Have you ever heard of the term “ghosting”? Do you know what it means to “ghost” someone or be “ghosted” by someone? Ghosting is what happens when someone ends a relationship with you by ceasing all forms of communication. Often done abruptly and without explanation, they deliberately lose contact with you as a way of breaking things off and ignore any and all attempts you make to reach out to them. So if you’ve ever been ghosted, whether it was by a friend or a romantic interest, then you know how painful it can be to get left behind so suddenly without any sense of closure.
Getting rejected and losing someone you care about is already hard enough, but being ghosted can make it all feel so much worse. It can leave you with a lot of unanswered questions and have you wondering why they didn’t even feel like you were worth breaking up with in person, why you didn’t deserve a goodbye or an explanation. Unexplained and unexpected, being ghosted feels a lot like being betrayed and it can be a very painful, very traumatizing experience for us to go through.
So, what motivates people to ghost, you ask? Well, here are 6 of the most common reasons why people might ghost you:
1. They have a fear of intimacy.
People who are afraid of intimacy are emotionally unavailable. They don’t let themselves get too attached to anyone because they’re scared of what will happen. They’re afraid of abandonment, afraid of commitment, and afraid of emotional vulnerability. They’re so convinced that everyone will eventually leave them that they try to beat them to it the moment they start to feel something serious for someone else. They sabotage their relationships and struggle to let people in because of all their unresolved emotional trauma (Thelen, Vander Wal, Thomas, & Harmon, 2010). So if you get ghosted by someone you were so sure you were hitting it off with, this may be the reason why.
2. They’ve lost interest in you.
Another painful but equally possible reason why people ghost you may be because they suddenly lose interest in you. Perhaps you said or did something to push them away or cause their feelings about you to change. There are a number of reasons why people lose interest in us. Maybe they found someone else they’re more interested in. Maybe they felt you were too clingy (did you call/text them constantly?) or too incompatible (did you disagree a lot? or have nothing in common?) for things to ever work out between you. Or perhaps they felt that you were emotionally volatile or dangerous to be around (physically, mentally, and emotionally speaking) and so they felt like they had no choice but to ghost you because it’s the safest way possible to end your relationship. Sad to say, because they simply left without saying goodbye, you may never know the reason why they did why they did and what made them leave. But you can learn more about the “10 Signs Someone is Losing Interest in You” to help you recognize the warning signs before it’s too late.
3. They have commitment issues.
Think back on your last few conversations with this person. Did you ever tell them that you were looking for something serious? That you wanted to make things official and take the next step in your relationship? If the person you were seeing didn’t want to commit yet, this may have been what drove them away. Maybe they were never really interested in settling down with anyone in the first place and simply wanted to have some fun. The reality is, they may not want to commit to a single person just yet when there are so many other options out there. People like this are players, and to them, relationships are nothing more than a game. They only seek pleasure and enjoyment but never want to get emotionally involved with anyone (LeFebvre, 2017).
4. They’re too ashamed to face you.
Ending a relationship can be hard, especially if you’re the one who has to break things off with the other person. So instead of telling them and having a serious conversation about it, some people may opt to simply stop talking to you and hope you get the message. People like this don’t have the nerve to break up with you in person, so they ghost you instead. They’re too ashamed to face you because they’re afraid of how you might react, what you might say to them, and how much they might hurt you (LeFebvre, et al., 2019).
5. They’re going through something.
Whether it’s moving to another city, losing a loved one, or starting college soon, it can be difficult to balance all our personal affairs with a new relationship. In order for our relationships to grow and stay strong, we need to dedicate a lot of time and effort into them and our partners. But when we’re already juggling our friendships, family life, social life, school/work, and personal well-being along with it, it may be too overwhelming for us to bear. Maybe they just can’t spare the time for a relationship right now, or maybe they have a lot of personal issues they need to deal with first. Whatever the reason may be, it’s sadly not uncommon for people to sometimes abandon you and your relationship with them when they go through a difficult time in their life (Freedman, Powell, Lee, & Williams, 2019).
6. They’re afraid of confrontation.
Last but certainly not least, some people may be so conflict-averse that they will simply ghost you instead of breaking up with you like they should because they’re too afraid to confront you. They expect drama, tension, criticism, and ill feelings to break out between the two of you, so they simply avoid the problem and hope it goes away on its own. They’re afraid you might get angry at them or act out in any way. They don’t want to start a fight or cause a scene, but they do want to end things with you. So they ice you out – they stop talking to you, start avoiding you, don’t return your calls or your messages – because they are trying to break up with you without having to deal with any of the emotional fallout (Manning, Denker, & Johnson, 2014).
In the end, ghosting happens because it’s so much easier to just stop communicating with someone than it is to sit down and have a serious, honest conversation with them. And in today’s fast-paced, social media-driven world has deluded us into thinking that there isn’t much accountability for our actions when we’re all just talking to each other behind a screen. But ghosting is immature, harsh, and inconsiderate, so if you ever get ghosted by someone, don’t take it too personally. You deserve better than to be with someone who can’t communicate and treats your feelings recklessly.
- Thelen, M. H., Vander Wal, J. S., Thomas, A. M., & Harmon, R. (2000). Fear of Intimacy Among Dating Couples as a Predictor For Relationship Dissolution. Behavior Modification, 24(2), 223-240.
- LeFebvre, L. (2017). Ghosting as a relationship dissolution strategy in the technological age. The impact of social media in modern romantic relationships, 219-235.
- LeFebvre, L. E., Allen, M., Rasner, R. D., Garstad, S., Wilms, A., & Parrish, C. (2019). Ghosting in emerging adults’ romantic relationships: The digital dissolution disappearance strategy. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 39(2), 125-150.
- Freedman, G., Powell, D. N., Lee, B., & Williams, K. D. (2019). Ghosting and destiny: Implicit theories of relationships predict beliefs about ghosting. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(3), 905-924.
- Manning, J., Denker, K. J., & Johnson, R. (2014). Justifications for Ghosting Out of Emerging or Ongoing Romantic Relationship Anxieties. Journal of Relationship Psychology, 31(27); 114-125.