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What Is Ghosting?

When a Friend or Romantic Interest Disappears Without Explanation

Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.

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Alternatives to Ghosting Someone

  • Is It Ever OK?

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. As you can see, it’s called ghosting because it involves someone essentially “vanishing” into thin air as if they were a ghost.

The term is generally used in reference to a romantic relationship, but it can technically refer to any scenario where contact unexpectedly ceases, including friendships and family relationships.

Signs of Ghosting

Ghosting is often obvious, but it can also be a gradual process. The other person might start by 'soft ghosting,' where they progressively minimize contact over a period of time. Some early signs that someone might be ghosting you include:

  • They regularly bail out on plans to get together
  • They struggle to make commitments
  • They don't like to share personal information
  • They don't want you to meet their friends or family
  • They disappear from social media
  • They rarely respond to your texts or calls
  • Your conversations with them lack depth, and they seem disinterested

If you have made repeated efforts to contact someone and they won't respond, it is a strong indicator that you've been ghosted.

Ghosting can also occur on social media. It involves cutting off all social media contact with another person without explanation. The other person may unfriend, unfollow, or even block you on all social media platforms. They may even go so far as to deactivate or delete their social accounts to prevent all contact.

The History of Ghosting

The term "ghosting" became mainstream about seven years ago alongside the surge in online dating ; it became an official entry in the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2017 . Interestingly, though, the term was actually used as far back as the 1990s. Some pop culture writers and scholars have even used the term to describe ghostwriting in hip-hop music.  

Bree Jenkins, LMFT

The word ‘ghosting’ gained popularity long before [2017] via ‘90s hip-hop, often in the sense of escaping.

Though a new term, the act of ghosting existed well before the digital age. “I think references of ‘going for a loaf of bread and never coming back’ are examples of ghosting," says Bree Jenkins, LMFT , a dating coach in Los Angeles, Calif. "Ghosting used to be leaving a person and moving away or not leaving [them with] your contact information—its earlier origins are even the simple act of leaving a party or social gathering without notice and goodbyes.” 

How the Term Became Popular

So why did the term “ghosting” become mainstream just within the last decade? The argument is that online dating has simply made it way easier to ghost people.

With the higher frequency of ghosting instances, and with more people who could relate/understand being ghosted or doing the ghosting, the term was widely adopted.

Why Do Some People Choose to Ghost?

Ghosting is often seen as an immature or passive-aggressive way to end a relationship. In other instances, it may even be a form of emotional abuse.

There are two primary reasons why a person ghosts another, and often it's a combination of the two.

It's the Easy Route

The first is that some find it's way easier (in the short-term, anyway) to ghost someone than to have an awkward, uncomfortable heart-to-heart about why you’re not interested in maintaining contact.

The person doing the ghosting often wants to avoid confrontation or dealing with someone else’s hurt feelings, so they simply cease all communication and hope the hint is delivered.

Option Overload and Fatigue

“With internet dating comes what may seem like infinite choices as opposed to walking into a bar and having limited options," explains Margaret Seide, MD , a board-certified psychiatrist based in New York City.

"Because there are so many choices, online daters are quick to have the ‘OK, next’ or the ‘Yeah, but what else?’ mindset," says Seide. "Sometimes the person is nice enough, but is juggling a few other people and that person just didn’t make the cut.”

There are also other reasons why people ghost, including being fearful of the other person's reaction to rejection.

How Ghosting Can Impact the Ghosted

As you can imagine (or know from personal experience), ghosting can have a real psychological impact on the person who’s being ghosted.

It’s almost like sudden loss [or] grief, especially the first time you’ve ever been ghosted. You are shocked, and you’re in denial, thinking things such as ‘maybe they didn’t see my text.’ Then you feel anger.

Jenkins adds, “Next, the feelings of depression [can] kick in along with feelings of poor self-esteem as you mentally reexamine your relationship and last conversation for possible warning signs."

Ghosting is inherently ambiguous because there is a lack of explanation for why the relationship ended. For the person who has been ghosted, it can lead to significant feelings of rejection, guilt, grief, and shame.

A person who has been ghosted may be left wondering what this type of behavior says about them, but it is important to remember that ghosting says more about the person who cuts off contact than the person who is ghosted.

Working Through Grief After Being Ghosted

The grief cycle may not run that exact course, but being ghosted often triggers a flood of ranging emotions. Thoughts of ‘Not only did the person not want to date me, but I wasn’t even deserving of an explanation’ can make someone feel dehumanized and devalued.

It’s often more painful when it’s a relationship that’s marinated a bit, but the ghosted person can also feel this way if it was a new connection. It can take some time to work through the pain, but with acceptance the person being ghosted can move on.

To gain closure in a situation where you feel you’ve been ghosted, Meide says it can help to send a message by saying something like, “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a while. I’m not sure what happened, but I don’t want to continue pursuing this. My time is valuable and I don’t want to leave this door open. Best of luck with things.” While the ghoster may not respond, it can help provide closure.

How Ghosting Can Impact the Ghoster

Ghosting doesn't just impact the ghosted; it also is a detriment to the ghoster. The bottom line here is that ghosting is either a passive aggressive way to end a relationship, or it is the “easy way out.” Either way, it’s not doing the ghoster any favors in their ability to communicate with others.

“Ghosting doesn't take into account how you affect other people and it makes it easier for the person to dip out or disengage when things get uncomfortable. There’s no way to have a healthy, long-term relationship without being able to work through problems and use your communication skills,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins adds that ghosters create unhealthy problem-solving patterns for themselves, and that they also contribute to a larger pattern of societal flakiness that increases their chances of being ghosted as well.

