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Ghosting

What Is Ghosting?

Reviewed by Psychology Today Staff

Ghosting is abruptly ending communication with someone without explanation. The concept most often refers to romantic relationships but can also describe disappearances from friendships and the workplace.

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. Others believe that ghosting is emotionally troubling given that it offers no sense of closure.

How to Handle Being Ghosted

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The phenomenon of abruptly disappearing from people’s lives isn’t new–but it seems to be more common today. Technology has made ghosting an easy way to dissolve relationships. According to a 2018 study, approximately 25 percent of men and women reported having been ghosted in a romantic relationship, and 22 percent admitted to having ghosted someone else. The Federal Reserve even recognized the phenomenon in a 2018 report, in which employers reported being ghosted by employees in a tight labor market.

Why was I ghosted?

The reason for being ghosted often has a lot to do with the ghoster, rather than with the ghostee. Cutting off communication spares the individual from confrontation, taking responsibility, or engaging in the emotional labor of empathy—despite the benefit a conversation can provide. In effect, it is much more convenient to vanish.

Why do I feel so bad about being ghosted?

Being ghosted feels confusing because you don't know if the relationship is really over, or if there is a different reason for the person's absence. You may worry that something terrible has befallen the person. When you do realize the relationship is over, you have no idea what happened or what you did wrong. You feel that you are to blame.

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Why It’s Easy For Some People to Disappear

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The desire to avoid discomfort can apply to a wide range of situations. After flirting for a while, a man or woman may disappear rather than admit they’ve lost interest. Someone who feels mistreated by a friend might stop responding rather than confront them. A teenager who feels frustrated by a minimum wage job might spontaneously stop showing up to work instead of giving notice.

Do ghosters think that disappearing is a kinder end to a relationship?

When ghosters decide to leave a relationship, they factor in the time they invested and the level of engagement in the relationship. If, for example, the two parties dated once or twice, disappearing may seem to be a viable decision for the ghoster. They do not wish to lead the other person on, and they rationalize the departure as compassionate and reasonable.

Why do people think ghosting is acceptable?

Many cultures promote the idea of the soul mate or destiny beliefs, as evident in the classic Hollywood rom-com. Seeking the one and only partner for life is a fixed idea of how relationships should work, and it gives people the license to disappear from the face of the earth when a relationship is not up to their ideal. When a person does something for true love and what is their destiny, then it is okay to leave.

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