My ghost is named Tom.

He’s persistent, this ghost. He likes haunting my dreams, catching me off-guard in the milk-sweet land of sleep, slipping into my unconscious and rattling the cage of my brain. I dream he’s back in my life, unapologetic and unreformed, still cheating and gaslighting and drinking too much. In these dreams, I am still desperate for answers, asking him over and over why he vanished, why he gave up his flesh-and-blood self and became this ghost that — even after seven years, three new cities, countless dates and the love of a good man, the best I’ve ever known — I still can’t shake.

Ghosting (the term we’ve assigned to the sudden disappearance of a romantic interest) has become synonymous with modern romance: A 2016 Plenty of Fish survey revealed 78% of users had been ghosted. When I did my own Insta-investigation, I received dozens of responses, ranging from righteous indignation to extreme chill. “Rude but inescapable” seems to be the general agreement among those I spoke to about ghosting in the age of online dating.

It’s not that the dating “slow fade” is new (one girl told me she had a friend in high school who called it “two-weeking”: After hooking up with a girl, he’d ignore her entirely for two weeks — just long enough, he said, for her to get the picture), but technology has shifted the landscape by presenting a version of the world that feels both impossibly small and intoxicatingly large. One unreturned letter in the 1800s and you could warm yourself at night with the strong odds that he perished of scurvy; now, we’re able to see our ghosts out in the world, eating brunch, Instagram Story-ing the weird bird they saw on the walk to work. Combine that with the inherent dehumanization of online dating, in which complex individuals are reduced to swipeable avatars, and what we’ve created is a flourishing breeding ground for people for whom honest, direct communication feels not only unpalatable but unnecessary.

F. Diane Barth, a New York-based psychotherapist and the author of the new book I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women’s Lives, says that while ghosting as we understand it isn’t new, the way we have pathologized it is. “In the past, a person could stop calling or dropping by,” she says, “but now we have so many more ways of disconnecting from a person, like being unfriended or unfollowed.” Online dating also provides the comfort blanket of partial anonymity: There likely aren’t mutual friends to call you out on your callous behavior, nor shared physical spaces that force interaction. “Our communities are larger now,” says Barth, “so it’s entirely possible you might never, ever run into them again.”

The Anatomy of the Ghosted

Modern ghosting can impart a distinct and isolating feeling of shame for those who experience it. “People who have been ghosted often feel that they are the person who has done something wrong,” says Barth. “You’ve been dropped off the edge of the earth, which is very traumatic. You don’t think about how many other people this has happened to, but rather that there must be something wrong with you.”

Barth notes that shame is the brain’s natural reaction when “something or someone interrupts us in the middle of doing something we are enjoying.” Our natural instinct is to “undo the situation” so we can get back to that feeling of happiness. When we can’t — when we are, in fact, cut off completely from the source of the good feeling — we look for ways to explain away the bad feelings: She didn’t want to commit, he didn’t like my laugh. “No matter how you explain it to yourself, though,” writes Barth, “your psyche is trying to undo the sense of disruption of the good feelings. Shame is a reaction to having a circuit in your emotional system broken.”

Am I not funny? Do people not get my jokes?

It’s a very particular wound and one that is becoming inescapably familiar. Former online dater and ghostee Kelsey says her primary reaction to being ghosted was the feeling that she must be the problem. “We’re obsessed with fine-tuning and laboring over our superficial appearances (both in-person and online),” she says. “So when we’re ghosted, I think we often jump to trying to figure out what in that outer shell wasn’t well-received, and we let that disapproval soak into our inner layers that define us. We cycle through our insecurities. … Oh shit, did he not think that was funny? Am I not funny? Do people not get my jokes? Oh crap, is that what I’m giving off?

The shame is compounded by a feeling of being duped. Alexandra was ghosted by a guy she’d been dating for a few weeks. “On our first date, we talked for six hours straight and ended it in a moonlit make-out,” she says. “He talked about cooking together after we had sex in my kitchen. We went on mini field trips — to the beach! to the cliffs! — and had after-work check-ins where he’d call me on his way home to hear about my day. And then, one day, he went from telling me he was addicted to me to only speaking if spoken to. He would weasel out of committing to a plan. He would hit me with a ‘Hey!’ on the Sunday evening of a weekend where he’d assured me he would be seeing me.”

Eventually, she says, she’d had enough. “I told him I was an adult and needed planning, that I couldn’t just keep my schedule endlessly open for him on the off chance he was free. He apologized, promised he’d do better, promised we’d see each other with more regularity. But it dwindled until our interactions were reduced to him watching my Insta Stories while I was halfway across the world on a hiking trip.”

