A relationship that ends suddenly, without explanations and leaves you not knowing what happened. This is ghosting, an expression adopted to represent the behavior of someone who decides to end a relationship without any kind of conversation or warning, just cutting off all contact and avoiding the other person.
The term comes from the English language and is derived from the word “ghost”, in literal translation, ghost. The nomenclature goes straight to the point: when a person practices ghosting, they mysteriously disappear, just like a ghost. The situation can also happen in different types of relationships – long relationships, friendships and even marriages – but it is more common in recent love relationships.
“The person who practices ghosting usually has a tendency to look for superficial and quick relationships, avoids situations of conflict and has difficulty in assuming long and lasting relationships”, comments clinical psychologist Daniela Knapp Vargas.
When one of the parties in the relationship disappears, the other person is helpless: she has to deal alone with the end of a relationship that ended without warning and without her knowing the reasons why it ended. If facing a breakup is already complicated, going through such a situation can leave even deeper marks.
“Ghosting can cause a lot of suffering for the person. The feeling of doubt and self-questioning persist and the ghosts of insecurity are a torment. The person can become depressed and feel apathetic and melancholy, useless and outraged”, points out psychologist Breno Rosostolato.
Daniela, on the other hand, points out that the victim of ghosting can also suffer a loss of self-esteem and have future difficulties in getting involved in new relationships. In addition, the psychologist emphasizes that the victim is not the only one to have sequelae: “for those who practiced ghosting there are also consequences, as they will have to deal with the worry, remorse and guilt of having ended a relationship in this way. ”, he says.
How to identify ghosting
“It is difficult to describe signs because ghosting can happen in different situations, with different types of people”, points out Daniela. Still, certain behaviors and contexts can indicate a ghosting situation. Check out:
1. Interruption of all forms of contact
The first way to notice ghosting is if the person disappears completely. Every form of contact is interrupted: you can’t meet her in person, she doesn’t answer calls, she doesn’t answer messages.
This can happen from one moment to the next – and it often does. The person stops communicating without expressing problems, discomfort or any other sign of dissatisfaction with the relationship.
2. Exclusion on social networks
Along with cutting off contact comes exclusion on social networks. If technology facilitates communication and helps to bring people closer together, in ghosting the person also seeks to interrupt these connections. Thus, she unfriends on Facebook, unfollows her on Twitter and Instagram, blocks her email address and her contact on WhatsApp, deletes her photos that were published in any medium.
3. The reason for the disappearance is not explained
With the sudden disappearance of the person and cutting off any form of contact, the possibility of asking the reason is nullified. Thus, the person who is “ghosted”, that is, the one who suffers abandonment, does not know what happened or what led to the end of the relationship.
4. Fear of serious relationships or rejection
According to Daniela, people who have difficulty assuming serious relationships or are afraid of being rejected can fall into ghosting. “Some people when they realize that the relationship is not going very well or think that the other is going to end the relationship, they simply disappear to avoid the situation of being rejected. Thus, they prefer to end the relationship before the other ends. Others are used to superficial involvements and when they need to make a commitment to dating, engagement and marriage, they get scared and end up breaking up before the relationship goes deeper”, explains the psychologist.
It is worth mentioning that ghosting happens when contact is consciously interrupted by one of those involved in the relationship. The individual makes the decision to disappear and no longer communicate with the other party. Cases in which communication is not possible due to external factors do not constitute ghosting.
How to deal with ghosting
Once ghosting is identified in a relationship, facing the situation becomes necessary. This type of breakup affects people in different ways and can be especially complex for emotionally fragile people.
“At first, the person will tend to deny what happened and think that the other has lost his cell phone or is unable to communicate. When she becomes aware of what happened, she will have to deal with the pain of the end of the relationship without having to explain much”, points out Daniela.
Everyone has a different way of getting over a breakup, including ghosting. Even so, some general steps can help and make the process easier. Check out:
1. Accept the termination
“First, the person must accept the breakup and assume that they may never have the breakup they imagined for this relationship”, points out the psychologist.
If you spot ghosting behavior in a relationship, you have to accept that this is the end of it. Having to come to terms with an ending like this is frustrating, but only by admitting the ending can you start moving forward. Try to get rid of the expectations that the person will show up again to give explanations, that the relationship is “suspended”.
