Why Ghosting Is Not Always a Form of ‘Emotional Abuse’ (2022)

In the modern dating world, ghosting is often a one-word horror story. People know it to be that emotionally scarring act of disappearing on someone — especially a potential romantic interest — without so much as an explanation. Is it ethical, or is it just an instrument of emotional abuse? Or, could ghosting be a covert tactic of manipulation? These questions have plagued cultural discourses for a long time now. And, recently, they were revived when a Philippine lawmaker introduced a bill seeking to literally outlaw ghosting.

Arnolfo Teves Jr., who believes ghosting should be punishable, argued that “it can be likened to a form of emotional cruelty and should be punished as an emotional offense because of the trauma it causes to the ‘ghosted’ party,” leading them to “develop feelings of rejection and neglect.” Teves isn’t entirely wrong — at least, not in articulating the idea that ghosting can negatively impact the mental health of the ghostee. It can cause them to feel worthless and unlovable — perhaps, even causing long-term damage to their self-esteem. However, deeming it emotional abuse, as a blanket statement — or equating it with “the silent treatment” — might be an overreach.

The criticism of ghosting is often based entirely on the experiences of ghostees — the “jilted” lover in the popular imagination. Yes, it is unkind to abruptly stop speaking to someone; maybe it really is better to “rip off the band-aid” instead of condemning someone to a cycle of waiting and longing. But forgetting that different circumstances present different challenges is a fatal flaw in the arguments of people who want to crucify ghosters. In a world of non-homogenous dating experiences, perspectives like the one Teves has put forth, miss out on the nuance of boundaries and consent. Rarely, if ever, do they seek to understand whether the ghoster was simply acting in pursuance of self-preservation, rather than attempting to abuse the ghostee.

(Video) What Psychologists Can Tell You About Ghosting

This has gendered implications too. “So many people are quick towrite ghosting offas being cowardly behavior, but it can also be that thedecision to ghostis informed by larger gender norms,” Lea Rose Emery wrote in an article on Bustle. “Women often find it more difficult to be confrontational than men — not because we’re cowards, but because, basically, society tells us to keep our mouth shut and not to upset anyone.” Indeed, as a survey from 2019 found, women were overwhelmingly more likely to ghost than men.

For decades, if not centuries, the idea of submitting to the desire of one’s partner has formed an integral part of sexual liaisons between men and women. “Women have definitely been socialized to be pleasing and deferential to men… This has resulted in them having a much harder time asking for what they want sexually as well as even just saying ‘no’ when they mean no. So, it definitely stands to reason that some wom[e]n will be drawn to take the easy way out and ghost the dates that they no longer want to see. If you have trouble telling people what they don’t want to hear then it’s going to be pretty tough to tell them you no longer want to date them!” explains Aimee Hartstein, a psychotherapist.

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(Video) Ghosting Is Emotional Abuse

But it’s not just the impulse to please people — which is actually a very common human instinct — that prompts people to ghost. A study on monogamous, heterosexual relationships found that many women refrain from being vocal about their own sexual needs, too, because they’re worried it’ll hurt their partner’s fragile egos. Telling a man, “I don’t think it’ll work out between us,” or “I don’t have room for you in my life at the moment,” rather than simply ghosting them, is fraught with the same risk — of hurting someone’s ego.

One may argue, though, that the motivation to protect the ego of a person one is dating may stem from a place of love and care; since one doesn’t seemingly care about the feelings of someone they’ve decided to ghost after just a couple of dates, why should they be afforded the same defense? The answer to that is simple: survival instinct. The internet is replete with instances of men reacting to rejection with aggression. “[T]he response is [almost] always a form of violence…Sometimes this violence is outwardly expressed through physical dominance or aggression,” Britt East, author ofA Gay Man’s Guide to Life,had said.

Mental harassment, too, can follow rejection. “During our date, he was insistent on drinking to excess and I eventually just told him I wasn’t interested in pursuing anything romantic with him. He flipped out and started telling me that he had never wanted anything romantic or even sexual (after sending me more than 20 nudes before we even met). Then, he continued to ask me out even when I told him I didn’t want to see him again. He comments on all my Insta Stories and will text me every two or three days still to this day,” Melissa C., then 26, had told The Cosmopolitan three years ago of a man she had met through an online dating portal.