She’s now happily cohabitating with someone else but still has trouble shaking the experience. “I think he was dishonest about how he felt about me, which made me feel like a fool. And yet he didn’t have the strength to just tell me.”

The Anatomy of the Ghoster

To state the obvious: It’s rude, plain and simple, to fail to consider another person’s feelings. We’re talking preschool lessons, the golden rule. We all learned this. So why do the ghosts ghost?

“For me, the motivation was rooted in a strong aversion to being honest about my emotions, usually for fear of hurting feelings,” says Andy, reforming ghoster. “I found that it was easier to let silence do the talking than force myself to utter, ‘I had a nice time, but I don’t feel a connection’ or whatever you’re supposed to say.”

Others, like the man I have decided to spend my life with, are less apologetic. “It was the path of least resistance,” he says. “It was often because I’ve met someone else [Author’s note: It me.], and I’m just anticipating that awkward conversation and want to avoid it. When it’s someone you haven’t been dating long or you’ve been casual with, I think that there is this emerging establishment of a new norm, which is just — that’s now the way we break up with people. I do think that it’s kinder than telling someone you’re not interested in them or that you met someone better.”

He’s not alone in this; numerous people I spoke to said that in our dating universe, ghosting is both acceptable and even considerate. “It’s almost polite if the relationship was casual enough,” says Aubrey, a former ghoster and ghostee (now married). “There is something humiliating and patronizing in a dude I’ve gone out with twice ‘breaking up’ with me.”

Ghosting seems like a cop-out for people to avoid adult conversations.

Andy, turning over his new leaf, says he gives himself a pep talk before communicating his emotions to keep himself from ghosting. “The question I ask myself when the situation arises is: What’s the absolute worst thing that can happen after telling someone you don’t want to go out again? Maybe they’d be like ‘Fuck you!! You’re a sad pathetic loser! Boy bye.’ I can live with that.”

Barth agrees that some explanation is (almost) always better than none at all. “People say they ghost because ‘they didn’t want to hurt feelings.’ And yes, people who are broken up with directly will likely experience some hurt, but the thing about ghosting is that there’s no closure.” Ghosting, she says, leaves the person who was ghosted with the humiliating impression that whatever relationship they believed existed was all in their head, that they were not worth so much as a farewell text.

Julia, happily single and dating, made it a practice to always offer an explanation after a blind date called her out at a party six months later for not responding to her texts. “I had to sneak out of the party because she wouldn’t drop it,” she says. “I have a hard rule now that I always send a text to say if I don’t want to hang again. It’s awkward, but it saves the drama.”

When I was first dating in New York, I found myself making up excuses and dodging calls to avoid telling guys I didn’t want to see them again. At the time, I was terrified of seeming rude or unlikable, and the attention I received (whether wanted or not) felt like an affirmation that I was worthy and wouldn’t be alone forever. Eventually, the stress of trying to be likable while simultaneously dodging contact became absurd. A few friends and I collaborated on a standard text we’d send when we didn’t want to see someone again (please feel free to borrow, copyright not necessary, works for all genders, just trying to do the lord’s work): “Thanks for a great night! I didn’t feel any romantic energy between us, but I wish you all the best out there.”

Some (again, I’m MARRYING this man) argue that silence is, in fact, an answer of its own. “If you text someone once, twice, and they don’t respond — I mean, that is a response. That speaks very loudly. You just don’t want to hear it.”

The Anatomy of Closure

But the problem with silence is that it leaves a deep, dark hole — one it is all too easy to fill with a foggy combination of insecurity, self-loathing and confusion.

Lauren was platonically ghosted by someone she considered one of her closest friends. “I literally did almost everything with her,” she tells me. “And then one day, she just quit calling and texting and responding to me. And then she unfollowed me on all social. … It was heartbreaking.” There were signs, in hindsight, that this woman had a callous streak; still, Lauren said, she’s unable to come up with any explanation for her behavior, and years later, it still feels like a betrayal. “I feel like I’m a pretty nice and reasonable person, so if something were wrong, I feel as though she should have discussed it with me,” she said. “Ghosting seems like a cop-out for people to avoid adult conversations.”

In the absence of closure, what we are left with is a bewildering array of questions — questions that, it’s important to remember, might never be answered even if the relationship had ended on our own terms. “Relationships are always two-sided, and we can’t know everything that is going on in the other person,” reminds Barth. “If you’ve asked for closure and they haven’t been able to provide it, you’re going to stay stuck if you keep asking. You need to give up the idea that it can be solved.”

