Ghosting: What Is It & How to Get Through It

By Dr. Jess Dating Advice what to do if you've been ghosted

Ghosting — the act of cutting ties without warning or explanation — exists across relationship lines. We see it in dating, friendships, business relations, online transactions, and even family connections. 

And on some level, we’ve likely all been on both sides of ghosting.  

If you’ve ever gone silent on a business contact to avoid an uncomfortable conversation, that’s a form of ghosting. For example, perhaps you’re doing a round of interviews and tell the candidates that they’ll hear back either way (hired or not), but don’t bother to send the “bad news” emails. That’s a form of ghosting. You’ve set an expectation for communication and didn’t follow through.  

Or perhaps you were communicating about a potential work collaboration and change your mind without letting the other party know; that silent treatment is a form of ghosting.  

We’ve seen stories of companies ghosting employees as of late (though it’s nothing new in many industries): for example, a local restaurant shut down last week without warning and employees showed up to work to find a chained door. And on the flip side, if you’ve ever managed staff, you’ve likely been ghosted by new hires who decline to show up for their first shift without warning.  

On a milder level, perhaps you’ve been involved in a family group chat about a heated topic, and mid-conversation, someone withdraws without warning, indication, or explanation. A simple “I no longer wish to discuss this” would suffice, but if they go radio-silent and then pop back into the chat at a later date like nothing happened, some would consider that ghosting-light. 

And of course, if you’ve ever dated someone who makes plans for the future and then disappears without explanation, you’ve been ghosted.

Perhaps they stop responding to texts, block you on social media, or simply don’t show up for a date. All of these experiences sting — even if you’ve only met one or two times. 

Understandably, the effects of ghosting can be more intense if your connection is more intimate, but the experience of being left behind without closure can be genuinely painful regardless of whether the relationship was casual or committed. 

Ghosting stings because it combines both rejection and ambiguity. Social rejection is experienced in a similar manner to pain in the body and when you don’t know why someone cut you off, your mind can run wild. For many of us, this involves self-criticism and blame. We wonder what we did wrong. We come up with what-if scenarios. We nitpick at our own actions to try to understand their (unfair) response.  

In the absence of social cues from the person who ended the relationship, we don’t know how to react or feel — should we feel abandoned, worried, hurt, or confused? We seek closure, but we tend to attach that closure to open communication with a person who is no longer willing (or available) to engage. 

woman waiting for a response to a text


So what can you do if you’ve been ghosted? 

First and foremost, know that ghosting has nothing to do with you and everything to do with their inability to engage in uncomfortable conversations. Whether they don’t have the skills to communicate or can’t fathom dealing with awkward feelings and situations, it’s not about you. Oftentimes people ghost one another because they don’t want to disappoint or be witness to another’s disappointment; this avoidance, of course, only intensifies the disappointment and hurt it seeks to avoid, but the ghoster’s priority is protecting their own emotions — not yours. 

You’re likely feeling hurt post-ghosting, so allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise — without apology. Acknowledge the feelings and consider talking to a friend or therapist. Talking about negative feelings can change the way we feel and address some of the shame that breeds in secrecy. 

If you feel shame, anger, or embarrassment alongside the hurt, know that this is natural. When something that you thought was going well gets interrupted, you might second guess yourself. When you face rejection, it’s normal to question yourself. What did I do wrong? Why didn’t I see this coming? Why do I attract folks like this? This self-questioning is normal and functional, as you’re assessing yourself within a social context.  


woman feeling sad and lonely


But their inability to deal with discomfort isn’t about you, so instead of asking questions about yourself, consider asking critical questions about the ghoster.  

In terms of closure, you’re likely going to be frustrated by the fact that you’re not going to get an explanation from the ghoster. Instead, focus on how you can create closure yourself. You might write them a letter to get your thoughts off of your chest (you don’t have to send it, but the writing can be cathartic) or do the same in a voice note.  

And of course, you’ll likely want to reframe the way you see the situation and the ghoster as part of your healing and closure-seeking progress. If they don’t even have the manners and tools to let you know that they’re no longer interested, were they really a good fit for you? Do you really care about their opinion of you? Do you value their perspective?

As you reflect upon the relationship (however casual or committed), ask yourself if it really was as serious as you once thought? Did you really know them that well? Would they make a good partner? In retrospect, you might come to the realization that you would have eventually broken up with them — albeit hopefully with a more honest approach. 

As you reflect upon how your experience, this is the ideal time to think about how you may have ghosted others and ask yourself how you’d like to change moving forward. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for what you want or how you feel, but you likely want to extend the courtesy of straightforward communication, so if you do find yourself tempted to ghost, ask for help!  

You can turn to a friend, or check out the @_good.byes_ IG account. They’re your friendly ghostwriters who will help you create customized boundary scripts for all of your relationships. Whether you need to set boundaries with friends or let a casual date know that you’re no longer interested, they’ll help out, so be sure to check them out!