Avoiding the easy route of ghosting someone will benefit both parties. Meide says that the best thing you can do when ending a relationship , however long or short, is to treat the other person as you’d like to be treated.

“I usually suggest two spoons of sugar with the medicine in the middle for delivery,” Meide says. “It can sound something like ‘Hey, you seem like a really great catch, but I don’t feel it’s working between us. I respect your time and just wanted to be honest. Warm regards and take care.’

"Or, ‘Hi—it’s been cool getting to know you, but I’ve decided to take a break from dating and don’t want to waste your time or be dishonest. Best of luck with everything.’"

These messages are short, sweet, honest, and end with an outro to signal that you don’t want to have a long and drawn out conversation. It’s possible that you may get a negative or hurt reaction from the other person, but it’s far better to exit the relationship after giving an explanation than to ghost completely.

Is Ghosting Someone Ever OK?

In many cases, ghosting is considered a rude route to take when trying not to talk to someone anymore, or especially when ending a more serious or established relationship. However, there are most definitely exceptions—when further communication can be a bad thing or even potentially unsafe.

Situations in which ghosting can make sense is if you find out the person is married or in a relationship , participating in illegal or unsavory behaviors, or if they display toxic traits.   In such cases, you do not owe that person an explanation for abruptly ending the relationship. 

If you are uncomfortable or feel threatened by someone in any way, remember it's best to follow your gut instinct. You may simply have a bad feeling. In cases like this, you don't need to prove that this person "deserved" to be ghosted—ghosting might be a useful mode of self-protection and peace of mind.

If you feel your best interest would be to completely cut off contact with the person in question, don't let your feelings of guilt keep you from doing what's right for you and what will ultimately keep you safe.

A Word From Verywell

Ghosting has become more commonplace in the digital age, but just because something is easy or common doesn’t mean it’s always the ideal route to take. Consider how ghosting might impact both parties and do your best to treat others with kindness and honesty. If you’re the person who’s been ghosted, it’s OK to feel confused, sad, and angry. Sending a quick note to end the relationship yourself can help you regain a sense of power and confidence in yourself and give you closure.

However, if you feel threatened or deeply uncomfortable by someone, you don't owe them anything. Sometimes ghosting, when used thoughtfully, can be a healthy mode of self-protection and removing yourself from a potentially bad situation.

Navarro R, Larrañaga E, Yubero S, Víllora B. Psychological Correlates of Ghosting and Breadcrumbing Experiences: A Preliminary Study among Adults . Int J Environ Res Public Health . 2020;17(3):1116. doi:10.3390/ijerph17031116

Anderson HE. No Bitin’ Allowed: A Hip-Hop Copying Paradigm for All of Us . 2011.

 Vilhauer J. When Is It OK to Ghost Someone ? Psychology Today . 2019.

By Wendy Rose Gould Wendy Rose Gould is a lifestyle reporter with over a decade of experience covering health and wellness topics.

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What Is Ghosting? And What To Do If You're Being Ghosted, According To Relationship Experts

Hint: It's not in reference to Casper the Friendly Ghost.

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Dating is spookier than ever, and I’m not just talking about the new voice note feature on Hinge. I’m talking about the modern dating trend of "ghosting."

When someone completely cuts off communication with you without saying why, it can rattle your sense of confidence and reality, relationship experts tell Women's Health . “Ghosting can be a difficult and painful experience for both parties involved,” says Kalley Hartman, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Newport Beach, California. “But it can leave the ghosted part.ner feeling especially confused, hurt, and abandoned.”

Meet the Experts: Kalley Hartman , LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Newport Beach, California and the men's clinical director at Ocean Recovery. Tiffany Green , LCPC, is a psychotherapist based in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Ketan Parmar , MD, is a forensic psychiatrist and mental health expert at Clinic Spots.

Any time you open up your heart to someone, whether a potential new boo, friend, or any other significant person in your life, it can be anxiety-inducing. Who hasn’t obsessively checked their phone or felt phantom buzzes while awaiting a message or call from a crush? With so many modes of communication available today, relationships take up more and more of people's mental and digital space, which is another reason why ghosting can be so jarring, says Hartman. Internet users are used to seeing partners or potential love interests everywhere, all the time—from Instagram Stories to BeReal. If all of that digital intimacy suddenly disappears, people are left in a never-ending cycle of “what ifs.”

If you fear you have been ghosted, or simply want some advice on how to move on from a ghostly experience, ahead relationship experts break down what ghosting is, exactly, and what to do if you, too, have been personally victimized by Casper the Not-So-Friendly Ghost.

What is ghosting?

Ghosting, per the experts, is suddenly ending communication with someone without explanation. This can apply to romantic situations, which is how it’s often discussed, but ghosting can also occur between friends or even former coworkers.

The key is the abrupt stop in return calls, text, emails, or DMs, says Chicago-based psychotherapist Tiffany Green. Ahem, perhaps even smoke signals (a girl can get desperate). And people who ghost provide “no explanation for why they are choosing to end communication,” Green adds.

Imagine you’re texting a new person you went on a few dates with pretty consistently—a little flirty banter, perhaps talks about your next date—and that person just stops answering mid-convo. You try after a few hours, and then again after a day, only to find out your usually blue iMessages have all of a sudden gone green. Sorry to break it to you, but may have been ghosted.