Barth recommends talking openly to friends about your experience. “Keeping [ghosting] to yourself increases the feeling of hurt and pain and isolation,” she says. “The more you can talk about it, the more you can get feedback that will help you process it.” Building this support system can also remind you of all the connections you do have: strong, beautiful friendships, a loving family, coworkers who respect you — relationships that rely not on superficialities, but on another person seeing you fully and embracing who you really are. “You need to work really hard to remember that it isn’t about you,” says Barth. “The reason that someone [ghosted] — it’s their difficulty in having to be honest.”

After multiple ghostings through online dating, Kelsey deleted her apps. Getting over being ghosted was going to require a new outlook, she realized. “It took some time and a lot of distraction, but I was finally able to ask myself the underlying question — why were these strangers making me feel bad about myself? Why was I giving up my sense of worth as a companion entirely to this pool of bachelors? Why was my vulnerability extending to all aspects of self, instead of just limiting it to what it actually was — the viability of compatibility with this particular individual?”

When she did start dating again, she says, it felt completely different. “I wasn’t checking the app constantly. I wasn’t eager to swipe and double-tap and labor over the wittiest retort. I didn’t feel the need to calculate the perfect time between responses and, most importantly, I didn’t fill the idle time with all of the reasons I had come to believe he thought I wasn’t worth it. I went out on dates and gave myself one rule of my own — hang out with guys if it sounds fun, and if it doesn’t sound fun, then don’t.”

And when she wasn’t interested? “I would tough it up and politely decline a follow-up date,” she says. “I did that both in-person and over texts, and both are uncomfortable but important. And every guy I did that to replied with appreciation and understanding.”

My ghost and I dated for eight years, and then we didn’t. Tom stopped coming home at night, stopped answering the phone and moved all of his belongings out of our apartment while I was out of town. It wasn’t as linear as all that, of course — he’d call crying or show up unexpectedly and then disappear again over the course of a few months — but when he finally did leave for good, when I found out he had been sleeping with his best friend’s girlfriend, the closest I ever got to an explanation was, “I just can’t do this anymore.”

He’s still out there — married, balding, in the city where I left him — but we haven’t spoken since. I do not imagine he ever thinks of me. I hate that I am the one left with these questions, although maybe what I am really left with is simply my own obstinate feeling that I was owed more than what I got. I have filled the space he left behind with narratives I wrote to suit my own purposes, but the truth is, humans are just bad sometimes. We do bad things — things we said we’d never do. Sometimes, the simplest, kindest thing you can do is try to explain why.

Illustrations by Gabrielle Lamontagne.

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  • First to comment on my own story, lame, but hooooboy this art!!!!

  • Adrianna

    Am I the only one who refuses to believe that this is a contemporary dating problem? It’s just heightened, because we are communicating with more people and keeping track of whether or not someone responded to a text or DM. Its easier to forget whether or not someone called back – answering machines aren’t really physical records.

    I’ve had guys ghost, and I took it as a sign that I should forget about them and move forward. If someone can’t handle texting me back when I try to make plans, they wouldn’t be able to handle a relationship.

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    damn girl, tom sounds like a major dick. BULLET DODGED. on a brighter note, congrats on your engagement!!

  • Something I’ve found really helpful with dealing with these kinds of things is to not follow dates on social media, at least until you’re more established. Unless you were friends first or met through Twitter/Instagram etc., to me it just doesn’t seem worth it. Partly it’s because i’m sure that if I follow them early on, I’ll undoubtedly find a comment or picture that makes me second-guess them – as awfully superficial as that is. Secondly – their accounts probably aren’t that interesting anyway!

    When things ended with a guy I’d met on Tinder after about 3 months, it was actually really liberating to not have to go through social media and ‘unfollow’ or ‘block’ – or be taunted by posts of the cool stuff he was doing. He ended it in person, we said goodbye, never spoke or saw each other again and that was that. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been in a ghosting situation.

    Might not work for everyone of course but worth a try if you find yourself regularly checking up on exes…

    • Adrianna

      Your comment reminded me that I think we get way more invested more quickly through social media. It feels like we’re seeing this person more often than we are because we see their social media posts. Both a couple of friends and I concocted scenarios where we felt entitled to more attention because we spent too much time on their Facebooks or Instagrams. (note: I was much younger)

      • It’s strange how much that access can influence our feelings and perceptions, even though social media is so curated.
        I also think it’s good to ‘miss each other’ a bit at the beginning, which is hard to do when you’re able to follow their every move! I like having distance from their daily goings-on, because it means we have more to talk about when we see each other. I already notice with my friends how often someone’s story gets interrupted by someone else saying ‘oh yeah I saw you did that on Instagram.’

        And then there’s just the habit aspect: it’s hard enough to suddenly deal with no longer talking regularly and making plans, let alone culling the habit of checking their updates. If you never did it in the first place, you can’t miss it!

