Growing up, I thought my dating life as an adult would look like Carrie Bradshaw’s. I’d go out to fancy dinners and shows while wearing fabulous shoes. Even if the date didn’t lead to anything serious, I’d leave emotionally unscathed with a fun story to tell my girlfriends over brunch.
Unfortunately, I don’t have Carrie’s shoe budget, and my dating life prior to meeting my fiancé was less of a romantic montage and more of a haunted roller coaster.
As we all know, any good haunted house has a few ghosts — and I met a few of them while looking for a long-term partner. And no, I’m not talking about meeting spirits from the past, I’m talking about dating people who engaged in the practice of ghosting.
So that we’re all on the same page, to ghost someone is to end a relationship by abruptly ending all communication. Often someone on the receiving end of ghosting is left feeling blind-sided and insecure.
Types of ghosting
While ghosting may be the original uncomfortable and confusing breakup, there are a few renditions of ghosting that also don’t feel great. Here are a few other not-so-great dating behaviors you might be familiar with:
- Breadcrumbing: This dating behavior is when someone is engaging with you just enough to keep you interested. Unfortunately, these morsels of communication lead to nowhere but disappointment.
- Haunting: Someone who’s haunting is a person who ghosted and then shows back up. This person may have fallen off the face of the earth and then a few weeks later slides back into your DMs. Remember, once a ghost, likely always a ghost.
- Orbiting: Orbiting is like a lite version of ghosting. Someone who orbits you stops communication with you like someone who ghosts but continues to engage with your social media.
- Situationship: If you’re in a situationship, you’re dating someone out of convenience for your situation. Maybe you have four classes with someone or you have a new cute neighbor. There’s nothing particularly special about this person, but they’re someone to date. In the beginning, situationships can feel fun, but they often fizzle quickly.
- Benching: If someone is keeping you on the bench, that means they’re keeping you at bay with other “dating contenders” in case their current MVP doesn’t work out. Benching often leads to comparison which tends to have few positive outcomes.
- The slow fade: While ghosting is an abrupt end to a relationship, the slow fade is when one person slowly disconnects from the other. Instead of breaking up with someone, a slow fader will try to slowly leave until there’s nothing resembling a relationship left.
Why do people ghost?
Now that we know just how many different ways we can be ghosted, it may be helpful to reflect on why people ghost in the first place. The easy response might be to say that people who ghost are just jerks who don’t care about people, but I think that may be a bit of an unfair generalization.
I’d be lying if I said that I never considered ghosting someone to avoid telling them that I didn’t think they were a good match.
People who ghost often report feeling anxiety and discomfort when considering having to tell someone they’re not interested in dating them. These emotions may be informed by communication patterns in previous relationships or their own experiences of being dumped.
In the moment, ghosting may feel like the easiest and best option. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Those who are ghosted often say the experience felt confusing, humiliating, and hurtful. That said, even if ghosting feels like a good option in the moment, it more than likely isn’t.
How to stop ghosting and start communicating
If you have a history of ghosting, know that it isn’t too late to change your behavior. First, I recommend trying to understand the emotions you have that are leading you to ghost in the first place.
Whether you have anxiety or fear about breaking off a relationship, it’s important to process that emotion. Processing can be done by journaling, talking with a trusted friend, or seeking the support of a trained mental health professional.
Once you understand your emotional experience, your next step is to learn how to communicate your needs. It’s normal to realize you’re no longer interested in dating another person. When you come to that understanding, it’s important to communicate with that person clearly and respectfully.
A way to do this is with assertive communication. This means using I statements and setting clear boundaries. This might sound like saying, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, however, I’m not seeing a future in this relationship. I wish you all the best.”
While it can sound harsh, most people prefer to have more information than to be left in the dark.
How to respond to being ghosted
Unfortunately, you may not be a ghoster, but you may be someone who’s been ghosted. If you’re in the midst of being ghosted, it can be hard to know how to respond. My first recommendation would be to send a final note of communication to create some closure.
This might sound like, “Hi, I realize I haven’t heard from you in a while. It seems like our time together has come to an end and I wish you well.” After you’ve sent your final message, I recommend practicing radical acceptance.
Radical acceptance is a tool from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. When practicing radical acceptance, you can accept the situation you’re in with non-judgment. In the context of ghosting, this might look like acknowledging the pain you’re feeling while accepting that you can’t control the ghoster’s behavior.
At the end of the day, know that being ghosted says more about the ghoster than it does about you.