Obviously, the impact of this behavior varies depending on your level of intimacy. Being ghosted by a person you’ve been DM-ing back and forth on a dating app may sting a bit less than, say, your bestie.

Why do people ghost?

There are many reasons—trust me when I say I’ve considered them all— as to why people ghost. But quite often, people abruptly end all communication with another person because they do not want to feel discomfort (uh, like, at all) so much so that they would rather digitally drop off the face of the Earth than have an honest conversation or even shoot a text message, says Green. And while it’s not the nicest way to cut things off, some people just can’t tolerate emotional conflict, Green notes.

Let’s say you got into a seemingly innocent political discussion over drinks. And maybe what you thought was a harmless quip about your political leanings was actually a huge deal or game-changing piece of information for your date. Rather than just, ya know, saying something, some people would rather just vanish. “People often ghost when there are difficult topics they do not want to explore or discuss,” explains Green.

However, if a date you thought you had a good rapport with suddenly goes AWOL, Dr. Ketan Parmar, MD, a forensic psychiatrist and mental health expert at Clinic Spots, urges a bit of empathy. The person you’ve been chatting with may be too scared to explain their feelings or is simply not emotionally mature enough to do so—a frustrating but common phenomenon, he says. “They may also be trying to avoid a potentially awkward confrontation or even just trying to protect themselves from getting hurt. Whatever the reason, ghosting is a way out.”

How should I respond if I think I’ve been ghosted?

Well, first off, it's important not to jump to conclusions, Green says, which is difficult in a situation like this. But remember: People are busy and things do come up! If you think your friend, or potential romantic partner, is in a state of overwhelm, it may be worth reaching out. Maybe they truly do have a lot of stress at work or at home, and perhaps they mentioned something about it earlier in your conversation. Sending a note letting them know you’re thinking of them—a sort of "Hey, I'm thinking of you and I hope you're okay"— can go a long way, says Green. “It is not uncommon for people to resurface after their life circumstances have been resolved and they are interested in reconnecting,” Green adds.

If this is a true ghost, though, it is important to take matters into your own hands. Ask yourself what would make you feel better in this situation, says Hartman.

You may want to take time to process your feelings and try to come to terms with the ending of the relationship however feels right to you. That can look like busting out your journal, calling a friend, or just taking a few days away with your thoughts. But whatever your form of self-care and processing is, make time for it. This is not something to gloss over, says Hartman, as it can be startling. “It is also important to remember that whatever the reason for the ghosting, it is not a reflection of your worth or value as a person,” she adds. Period.

After taking some time to reflect, it can also be helpful to reach out in a kind and respectful way. Sending a message expressing how that person’s behavior made you feel and getting your own form of closure can be key here, explains Hartman. “This will help build your resilience and help protect against further hurtful behavior in the future.”

What’s the best way to get over being ghosted?

Someone you care about cutting you out of their life without explanation hurts. There are no "ifs" or "buts" about it. But creating safe, supportive environments to express your feelings and talk through everything can help you in the long run, says Hartman. Schedule time to talk to the people that get you and can help you build yourself back up. Self-care—like journaling, meditating, resting, or perhaps hitting the streets for a good old Hot Girl Walk —can also really help boost your self-esteem, Hartman adds.

To paraphrase the Ghostbusters themselves, “Who you gonna call?” Your therapist! According to Hartman, it can also be helpful to speak to a professional who can walk you through coping skills and allow you to debrief on anything you might have overlooked in the relationship.

Also important to remember here: This behavior says a lot more about Casper than it does about you, says Green. “Ghosting says more about the other person, their communication style, and investment in your relationship than about you. Try to see it as a warning sign of potential red flags about a relationship if it had continued.”

How do I avoid accidentally ghosting someone?

As difficult as it can be to have open and honest conversations, this is key when dating—and in life in general! Simply sending someone a message saying you are no longer interested can save them weeks, months, or even years of “what ifs,” say the experts.

Not only is it a decent thing to do, but in this Taylor Swift era, where karma is your boyfriend, I, for one, definitely want it to be on my side.

Jacqueline Tempera is an award-winning writer and reporter living in New Jersey with her many pets. She is a business owner and a double Scorpio who loves all things astrology and reality television. She is passionate about body diversity and representation, mental health, and the fight to end sexual assault and harassment. To learn more about Jackie, follow her on Instagram @jacktemp or visit her website at jackietempera.com . 

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Why People Ghost — and How to Get Over It

Time to go ghostbusting.

By Adam Popescu

Something strange happened at the coffee shop the other day. The gentleman in line in front of me — mid-40s, suit, bad haircut — ordered a latte. “Whole milk,” he said before changing to half and half, then almond milk. “For here,” he mumbled, then shook his head. “No. To go.”

I ordered an espresso. Our drinks arrived at the same time and I picked up mine, added sugar, sat, sipped. The latte remained at the counter, the barista calling his name over and over. But the man in the suit was gone. Why would someone order a drink and disappear?

Ghosting — when someone cuts off all communication without explanation — extends to all things, it seems. Most of us think about it in the context of digital departure: a friend not responding to a text, or worse, a lover, but it happens across all social circumstances and it’s tied to the way we view the world.

Asking for a beverage and then jetting may not seem equal to ditching an unwanted romance, but it’s really the same behavior. Uncomfortable? Just don’t respond. A ghost is a specter, something we think is there but really isn’t. We’ve all probably acted like this if we’re honest. We’ve all probably been ghosted, too, though sometimes we probably didn’t notice. These are supernatural times.