        • Adrianna

          I started dating my long term partner in 2011, and I was already cognizant of these issues. We coordinated our first date via FB messenger, but I made it a conscious decision not to actually have a conversation or get to know him through text or FB. I think a lot of the perils of online dating spur from the fact that chemistry and connections are still built through seemingly mundane conversations about cold brew and sunburns.

    • Susanne

      This so much…and i wish more people would realize how much Insta-stalking influences your perception of someone. I have a friend that does this…scrutinizing a guy’s family/friends and lifestyle and judging his ex’s before she’s even been on one date with them lol. To me it just seems like too much information to know about someone before you’ve even met…whats left to talk about at that point? Plus you run the risk of pulling the “yeah, i saw that!” in response to something they tell you by accident lol.

      And i agree, if you don’t follow them, there’s no room for you to wonder why they’re out at bar on a Saturday night and why they didn’t invite or want to hang out with you instead.

      • Completely. I know some people feel safer if they’ve ‘vetted’ the person first on social media, particularly if it’s a stranger they’ve met through an app, and I do understand that attitude… but for me, I would rather just pick a public spot, let people know where I am, and lean into the mystery of it!
        I dated a few people in New York before I met my boyfriend with very little success, but I was able to enjoy almost every date because it’s fun to discover people’s stories over an hour or two of conversation. Unless they’re a total jerk, but I feel like a very curated social media profile won’t reveal that much more than your initial conversations…

      • missmg

        I agree with this and am definitely guilty of finding out wayyyy too much information before hand even with people I am currently dating – will try and stop. I also find that unfollowing exes on instagram does so much for your mental health, you DO NOT NEED to see what they are doing without you its just unnecessary hurt. Ignorance can be bliss.

  • Hope

    I think ghosting is fine unless you’ve established that you’re “in” (so Tom is a major douchebag).

    You can’t ever know the events that led up to a ghosting. The only conclusion you can draw is that they aren’t interested in seeing you again, which you don’t have to take personally, since you don’t know the exact reasoning. Maybe every guy that ghosted me immediately got back together with his ex! Maybe they all moved to Portland!

    I just don’t internalize it anymore, especially since 99% of the time I want to end things with someone it’s because of my own personal stuff, not because they are “less than” in some way.

  • K

    There’s ghosting and ghosting. If someone you have never met stops messaging you over Tinder, so what? If you have been on one date and they never get back in touch, same. If you have been dating for a bit, or if you are in some kind of relationship, then yes ghosting is the coward’s way out, and you should have more consideration for the other person.

    • Kiks

      Agreed. I saw someone saying they had slept with a Tinder date and then got “ghosted” afterward. I was like dude that’s called a one-night stand…

      • Imaiya Ravichandran

        but arent one-night stands only fun if both people are on the same page about it lasting one night? i’d be hurt too!

        • Kiks

          I suppose, but if you’ve just met the person that’s just another first date that happened to end in sex. They have no obligation to make further contact. I am not saying it wouldn’t be upsetting in some instances, I just don’t consider it ghosting.

      • Alex

        Agreed too! Completely different than the author’s story of being ghosted after a 8 years relationship. 8 years! That’s not ghosting, that’s plain and simple cowardice. I don’t know if I would be as polite as the author when writing about him…

    • Kattigans

      My ex-boyfriend on and off for almost 6 years ghosted me when we were back on. This was in college and I was devastated. One day we’re talking about living together after college when I moved back home bc I got a job in the bay area where he was living and where we’re from. A month before I graduate he completely goes AWOL. No replies to texts, no call backs, no messages returned. NOTHING. I finally get a response 3 days before grad day (which he was supposed to be at) and he lies straight thru his teeth. Ask him whats going on and nothing but casual lies about losing his phone (??), busy with work and whatever. He’s different tho in the way he spoke to me and my gut knew something was off. I tell him to call me when he wants to be honest. Never hear from him again. 3 weeks later, I’ve moved back to Oakland and get a text from one of my friends that she saw him and a girl out at a restaurant that we used to frequent together. From some deep insta stalking by other ppl bc at this point in time I’d been blocked, I found out he was back together with a girl he briefly dated in between me and him being together. When I reach out again asking for answers. NOTHING. No response.

      Conclusion: It’s been 4 years and this entire event still haunts me. Even with a new boyfriend in the picture who I love very much. I have regularly occurring nightmares, where I wake up in sweat pools, about him and the new gf (they’re still together). I once saw him on public transit and hid. Its pathetic in so many ways but I’ve had to make peace that some ghosts just never go away.

