Ghosting, or disappearing from a relationship completely without warning or explanation, has been happening more frequently in the last several years. This breakup dynamic is on the rise even more during the pandemic, in part because it’s so easy to “go dark” in a digital world when you are less likely to run into an ex at social gatherings, restaurants, or through mutual friends.
Ghosting is a painful way to leave the relationship for the one who is left confused and alone. It appears to be an immature choice for the person who leaves, likely because they can’t find the courage to share their true feelings or simply struggle with a fear of commitment.
In this post, we share ways that you can heal, find understanding, and move on if you have been ghosted.
If you have been ghosted, you’ve likely made up several explanations to try and understand “why”. Maybe you’ve told yourself that your former partner had another romantic interest, maybe you write off their behavior because you know they had a tough childhood, or maybe you make excuses for them because their work or family life is stressful. Especially if you have an anxious attachment style, you are more likely to make up excuses for your partner’s behavior. Regardless, a story is a tool to help you feel better, but it often comes with self-doubt about your own worth, blame, resentment, and maybe even regret.
The Big Picture
Instead of believing the story you make up to help feel better, and the related feelings of unworthiness, work to see the big picture. Recognize that their behavior is their own pain or fear emerging through the relationship. The relationship is the vehicle they are using to unconsciously understand their own shortcomings, past trauma, or discomfort with emotional vulnerability and closeness. It likely has nothing to do with you. Sure, you might have triggered something in them without knowing you’d do so, which resulted in them ghosting you, but that is in response to their pain and discomfort, not to you.
It’s difficult to see the big picture when you are in the pain of the story. Challenging the story that you have made up in an effort to gain some sort of understanding during this time of confusion is important to facilitate your own healing - and help you move on.
Find the Lesson
Any challenge or disappointment is full of lessons and growth. As you look back on the relationship you may have been ghosted from, ask yourself what you can learn from the situation. Did you make up excuses for your partner’s behavior? Were you so hungry and anxious for connection that you ignored red flags? Were you truly satisfied in the relationship? Our therapists at Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado can help you understand the opportunities for growth and self-awareness that are often evident after a relationship ends, especially one without closure, so that you can trust again.
Another way of looking at ghosting is from a values perspective. As Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST talked about in a recent Believe Be Real Be Bold podcast, if one holds values of honesty, trustworthiness, dependability, commitment, and/or loyalty, but then ghosts someone they are dating, they are not living in accordance to their values. Michelle calls dating in alignment with one’s values, ethical dating. If these are some of your values and you’re dating someone that doesn’t display them, they are likely not going to be a good long-term fit for you, as relative value alignment is important in lasting relationships.
It’s clear that ghosting is a societal response and relationship trend that has emerged in the last several years because people don’t know how to deal with their difficult feelings - and technology provides an avenue to not face them. Those who ghost struggle to practice challenging conversations or set healthy boundaries. As a society, we struggle to be self-aware and honest enough to balance our needs with those of a relationship. It often feels easier to run and hide than to have the difficult, honest conversations one needs to fully move on.
If you are seeking peace around a relationship that didn’t provide any closure, our team can help you find the understanding you want during this difficult time. While you are likely blaming yourself for the relationship ending, it was likely your partner’s own unrelated challenges around relationships that drove the ghosting.
We are here to support you during this time and offer a free conversation with our intake coordinator to get started. Contact us today.