Last week, my sister and I got in an argument and her boyfriend didn’t text me back — a micro-ghost move.

“There are different levels of ghosting,” said Wendy Walsh, a psychology professor named one of Time’s 2017 people of the year for her whistle blowing that helped promote the #MeToo movement. My sister’s boyfriend is what Dr. Walsh calls lightweight ghosting. Midweight is when you’ve met a person a handful of times and you engage in deep avoidance , which hurts their feelings more. “Third wave is the heavyweight, when you’ve entered a sexual relationship and you leave, blindsiding the other.”

The pace of modern life makes it hard enough to maintain real life friendships; it’s impossible to actually be friends with everyone you’re supposedly simpatico with online. (Here’s a good test: How many of your Facebook friends are real? If you’ve met someone once and now they’re on your feed for life, get rid of them! If a friendship feels like too much work, maybe it is. The good ones shouldn’t feel like a chore on your to-do list, or that one side is doing all the communicating). Sometimes the best course is to let someone go, even if you were once close. Growing apart can be a friendship’s natural evolution; ditto for lovers, an even touchier discourse. But it’s the way you let go that matters.

Belief, destiny and growth

Studies have shown that social rejection of any kind activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain, meaning there’s a biological link between rejection and pain. That goes for friends, partners and, if it had feelings, that lonely latte.

Staying connected to others has evolved as a human survival skill. Our brains have what’s called a social monitoring system that uses mood, people and environmental cues to coach us how to respond situationally. But when you get ghosted, there’s no closure, so you question yourself and choices which sabotages self-worth and self-esteem.

That ambiguity, said the psychologist Jennice Vilhauer , is the real dagger. She calls ghosting a form of the silent treatment akin to emotional cruelty (the pain it causes can be treated with Tylenol, according to multiple studies ). So, how do you avoid it in the first place?

“Well, I think I’m particularly choosy about who I tend to interact with,” said Dr. Vilhauer, the former head of Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center psychotherapy program. “You can get a sense early on of what kind of individual you’re dealing with.”

There’s no checklist, but watching how people treat others is a good indicator.

“Ghosting has a lot to do with someone’s comfort level and how they deal with their emotions,” she added. “A lot of people anticipate that talking about how they feel is going to be a confrontation. That mental expectation makes people want to avoid things that make them uncomfortable.”

When it comes to complex relationships, the ease and sheer volume of choice is making us numb emotionally, Dr. Vilhauer said.

“In the dating world where people are meeting a lot of people outside of their social circles, that creates a level of feeling that you don’t have a lot of accountability if you ghost someone,” she said. “Their friends don’t know your friends so it’s easy to do if you’re never going to run into them again in real life.”

What we really want

According to Dr. Vilhauer, who is in a long-term relationship that began on a dating site, the flip side is a subset of the population looking for real connection.

“People are craving authenticity,” she said. For those looking for love in online emotional echo chambers, “the more you date, the more it feels unsuccessful, the more you get discouraged.”

She added: “Being vulnerable is the number one thing that creates intimacy between people and if you worry about being hurt all the time, you’re not able to be vulnerable and it affects the quality of connection.”

That fear is the same thing causing so much ghosting, said Gili Freedman , who studies the language of rejections at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. One eyebrow-raising tip she offers when you’ve made a mistake and ghosted someone is to not say “Sorry .” Why, I wondered? It only makes the injured party feel more aggrieved, she said.

In a 2018 paper , Dr. Freedman discovered ghosting has a lot to do with how we feel about our future — or whether we think our mate is the “one,” which is a question of belief versus destiny. Either someone believes the relationship is capable of growing or they’re seeking an archetypal partner (what’s typically called a soul mate).

“Individuals who have stronger destiny beliefs are more likely to ghost,” she said. “If you’re with someone and you realize they’re not the one for me, you’re going to think it’s not much of a point to put in the effort, so you ghost. These people believe relationships are either going to work out or not.”

Those with less of a fixed mind-set exhibit fewer feelings of helplessness and express themselves in conflicts with romantic partners.

Her work’s most counterintuitive finding?

“People seemed to think it was more acceptable to ghost in a friendship than a romantic relationship regardless of destiny of growth belief,” Dr. Freedman said. “We think of friendship as these long lasting relationships that provide social support and it’s interesting to think people are saying it’s a little better if you do it in a friendship. How you look at relationships affects how you look at ghosting.”


“It’s really important to remember if someone ghosts you that behavior says more about them than you,” Dr. Vilhauer said. “It’s about their discomfort. You have to keep trying.”

One way to avoid this cycle is modifying how we reject people, suggests Dr. Freedman.

Don’t apologize, she said, but be honest about boundaries, whether it’s going to a movie with someone or spending the rest of your life together. Just be real.

“The good middle ground is explicitly rejecting someone and telling them ‘no,’ not ‘I’m sorry,’” she said.

It may sound harsh, but it’s better than being left in limbo. That may be why so many daters don’t get the hint and keep texting. That ostracism leads to rage, frustration and further alienation.

“If you’re apologizing, you’re enforcing a social norm and if you say ‘sorry,’ it’s very normal to say ‘that’s O.K., I forgive you,’” she said.

Taking a risk to tell someone how you really feel — even if it’s not what they want to hear — has benefits. Self-esteem, stress, blood pressure, spending more time with people you care about. And getting that time back opens up self-discovery. Maybe you’ll find what makes you most fulfilled is nature , which promotes alpha brain waves, fuels creativity and reduces depression (my personal fix).