    • Kattigans

      Oh wow, so true. My ex-boyfriend on and off for almost 6 years ghosted me when we were back on. This was in college and I was devastated. One day we’re talking about living together after college when I moved back home bc I got a job in the bay area where he was living and where we’re from. A month before I graduate he completely goes AWOL. No replies to texts, no call backs, no messages returned. NOTHING. I finally get a response 3 days before grad day (which he was supposed to be at) and he lies straight thru his teeth. Ask him whats going on and nothing but casual lies about losing his phone (??), busy with work and whatever. He’s different tho in the way he spoke to me and my gut knew something was off. I tell him to call me when he wants to be honest. Never hear from him again. 3 weeks later, I’ve moved back to Oakland and get a text from one of my friends that she saw him and a girl out at a restaurant that we used to frequent together. From some deep insta stalking by other ppl bc at this point in time I’d been blocked, I found out he was back together with a girl he briefly dated in between me and him being together. When I reach out again asking for answers. NOTHING. No response.

      Conclusion: It’s been 4 years and this entire event still haunts me. Even with a new boyfriend in the picture who I love very much. I have regularly occurring nightmares, where I wake up in sweat pools, about him and the new gf (they’re still together). I once saw him on public transit and hid. Its pathetic in so many ways but I’ve had to make peace that some ghosts just never go away.

  • Katelyn Hegarty

    Thank you for writing this piece. I feel like I got closure from the ghostees in this as well as a weight lifted from me. That was therapy. Thank you for helping me. Just thank you, thank you, thank you. x

  • Liza

    Thank you thank you! I swear manrepeller reads my mind. I’m 22 living in NYC and was casually dating this finance bro since New Years. We were hanging out every weekend up until two weeks ago when we were with him and his douchey friend who kept trying to hit on me. I got a bit of a weird vibe from that but everything had still seemed ok with my dude. Anyways, flash forward to this past weekend when I texted him and got no response. I kept freaking out wondering if I did anything wrong this whole time. This article helped finally make me feel better.

  • Patrizia Chiarenza

    I don’t believe in ghosting. Just tell me the truth so we can both move on. Dont be a coward. I will tell a person straight out if I didnt feel a connection because I think it’s better than leaving them wondering.

    Now there was this one dude who didnt get it. I told him time and again, it was not mutual. I ended up having to ghost because it was the only other thing left to do aside from blocking him. Ghosting finally got the message across.

    • Not Lenny!

      I totally feel the opposite – I prefer being ghosted than having someone I met up with for drinks a couple times actually go out of their way to tell me they’re not interested in knowing me.

  • Cait

    The last paragraph really, really resonates. Thanks for writing this, Meghan. I’ve been the ghosted (in relationships and a close friendship) and the ghost (not proud of that one time) but now I’ll always send a “not interested” text, or call to try to understand. Breaking up is supposed to be a little painful; you owe it to that person to go through a modest amount of discomfort. Otherwise we develop these lopsided views of what caring for someone looks like.

  • Agnes

    I find ghosting, especially of people you have some sort of relationship with, to be the height of immaturity and rudeness. What happened to respect and common courtesy?? I agree it’s not new, but it’s damned rude and self-involved. Every interaction has some sort of meaning and you never know what other people’s thoughts and feelings are after interacting with you. It’s the best road to be thoughtful of others wherever possible. Robots are not behind the screen, PEOPLE are.. ok my rant is done, whew 😉 I love your standard ‘break-up’ message by the way. Thoughtful, sweet and above all KIND.

  • Dymond Moore

    I had two people I considered very close friends, best friends (one of a decade and other of about 4 years) ghost me within the span of the last six months. Hell one was last night that I finally got an explanation. Thing is the explaination made me feel better than the month of internal toil and emotional battering that he put me though. I think what made it worse was that it was a friend as opposed to a boyfriend. They’re supposed to be there for you, and yet he allowed me to suffer through a death in my family with little acknowledgement. I guess I’m young and still learning sometimes you don’t need people like that in your life but damn if it isn’t a lil raw right now MR.

    • Valeria

      The almost exact same thing happened to me a couple of years ago. WTF, right? I thought it would only happen with romantic relationships, in a friendship you should be able to talk about your feelings. It was (and still is) really sad.

  • Ghosting in actual relationships, platonic and non platonic, is incredibly hurtful. It’s the cowards way out. Don’t try to save my feelings, just say what you gotta say ppl we’re ADULTS. Also, congrats on your engagement!!

  • Andrea Beiro

    This article was so spot on, loved it! I think peoples feelings towards being ghosted always depends on how the felt for that person (no matter how short). That can be hard for the other person to gauge, but its really just a safer bet to just not ignore other people. Ghosting someone just looks like you don’t care about them at all, which probably isn’t true. It can be super awkward to tell someone you don’t want to/can’t see them, but ghosting and running into them again can be just as awkward if not more so!!