Granted, not all men might respond to rejection with aggression. But very often, it’s difficult to know how one is likely to react, after having met them just a handful of times. Naturally, then, it seems more prudent to opt for ghosting instead.

(Video) Why Someone Ends All Contact Without Explanation: (Ghosting Explained)

Arguably, people’s gripe with ghosting might also stem from a sense of entitlement. “Ghosting, like friend-zoning, is a verb used by someone who wants contact, applied as an accusation to the object of their interest,” wrote Reese Witherly in An Injustice! “A mountain of think pieces have been written criticizing the entitlement behind anyone whining about being friend-zoned. They say, ‘you aren’t entitled to me because we talked, you aren’t entitled to me because you were nice to me, you aren’t entitled to closure to your satisfaction about why I don’t want to date you.’ But these same writers will villainize anyone who has supposedly ‘ghosted’ anybody.” It is disconcerting that the exact arguments can be used to defend ghosting, too; yet, as a society, we’re largely unwilling to accept that.

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Complaining about being ghosted, at times, can simply be a blatant refusal to take silence as a clear hint of disinterest. Hounding one for a response, then becomes a violation of the person’s boundaries. As a former “ghoster,” Andy, argued, “If you text someone once, twice, and they don’t respond — I mean, thatisa response. That speaks very loudly. You just don’t want to hear it.”

(Video) What Ghosting Says About You

The extent to which ghosting is justified, though, might also depend on the dynamic between the two people prior to the act of ghosting. If two people were in constant communication for months, met several times, and even made plans for the recent future, then it’s almost a no-brainer that abruptly disappearing without an explanation, would be not only unethical but also arguably cruel.

But if one has just been on just a couple of dates with an individual they met at a bar — or, say, five dates over a period of nine months — does distancing oneself from them truly warrant a full-blown conversation that may or may not end well? “It’s almost polite if the relationship was casual enough… There is something humiliating and patronizing in a dude I’ve gone out with twice ‘breaking up’ with me,” Aubrey, who has been a ghoster and a ghostee, both, in the past, told Repeller in 2018.

Basically, the spectrum of individuals one might cross paths with in the modern dating world is rather large. So, there’s no one who can say with absolute authority whether or not ghosting is ethical; it’s a gray area, at the end of the day. As such, before conclusively terming dating trends as “mental health abuse” — or worse, making them punishable — it’s important to also lace our our own expectations from potential matches with a more layered understanding of boundaries and consent.

This isn’t to say that the feelings of abandonment, angst, disrespect, or shame that one might experience upon being ghosted are invalid. But as Witherly had noted, “[A] valid feeling is not the same as a valid cause for public outcry.”

(Video) No closure break up. Ghosting, silence treatment. Narcissists and sociopaths.

FAQs

Is ghosting a form of emotional abuse? ›

A person ghosting typically has little acknowledgement of how it will make the other person feel. Ghosting is associated with negative mental health effects on the person on the receiving end and has been described by some mental health professionals as a passive-aggressive form of emotional abuse or cruelty.

Why is ghosting so cruel? ›

Ghosting hurts; it's a cruel rejection. It is particularly painful because you are left with no rationale, no guidelines for how to proceed, and often a heap of emotions to sort through on your own. If you suffer from any abandonment or self-esteem issues, being ghosted may bring them to the forefront.

Is ghosting people a trauma response? ›

At its worst, ghosting is a trauma that can affect your willingness to trust others again or enter into future relationships. You might find yourself so fixated on getting closure from the ghoster that you can't move forward.

What does psychology say about ghosting? ›

People respond to being ghosted in many ways, from feeling indifferent to deeply betrayed. Some believe that ghosting is inseparably intertwined with modern electronic communication, and the practice is a way to cope with the decision fatigue that can accompany dating.

Is ghosting heartless? ›

It's an incredibly heartless and emotionally immature way to end a relationship. A person who ghosts, rather than face the issues, takes the easy way out by escaping from a relationship they no longer want to be in. The ghost blocks us from their life, often pretending we no longer or never existed.

Is ghosting a form of punishment? ›

Ghosting is intended to punish and as such is intended to hurt the other person. One of the facets of ghosting is that very often the punishment does not seem to fit the crime.