Perspective can be a good path to empathy, Dr. Walsh said. Our always-on culture has eroded a lot of empathy, which is why we find ourselves stepping on each others’ feelings. Yet for all the choice, we’re all still seeking connections. The power of the internet and its ease in upsetting our lives is only poised to grow. It’s how we use this intoxicant that will determine its impact.

“We are wired to bond,” Dr. Walsh said. “The phenomenon of love, our greatest drug and delusion evolved for two people to get together and have offspring. The great survivors will be the ones who still figure out love.”

Adam Popescu is a Los Angeles writer whose debut novel, “ Nima ,” based on his BBC reporting from Mount Everest, publishes in May. Follow him @ adampopescu .

A Guide to Building and Nurturing Friendships

Friendships are an essential ingredient in a happy life. here’s how to give them the care and attention they deserve..

How does one make meaningful friendships as an adult? Here are some suggestions ,  useful tools  and tips from an expert .

If you are an introvert, it can be hard to reconcile the need for close connections with the urge to cancel social plans. Here is how to find your comfort zone .

A friendship with a sibling can be a lifelong gift. Whether you’ve always been close, or wish you got along better, here’s how to bolster your connection .

All relationships require some work. For your friendships to thrive , focus on your listening skills, compassion and communication.

American men are in a “friendship recession,” but experts say a few simple strategies can help. One tip? Practice being more vulnerable with your pals .

It’s quite common for people to feel jealousy or envy toward their friends. Luckily, there are ways to turn those emotions into an opportunity  for growth.

Being a good friend means offering your support in times of need. Just remember: Sometimes less is better than more .

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What Is Ghosting? Here's How to Know if You're Being Ghosted—and How to Avoid Doing It Yourself.

Find out everything there is to know about the most frustrating behavior in dating culture.

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Ghosting is annoying. But it’s not new, though it may seem like it. People have been disappearing on their dates and partners for decades. It’s just that now, since the onset of dating apps, dropping in and out of someone’s life is easier. And since we can meet people online, and have no other ties (unlike say, when we had mutual friends in common) it can be easier to get away with disappearing.

Here's what can happen when someone ghosts you. You like this person. You might even be thinking this could be a long-term relationship. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, they disappear. You go from texting or seeing each other often to radio silence. Then you’re sitting there thinking: What the hell just happened?

And if you did the ghosting…well. You know how it went down.

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So read on for what to know about ghosting and what you can do about it—including how to avoid doing it yourself.

What does it mean when someone ghosts—and is it ever okay?

Ghosting is basically rejection without the closure. This often happens out of nowhere and can leave you feeling confused, hurt, and even paranoid.

And there are different levels of ghosting. Disappearing after a few low-key conversations isn’t the same as ghosting someone you’ve had a more significant connection with. “The more time people have spent with each other—and the more emotionally intimate the connection, the more likely it is that ghosting will be mentally and emotionally harmful to the ghosted person,” adds Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Santa Rosa, CA, and author of Date Smart .

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So why do people disappear? For all kinds of reasons. For instance, according to a September 2020 survey by the “anti-ghosting” dating app, Elate (which “lets you know when a match moves on and also gives you fewer reasons to ghost others”), 43% of people said they’d ghosted to avoid the awkwardness of saying they weren’t interested, 37% ghosted because the other person said or did something they didn’t like, and 36% ghosted because they were too busy and then it was “too late.”

When it comes to connections beyond dating apps, reasons can vary even more—but that's not to say ghosting is okay. “Ghosting is an unhealthy and disrespectful behavior,” Manly says. “Unless a person presents a threat of some kind, it’s inappropriate not to communicate that you’re not interested in moving forward.”

And although “ghosters” may feel powerful in the moment, ghosting behaviors can be a sign of inner weakness and low self-esteem, Manly explains, noting people “with high self-esteem tend to not engage in behaviors that are disrespectful or hurtful to others.”

young man with phone sitting in chair in his home

How do you know if someone is ghosting you?

If someone seems to be into you, you go on a few dates, have sex a few times, or even date for a little while, it can be hard to accept that they have evaporated into the ether with the Ghosts of Relationships Past.

Maybe they’re just busy, right? Right ? Wrong.

“I don’t buy the “too busy” excuse. If someone wants to make time for you, they will find a way to,” Bradbury says. “We are all busy, but when we find someone that lights us up, we can usually shift around responsibilities to make time for them. At the very least, we can see our notifications, and write back.”

If you’re putting yourself out there and someone doesn’t message you back, they probably aren’t worth your time. As Bradbury puts it: “Where are you willing to fall on someone’s priority list?”

So if a person has vanished, and some time has passed, chances are: you’ve got a ghost.

Asian man texting on cell phone in brew pub

What should you do when someone is ghosting you?

It’s OK to admit you’re shaken up. It sucks that someone you cared about seems to care so little about you that they couldn't even show you the respect of a simple goodbye or a breakup. It’s also reasonable that you’d feel robbed of closure. But while you may want an explanation, you likely won’t get one. The sooner you accept this, the better.

“Ghosting is usually a clear indication that they are unwilling or unable to give you the closure you’re seeking,” Bradbury says. “Perhaps they don’t know the answers themselves, or can’t communicate their feelings properly. Either way, you’re unlikely to get a straight response.”

Remember that this is a them problem, not a you problem. Under no circumstances are you to send one of those long-ass texts or voicemails asking for a reason. Even if it feels good in the moment, you can then regret making yourself look needy and insecure.

“[I]t’s best to chalk it up to incompatibility and know that a better match is out there for you,” Bradbury adds.