    • Not Lenny!

      “Ghosting someone just looks like you don’t care about them at all, which probably isn’t true.”
      In my experience, as someone who ghosts often, it’s usually true. I wouldn’t ghost someone I cared about.

  • Monday Murphy

    I don’t find ghosting all that offensive. I agree that silence speaks volumes and maybe you don’t get a great explanation, but I feel like even with a standard “I’m not feeling it” I’d still try to read between the lines if I was being rejected.

    What I do find offensive is in the last paragraph when the author describes her ex “He’s still out there — married, balding, in the city where I left him…”
    The “balding” part is definitely meant to hurt the ex and I think it’s just mean. I guess I’m partial because my last two (wonderful) relationships have been with balding men. Its fine for the author to be mad at her ex for whatever reason, it just seems like a shallow jab to go after something that he has no choice in.

    • That’s fair. My hardest crush was Anthony Edwards in ER, so it’s not that I find bald (or balding) men unattractive, more that it was one of his insecurities and I do take a vicious pleasure in poking it, even at a distance. Shrug.

      • Whatwould Slashdo

        that’s sad for you

    • medes

      Oh my lord, seriously with this?? Ghosting someone after eight years is empirically worse than the ghostee noting her (unnamed!!) ex is “balding” in a broader description within a well-researched, thoughtful, and excellently-written article well after the fact. FFS.

  • FB

    This is the first time I have commented on Man Repeller because I have strong feelings about ghosting!

    Maybe I’m old-fashioned but I believe if you have met someone in real life (even if just once, say on a first date) you owe them an explanation rather than silence. I totally understand, it can be scary to say “I’m not feeling this/I don’t think we’re a match/I don’t want to see you anymore,” even over text. But in my opinion if you’re an emotionally mature, thoughtful person, even when something is scary and you’d really like to avoid it, you do it anyway.

    For me it just comes down to basic manners, and recognizing that the other person is human being who has invested some amount of time and interest in you.

    • Kattigans

      Could not agree more! I kindly told a guy I went on one date with that I wasn’t feeling it when he asked to see me again. Sometimes ghosting is okay like if no one reaches out again or the person is borderline stalker after the interaction but if its not a or/and b then just say how you feel. If someone is that pissed after a casual meeting you feel that way, at least you’re in the clear for not being labeled rude.

  • Kaitlin M

    What if you were the one that ghosted the gaslighting, cheating drunk? Is it still ghosting or is it self-care?

    I ghosted an ex a couple of years ago. We had already been broken up for months but we still considered each-other close friends. That is, until I realized that friendship to him meant criticizing my every move and ripping me to shreds if I did anything but flatter him. Maybe it was a jerk move and I think it did upset him, but I needed him out of my life. Our relationship had been on his terms every step of the way and he would not have accepted the idea that I didn’t want him in my life… at least not until repeatedly dragging me through the list of reasons I am terrible and selfish and how he is the best thing that ever happened to me.

    • That sounds like smart and safe self-preservation, to me.

  • moon_water

    Hot damn, those last two paragraphs, Meghan.

  • Hannah ハナ

    Wow. This couldn’t have come at a better time! I think I just got ghosted for the first time. lol.
    Had gone on two dates with this cutie who was totaaaally my type. We had really great chemistry too (Or at least… I thought we did?) He had even introduced me to his friends, and we had a great time together. Tried to make plans for a 3rd date, but no response after a week. :,)

    After two days of no response, I did exactly what you had written in your article. Run the dates over and over in my head and stress over where I MUST have screwed up. Feeling bad about myself for not being fun enough, pretty enough, or good enough.

    After a week, I’ve gotten over it and learned to stop putting him on a pedestal. It’s disappointing, but what can you do. He doesn’t owe me anything, and I learned to respect myself and realize that none of it was my fault. If he doesn’t want to go for another date with a cutie like me, that’s his loss. 😉 Heck, and for all I know he may have some major skeletons in his closet. Maybe I actually dodged a bullet? Who knows.

  • I feel like everyone’s idea of a ghoster is kinda similar – a coward, uncommunicative, abusive in a way. Which is true, yes, but why aren’t we talking about ghosting being the only safe way out of a bad relationship? I’ve ghosted two people in my life (been ghosted, too), both I’ve known for years. These people were manipulative, disrespectful to anyone’s time, space and feelings but their own. Growing up and recognizing abusive behavior made me go through so many changes to create the life and space I wanted. One of these changes was to leave toxic people behind. While open conversation didn’t work, ghosting did.

    • What I mean in this context, is that giving an explanation to an abuser gives them the opportunity to twist your point of view and continue the toxic relationship.

