Let’s be real: Getting ghosted is one of the worst feelings ever. Maybe you went on a few dates with someone, then they stopped answering your texts. Or maybe you’ve been seeing each other consistently for a while, but out of nowhere, they pulled away. Getting ghosted in dating can leave you confused, embarrassed and questioning whether or not you did something wrong. And although ghosting is (unfortunately) a common trend these days, it can be mind-boggling to know what to do when you get ghosted.
“Getting ghosted in dating happens all the time,” says Alyse Freda-Colon, LCSW, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship coach. “People ghost primarily to avoid having an uncomfortable conversation. Sometimes they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by telling them they don’t want to continue the relationship, so they take the path of least resistance and just stop communicating.”
If you just got ghosted, first thing’s first: It’s not your fault. You may be debating whether or not to reach out to the person, ask for clarity, or simply let them go—but the right decision isn’t always obvious. Here’s what to do when you get ghosted, according to therapists and relationship experts.
Why Do People Ghost?
According to Carla Manly, PhD, a clinical psychologist and relationship expert, reasons for ghosting can vary. “People ghost for a wide variety of reasons ranging from fear and anxiety to passive-aggressive tendencies,” she tells StyleCaster. “In many cases, people ghost because they have low emotional intelligence and see ghosting as an easy way out.” Manly explains that while some people are actually afraid to hurt their date’s feelings, others might see ghosting as a form of maintaining control over the situation.
Freda-Colon adds that ghosting can be due to fear of confrontation. “It can be seen as a cowardly way of extricating yourself from a situation,” she says. “It often leaves the other person feeling rejected and wondering what went wrong.” And maybe something did go wrong to cause the ghosting, but not always. There’s always a chance the person wasn’t feeling any chemistry, started seeing someone else, or simply didn’t want to continue dating.
Should You Reach Out To Someone Who Ghosted You?
TBH, getting ghosted can feel like a punch to the gut. You may feel sad, disappointed, shocked, angry and most likely, a combination of everything. But if you’re wondering, Should I reach out to the person who ghosted me? Experts say to tread carefully.
“If you have been ghosted, feel free to reach out to the person to ask why they have stopped responding or ask for an explanation—but be prepared for radio silence,” Freda-Colon says. “Not everyone has the willingness or ability to be clear and honest.”
If you’re debating whether or not to follow up, Manly says that sometimes, not reaching out might be the healthiest option. “In many cases, it’s wise to let go of the person and realize that the issue is their problem, not yours,” she says. “In truth, if someone doesn’t have the ability to end a relationship with grace, it’s unlikely that they have the skills to be a good partner in the long term.”
But if you think closure would bring a sense of relief, Manly says to go for it. “If you feel that you want to have closure on your end, it’s absolutely appropriate to send a respectful message that allows you to move forward,” she explains. “For example, you might text something like, ‘It felt hurtful to be ghosted by you, but I’m moving forward. It’s my hope that you treat others more respectfully in the future.’”
Why Ghosting Hurts So Much
Getting ghosted can have a negative impact on your mental health, no matter how long you’ve been dating the person. Humans crave connection and belonging, and since ghosting leads us to feel ostracized, it naturally causes feelings of alienation, helplessness and in some cases, depression. A 2020 study found that people who have experienced ghosting and “breadcrumbing” (when a person leads you on with no real intention of commitment) reported loneliness, helplessness and lower life satisfaction. The same goes for ghosting online or on dating apps; a 2021 study shows that being metaphorically left on “read” can cause detrimental impacts on ghostees’ self-esteem.
According to Manly, the emotional and psychological impact of ghosting can largely depend on how involved your relationship was (or wasn’t). “If there’s little or no personal investment in the relationship, the impact [of ghosting] can be insignificant,” she explains. “However, if a person has a high investment in the relationship emotionally, mentally, or physically, getting ghosted can be quite traumatic.”
How To Recover From Being Ghosted
It’s normal to feel waves of sadness, anger, or irritation toward the person who ghosted you. But first, remember that this probably isn’t your fault. “Try very hard not to blame yourself or second guess yourself,” Freda-Colon recommends. “There could be a zillion reasons why someone ghosts you—and in all likelihood, it has nothing to do with you, your value, or your worthiness.”
Practice self-compassion, find little ways to boost your self-esteem, or even have a breakup self-care moment and treat yourself to a nice gift. If it feels too overwhelming to move on, talking to a trusted friend, family member, or consulting a therapist can help you sort through your difficult emotions. And if you’d rather tackle the healing journey solo, you may want to add a breakup book to your library list or even try a spiritual ritual to let go of the past.
The bottom line: You deserve a healthy relationship and a loving partner who won’t disappear without a trace. You deserve happiness—full stop. If someone ghosts you, they may not be the best partner for you, anyway.