It's one thing when you're in a relationship with someone, they break up with you, and you have to deal with it. Fine. But it's another beast entirely when you were in a relationship or situationship with someone who ghosts you. There's a special kind of heartache that comes with ghosting and it's why moving on after getting ghosted can be hard. No matter why a potential bae has disappeared out of your life, ghosting can seriously affect your mental health. It can have you second-guessing your looks or your self-worth as a partner.
You can also fall down the rabbit hole of possibilities as to why they ghosted you. Did they have a death in the family? Did their more beautiful, more glamorous ex come waltzing back into the picture? Was it something you said or something you did? But the reality of the situation is: You might not ever know why they broke it off. And of course, having connected with the ghoster on social media makes things worse. You'll either look for clues as to what happened (possibly to no avail). Or, even more maddening, they'll be orbiting around your Instagram stories or passive-aggressively liking your tweets.
Julie Wadley, owner of matchmaking and coaching service Eli Simone, takes on clients who have been ghosted all the time. Wadley often sees cases of phone number exchanges that lead to dead ends, or clients simply never hearing back after the first date or hookup. In her professional experience, getting ghosted hurts so much because of the "not knowing." Wadley compares it to being in purgatory.
It also hurts because you feel tricked or betrayed — whereas with a breakup, you might be able to see it coming on the horizon. "Being ghosted also makes one feel like they were deceived, that the connection made was not real," Wadley says. "It was just a game being played and they didn't even know it." And if a regular breakup can leave you with questions, getting ghosted will leave you with even more.
And with more open-ended questions about the relationship or situationship's demise comes less resolution. Debra Fileta, a counselor, author, and relationship expert, says, "I think the thing that hurts so much is the lack of closure. People feel like they're left with unanswered questions." Not being able to get them answered (by the ghost) is what prompts people to turn inward, which is damaging. "'What could I have done differently?' 'Is there something wrong with me?' 'Am I not good enough?'"
You might start feeling used or disposable, and get clouded when it comes to your sense of self-worth, Fileta says. If you do get fed up and confront the ghoster, it can turn into even more of a sh*t show. "They might go out of their way to get answers, reach out, call, text, and do whatever it takes to get to the bottom of it. But often, the more they push, the more they find they're being pushed away," Fileta says. "And that's the cruelest and harshest part of this process, because it feels like they can't get closure."
Wadley, on the other hand, outlines a sort of ghosting stages of grief: "Denial that you've been ghosted, anger that it could happen to you, telling yourself this wouldn't have happened 'if only this or that,' mourning the loss of what could have been, and finally accepting that it happened." So, how are you supposed to cope?
Well, what Wadley wants ghosting victims to remember, first and foremost, is, "Them ghosting had nothing to do with you!" It's not a reflection of you being an unworthy partner. It's a sign that the other person is unwilling to be honest or communicate with you. "Be glad that you didn't get more invested in that person before you saw them for who they really are. Lose all communication with them and close that chapter," Wadley advises. Moving forward, she reminds ghosting victims take things slowly with new potential partners, and keep things fun and light.
Fileta's take echoes Wadley's. "The bottom line is that ghosting doesn't indicate a problem in you — it indicates a problem in the person doing the ghosting." Yes, Fileta acknowledges, ghosting is just the result of someone wanting to avoid the pain or awkwardness of a breakup. That is understandable. But, like Wadley, Fileta links ghosting to bad communication skills as well as a lack of maturity. "It's a sure sign that this is not someone you want in your life," Fileta dismisses. Her biggest bit of advice to move on? She often tells clients, "Don't wait for closure: Make it happen!"
Don't be the person who confronts a ghoster, and gets even more frustrated and caught up by the lack of resolution. Instead, take a step back and assess the situation. "If relationships are like doors, you've got to get good at learning how to recognize and close the bad ones," Fileta says. And keep them closed! "Don't allow yourself to try and crack that door back open; to sit, and struggle, and question for longer than you need to, because that often leads to deeper hurt and pain," Fileta says. Look at your ghosting situation as a sign that this relationship probably wasn't good for you to begin with and remind yourself that you deserve so much better than that.