When we need to break up with someone, it’s tempting, when faced not just with the prospect of acknowledging a partner’s position and how we might be impacting them, but also with the prospect of seeing and hearing them, to dodge the conversation. Some people feel this way but face it down. Some drop hints in the hopes that by hinting at issues or behaving badly, the other person will do their dirty work. And some people disappear or what is commonly referred to as ‘ghosting’.

Ghosting is when a person disappears because they would rather do that than 1) be honest and direct, 2) face their partner’s feelings and reactions or 3) be open to recognising either their part in things or that they can’t be Mr or Miss Comes Up Smelling of Roses.

Over the last few months, an increasing number of readers referred to ‘ghosting’ or being ‘ghosted’, and it’s important to get something clarified right off the bat:

Ghosting is not a form of breaking up, nor is it the same as No Contact.

Ghosting is disappearing.

Breaking up is when a person ends the relationship.

No Contact is for after a breakup. It’s for when it becomes apparent that healthy boundaries are not possible and that remaining in contact is destroying sense of self and the ability to process the loss and move forward. The only exception to No Contact happening without a breakup is if it’s an abusive relationship.

Disappearing isn’t exactly a display of courage and we are most likely to do it if we’re not emotionally mature or available.

Sure, it’s uncomfortable to let someone down, to admit that this isn’t what we want anymore or that our feelings have changed or whatever our reason is, but it’s also necessary. It’s how we not only build up our being human muscles but it’s also how we develop our relationships.

People who disappear/’ghost’ learn nothing. Why? Because they edit and erase themselves out of relationships so that they don’t have to confront anything.

It’s not even necessarily about doing things from a ‘bad’ place (although there are some incredibly shady people who employ ‘ghosting’ so that they never face consequences and instead press the reset button); it’s about doing things from a place where fear, cowardice or excessive concern about how we look or our discomfort, trumps integrity and compassion.

I’ve talked to a number of ‘ghosters’. All reasoned that they didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings. Really? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that, while breakups hurt, disappearing sucks.

Ghosters fail to acknowledge their motivations. They cut and run because they don’t want to hurt their own feelings. They end up throwing their partner under a proverbial bus all so that they can box away their feelings and draw a line under things. On their terms.

It’s about control, as in attempting to feel in control of the situation in their head rather than having to deal with an unpredictable foreign object, like another human who they’ve made plans and promises, exchanged bodily fluids with, and inferred all manner of things via the interaction. They’re in control of the story because disappearing means that the ‘ghostee’ can’t talk back and offer up their version of events. It also means that the ghoster doesn’t have to interact with the ghostee.

Things to note about ghosters:

  • They tell you what they think you want to hear. In their world that means “Don’t tell me anything bad”, forgetting that you’ll take the truth over the lie or disappearing, any day.
  • They often think that they’re communicating an issue when, really, they’ve been hinting.
  • They keep things to themselves and store it up. This is all while giving you their game face. And then next thing, boom, they’re gone. In their head, the ‘issues’ have been going on for a long time and couldn’t be resolved. You, however, found out at the end and didn’t get a chance to resolve it.
  • They might set tests that you don’t even know you’re taking. For example, I’ll know I should stay if they _______ today or they say _____. If they ________, then that seals it for me. I’m off. If you pass, they set another test.
  • They have negative associations with conflict and criticism. They don’t argue or discuss. Or they do, but their efforts are limited because they’re living in the past.
  • For the ghoster, it’s often important that both of you think that things are “perfect”. This sets them up for failure because neither of you can live up to this expectation.

For the ghoster, it’s often important that both of you think that things are “perfect”. This sets them up for failure because neither of you can live up to this expectation.

  • They often reason that not talking about feelings or what’s bothering them means that no feelings are being hurt in the running or breakage of a relationship.
  • They hoard resentment and other ill feelings. If they feel that you erred or wronged them, even if they’ve let you think that it’s all cool (that’s if you even knew about it), when they decide to disappear, they’ll use these reasons.
  • They often have someone else lined up. It might just be interest. It might be an ex, an emotional affair or a full-blown one. They’re the type who don’t leave unless they think (or know) that they have somewhere else to go to. Also known as being an Overlapper.
  • They might gaslight you. Whether it’s unintentionally (and they’re on thin ice there) or deliberately, the net result is the same. As they dismiss your concerns, tell you everything is okay, say one thing, do another, and even make out as if you’re smoking crack and being a drama queen/king, you don’t know your up from your down. Hell, some will even sleep with you before they check out of your life! When they ghost you, it shatters what’s left of your self-esteem because they’ve messed with your reality and you’ve ignored your intuition.

Moving forward after being ghosted

If you’ve been ghosted, I can tell you with one hundred per cent certainty that it’s not about you. You did not deserve to be disappeared on. It’s not about whether you’re “good enough” to be broken up with. Ghosting is about the ghoster’s journey with conflict, criticism, rejection and disappointment. No, it isn’t nice what they’ve done. And, yes, the decent thing would be to give an explanation. Their inadequate style of ending a relationship, though, doesn’t reflect your inadequacy.

The person who stands to see right through the facade of a ghoster who doesn’t want to see themselves is the one who’ll get the disappearing act.

Many people wear masks–BR readers often wear the people-pleasing one. The problem with a ghoster is that they have become so good at hiding their feelings and true opinions from others and putting up a front that they’ve forgotten the lie is a lie. You may or may not have been aware of their mask (hindsight gives 20:20 vision). Disappearing means that for you, you have to drop the mask from your picture of them. Breathe. They haven’t gotten off scot-free. Someone can run, but they can’t hide from their feelings and thoughts. Life will find a way to bring the disappearing acts to the fore for resolution.

The key is not to keep blaming yourself. It’s understandable, to a degree, when it first happens. It’s the untruths, though, that will make you unhappy. Don’t tell yourself that Mr or Miss Perfect disappeared and that it was all your fault. Please don’t say that if you’d been “enough” then you could have fixed their issues so that they wouldn’t disappear.

Don’t disappear on yourself.

Your thoughts?

PS I have a separate post coming up in a few days which addresses ghosting in dating.

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