Is ghosting hurtful? ›

Ghosting is a heartbreaking fact in the modern dating world. It's when a friend or someone you've been dating disappears from contact with no explanation. Ghosting can shatter self-esteem and hurt just as much as physical pain.

Does ghosting hurt the ghoster? ›

Ghosters also experience negative consequences from the act, but with less positive long-term influences, the study found. After ghosting a partner, 65% of ghosters feel anxiety, awkwardness and guilt. This may vary from concerns of running into the ghostee in the future to simply hurting someone's feelings.

What is a good reason to ghost someone? ›

People may ghost due to convenience, a loss of attraction, negative impressions, or fears of safety. People higher in narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy tend to view ghosting as more acceptable.

Do Ghosters feel regret? ›

Not all ghosters will feel a sense of regret. It is, in fact, rare but does happen with some partners. For these people, they realize that they made a mistake by ghosting someone, creating hurt for another person, and causing them to feel guilty. They admit their selfishness and come with an apology.

How do I make ghoster regret? ›

Ultimately, when it comes to how to make a guy regret ghosting you – it's quite simple. Block him out, don't retaliate, don't try to reconnect. Instead try to focus on your life, finding the right person and being truly happy in yourself.

Should you ignore someone who ghosted? ›

The audacity is so strong with ghosters, it can be tough to figure out how to respond. Of course, the simplest — and often best — option is to ignore them and act as if you never received their message. You should never feel obligated to reply to a ghoster, especially if they really hurt your feelings.

How do you treat a ghoster? ›

Here are some ways you can help yourself confront and accept your feelings about being ghosted:
  1. Set boundaries first. Just want a fling? ...
  2. Give the person a time limit. ...
  3. Don't automatically blame yourself. ...
  4. Don't “treat” your feelings with substance abuse. ...
  5. Spend time with friends or family. ...
  6. Seek professional help.
4 Mar 2019

Is ghosting a defense mechanism? ›

Sometimes the ghosting process can be a kind of self-defense mechanism. “I have been hurt so many times in the past that at this point I'm honestly afraid of letting people get close to me,” said Skylar Grossen. “When I start to get attached to someone I just leave because I'm afraid to get hurt again.

What does ghosting do to your brain? ›

Ghosting hurts deeply. It activates a systemic experience of loss that stems from our amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. It's actually a full brain experience. * We are left wondering what went wrong, without the benefit of an explanation, the opportunity to ask questions, or clarify the sequence of events.

Why you should not ghost someone? ›

The worst aspect of ghosting is that it not only makes them question the quality of the relationship but it will most likely make them question themselves. If you ghost someone who has low self-esteem, they will probably take the blame on themselves and receive yet another blow to their self-confidence.

Are Ghosters emotionally unavailable? ›

Meyers says ghosters are "emotionally unavailable," and that to ghost someone after a few months "violates such a fundamental social law of mutual respect that the individual must have some degree of personality disorder unless the reason for their ghosting related to some sort of personal or life emergency."

Is ghosting worse than rejection? ›

The results showed a consistent pattern across most of the constructs measured. Specifically, ghosting led to worse outcomes than rejection, whereas the disengagers' ambiguous signals characterizing orbiting seemed to buffer the victims partially from the consequences of relationship dissolution.

Is ghosting silent treatment? ›

As Psychology Today's Jennice Vilhauer points out, “Ghosting is the ultimate use of the silent treatment, a tactic that has often been viewed by mental health professionals as a form of emotional cruelty.” The renowned marriage researcher John Gottman defined this silent treatment as stonewalling, and considered it one ...

Are Ghosters narcissists? ›

Narcissists are truly ghosts; they are just shadows of humans, lacking any depth or emotion. Ghosting is painful and can make you feel worthless, but it has nothing to do with the living: ghosting has everything to do with the dead.

What is another word for ghosting? ›

In this page you can discover 4 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for ghosting, like: obsessing, ghostwriting, materializing and haunting.

Is ghosting immature? ›

Ghosting is a form of passive rejection and it's also indicative of emotionally immature people. It doesn't feel like it now, but they really did do you a favor by disappearing from your life. You can't have a healthy relationship with someone who can't be honest with how they feel. 2.