2. Stop trying to get back in touch
Part of accepting the breakup is stopping attempts to retake the broken contact. Continuing to permanently look for someone who doesn’t want to talk can get you stuck in the situation, making getting over it even more difficult.
A good tip is to establish a time limit or number of attempts for communication and, if there is no response, end the calls. Stop calling, texting and even checking the person’s social media or asking questions of friends and acquaintances.
3. Avoid looking for answers and justifications
When ghosting happens, the person is left in the dark, not knowing what triggered the other’s disappearance. And since there is no longer any contact with the other party, there is no way of knowing what, in fact, caused her to end the relationship this way.
Therefore, avoid getting caught up in the search for reasons that can justify what happened: this will only raise a series of hypotheses and doubts that cannot be answered or proven and that often do not correspond to reality.
4. Don’t take the blame
It’s important to remember that it’s not your fault; therefore, avoid finding reasons in yourself that could trigger the other person’s disappearance. “Try to understand why the other did this and understand that this behavior is related to his personal issues and not you. Have discernment to know what is yours and what is the other’s. Don’t absorb your ex’s limitations and difficulties”, advises Breno.
5. Work on self-esteem
Often, victims of ghosting suffer a blow to self-esteem and seeking improvements in this aspect can be of great help in overcoming the situation. “Regain self-esteem and value yourself. Bet on activities you enjoy doing and focus on other aspects of life”, suggests Daniela. So, try to focus on things that are good for you, dedicate yourself to your favorite hobbies and turn your attention to the dear people who are part of your life.
I grieved for someone who is still alive, but who chose to exclude me from his life. Eventually I accepted that this was her decision, even though I didn’t know why, and moved on. It was traumatic, but it wasn’t my choice. I just had to accept. (AD, 27 years old)
Desiring a way to protect yourself from experiencing this situation is natural, but professionals make it clear that it is not possible to prevent ghosting; after all, there is no way to predict or control another person’s actions. Still, maintaining an open and transparent dialogue from the beginning is important for the health of the relationship.
“Dialogue is important. Talk and be honest exposing what you like and don’t like. Each one must respect their individuality, but above all, respect the limits and opinions of the other. Demystifying expectations and idealizations is necessary to minimize frustrations and disappointments”, says Breno.
Maintaining open communication between both parties will help you see if you are on the same page, if you want and expect the same things from your relationship. Reflecting and asking yourself what kind of relationship you want and who you will share it with is also part of the process.
“People who have experienced ghosting many times need to be on their guard. In these cases, a deeper reflection on their choices is necessary, since they are repeating the same harmful pattern of relationship”, says Daniela.
Even with all the care, ghosting can happen. Remember, in the end, the other person’s behavior is not in your hands, so you shouldn’t take the blame if that happens.
Learn how to end a relationship with dignity
Dealing with the end of a relationship is never easy, but you have to face the end frankly and clearly. Ending is giving an end, putting an end so that all parties can start over.
If you’re thinking about ending a relationship, don’t be tempted to disappear without explanation: this may seem like the simplest alternative, but it can have consequences for both the other person and you.
“The suffering of the end of the relationship is inevitable. Some suffer more than others, but it will always happen. Worse is the suffering of doubt, lack of sincerity, lack of courage”, comments Breno.
Here are some tips from professionals to end a relationship with dignity:
1. Termination must happen in person
The idea of ending a relationship without having to face the other person can be tempting, but it’s not the best solution. When you decide it’s time to break up, don’t disappear and also avoid doing it over the phone or texts; the ideal is to have a frank conversation with the other party, eye to eye. “No matter how embarrassing and difficult the situation is, it’s the best way for you to give real importance to that person who invested in the relationship”, recalls Daniela.
2. Explain your reasons
Daniela emphasizes that, at this moment, sincerity is essential. Explain the reasons that led you to decide to end the relationship without beating around the bush. Clarify the situation and leave no doubts in the air. “Be firm and decisive in a gentle way. Do not imply that there is a possibility of returning if there is no such chance. This can hurt the person even more”, suggests the expert.
3. Listen to what the other has to say
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