Here’s a scenario: You’re talking to someone for a while, they seem super interested in you and then *poof* the communication comes to a screeching halt. If you’ve ever been ghosted before, then you’re probably familiar with that play-by-play.
According to a 2018 study from Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, out of 1,300 people surveyed, a quarter of them had been ghosted by a partner. And a fifth reported ghosting someone themselves.
While the term ghosting sounds like a harmless prank you play on Halloween, the act itself can be super hurtful. “You’ve established communication, you’ve established rapport, regular lines of contact, and all of a sudden that person just leaves and you have no way to contact them,” explains Natalie Jones, PsyD. “Basically that person holds all the cards in terms of line of communication,” she adds. And that can leave you feeling disregarded, undervalued and just plain crappy.
So why do people ghost? After all, how complicated can it be to text, “I think you’re a great person, but TBH, I don’t think we’re compatible because [insert truthful or bullsh*t reason here]?” That’s all you have to do to end things without completely disappearing. And yet, so many people will choose to leave you hanging instead.
According to Jones, someone’s reason for ghosting you likely has little do with you at all. Instead, she explains that it’s often a sign of their own emotional immaturity, attachment issues, and more. Read on to see why your last S.O. might have pulled a disappearing act.
1. They’re with someone else.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but the person who ghosted you might have been seeing other people at the same time they were seeing you. And when things started getting serious—they sensed that you wanted commitment or there was a reoccurring fight about meeting each other’s friends—they fell back and moved onto the next person, Jones explains. Harsh, but also unfortunately true.
2. They’re emotionally immature.
A.k.a. they’re a bad communicator. “This person definitely made promises that they couldn’t keep,” Jones explains. Maybe they said they’d love to go on a trip with you and then flaked. Being emotionally immature is all about these inconsistencies between what they say and what they do, the expert adds. It’s this inconsistency that usually takes charge when they’re ghosting you after they already said they were ready to settle down. *shakes head*
3. They’re not interested in committing to you.
Sometimes, it takes a date or two or a few to get a read on somebody, and when a guy or girl decides early-ish on that they’re just not that into you, they might disappear. His line of thinking might be that he doesn’t owe you an explanation since you hadn’t been messing with each other’s feelings for long enough to really warrant one. Or it could be that she doesn’t think she can give you what you’re looking for in particular (read: a long-term relationship.). “It’s the role that they’re afraid of. They’re feeling like they can’t live up to the expectation of fulfilling that relationship with you,” Jones says. And in that case, you don’t want them anyway.
4. They’re going through something personal.
This one is an occasionally justifiable reason for ghosting someone (IMO!)—and one that I think you can bounce back from. Let’s say you just started talking to someone and their close friend dies, and they don’t know how to unload all of this on someone new. That situation could warrant a second chance.
There just needs to be, “solid proof that they’ve done the work, or that they put in the time to actually change and work through whatever the issue was,” Jones says. And you (the person who was ghosted!) would need to actually forgive them. Otherwise, you’ll end up getting back together, and every time you’re in a fight, the ghosting will come up again. And nobody will like that.
5. They’re dealing with anxiety.
Generalized anxiety often stems from fears, including abandonment or not being perfect, which can easily trickle down into one’s relationship. And so because the person is anxious in love, it can be very difficult for them to settle into or get comfortable in a relationship, Jones says. They may actually do things to self sabotage (think: ghosting).
6. There’s a safety concern in the relationship.
Let’s face it: Sometimes someone might ghost because they feel they have no other option. (Btw, it’s not just women who feel unsafe in relationships: 49 percent of men have experienced at least one psychologically aggressive behavior by an intimate partner and four out of 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.) “Sometimes the only way to walk away from a toxic relationship is to just disappear,” Jones says.
7. They don’t want to get too attached.
Maybe the person you’re seeing moved around a lot as a kid or grew up in a chaotic family environment where people were always moving in and out of their life. Jones often sees these early adolescent experiences play out in current relationships. “They learned very early on that people, places, and things weren’t stable,” Jones explains. And as a safety mechanism, they try not to get too emotionally attached to any one person, place, or thing (see, not your fault!).
8. They got what they wanted from you.
This is, I fear, very common. “People use people,” Jones says. That could mean financially, sexually or in the workplace. Once they feel like they’ve accomplished what they wanted to accomplish, they’ll disappear. And the truth is: “They weren’t really ever interested in a relationship with you. You were kind of approached under the guise that they were,” Jones explains.
The bottom line: If someone ghosts you, there could be a good reason for it. But it might also be a sign they’re not ready for a relationship, in which case, you shouldn’t waste your time on them either.
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