Your brain doesn't have an off switch, but this advice is the next best thing.
Relationship expert Amy Chan knows all about the specific heartbreak of being haunted by an unanswered text. “My God, getting ghosted is so f*cking painful,” she tells Elite Daily. “You feel rejected, you feel discarded, and you feel disrespected.”
Chan, founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp and author of Breakup Bootcamp — The Science of Rewiring Your Heart, also knows that getting ghosted by someone you thought you knew can lead to some serious spiraling — it can feel impossible to stop thinking about that person who never responded.
“You become like a CIA agent, trying to put together the clues, trying to ruminate about the past and what you might have missed. You ask all your friends, you check the person’s social media,” she says. “And you're doing this because you're hoping that if you can get the answer, it'll alleviate this pain.”
But, Chan says, no matter how far you dig for evidence, no matter how much of your relationship you excavate and analyze, that pain isn’t going anywhere until you face the facts. “This person is showing you very clearly they do not want to be with you,” she says.
Breakup and relationship coach Trina Leckie agrees. “If you sent the last texts and they just dropped off the face of the planet, they’re showing you through lack of action where they stand,” she says.
Leckie suggests looking forward instead of back. “If you keep texting them, your self-worth will suffer. When you chase things, they keep running,” she says. “No one who is super into you needs to be chased. They will instead be excited to contact you. There’s no excuse for someone to not text you back, period.”
Of course, getting a ghost out of your head is easier said than done. Read on for everything to consider as you try to stop thinking about the person who never texted you back.
Closure Comes From Within
When someone stops texting — especially someone you had a connection with — one strategy is to try to confront them.
A gentle nudge may be enough to win you a response. Try something like: “Hey, you should know that I feel hurt/disrespected/dismissed because you ghosted me. The polite thing to do would have been to simply tell me that you weren't interested in seeing me again. Leaving me or anyone wondering is worse. I know you're not a bad person, so I hope you don't do this to the next person you meet.”
Even if they do respond, however, chances are you won’t feel better immediately. The experts agree that if you’re looking for them to give you closure, you’re setting yourself up for even further disappointment.
“The fact that this person ghosted you and didn’t message you back shows they’re immature and have no respect for you. They weren’t invested. That is the closure,” Leckie says. “Even if you have a ‘closure’ chat, they might not even tell you the whole truth anyways, based on their behavior. See this for what it is, accept it, and move forward. The only person who can fully give you closure is yourself.”
Instead of relying on a person who’s proven themself to be unreliable, do the work of finding closure on your own.
Dr. Jess O’Reilly, a Toronto-based sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast, previously told Elite Daily that closure can be found by taking a hard, realistic look at the situation.
“Ask yourself: Was it as serious as you thought? Did you really want it to be something long-term? Did you really know them that well? Had you really connected intimately?” Dr. O’Reilly said. “If they can’t be straightforward about what they’re feeling now while dating, how might they behave in a relationship? In retrospect, you might find that the dissolution was what you would have ultimately wanted even if the method was hurtful.”
Searching For Clues Won’t Help
As Chan explains, it’s tempting to go into stealth mode and try to sleuth your way to the answers about the person who never texted you back. Turns out, there’s a physiological reason for that, too.
“The human mind works in loops. We like closed loops,” Chan says. “If you are in a relationship with someone, and suddenly they disappear and they're gone and they're not returning your messages, not only are you dealing with the grief and the rejection, but then you're in this confusion because your mind does not understand what just happened.”
In this scenario, it’s natural to become overwhelmed, even a little obsessive. “You're going to be flooded with a motivation to try to figure it out,” Chan says. “People try to demand answers because they’re trying to find closure in something outside of themselves. And it won't work. Because what they're actually trying to find is alleviation from the pain. And there is no answer that's going to alleviate that.”
Don’t Take It Personally
When someone stops responding, your first thoughts are often anxiety about how you were being perceived. You feel like it’s your fault that they disappeared, like maybe you pushed them away or weren’t good enough.
“A lot of people will turn this into something very personal,” Chan says. “But it’s so important when this happens to realize that the person is doing it because they do not know how to deal with the situation. And so their way of dealing with it is to not deal with it at all.”
Dr. O’Reilly previously added, “Ghosting has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their bad manners or their inability to express a desire or feeling that they believe will disappoint you. Oftentimes, people ghost because they want to avoid confrontation, awkwardness, discomfort and/or hurt feelings; but of course, the result of ghosting often entails all of these responses for the other party anyway.”
They didn’t fall away because you weren’t smart enough or funny enough or good enough. They fell away because they were either just being reckless with your feelings, or they were trying to protect themself.
“When we look at why people ghost, they often have a pattern of not being able to handle emotions, and they are wired in a way where their nervous system goes on high alert when they have to deal with confrontation,” Chan says. “When your survival instincts kick in, it's telling you to do a few things: fight, flight, or freeze. What happens is these people freeze and they f*cking run. It's their way of handling conflict more than anything else.”
Think Of This As Data
In some ways, a ghoster is doing you a favor. They’re showing you with no ambiguity that they weren’t very good relationship material anyway.
“It's useful data on a person,” Chan says. “You want to know this about them as soon as you can — before you get married or have children with the person — because these patterns tend to continue, unless they do the work to shift them.”
Even if you thought you knew a person in the beginning of a relationship, their true colors will show as things progress. If they bolt when the going gets tough, they weren’t a good match in the first place.
“A lot of people look at the first few months of a relationship as if that's the litmus test of how the relationship is going to be. But you've got to throw those first three months of a relationship out the window because you're on love drugs — you don't know anything about a person when you are just high on dopamine and oxytocin,” Chan says. “[They might] want the relationship, or they have a goal, and they come at you really hard. And then as soon as it's like, ‘Oh, this is true intimacy, this scares the sh*t out of me,’ they run away.”
Chan explains that the only way to tell if someone is a viable partner is to see how they handle the difficult moments of life — how they handle the inevitable stress, fights, and criticism that come along with being in a serious relationship.
“This is all part of what I call the evaluation stage where you're looking at the data. And the data is what the outcomes are, not just what someone is saying,” she says. “How do they handle stress or fights? Do they just not talk to you for a week? Do they get defensive and turn it around on you? Or do they listen and try to work through it with you? You have to see if this person actually has a mutual interest in trying to build and work through things, or if they’re just kicking off every time they feel uncomfortable.”
Focus On Yourself
The best way to stop thinking about the person who never texted back is to refocus the energy you’ve devoted to them. Turn it around onto yourself.
“Nurture your heart. Do what you need to do to heal,” Chan suggests. “Journal. Label your feelings. Do HIIT exercises; research shows it helps you create the endorphins that you need when you're in the depletion of dopamine after a breakup. Being around friends and family that you feel safe with will help you feel that sense of connection and community. Feeding a ritual and routine is really helpful when your world is upside down and in chaos.”
Dr. O’Reilly suggests writing out your feelings in a message — even if you don’t choose to send it. “Write them a note or a text,” she said. “There is no need to send it, but you can create your own closure by getting your feelings off of your chest.”
Whether you only went on a couple dates or you were together for months, getting ghosted is never fair. The good news? It is possible to stop thinking about them eventually, it’ll just take some good old fashioned TLC.
Trina Leckie, breakup and relationship coach
Amy Chan, founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp and author of Breakup Bootcamp — The Science of Rewiring Your Heart