Ghosting, disappearing on someone without a trace (or goodbye text or email or phone call) seems to be the default way to end things with someone you're seeing casually or went on a date with. If you're on the receiving end, you're often left wondering what you did wrong… or did they just take a last-minute trip across the world to a small island where there’s no cell service?! Yep, that’s gotta be it! I used to be tempted to ghost and not tell someone I just wasn’t into them (it’s easy, right?!), but my therapist would say, “Being honest with someone and giving them a direct response will help you grow as a person — and neither of you will be kept guessing.” True. “And be affirmative,” she’d say. “Not, ‘I don’t think I can see you again,’ but ‘I can’t see you again.’”
Personally, I think the best way to not ghost on someone is when it happens to you… and then you’re like, “I’m never going to do that to someone.” (Hopefully, you don’t.) In a way, your reason for not wanting to see them again doesn't matter as much as the fact that you don’t want to see them again. That’s that. Though I get why we should tell people something.
An old Grey’s Anatomy episode, from one of the first seasons, had a wonderful theme about how giving someone hope is the worst. I agree. (Yes, I got dating advice from a TV show and have used it all these years! So, thank you, Shonda Rhimes!) “Hope” is somewhat synonymous to ghosting, since by not ending things with someone via a version of “Thanks, but no thanks,” you’re keeping their hopes up. Not cool.
I asked Bustle readers — and some therapists and relationship experts — for their input on the topic. If someone’s tempted to ghost, but decides not to, what do they say instead? Here’s what I found out, so you can try letting someone down with the below instead of pulling the disappearing act; after all, Halloween is over, so let’s get rid of ghosting!
1. Brett, 35
It’s easy. Just say, "Sorry, but I’m not interested," that’s it. If the person asks for a reason, you can just say you didn’t feel a connection. They cannot argue with that. (It’s just your opinion, after all.)
2. Shaun, 54
Almost anything is better than nothing. I don't understand why someone would rather delete several messages and leave someone uncomfortable rather than simply send a text or email that says something like, "It was lovely meeting you, but I don't think we're a match. Best of luck."
Believe it or not, this comes up often in therapy. People use the dating sites and have date(s) that seemingly go well, and then radio silence. I think part of the issue — although they have opened new doors for dating for many — is the anonymity and distance of virtually meeting, and it allows people to forget about common courtesies. You just block or delete someone, or just ignore them. The kind and courteous thing would simply be to say, "I think you are a really nice/great person, but I just did not feel that connection between us. I genuinely wish you well in your search."Short, simple, kind. Otherwise, the person is left wondering what they did wrong, why things changed, and why they are so awful they did not even deserve a courteous goodbye. I think these are important skills to be used and learned that apply to many areas of life.
4. Carmel, The Big Fling, 32
Ghosting betrays a certain kind of decency we owe one another — it signals to a person that they aren't worthy of acknowledgment. No matter how poorly the date went, you should simply reply that you're not interested in seeing the person again. More often than not, this will be through text. And that's OK. The text needs to be succinct, but not brash. It's good to give a reason. Example: "I had a really nice time meeting you and getting to know you. Honestly, I'm looking for a serious long-term relationship and I don't feel that is in the cards for us." Or: "Thank you for dinner on Tuesday. I'm looking for someone a little older and who shares my hobbies. I don't think a future is in the mix. I wish you the best of luck and happiness."
If the person sees that as an invitation to continue the conversation, you then have permission to ignore or shut it down: "Please stop texting me." If I had to choose a response I wished I received, it would have the same characteristics as the one I advised to give above — succinct, honest and polite. It's not so much that I desire a particular response, it's that I want a response. Any response.
5. Ben, 27
I think ghosting’s more work than just sending a quick text that you had a good time, but have decided: to go out with someone else again/that you clicked better with someone else/that you’re not ready to date right now (still getting over your ex)/whatever the case may be.
6. Dr. Fran Walfish, Couples Relationship Psychologist and Author, 50-65
A blank screen, or non-response, leaves us nothing but the worst to project onto the blank screen. In other words, it's human nature to think there is something wrong with "me," and that is why he [or she] didn't call again. The best things to say to someone if you know you're not going to call again is something along these lines: "You are a lovely person, but I feel we are not the right match (or fit)." If the person persists by asking why or pressing to try again, you can say, "I'm not comfortable going forward." No decent, caring person can dispute your comfort level. If they do, you can point to that as the reason why you wouldn't be prepared to proceed in a relationship.
