If you opened up this article, odds are high that you've been ghosted. Like anybody who's found that their new fling has disappeared from their social media and deleted their number overnight, you've been subjected to one of the rudest bits of dating failure in the world: the "creep away instead of dumping someone and maturely facing the music" approach. It's not exactly new; if you've read Virgil's Aeneid, you know that Aeneas, founder of Rome, tried to sneak away by ship from his lover Dido, Queen Of Carthage, in the middle of the night, rather than break up with her face-to-face. Things ended quite poorly for Dido and Aeneas; you'll likely be in a much better spot post-ghosting than she was. But that doesn't mean you won't still likely feel bummed out, hurt, and driven to throw your phone across the room.
Ghosting is a very specific kind of dumping. It's the act of disappearing inexplicably, when things appear to be going well (or, at least, not badly enough to merit a vanishing act). Fortune reported this March that a whopping 80 percent of all millenials report being ghosted at one point in their dating lives, which means that not only is it hurtful — it's disappointingly widespread, and will likely happen to you at some point (if it hasn't already).
And when it does, this guide is here to help. Well, not "help" as much as "get you through what is a decidedly upsetting and very unfortunate experience, preferably with a minimum of embarrassment or wordless shrieking.
1. Recognize That You're Allowed To Feel Confused And Hurt
Ghosting is cowardly. It is the refusal to deal with somebody's emotions and reactions by actually confronting an issue; it's choosing the painless way out and depriving the other person of any resolution or explanation. Bluntly put, it's sh*tty behaviour. (Cutting off contact with somebody because they are invasive, abusive, unhinged or threatening isn't "ghosting"; it's in another category altogether, and one for a different article.) To ghost is bad manners and you are allowed to be upset about it if it happens to you. As Psychology Today explains, disengagement without explanation (which is what ghosting is) is an extremely hurtful betrayal, adding ambiguity and feelings of worthlessness into the normal break-up misery cocktail. Meaning: it's normal to feel like crap.
If you want to devote some time to figuring out whether you caused a specific offense, that's OK. But keep this in mind: no matter what you did, this person had a choice, and they chose ghosting. You can own your feelings on this one.
2. Don't Try To Manipulate Them Into Communicating
Your urge will likely be to try to make your ghost talk — if not to try to rekindle the relationship, then at least to get them to explain what the hell they've done, or so that you can explain how it made you feel. That's fine, but you can't do it in a way that drags you to their level; that's not the mature way out of this.
Don't do things like pass messages through friends, engage in guilt-tripping, feign emergencies or leave forty messages in a single night (all reactions I've personally heard about). If they've accidentally disappeared off the grid, one attempt at reconnection will likely get them to realize their error; if they've done it on purpose, that's not the way to convince them to change their decision, if you even really want them to.
3. Don't Become Convinced That Everybody Will Ghost You
This is a lesson pointed out by the BBC: a bad experience with dating (and ghosting certainly counts as one) can make you generalize about your future partners, and expect ghosting behavior to be likely from them, too. This can create poor patterns, fearful or clingy behavior on your part, and is definitely not true. No matter how logical it may seem at the time, one instance does not make a repeated pattern, and all partners are not going to treat you like this.
4. Don't Expect A Solution That Explains Everything
Victims of ghosting occasionally fixate on the idea of a single contact with their "ghost;" if they could just get through to them and convince them to have the conversation, they'll be able to understand what happened. This is a false belief. Ghosting is inherently an avoidance of emotional conversation, and it's exceedingly unlikely that somebody who's gone to the trouble of a full, social media-included ghosting will want to channel that effort into making themselves understood instead.
Women's Health also explains that the conditions of ghosting, where no explanation is forthcoming at all, will likely make you over-analyze your own behavior and create a swirling vortex of self-doubt that no one explanation will solve. Don't idealize the conversation you may eventually have, if you run into them one day. It will likely not be particularly helpful.
5. Reach Out Only Once, And Then Accept The Facts
As Amanda Chatel pointed out on Bustle, they may not actually have ghosted you; falling out of contact can happen because of various reasons, and they may not have intended it to read as a "bye." Give them one chance to correct this before assuming the worst, but if they don't respond to your overture, it's time to accept what's happened to you.
Ghosting can make you feel particularly worthless; not only have you been dumped, but the other person doesn't think you're important enough to merit actually communicating with you. The only way to get through this is to remind yourself that it's their issue; the Huffington Post's guide to ghosting explains that the lack of resolution in ghosting may mean "false hope," so it's important to accept it early and help yourself deal with it properly.
6. Hear Your Ghost Out
If you've managed to do the impossible and convince a person who's ghosted you to actually have a conversation with you about it, number one, I'd like to give you a high five. (Although you probably don't feel like giving one.) Number two, you will probably — and perfectly understandably — be livid with them, because their conduct sucked.
But if they have reasons, hear them out. They're likely stupid, but you may learn something about the inner world and self-justifications of a ghoster, and that's valuable knowledge to take into your next dating foray.
7. Don't Feel Like A Fool
This is not your issue. Repeat: this is not your issue. To break up with somebody is one thing (it happens every day, it sucks, but you can get through it). But to do it by escaping through the figurative back door is another thing entirely.
It's not very likely you could have predicted this kind of behavior, although there may be signs that it's impending. The method that this person chose for breaking up with you is ridiculous, disrespectful and undeserved. Even if you'd only gone on a date or two, a little "I don't think this is working out" text wasn't going to kill them. Bottom line: your ghosted relationship isn't going to rise from the dead, but at least now you know that this person was 100 percent not worth it.
Images: Amblin Entertainment/ Harvey Films; Giphy