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Ghosting

8 Signs That a Partner Could Be Likely to Ghost

3. They believe some couples just aren't "meant to be."

Key points

  • Being ghosted often leads to painful feelings of confusion and rejection.
  • Characteristics of the ghoster and the relationship are related to ghosting.
  • Beware of blaming yourself when a dating partner decides to vanish from your life.
Dragon Images/Adobe Stock
Source: Dragon Images/Adobe Stock

You are in a relationship, and then suddenly you’re not. You’ve been ghosted. Why? Was it something you said or did? Did they not find you attractive? Were they seeing someone else? It’s impossible to find the explanation you crave. The lack of resolution is upsetting, and you’re left feeling sad, rejected, and maybe even bad about yourself (Freedman, Powell, et al., 2022; Pancani et al., 2022).

So what makes a person likely to ghost? Research studies have revealed the following eight factors about the ghoster or the relationship.

Characteristics of the Ghoster

1. Avoidance. Not surprisingly, those who ghost tend to be high in avoidance (Freedman et al., 2019). They may want to avoid confict, distress, or an uncomfortable conversation, which are all part of a breakup.

2. Younger age. The odds of ghosting go up as age goes down (Timmermans et al, 2021). It’s unknown from existing research whether this association is a cohort effect (younger generations are more likely to ghost) or a true age effect whereby people become less likely to ghost as they get older.

3. Destiny beliefs. People who think partners either are or are not "meant for each other" are more likely to end a relationship by ghosting (Freedman et al., 2019). Presumably they don’t see the point in talking things through if the relationship wasn’t meant to be.

4. Anxiety. Those who are highly anxious (Freedman et al., 2019) tend to fear the fallout from a breakup, and opt to avoid all that unpleasantness. They might also be more worried about a potential bad breakup, and may even fear for their safety (see below).

Characteristics of the Relationships

5. Safety concerns. Ghosting is more likely when the person is worried that their partner might fly into a rage, and yell or verbally abuse them (Freedman, Hales, et al., 2022). There may even be concerns about physical violence. Disappearing also minimizes the risk of stalking.

6. Sending unsolicited sexual content. In some cases, your partner may have ghosted because you sent them nude selfies, or other sexual material that made them uncomfortable (Timmermans et al., 2021).

7. Not accepting their reasons for leaving. People are more likely to ghost when they tried to break up directly but their explanation wasn’t accepted (Timmermans et al., 2021). They learned that being direct didn't work, so they take the passive approach.

8. No shared social network. Finally, it’s easier for your partner to ghost if you don’t move in the same circles—no friends in common, no classes together, and no shared work environment (Timmermans et al., 2021). With little chance of running into each other, they can just drop out of your life.

Recovering From Being Ghosted

Being ghosted is more painful if the two of you had met in person and if you’d been with them for a while, especially if the breakup was completely unexpected. If you’re recovering from a ghosting experience, it’s normal to find yourself ruminating on what happened and trying to solve the mystery. You might go over things again and again, both in your mind and with friends (who may get tired of hearing about it).

Beware of blaming yourself. The mind may seize on explanations that are unfair to you—for example, that the ghoster left because you seemed “too eager,” or because you said you weren’t ready for sex. The next time you find yourself falling into negative thoughts about yourself, try this simple three-step exercise (adapted from Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy):

  1. Pause. Take a slow breath in and out. Invite a sense of connection with yourself.
  2. Check in. Ask yourself, “What are my thoughts telling me right now?” Write down whatever you discover.
  3. Question your assumptions. Ask yourself this crucial question: Are my thoughts completely true, or are there other ways of seeing this situation?

Be kind to yourself as you’re healing from this experience. Look for opportunities to be with people who love you and can help you see through any unfair self-judgments.

Facebook image: DimaBerlin/Shutterstock

References

Freedman, G., Hales, A. H., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2022). The role of gender and safety concerns in romantic rejection decisions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 102, 104368.

Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2019). Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36, 905-924.

Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Le, B., & Williams, K. D. (2022). Emotional experiences of ghosting. The Journal of Social Psychology, 1-20. doi:10.1080/00224545.2022.2081528.

Gillihan, S. J. (2022). Mindful cognitive behavioral therapy: A simple path to healing, hope, and peace. HarperOne.

Pancani, L., Aureli, N., & Riva, P. (2022). Relationship dissolution strategies: Comparing the psychological consequences of ghosting, orbiting, and rejection. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 16(2), Article 9.

Timmermans, E., Hermans, A. M., & Opree, S. J. (2021). Gone with the wind: Exploring mobile daters’ ghosting experiences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 38, 783-801.

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