the relationships, they have a fixed mindset about love: it's either perfect or forget it...People high in destiny beliefs may see no point in working on the relationship or even spending the time to communicate that it's over. Maybe that's why they cut off all contact."

Are There Exceptions to Ghosting?

Is ghosting applicable in some situations? The answer is, "Yes." If you've found out your partner is seeing someone else or is married, you don't have to let them know you want to opt-out of the relationship. They lied to you they're single or weren't seeing someone. And here you're hurt having thought they're all yours. But even if that's the case, they should know their behaviour wasn't right, and it resulted in you getting emotionally hurt. A text will suffice. However, there is nothing to keep you off from ending the relationship in-person or through a call.

What if your partner is abusive? What if you're to tell them on their face that you don't want to be in the relationship with them anymore? Will they react aggressively? Will they psychologically and/or physically harm you? What if you broke up with them through a call? Would they call you names? Insult you? If that's the case, you should ghost them. Even though they're abusive, and you're afraid to break up with them through the normal channels, you should inform them so that they may know you don't want to be in the relationship with them, and the reason for your decision. You can just send them a text. You don't have to reply to their texts if they've become emotionally abusive or are threatening you.

How to Respond to Ghosting

In a research article titled, 'I Guess I'll Never Know...": Non-Initiators Account-Making After Being Ghosted,' the researchers (Lefebvr E. Leah, Rasner D. R & Allen M.) found out that recipients who'd complete accounts (explanations) of what might have led to their partner to ghost them recovered quickly than those whose theirs was incomplete. She states, "...In the sequential process, initiators select to ignore, stop, or cease communication and non-initiators must interpret the punctuated end to the communication. Once realized, non-initiators begin to account for the unexpected absence of communication. Account-making allows people to interpret stressful events, such as the loss of a relationship...Previous research examining relationship dissolution accounts found that participants with more complete accounts expressed greater control recovery process. Individuals providing a fuller account experienced greater psychological and physiological recovery. An inability to fully understand a personal role in the dissolution, or comprehend initiator's reasons for abruptly ceasing communication may leave non-initiators scavenging for answers.

It might be you don't know why you've been ghosted. You don't know if you're the cause of the breakup, or it's something entirely not your fault. Without knowing why you won't be able to get past the breakup. You've contacted your ex to know why they ghosted you, but you haven't received any response from them. How will you make sense of the break up so that you can get over it?

You can get over the break up even if you don't know why they ghosted you. Tell yourself that even if you don't know why they ghosted you, you've forgiven them for how they've treated you in the manner they broke up with you. If you happened to be the cause, which you might or might not be sure, you can reach out to them, preferably through text, and ask for their forgiveness. What's left is to focus your attention on allowing yourself to grieve the relationship, a form of healing, and you'll be on your way to recovering from the breakup.

There are two ways to respond to ghosting, whether you have a complete account of why you're ghosted or not.

1. Reciprocate the Same. And, Move On

Since your partner decided to end the relationship by applying the silent treatment, you should not pest your partner with calls and texts.

You might be yearning for the relationship to be restored or to find closure to the cause of the breakup. Whatever reason that's pulling you not to tire contacting your ex, think for a moment about how they broke up with you. Did you find it acceptable? At least, you'd expect them to break the news through direct means, and also tell you why they ended the relationship.

Not knowing what led your partner to break up with you won't impede you from healing and recovering from the breakup. Being focused and determined to get over the break-up is what is what you should aim for.

2. Employ Short-term Silence

You've tried calling or texting your partner but they aren't picking up your calls or replying to your texts. But you feel, maybe they'll respond if you continue pestering them with your attempted calls and texts. The truth is that they won't respond. You'll either become a nuisance to them, or they'll feel sorry about you. It doesn't mean because they pity you, they'll respond to your attempted contact.

You should employ the no contact rule. This means you don't contact them for a minimum period of two weeks. It's preferable you don't contact them for a month. This is to allow yourself to focus your energy on yourself. Do the things you neglected. Derive joy from engaging in your hobbies. Learn something new. Go to new places. Doing these things will assist your body in grieving the loss of the relationship, which is a form of healing.

At the end of the two weeks, a month, or whichever maximum deadline you'd set for yourself, contact them. Your purpose for re-establishing the contact is to be provided with a valid reason(s) why they dumped you.

If you're yearning for the relationship to be restored, you can contact them to discuss about why they ghosted you, or why they haven't been communicating with you, and discuss on the failed relationship and how to revive it by touching on issues that might have led to its demise. Some individuals do get back together after the ghosting episode. Even so, you should think carefully if it's something you want to do. Will the reunion result in another break up?

A word of caution: Your ex might not respond to any of the above two reasons for contacting theme again. Take heart. If they don't respond, don't pester them with calls and texts. Send them a 'well-wishing' text, and erase their part in your life. It's time to move on.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Alianess Benny Njuguna


Marissa from Nigeria on October 16, 2020:

In my opinion, we as humans do things that would benefit us before thinking about anybody else .So also in the case of ghosting, we do it mainly because we feel that's the only way out of something without actually having to deal with all the messy emotions. That's just a safe way out if you ask me.

Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Kenya on October 11, 2017:

You are right Deborah silent treatment doesn't help. When your partner realizes you've decided to remain silent, he too decides to remain silent or go on with what he/she was doing.

Dashingscorpia, you have said it well. Those people who continually employ silent treatment signify you don't matter a lot to them since he/she has broken the communication which is paramount in a relationship.

Alianess Benny Njuguna (author) from Kenya on October 11, 2017:

My sympathy Syrenagirl. Arguments are part of relationship but if what is argued doesn't get solved instead silent treatment is employed, then what was argued will keep on growing to a proportion whereby it might shake the relationship/marriage. Hope it will work out better.

Syrenagirl on October 11, 2017:

Yes it does shed some light, I to get the silemt treatment after every arguement and it seems like years and nothing ever gets resolved ;(

dashingscorpio from Chicago on June 29, 2017:

"...silent treatment comes in different forms in a relationship. The first one is a sign your partner is thinking of ending the relationship. The second one is a tactic used to get the other person’s attention or to inflict psychological torture." True!

The only other exception is you just had a major fight and they simply are angry at you over what you did or said. However it's not truly the "silent treatment" unless it goes on for days.

Someone once said:

"The person who least emotionally invested in the relationship controls it."

Anyone who utilizes the "silent treatment" is essentially saying they have no problem shutting (you) out of their life! Instead of trying to win them over or break through you should step back and look at it as an omen. Refuse to play that game. Move on!

"Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

- Oscar Wilde

If someone can flip a switch giving you the "silent treatment" shutting you out; they clearly don't think (you) are "special".

If they did they'd be worried someone else would snatch you up!

Deborah Demander from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD on June 28, 2017:

This is an interesting article. I recently had an issue with my boyfriend, in which he spoke in a very harsh and unkind manner. My feelings were hurt and I didn't want to talk to him. I wanted him to reach out to me and apologize for his mean behavior. After two days, I finally reached out to him. He didn't even notice I hadn't texted him.

So much for the silent treatment.


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