What is soft ghosting? ›

Soft ghosting refers to someone 'liking' your last message or latest comment on their post on platforms like Facebook and Instagram where it's possible to react to an interaction, but not actually replying and continuing the conversation. So, although they're not ignoring you, they're also offering no genuine response.

Do Ghosters come back? ›

If you're wondering, “Do ghosters come back after months?” the simple answer is “Yes—sometimes.” There's no set amount of time for these disappearing people to stay out of reach before they decide to come back.

What do you text a ghoster for closure? ›

Texts To Send If You Want Closure
  • “I am getting the sense I'm getting ghosted. ...
  • “I enjoyed getting to know you the last few weeks, but I realize our time has come to a close. ...
  • “Since you do not feel comfortable sharing your feelings about what our deal is, I will close the door for us.
1 Feb 2022

How do you react when a ghoster comes back? ›

Here are some things to think about if this should ever happen to you.
  1. Think about whether it's worth responding. ...
  2. Consider whether you've ever been guilty of ghosting. ...
  3. Ask for a reason, and give it careful thought. ...
  4. Listen to your gut. ...
  5. Tell them how their behavior made you feel. ...
  6. Treat them as you'd like to be treated.
13 Jul 2022

Does no contact work on a ghoster? ›

What can you do if you've been ghosted? Not much. But you can save dignity and give them a chance to miss you by not chasing them. Go no contact on them completely and there's a good chance you're ex will miss you.

Is ghosting someone toxic? ›

Ghosting is an immature way out of a bad relationship. Regardless of the intent behind ghosting, it is a passive-aggressive interpersonal tactic that can leave psychological scars. It kills any chance of trust and leaves another person hanging.

Is it okay to ghost someone you love? ›

"Ghosting is an OK thing to do, and it might be even a good idea in particular situations. A great example that comes to mind is if you are having suspicions that the person you're talking to online is a catfisher and is using a fake profile on their dating app or social media profile.

Is there a nice way to ghost someone? ›

Send one last message to ghost nicely.

"It was really nice to meet you, but I don't think this is going to work out. I wish you all the best." "I had a really nice time hanging out with you, but I didn't really feel a spark. Hope life treats you well."

What to say to someone who has ghosted you? ›

Hey, I thought we were off to an amazing start, but you sort of disappeared. I hope everything's OK. If you wanna talk, I'd love to know what happened, good or bad." This is the text you send when you really felt a serious connection—maybe the two of you even exchanged exclamations of almost love!

Why does a ghoster come back? ›

Occasionally, a ghoster might come back because a significant amount of time has passed, and they've changed. They want to take responsibility for their behavior and make amends with you.

How many days is it considered ghosting? ›

Some people say after 3 days, it is officially ghosting, but an increasing number of people say that's too long. If you don't hear something after 24 hours, consider yourself ghosted.

How do you make a man regret losing you? ›

If you want to make a guy regret losing you, avoid talking to him for about a month after the breakup and focus on improving yourself instead. For example, join a club, try out a new hobby, hang out with friends, or reconnect with someone you've lost touch with.

Should you confront a ghoster? ›

Petrides says, "If you really have a hard time letting go of how this other person made you feel by ghosting you, it's completely acceptable to confront them on this; be sure to do this the right way. You want to take ownership of your feelings and acknowledge how you feel and call them out for their poor treatment.

How do you respond to soft ghosting? ›

Louise Troen, VP of international media and communications at Bumble, says that if you think you're being soft ghosted, it's important not to jump immediately to conclusions. "Give the other person time to respond," she tells Refinery29.

How do you treat a guy who ghosted you? ›

So, How to Deal With Being Ghosted?
  1. Do not chase the person ghosting. Resist the temptation to troll them on the internet. ...
  2. Please know that there is nothing wrong with you. It may be easy to assume that you did something wrong. ...
  3. Say what you need, and move on. ...
  4. Take self-care steps. ...
  5. Consider avoiding dating apps.
10 Aug 2021

How do you accept ghosting? ›

Tips to handle being ghosted
  1. Face reality. It looks like this person isn't giving you what you need. ...
  2. Allow your feelings. No matter what you feel, it's all valid. ...
  3. Amp up your self-care. ...
  4. Avoid dwelling. ...
  5. Don't contact them. ...
  6. Talk with someone. ...
  7. Don't isolate yourself.