7. Stef, Owner of Stef and the City, 40
As a dating expert, I commonly hear people ages 26-35 complain about this after a few great, exciting dates with someone. Things people can say that would hurt less than "ghosting" are: "It was great to meet you, but I'm seeing someone else that I'm going to focus on," "I enjoyed meeting you, but I don't feel it should go any further," or "You seem like a great guy/girl, but not for me. Perhaps you wouldn't mind if I fixed up with a friend of mine?"
8. Treva, Author of The Late Blooming Bride, 52
I was single for 50 years before finally getting married for the first time last May (in 2014) at the age of 51. Ghosting is the easy way out for people. I've had guys just disappear on me, without a reason, and it sucks. It's never easy saying goodbye or "no thanks," but there are ways of doing it that can spare someone their feelings and engender good will at the same time. The best way to opt out is to be honest and say, "I think you're great, but I'm not sure we're a match. I wish you nothing but the best." I've had to say that a million times and, I will tell you, it's very much appreciated. Maybe there's some disappointment, but no hard feelings. I may have broken their heart, but at least I didn't disappear into thin air!
9. Xander, 31
I didn’t stop ghosting until women started to do it to me — and it blew. Now if I don’t want to see someone again, I’ll text them something like, "Thanks for going out last night. I had a good time, but felt we were missing a spark I need to pursue something further." (It’s almost like a rejection letter, but way shorter.) Usually, the women respond well and thank me for letting them know. (I feel a lot better, too.) Also, the sooner you do it, the better (or else you start to obsess over doing it, which is no fun).
10. Erica, 39
I really wish people would just be honest and say what's going on. That includes if they're not interested, or if they met someone else and want to pursue that, or they've realized they're not in a good space to date. I've told people when I've met someone else, or if I don't feel a strong connection. Occasionally, I get an obnoxious response to the second one, but mostly people seem to appreciate some type of closure.
11. Joan Barnard, Zoosk’s Resident Relationship Expert, Late 20s
Ghosting after a few dates is a juvenile maneuver. Ghosting on your relationship is completely unacceptable. What to say when you're not feeling it: "I think you're awesome, but I'm just not feeling the feelings." It's a great way to make a potentially very painful conversation a lot less hurtful. The way you end your relationship can have a huge impact on potential romantic options — so always end it appropriately. We live in a small world that’s growing increasingly more connected. You never know when that disappearing act can come back to haunt you.
12. Marcy, 28
I’m so bad at rejecting people! I usually tell guys I either met someone else or had a stronger connection with someone else. Usually, that works best for me because no one wants to be in second place! (If they did, I would question their self-worth!)
13. Katie, 33
It’s TOUGH to tell someone you’re not into them. I use the "I’m still in love with my ex!" excuse. It works for me, though I should probably start being more honest instead of falling back on that all the time.
14. Martyne, 64
When I was dating in my twenties and early thirties, if I knew that I didn't want to see the guy after the first date and I had a strong feeling the guy planned to call me for a second date, I usually would say the following: "Listen, you seem like a very nice guy. I don't feel chemistry with you. But, even if I did have some feeling, an old boyfriend of mine called me just before our date, wanting to try again. I must give him a chance. Our past relationship deserves this second chance."
15. Brian, 36
Ghosting isn't the result of a lack of interest in another person so much as it is a lack of respect for another person — to not let them know what is on your mind is a rude thing to do. The right thing to do is to tell the truth… Certainly, there's a reason why you don't want to see this person romantically again. Tell the person why! If you don't know why, perhaps it’s time to do some self-examination.
16. Mitch, Co-Founder of the dating app InviteUp, 30
"Ghosting" after going on a date with someone rather than replying is the coward's way out. Instead of disappearing, spend a few minutes letting your date know that you don't want to have a second date. Try to let him or her down as softly as possible (assuming he or she wasn't a complete jerk). I like to phrase it in a way that makes my date feel like the fault lies completely with me by saying, "I really enjoyed your company, but I actually met someone else just before our date and I'd like to see how that progresses." Being clear about your post-date intentions is the best approach, because you never know when you may run into your ex-date again.
17. Sarah, 33
I've gone on a LOT of dates, mostly from online and have never heard back from the guy again. But I've also done the same. I usually like to wait to hear from the guy again. If I hear from him and I'm interested in having another date, I will continue the conversation. If I hear from him and I'm not interested, I usually say, "I had a great time with you. Thank for the lovely evening, but I just didn't feel the spark that I'm looking for. I wish you all the best and hope you find the perfect lady for you!"
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