Man staring at cell phone with look of disappointment

How do I avoid becoming a ghost? (In other words, how do I simply say goodbye?)

Look, we know being up-front isn't always easy. If you no longer like someone, or have other priorities, you may be tempted to ghost so you don’t say something that could hurt their feelings. But remember, ghosting itself can be hurtful to the other person. And there’s no “nice” way to ghost, Manly says.

So what can you do instead? It’s simple: If the person doesn’t present a threat to you, communicate honestly, kindly, clearly, and briefly. There’s no need to drag things out.

“If you’ve gone on only one or two dates with a person, it’s fine to end the connection via text with a simple, 'Thank you, but I’m shifting directions.' There doesn’t need to be any follow-up or back and forth,” Manly says, adding that a simple text shows niceness while closing the door.

“If the relationship was more significant, it’s important to have a conversation with the person out of simple respect,” Manly adds. “Generally, it’s ideal to meet in person or have a phone chat; the goal is to let the other person have a sense of closure while also showing self-respect and other-respect.”

The bottom line: Be cool, and say something.

What do I do if a ghost returns?

Also known as a haunting, a ghost sometimes reappears, seemingly out of nowhere.

If a ghost wants to reconnect, it’s up to you how to proceed. Be straightforward about your feelings. If you were hurt, say so. It’s okay, at this point, to ask for an explanation about what happened. You don’t need to pretend everything is OK. Pretending could give a ghost the green light to pull this shady move again down the road.

By the way, if you’re the one who wants to come back—perhaps to reconcile or just to apologize for disappearing (good man)—it’s fine to reach out when you know your intentions.

And while it's acceptable to allow a ghost back into your life if they offer a reasonable explanation for their disappearance, be cautious, notes Bradbury. Pay attention to their behavior and the circumstances surrounding their resurrection. Are they bored? Inconsistent? Looking for a sure thing?

“If you’re continually being ghosted and there’s no valid reason to be found, it’s not worth your time,” Bradbury adds. “Let your ghost fade into eternity.”

Headshot of Leslie Quander Wooldridge

Leslie Quander Wooldridge is a writer, editor, speaker, and coach whose articles have reached tens of millions of readers; find her at lesliequander.com .

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The Ultimate Guide To Ghosting: Why People Do It, How To Respond & More

Kelly Gonsalves

Your date from last weekend still hasn't texted you back about hanging out again. A promising new lead at work suddenly stopped responding after you shared your rates. The guy on Facebook Marketplace who offered to buy your old television just never came to pick it up, and you never heard from him again.

It comes in many different forms, but the experience of being ghosted is universal. And most of us would probably agree: ghosting sucks.

What is ghosting?

Ghosting is when someone stops responding to messages and disappears from a relationship without explanation, usually in the context of dating. The term can also be used for any situation where a person abruptly stops communicating or showing up, such as when a friend starts ignoring your texts or when an employee just stops showing up to work without ever formally quitting.

"Ghosting exists on a spectrum and can happen at literally any part of dating, from disappearing from a chat on a dating app and unmatching, to leaving your text messages on 'Read' after a date, to cutting off all communication with you after years of dating," explains sex and dating coach Myisha Battle, M.S. "All of this is ghosting behavior."

Many relationship experts discourage ghosting because of the way it affects the person being ghosted. "It leaves the other person to guess at what they did or didn't do to cause you to ditch them. That guessing is the specter that looms in people's lives after a disappearance," Battle tells mbg.

According to clinical psychologist Carla Marie Manly, Ph.D. , that lack of closure can trigger feelings of uncertainty, confusion, anxiety, and even reduced self-esteem in the person being ghosted. "In general, ghosting is disrespectful and tends to perpetuate patterns of dismissiveness and avoidance," she says.

13 examples of ghosting:

  • Ignoring or choosing not to respond to someone's texts or emails indefinitely
  • Leaving someone's text messages on "Read"...forever
  • Going on a date with someone and then never speaking with them again, despite them trying to follow up
  • Unmatching with someone on a dating app in the middle of a conversation without explanation
  • No longer responding to a friend or someone you'd been talking with regularly, even when they reach out multiple times trying to get in touch
  • Suddenly cutting off all communication with someone after dating for months or even years
  • Intentionally responding slowly, briefly, or noncommittally to texts so they eventually stop reaching out
  • Setting up a date with someone and just not showing up, with no explanation, follow-ups, or apology
  • Interviewing someone for a job and then never letting them know if they didn't get the position
  • Quitting your job without telling your employer
  • Suddenly stopping showing up to your sessions with a therapist, personal trainer, etc., without telling them that you're no longer wanting to work with them
  • Scheduling an appointment but then never showing up, without warning or explanation
  • Sending someone a DM but then never saying anything else after they respond

How the term became popularized.

The phenomenon of ghosting has likely been around since the dawn of time. Consider the cavewomen who had to start getting choosy with their sexual partners because they didn't want to birth a child with someone who could disappear without a trace shortly thereafter, or the lovelorn man in Colonial times pouring his heart out in handwritten letters to some distant lover, only to never hear back. Many a '90s rom-com, too, featured a despondent leading lady hovering over a landline telephone for days on end, waiting hopelessly for the guy who took her out a few days ago to call her up and ask her out again. (He often never did.)

While the behavior itself isn't new, the term "ghosting" itself rose to popularity in the early 2010s. In 2015, after online tabloids ran headlines about how Charlize Theron "ghosted" Sean Penn , the New York Times even wrote an explainer on the term, calling it "the ultimate silent treatment." Merriam-Webster added it to the dictionary in 2017.

