The Psychology of Ghosting (& How to Cope with Getting Ghosted)

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Published Date|
December 16, 2023

The Psychology of Ghosting (& How to Cope with Getting Ghosted)

You match with someone cute on a dating app, open up a conversation, and the sparks start flying.

You look forward to reading their messages every day - until one morning, they just stop completely.

You send a few follow-ups to see if they were just busy, but soon you realize the truth.

You’ve just been ghosted (again.)

If you’re tired of this exhausting cycle, you’re not alone - and our therapy team is here to help. We know you’re tired of draining relationships, so we’re here to help you learn the psychology of dating and help you thrive in your relationships.

After reading this article, you’ll know what ghosting is, the psychology of ghosting, and how to cope with getting ghosted.

What is Ghosting?

Ghosting is when someone cuts off a personal relationship without warning and with no explanation. Communication is completely cut off, and if you’re the one getting ghosted, you’re often left wondering what you did wrong.

Ghosting happens most frequently in dating - you can get ghosted on dating apps before ever having a conversation in real life, or you can go on a few great dates but then never hear from someone again.

Whether you’re the one ghosting or the one getting ghosted, the sudden loss of communication is often not the best way to handle a situation - and can leave both sides with more questions than answers.

What’s the Psychological Reason for Ghosting?

There can be a range of different reasons why someone “ghosts,” but they all involve a common factor: People ghost in order to avoid distress or discomfort.

Psychological explanations for ghosting include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the relationship
  • A lack of effective communication skills
  • Wanting to manage distress
  • A fear of conflict

If you get ghosted, it’s often more of a reflection of the other person’s behavioural patterns in relationships than a reflection of their feelings toward you.

If you often ghost other people, it can be helpful to reflect on why you feel the need to cut off communication abruptly instead of seeking closure.

People with an avoidant attachment style can often be more likely to ghost - if this sounds like you, read How to Date When You Have an Avoidant Attachment Style.

Is Ghosting Always Bad?

This can feel like a controversial take, but no, ghosting isn’t always the wrong thing to do.

In an ideal world, we would all be able to communicate with each other respectfully, and having a conversation with someone about ending a relationship would be done with care and consideration.

Unfortunately, these conversations aren’t always possible.

If you can have a conversation with someone about why you want to end the relationship, that can be a great option. A simple message thanking them for their time, but explaining that you just don’t feel a romantic connection, can be a great way for both sides to receive closure.

But if you’re dealing with someone where the communication is becoming toxic, sometimes it’s better to just cut off the conversation completely.

(If you’re worried that the other person’s actions might escalate, don’t be afraid to reach out for support - If you think you may be at risk of harm, there are several helplines you can contact for immediate support. This list of Toronto-based help for intimate partner violence has additional resources to support you.)

Why Does it Hurt So Much to Get Ghosted?

Even if you didn’t know someone that well, getting ghosted by them can really hurt.

why does it hurt to be ghosted

You’re left wondering what you could have done differently, feeling confused and a little bit embarrassed about the whole situation.

Getting ghosted hurts because it:

  • Feels like a personal failure
  • Brings up feelings of shame
  • Echoes past rejections you’ve faced

This can often be because you see it as a reflection on you - if they just liked you a little bit more, or you were just a little bit better, then surely they wouldn’t have ghosted you.

It can be equally frustrating and relieving to realize that ghosting is more about the other person’s relationship patterns than it is about you.

How to Cope with Getting Ghosted

Getting ghosted can leave you wanting explanations and doubting your self-worth - but these three strategies can help you feel better.

1. Boost your self-esteem

Your self-esteem can take a hit after getting ghosted, so take some time to remind yourself how great you are.

You can boost your self-esteem by:

  • Doing physical activity you enjoy
  • Acknowledging your accomplishments
  • Spending time with people who love you
  • Combating negative self-talk with affirmations

Feel better after reading 5 Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem.

2. Give yourself closure

When you get ghosted, it can feel like you’re left with more questions than answers.

While you may never know the reason why someone ghosted you, it can help to accept the situation for what it is and then move on.

Reflect on these questions:

  • Did you learn anything from your conversations with this person?
  • What was your favourite and least favourite part about your interactions?
  • Did you gain any clarity about what you want or don’t want in relationships?

Forgiving someone who never apologized can be hard - but it can also be the best thing for you.

3. Talk to someone who gets it

Whether you want to talk to a friend or a therapist, open up to someone you know will listen to you.

Getting ghosted is frustrating, and it can amplify the feelings you’re already having in other areas of your life.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to other people for support.

Next Steps for Building Healthy Relationships

After reading this article, you know the psychology of ghosting and three ways to cope when it happens to you.

Here at KMA Therapy, we know that as great as it is to develop strong coping skills, sometimes you want a bit of extra support.

Our relationship therapy team is here to help you navigate even your most complex relationships, and thrive in dating and romance.

Register online to get started today.

To learn more about your attachment style, take our free Attachment Styles Quiz.

If you’d prefer to keep reading, explore these articles:

About the Author

Emily Weatherhead has a Masters in Community Psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University, where her research focused on improving post-secondary student mental health. She is passionate about finding new ways to make mental health research more accessible and break down the barriers that prevent people from receiving mental health care.

Author |
Emily Weatherhead (Guest Author)
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