What does ghosting mean and how best to respond to it?

You’re seeing someone, and it’s all going pretty well. A romantic dinner one night, drinks and a movie the next, and then…nothing. They stop replying to your messages, they don’t answer your calls, they may even fail to show for a date you’ve arranged.

If that experience is familiar to you, chances are you were ghosted – the term used when someone you’ve been spending a lot of time with suddenly cuts off all contact with no warning, leaving you confused and upset. Sadly, this happens to people of all gender and with all sexual orientations.

Why ghosting hurts so much

Being ghosted plays on your doubts – the lack of explanation leaves you stuck with your insecurities, picking at the parts of yourself that you’re unhappy with to work out if that’s what caused them to ignore you.

It’s a horrible feeling – you’re sad that you’ll no longer be spending time with someone you were interested in, but you’re also left feeling bad about yourself – your self-esteem takes a real hit. You might even be put off dating to avoid getting hurt again.

Ghosting after sex

Ghosting can be especially painful after you’ve been intimate with someone – the feeling of rejection can be really hard to deal with when it comes after you’ve had sex.

Sex heightens our emotional connections (it actually releases oxytocin, a hormone that strengthens attachment, giving it the nickname ‘the love drug’!) so it’s even more hurtful when that bond is broken.

And, of course, it bruises your ego, making you question whether the ghosting is directly related to the sex, your performance or your body. No one needs those sorts of thoughts going through their mind!

So if it’s not about me, why did they ghost?

Of course, there could be any number of reasons why they ghosted you, and most of them have nothing to do with you. That won’t necessarily make it any less painful if you really liked them, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t reflect badly on you – in all likelihood, the reason for the ghosting lies with them.

Perhaps they were only ever looking for a quick fling and always planned to disappear from your life once they got what they wanted. It could be that they don’t know what they want and panicked at the thought of committing to a long-term relationship. Whatever the reason for cutting you off, it’s most likely that they have ghosted you through immaturity – they’re embarrassed to have that awkward conversation and take the easier option of just pretending you don’t exist. Easier for them, that is – while you’re left trying to work out what you did wrong!

How to cope with being ghosted

The key to getting over a ghosting is to be kind to yourself. If it was your friend that had been ghosted, what would you say to them? You’d probably list all the reasons you think they’re great or highlight the many other explanations for why they’ve been cut off. Treat yourself with the same kindness!

Accept that your emotions are legitimate but try not to dwell on them – regardless of their justification for wanting to end the relationship, the cold method of ghosting reflects badly on the other person, not you! Don’t let the experience put you off dating, there’s no reason to think that because it happened once it will happen again, and you deserve to be happy.

And anyway, who needs them? If this person is willing to do something so inconsiderate, they’re not the right person for you. You’re better off without them, so get back out there – maybe the next person you meet will be perfect for you!