It makes sense that ghosting would get a lot of people talking around this time: With technology rapidly transforming the speed and ease with which people could communicate with one another, ghosting behavior likely felt even more pronounced than ever. While mailing a letter just to reject someone may have been legitimately too much time and effort back in the day, the fact that people were still disappearing on each other without a trace even now that a kinder closure was literally just a few quick button taps away...harsh!

Dating apps were also just beginning to enter into the cultural mainstream, with Tinder launching in 2012. (Though to be fair, what's often thought of as the world's first online dating site, Match.com , launched in 1995, and we can only imagine people ghosted one another as much then as they do on today's best dating apps .)

In a world where it can feel like you have nearly endless potential people to chat with, it's become easier than ever to start talking to someone regardless of whether you're actually interested in continuing the conversation with them over time. People start to feel like just pictures on your screen rather than real-life humans whose feelings you have to care about. And more starts with less follow-through (and less care) unfortunately means more ghosting.

Why do people ghost?

There are so many reasons why people ghost , but here are a few of the main ones specific to dating:

They've moved on, and they don't care enough about the other person to tell them.

In most cases, people ghost because they're no longer interested in pursuing a relationship with the other person. Instead of telling them that upfront, they go for the easiest and most convenient route: just stop responding.

"Ghosting arises due to a lack of concern and empathy for others," Manly explains, and she notes that this is true in most ghosting situations. It's selfish, passive-aggressive behavior that is grounded, as Manly notes, in dismissiveness and avoidance.

They got too busy or stressed.

The other most common reason for ghosting? They just have a lot going on in their own life.

"Sometimes when people ghost us, it's because they are focused on other things or may be isolating themselves because they are feeling depressed," marriage and family therapist Patrice N. Douglas, LMFT , previously told mbg. "Everything isn't always about us, so we can't panic right away."

They may honestly just be too busy at the moment and distracted by other life happenings, Manly notes, such as work stress, mental health issues, or other challenges. And sometimes a person may forget to respond to a text initially or plan to respond to it later when they have time or energy, but then enough time passes that they feel like there's no point in saying anything anymore.

They're worried about hurting the other person's feelings.

In some cases, people ghost because they don't want to hurt the other person's feelings, Manly adds. But if that's why you're choosing to ghost someone, the truth is that it's counterproductive: "Unfortunately, being ghosted often causes far more irritation and pain than straightforward 'I'm moving on' or 'We're not a good fit' comments might create," she says.

They're uncomfortable with hard conversations.

Ghosting can also happen when someone is just anxious about ending the relationship because they struggle with hard conversations in general. According to licensed counselor Shae Ivie-Williams, LPC, BC-TMH, CCTP , people with certain backgrounds may be more likely to ghost: "[They] may not want to have those hard conversations because maybe their family didn't have hard conversations when they were young," she previously told mbg. "And so having those types of conversations involves vulnerability." 

But even though people may find it uncomfortable to reject someone, they may be making it worse by opting to ghost: "It also doesn't feel great to be the ghoster!" Battle points out. "Most people experience some amount of guilt for ghosting."

She adds, "I have coached people on how to communicate more directly rather than ghost. Most of the time it feels harder initially, but much better afterward compared to ghosting. I've even had cases where the other person has thanked my client for not ghosting them!"

It's a power play.

Sometimes a person may choose to ghost someone because they enjoy the sense of power it gives them over the situation, says Manly. This may especially be true if the "ghoster" feels like they were wronged by the other person or if they just think the other person is a jerk, loser, or otherwise unworthy of their time. It can also just be an attempt to feel powerful, at another person's expense.

They're concerned for their own safety.

Last but not least, both Manly and Battle note there's actually one valid reason for ghosting: fearing for one's safety. "If a person is afraid that they are in an emotionally or physically dangerous situation, ghosting is often the safest exit strategy," says Manly. A person may be concerned that the other person may respond poorly to rejection by lashing out, and so leaving quietly feels like the safer thing to do.

How long does it take before it's ghosting?

There's not a set amount of time it takes before it's considered ghosting, and it doesn't matter how long you've known the person. If they stop communicating with you completely without a word despite your follow-ups, it's ghosting.

As far as how long to wait before moving on and assuming the ghost is officially gone, it depends. "If it is someone you recently met, it can be two weeks before it's time to move on. If it's a longer relationship, it ranges up to a month," says Douglas. "It truly depends on the circumstances around what was occurring before the ghosting occurred. Sometimes people just need space, and it's up to your comfort level of the time frame you want to allow for space."

Do people ever come back after ghosting?

Yes, people can sometimes come back after ghosting. This is sometimes referred to as getting  zombied , i.e., someone first ghosts you but then reappears out of nowhere as if nothing happened.

Even if a person does come back after ghosting, it's important to get clarity as to why they disappeared and why they're suddenly coming back before you decide whether to let them back into your life. They may have just honestly been busy at the time of their disappearance and earnestly want to give it another go dating you, or they could just be bored and lonely and using you to fill the time—with all intentions of ghosting you again later.

Should I reach out to the person who ghosted me?

You absolutely can! If the person who ghosted you is someone you're legitimately interested in or whose disappearance has really hurt you, you can reach out to them to ask what's going on. They may respond and give you a good explanation for their behavior, and if they're genuinely interested in you, you may even be able to pick the relationship back up.

