Why You've Been Ghosted

Four reasons why your relationship may have ended abruptly.

Posted May 30, 2018

You meet someone you’re into, and you’re pretty sure that they are into you too. You chat, and maybe even meet up in person a few times. Suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, they’re gone. You quell your anxieties, “It hasn’t been that long.” But as the hours go by, you begin to wonder what happened. Not before long self-doubt enters the picture. “What did I do?” You might find yourself rereading what you wrote, reflecting on what you said, and reviewing your every move. This unexpected event has you more preoccupied than you were before. With racing thoughts and a slew of emotions, it begins to haunt you.

If this sounds familiar, odds are you’ve been ghosted. Abrupt endings to relationships are not at all new, but in the past, common in-person interactions made it less likely to leave a guessing game of causes. This type of sudden ending can indeed happen with face-to-face connections, such as after a few dates, but can be particularly confusing when the parameters of the relationship are predominantly or solely electronic. Hence, digital distance may make it a bit easier to ghost someone today than in the past. Further, the virtual void may cause confusion about whether something is simply off or whether the relationship is technically over:

Did they run out of battery?

Do they have a poor connection?

Are they swamped with work?

Was there an accident?

Did they meet someone else?

Was it something I said?

Dating back to 2006, the concept of ghosting is still rather new and, perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a lack of empirical research on the phenomenon. Nevertheless, it is possible that ghosting may be on the rise. In a 2014 poll of one thousand American adults, 81% said they had not been ghosted while 83% claimed they had not ghosted someone. Recognizing the potential lack of familiarity with the phrase, 5% shared they were unsure of whether they were ghosted while 6% noted they were unsure if they had ghosted someone. Two years later, Plenty of Fish polled 800 millennial daters between the ages of 18 and 33 and 78% of respondents shared they had been ghosted. Abrupt endings may not be new, but modern communication in dating may make the digital disappearing act much easier. With ghosting on the rise, the number of people left dazed and confused may be as well. But what exactly causes a person to ghost someone?

Confrontation is awkward.

Breakups are not fun and saying goodbye is often hard. Many people lack the skills to be able to have a communicate effectively. Sharing that it might be too much too soon, interest may be lost, a boundary might have been crossed, or feelings were hurt could be tough talks to have. If someone lacks the confidence and ability to communicate effectively, they may see difficult discussions and arguments as synonymous. Therefore, to avoid confrontation altogether, simply put, people avoid people. Individuals who find such communication challenging may have a distorted view of what the best tactics for relationship closure may be. Further, communicating on this level often requires a vulnerability that some people are unwilling or unable to provide to others. Hence, people who ghost may see it as an easy and simple way that is less painful than facing the facts

You’re intimidating.

When trying to impress a potential partner, people may tend to inflate details about themselves in order to enhance their attractiveness. Stemming from the potentially innocent intention to intrigue a partner, when paired with insecurity, the praise or validation earned from a slight lie could cause an increase in their ego’s appetite. When dating online, using these white lies could be an easily acceptable and slippery slope. One fib after the next and before you know it, their flexting has created a totally new, yet fake, person. A person may realize their boasting or false portrayals have gone too far, but they may also see it as too late to reveal the truth.

They don’t see it going anywhere.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Freedman and colleagues explored how a person’s implicit theories of relationships could affect ghosting. Destiny beliefs occur when an individual believes strongly that they will know whether or not a relationship will last whereas growth beliefs occur when an individual believes that relationships have the potential to grow over time. Individuals with destiny beliefs may have fixed mindsets in which there is little room to budge if they come to the conclusion that the relationship lacks potential whereas an individual with growth beliefs may see the promise of improving and growing together. Respondents with stronger destiny beliefs were 43.4% more likely to consider using ghosting in general and 63.4% more likely to see ghosting as an acceptable way to end a long-term relationship. Therefore, people may vary in how they view the promise of a relationship. If an individual holds stronger destiny beliefs and has come to the conclusion that the relationship is not meant to be they may see further communication as a waste of time whereas ghosting may be quick and efficient.

They’re willing to gamble.

According to a Plenty of Fish poll, about 30% of singles admit to ghosting in case a better match comes along. This could be as simple as stalling on dinner plans, but could also happen when trying to weigh the pros and cons of taking a relationship to the next stage. Individuals who ghost others, for this reason, may have a “grass is always greener” perspective when it comes to relationships and could also be fearful of commitment.