Can ghosting backfire? ›

To conclude, ghosting is hurtful and may end up backfiring on you. Avoiding someone because you don't want to hurt their feelings is cowardly and immature. Most people agree that the best way to end a relationship is through open and honest conversation.

Is ghosting narcissistic behavior? ›

Ghosting itself reflects some classic traits of a narcissist, including low self-esteem, the need to have the upper hand in a relationship, and a lack of empathy for the other person. Someone with this personality disorder forms relationships based on how they may benefit them.

Is ghosting someone toxic? ›

Ghosting is an immature way out of a bad relationship. Regardless of the intent behind ghosting, it is a passive-aggressive interpersonal tactic that can leave psychological scars. It kills any chance of trust and leaves another person hanging.

Is ghosting a form of rejection? ›

Ghosting is a rejection without any explanation. This often leaves the victim confused and hurt, as the closure is ambiguous and open to interpretation. It can be mentally and emotionally harmful to the ghosted person.

Whats the difference between gaslighting and ghosting? ›

Ghosting and gaslighting are real and can drive you crazy

Let's break down how it works. Ghosting makes you disappear. Gaslighting drives you crazy. There are no rules on how to behave these days.

How does the ghoster feel? ›

Ghosters also experience negative consequences from the act, but with less positive long-term influences, the study found. After ghosting a partner, 65% of ghosters feel anxiety, awkwardness and guilt. This may vary from concerns of running into the ghostee in the future to simply hurting someone's feelings.

Is ghosting the silent treatment? ›

Welcome to the phenomenon of 'ghosting' –also called the ultimate silent treatment. The silent treatment is nothing unusual when it comes to long-term relationships, 'ghosting' can happen after just the first date or sometimes many dates.

What does ghosting do to a person? ›

Ghosting is a relatively new colloquial dating term that refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone without giving that person any warning or explanation for doing so. Even when the person being ghosted reaches out to re-initiate contact or gain closure, they're met with silence.

Is ghosting immature? ›

Ghosting is a form of passive rejection and it's also indicative of emotionally immature people. It doesn't feel like it now, but they really did do you a favor by disappearing from your life. You can't have a healthy relationship with someone who can't be honest with how they feel. 2.

Is ghosting worse than rejection? ›

The results showed a consistent pattern across most of the constructs measured. Specifically, ghosting led to worse outcomes than rejection, whereas the disengagers' ambiguous signals characterizing orbiting seemed to buffer the victims partially from the consequences of relationship dissolution.

Is there a nice way to ghost someone? ›

Send one last message to ghost nicely.

"It was really nice to meet you, but I don't think this is going to work out. I wish you all the best." "I had a really nice time hanging out with you, but I didn't really feel a spark. Hope life treats you well."

How do you treat a ghoster? ›

So, How to Deal With Being Ghosted?
  1. Do not chase the person ghosting. Resist the temptation to troll them on the internet. ...
  2. Please know that there is nothing wrong with you. It may be easy to assume that you did something wrong. ...
  3. Say what you need, and move on. ...
  4. Take self-care steps. ...
  5. Consider avoiding dating apps.
10 Aug 2021

What is another word for ghosting? ›

In this page you can discover 4 synonyms, antonyms, idiomatic expressions, and related words for ghosting, like: obsessing, ghostwriting, materializing and haunting.

Should you take back someone who ghosted you? ›

Ultimately, the choice of giving a guy who had ghosted you and came back another chance is up to you. But you need to give the situation time and careful consideration. If he pressures you or threatens you to hurry up and make up your mind, that's a red flag, and you should strongly consider cutting him off completely.

What is soft ghosting? ›

Soft ghosting refers to someone 'liking' your last message or latest comment on their post on platforms like Facebook and Instagram where it's possible to react to an interaction, but not actually replying and continuing the conversation. So, although they're not ignoring you, they're also offering no genuine response.

What is extreme ghosting? ›

Dealing with being ghosted is incredibly difficult—especially because you usually don't know the cause or know how to react. The person suddenly quits all contact with you—they won't respond to texts, emails, calls, or social media messages.

Videos

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4. Psychology Of Ghosting (Gay)
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