  • I wish I had this article two years ago. I was ghosted for the first time by the first person I felt as though I had a genuine connection with. I was 18 and had just finished my freshman year of college, and up until that summer I felt as though I was always chasing guys, but that they never chased me and they never wanted to be with me. Then I met a boy on tinder (let’s call him Jason) right before school let out for the summer. He was two years older than me. We spent the entire summer texting, talking on the phone, etc. We had never actually met, but I had seen him around at school so I knew he was real. We grew super close over the summer and settled upon an agreement that while we didn’t want to start dating as soon as we got to school (because duh, we hadn’t really met yet), we definitely were something more than friends. I was so happy and so excited because I felt as though I had a genuine connection with Jason. He really knew me, I knew him, we were friends, and he still liked me. It was the first time that I didn’t feel like I was chasing someone, the first time that I didn’t feel like I NEEDED someone. I didn’t need him, but rather he was like an added bonus in my life. A little sparkle.

    But…he ghosted me. Two weeks before we were supposed to go back to school, he stopped texting me. I never heard from him again. I got back to school and saw him on campus, we made eye contact, I would start to wave, and he would instantly turn around. He pretended he had no idea who I was, and it broke me. I really felt when Barth said, “People who have been ghosted often feel that they are the person who has done something wrong” because it couldn’t be more true. I drove myself crazy wondering what I did wrong and blamed myself for everything. It was an absolutely awful feeling because I felt as though I couldn’t forgive myself for ruining the “relationship”, even though I hadn’t done anything. And then I beat myself up for even thinking it was a relationship and wondered if I was even really ghosted. Ugh, it was a bad time. And wow, this got long.

    So thank you, Meghan, for this piece. Even though all of that happened to me two years ago and I’m happily with someone else now, I still think about it and how destructive it was to my self-esteem. Ghosting is brushed off far too often, but it has real consequences. It’s hurtful. It makes me so happy that you’re out here talking about it and sparking a discussion! I’m honestly learning so much from the comments right now <3

    • Suzan

      For a moment I thought you were describing the plot of Grease!
      Glad that you moved on though, it’s confusing stuff especially in the teenage years I can imagine!

  • Suzan

    “One unreturned letter in the 1800s and you could warm yourself at night with the strong odds that he perished of scurv”
    Ah the good ol’ vitamin C lacking days! Gave me a good chuckle!

  • Indy Hyatt

    thank you for this piece, i really needed to hear this right now. having to accept a lack of closure SUCKS and i hate that other people have to go through it, but it’s nice to hear i’m not the only one (and that many others have been able to come out of that deep, dark hole)

  • Erica

    Ghosting wouldn’t occur if people could gracefully move on- sometimes, even you thoughtfully explain to someone how you feel, they overreact and take it extremely personally. I think people ghost in order to avoid people’s pleas to stay (or mean crazy comments).

    • Suzy Lawrence

      Yesssss! “Life is about how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.” Yes. Yes. Yaaaassss. (Do I practice this? No… But I say this to myself at least once a month in hopes that I will soon).

  • A

    That was a nice piece. Let’s stay human and kind.

  • Timmy

    I learned to ghost from the women who ghosted me. I assumed that’s how women prefer to interact.

  • Suzy Lawrence

    There is no such thing as closure (clap emoji between each word). All this neediness is just self obsession masked as emotional maturity. Life is fluid and not meant to be controlled or cater to our perceived needs. Know that you’re a bad ass who doesn’t need to have people explain why they’re deciding to move on; reserve that emotional capacity for when it’s truly warranted. Obsessing over a stranger’s intentions?? Come on, now. #defendghosting

    • Bita

      Suzy I love your comment and overall outlook on life and relationships (I just stalked your disqus comments because I need more of your wisdom). I hope someday we can be friends, or would love to read more of your writing.
      -Bita #defendghosting

      • Suzy Lawrence

        That is so kind. If you’re ever in New Mexico, lemme know! Beers on me.

        • Bita S.

          likewise…i’m in L.A.. so…green juice on me! xo

          • Jessyca Taef

            Conversations like these remind me why this community is so special.