"If you ghosted because of a personal reason that you just didn't know how to address with the other person, you can try to open the conversation again and let them know what happened," says Battle. "Starting from a place of honesty and vulnerability could help reanimate a previously ghosted connection."

However, there's also a chance that you reach out to the person who ghosted you, and they continue to be unresponsive. If nothing else, that will tell you all you need to know about how that person really feels about you.

Is ghosting abuse?

"Ghosting can certainly be emotionally abusive in nature," Manly says. "Especially if the relationship was deeply connective or promises were made, the person who was ghosted can certainly suffer from significant anxiety and depression related to the ghosting incident."

Is ghosting ever OK?

Yes, ghosting is OK in situations where you're concerned about the other person lashing out at you for rejecting them. "In cases where people are jerks to you, cross your boundaries in some way, or display characteristics that feel unsafe for you to engage with them again, ghosting might be the best option," Battle says.

How to respond to ghosting.

How you respond to ghosting depends on what you want out of the situation and out of your relationship with this person.

If you're not interested in this person anymore, just leave it be and move on. You really don't need to say anything to them, and the sooner you can get them out of your head , the better.

If this is a person you are still interested in dating or having in your life, just reach out again one more time and ask what's going on. Be direct.

Here are some things you can say:

  • "Hey! Haven't heard from you in a while. Are you still down to hang out again?"
  • "Hey, stranger. I miss you! Everything OK?"
  • "Hey, are you still interested in getting to know each other? It's OK if not—just wanna know what's going on!"
  • "Hey! I haven't heard from you in a while. I've been enjoying hanging out and would love to get together again. Where's your head at?"
  • "Hi, I know you've been really busy lately, but can you let me know if everything's OK?"

How they respond will tell you everything you need to know. If they're still interested, they'll respond positively—maybe they'll apologize, maybe they'll have a legitimate explanation for why they've been unresponsive lately, and ideally they'll show some indication that they want to keep getting to know you. If they're not interested, this will be their opportunity to let you know. And if they don't respond again—well, that's them letting you know they're truly done.

The takeaway.

When in doubt, talk it out. If you think someone is ghosting you, reach out one more time and ask them directly about what's going on and whether they're still interested in pursuing things with you. If you don't hear from them, it's time to move on.

And remember: While rejection stings, ghosting is almost always much more about the ghost's issues than it is about issues with the person being ghosted. In fact, getting ghosted says essentially nothing about you.

"Having someone ghost you says infinitely more about them than it does about you," spiritual teacher Monica Berg writes at mbg . "You're getting a firsthand look at how this person, who just days ago was so marvelous, actually handles their emotions, your emotions, and difficult circumstances in general. 'Runs away at any sign of conflict' typically doesn't make anyone's list of dream qualities in a partner, and you got to see that clearly and upfront."

And if you're the one doing the ghosting? Unless there are safety concerns at play, please know there are much better ways to reject people . Be brave, be kind, and be upfront. Don't ghost. 

Kelly Gonsalves author page.

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University , and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed , among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter


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ghosting a girl means

What is ghosting and what does it mean when someone ghosts you? The dating term explained

  • By Alana Moorhead
  • Published : 20:13, 31 Jul 2019
  • Updated : 17:41, 6 Sep 2023

WHAT does the dating term "ghosting" mean and how does it fit into modern dating?

It's a controversial tactic but it's starting to become more common and it came to attention again when Sherif on Love Island 2019 revealed he had used the move himself - here's the lowdown.

 Ghosting is a term used in dating which is becoming more and more common - here's what we know

What is ghosting and what does it mean when someone 'ghosts' you?

Ghosting is an expression used in dating terms and it's when someone suddenly cuts all ties and communication with the person they've been seeing.

The theory behind ghosting is that the person who is being ignored will just 'get the hint' and realise their partner is not interested in dating anymore so the subject should be left.

Anyone can be a ghoster, it's not specific to either gender, but people sometimes find the behaviour is related to a person's maturity and communication skills.

Many believe that ghosting is actually better for the person they're ignoring because they aren't hurting their feelings by telling them they don't want to date anymore.

But often ghosting just leaves the ghostee feeling confused and upset about the subject.

 The theory behind ghosting is fairly simple, it's when you ignore someone you've been on a date with because you're not interested instead of telling them directly

Where did the dating term come from?

It's true that the theory of ignoring someone has been around for a long time but the term ghosting was coined from the online dating culture we have today.

Since 2012, dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Elite Singles and Happn have become a lot more popular and they all give the impression that there is always someone else.

So the idea of ghosting seems appealing because there is always someone else to talk to or date.

 As online dating becomes more and more common people know they have someone else just around the corner so ghosting doesn't seem like an issue

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Sue Radford sparks pregnancy rumours as she hints at 'epic surprise' for Noel

Saturn skims your eyes to settle on one lucky name or number

Saturn skims your eyes to settle on one lucky name or number

I'm 26 & my wife’s 63 - we're trying for a baby, trolls say we're delusional

I'm 26 & my wife’s 63 - we're trying for a baby, trolls say we're delusional

How does it affect people.

Ghosting can actually have quite a serious impact on a person's mental health, claims PsychologyToday.com. 

The social rejection apparently can activate the same pain in the brain as physical pain, fortunately this pain can be treated with medication but the psychological distress can be more difficult to heal.

Mental health professionals argue that the silent treatment is a form of emotional cruelty as it leaves you powerless to the situation and you're unable to find out any answers.

So, next time you're thinking of ghosting anyone, think carefully about what you're doing.

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