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Relationships

3 Ways 'Ghosting' Undermines Your Emotional Health

How ghosting sabotages intimacy and forfeits growth.

Key points

  • Ghosting is a fear-driven choice than fosters emotion immaturity and chronic fears of intimacy.
  • Ghosting lowers emotional resilience, resulting in relationships that remain fragile and unstable.
  • Ghosting inflames feelings of guilt and shame that lower self-esteem and increase symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • End your ghosting cycle by being honest, talking out your feelings, expressing your concerns directly, and refraining from impulsive decision-making.
 Jack Sharp/Unsplash
Source: Jack Sharp/Unsplash

Unfortunately, the term “ghosting” continues to gain popularity, particularly on social media platforms and dating apps. You know the routine: you participate in a virtual conversation, it seems to be going well, and suddenly—poof!—the other person goes silent, disappearing into cyberspace and leaving you wondering: “What happened?”

Ghosting can happen in established relationships as well. For example, a young woman in one of my weekly therapy groups was ghosted by a man she had been dating for months. “He stopped responding to my texts or calls,” she shared with her group, “I feel so humiliated.” (See "7 Hurts That Never Heal.")

The emotional wreckage caused by ghosting

Ghosting is a cruel and cowardly way to dissolve any relationship, a fear-driven choice that causes the ghostee to endure waves of hurt, insecurity, and self-doubt. Rather than confront difficult feelings, the ghoster abandons the relationship and flees like a frightened child. As a result, he remains emotionally immature, preferring to run and hide rather than confront his own uncomfortable feelings.

Sadly, many ghosters defend their choices by saying that they didn’t want to “hurt the other person,” a bogus claim since ghosting causes such profound pain. It’s downright delusional to think that abandoning someone without an explanation is an act of kindness.

How ghosting hurts you

Emotional maturity in relationships is driven by successfully confronting and resolving frustration. Each time you assert yourself and work through frustration with a partner or friend, intimacy grows, trust strengthens, and the relationship becomes fortified to weather all kinds of challenges.

Ghosting undermines emotional maturation by abandoning frustration rather than confronting. When a person relies on ghosting to avoid conflict, they are very likely to develop a chronic fear of intimacy.

Here are three ways ghosting is hurting you:

1. Ghosting Fosters Emotional Immaturity

It takes a long time to establish healthy intimacy with others. You have to work through frustration, miscommunication, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. Without developing these communication tools, you can’t sustain lasting intimacy.

2. Ghosting Lowers Resilience

The process of getting close is rarely smooth sailing. It requires a degree of emotional resilience to stay connected when the going gets tough. Ghosting weakens connection, resulting in fragile and unstable relationships.

3. Ghosting Damages Self-Esteem

Ghosters are rarely proud of their choices. As they continue to abandon others, their self-worth plummets. They feel guilty and ashamed. As a result, they are more likely to suffer bouts of depression and loneliness.

Five ways to break your ghosting cycle

1. Be honest with yourself

If you feel the urge to ghost someone, identify the feelings that you’re having. Trepidation? Irritation? Fear? Tune into those feelings and explore them.

2. Analyze your feelings

Locate the source of these feelings. Are they projections? Are they a result of past trauma or anxiety about the future? Do you have a pattern of fleeing relationships?

3. Share your feelings

Process your feelings with a friend or therapist. If you really want to challenge this pattern, group therapy is the best modality for resolving intimacy issues by providing a place to work through the fear and conflicts that emerge in relationships. (See "5 Ways Group Therapy Empowers You in Relationships.")

4. Be transparent

Once you have gained better self-understanding, instead of fleeing, share your thoughts and feelings with your friend or partner. Be assertive and mindful of feelings, show respect for the relationship.

5. Avoid being impulsive

Contain the impulse to run—don’t act on it! Get comfortable with discomfort, and focus on listening and sharing. When you learn to process difficult feelings and express them directly, you strengthen your authentic self and foster more mature and rewarding relationships.

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