    • Emilie

      Suzy, I think it’s nice sentiment to feel we should all love ourselves enough to not care about ghosters, but for a lot of people, I think that’s easier said than done 🙂

      Speaking for myself, I have plenty self-esteem and have been through enough break-ups/rejection in my life to not take it too personally if a Tinder date isn’t interested, I just tend to think it’s rude to just drop off like that if I’ve invested $20 and two hours of my time on a date. If he’s bothered to meet me in person, the least a guy can do is drop me some BS line about how he’s realized he’s “not really in a place to be dating right now” or whatever. (Sidebar: I’ve also noticed a confounding trend of guys ending a date with “This was fun, let’s do this again sometime!” and then immediately ghosting or slow fading on me. I don’t even WANT to go out on second dates with most of them, but like, WHY even bother saying that if you’re gonna ghost?? Just say “bye!” Ugh, men. )

      • Suzy Lawrence

        Recently one of my coworkers told me that our high employee turnover has personally hurt him. He said that he sees our company as a ship where he’s our number one cheerleader and every time we lose an employee he feels like he’s lost someone overboard and it genuinely hurts him. Just like him, I’m a cheerleader for all my girlfriends and to see them consumed by anything other than what promotes positivity or reassurance in their lives hurts me. I feel it deeply in my bones and because I don’t understand it, I get frustrated (I do have a problem with my delivery, for sure!).

        I see you, I accept you, and I don’t want you wasting any of your time on someone else who may not. It’s definitely not a “screw you, I rule” kind of thing, it’s an “I’m passionate and kind, but I have my limits and need to be cautious (for my own health) as to how much I give.” But to your point, yes…I know I come off as a bit harsh. I’m working on it! (And yes, men. Jesus. But Queer Eye is making me hopeful again!)

        • Emilie

          Awww your poor co-worker! I totally see your point – all of our girlfriends are obviously far superior to the men who ghost them so it sucks to see them get hurt by it. But I also think it’s ok and necessary to feel whatever emotions you need to feel with dating/relationships generally. It can really grind you down when you’ve been ghosted/disappointed many, many times in a row, so it’s very cathartic to feel sad/mad/whatever at a random bro sometimes!!

  • missmg

    I am currently (I think) being ghosted by someone I have been casually dating for 2 years – he lives in another city and we only see each other when he is in my city and I am in his – it was serious enough for him to stay with me when he was here and vice versa when I was there.

    I dont know what to do about it because I am someone who needs to know everything I need to know what happened and why he hasn’t bothered to respond to my last two texts, it is truly heartbreaking to think that what I thought we had was all in my head but whats a girl to think when all you get is silence?

    Ghosting is fu***d and those who regularly do it are cowards – nothing will convince me otherwise.

  • Alice

    Thank you so much for this piece!! I’ve ready a lot on ghosting recently (was ghosted last year by someone I really liked) and the feeling of shame was never talked about in other articles but is so relevant!
    That feeling of shame and constant self analysis and critique is quite paralysing at times. Also the shame that we read their feelings/behaviour so wrong?! As women I feel like we value our ability to read human emotions so when things don’t work out it’s like a big shock to the ego. And the process of moving takes so much longer I swear if you’re ghosted vs. being told honestly and kindly that it’s not working for them.
    Thanks again, I feel less ashamed about feeling ashamed lol.

  • Monique

    Ive gotten in the habit of calling out men who ghost me. I believe even if you go on one date/hook up once you should send a text if you’re not interested. Even though some people would argue you have no obligation to that person you obviously thought enough of them to spend time with them so think enough of them to send a text because ignoring them sends the message they’re not even worth an explanation/reply which for more insecure folks can really fuck them up.

    I always get “you’re crazy we hung out once” or “stop being psycho we went on a couple dates” when I call people out for ghosting me but I know thats only a defense mechanism and hopefully they’ll be more delicate with the next situation. I could go on a long winded rant about why men get away with this behavior (in a patriarchal/sexist class system) way but I won’t because this article is SCIENCE! and I love it.

    • Not Lenny!

      Tbh I’d tell you you’re crazy too. “Even though some people would argue you have no obligation to that person you obviously thought enough of them to spend time with them” I think you’re seeing this differently that ghosters do – if you only went on one date they probably didn’t think anything about you other than “she’s hot and charming.” And fwiw, all my female friends ghost too.

  • Martha Williams

    Online dating was so wacked to me that I made a web series about it called Run for Your Life:

    “Silence is an answer of it’s own” is definitely true. It just not a good one. And it doesn’t support a world where respect and communication are central. I think people think this is OK because we communicate over email, text and message which is strangely protecting and dissectible. Frustrated with this, my rule for a while was to text as little as I can in my life and with lovers. Once I played this for about a year, I quickly stopped caring if someone got back to me in a timely fashion or if they were “interesting over text.” And even now, I take close stock of how I’m finding a sense of connection with someone. I want to make sure it’s mostly happening LIVE and IN PERSON. I think if this was a priority, there’d be less ghosting.

  • Wow, Tom sounds like a real winner. This was a great article! But I think everyone needs to just grow a pair and send a quick “Thanks but no thanks” text if they’re not interested. If you’re prone to ghosting, trust me. It’s so much easier to rip off the bandaid then dodge someone and hope you never see them IRL again.