My first experience with getting ghosted by a guy goes all the way back to my first ever boyfriend. I was 13 years old and we were the epitome of a classic junior high school relationship – we texted 24-seven but barely talked to each other in person, we held hands on the way to class but were both too shy to initiate the first kiss…you get the point. As innocent and sweet as it was in middle school, things took a turn once we entered into the treacherous and intimidating world of high school.
As far as I know, he was my boyfriend for an entire year, but I’m not so sure that was the case in his mind. After spending most of the summer before 9th grade apart, he stopped responding to my text messages and calls. I remember being at my best friend’s house texting and calling him after having been ignored for weeks just trying to get some answers. He literally cut me off completely out of nowhere, and the worst part? We had English class together LOL. I eventually riled up the courage to break up with him, although I’m pretty sure he thought he was already single.
Although I was young, this was still an impactful experience and it set the precedent of what would come years later. This disappearing act, better known as “ghosting,” is something that most of us have both done to others and had done to us. In fact, according to an article by Psychologist Jennice Vilhauer Ph.D., approximately 50% of men and women have both experienced ghosting and ghosted someone themselves. Although it’s extremely common in the dating world today, she points out how devastating the emotional effects can be, particularly to those who already struggle with self-esteem.
Vilhauer says that social rejection, such as ghosting, activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain. However, the true psychological distress of ghosting comes from the fact that we’re left with no answers as to why we’re being shunned by someone we care about. We’re left wondering what went wrong and often turn the blame on ourselves. I know that after every time I’ve been ghosted (and there have been many times), I can’t help but wonder what I did to mess it up. Was I delusional for thinking he liked me back in the first place? Am I a poor judge of character?
“This self-questioning is the result of basic psychological systems that are in place to monitor one’s social standing and relay that information back to the person via feelings of self-worth and self-esteem,” Vilhauer says. Basically, whether it’s from a longterm relationship or someone you only went on a few dates with, ghosting can do a number on the way we love and talk to ourselves. Time to put those metaphorical walls back up, amirite?
So if we know how crappy being ghosted makes us feel, why in the hell do we do it to other people? I hate to admit it, but I have also been a culprit of ghosting men I didn’t want to continue building a relationship with. For all they know, I could have dropped off the face of the planet. Of course, I feel guilty about having cut ties with no explanation, but at the time it felt easier than the difficult conversation of ending it myself. It was never about them as a person that made me think they didn’t deserve an explanation, it was about my own discomfort and fears that led me to the inconsiderate decision to ghost them. Especially nowadays when much of our communication happens via text or the internet, ghosting is simply the easiest way to dip out on someone.
This is what I try to remind myself whenever it happens to me. No matter if someone isn’t emotionally mature enough to break it off, they don’t feel connected to you, or they simply don’t care about the impact they’re leaving on you and your future relationships, you are still wholeheartedly deserving of love and respect. If someone doesn’t like you, so what? They obviously are not “the one” or however you want to phrase it.
It’s important to remember that if someone doesn’t feel invested in you, then you shouldn’t be investing your time and energy in them. So next time you get ghosted, I want you to say this: I’m a f*cking catch and it’s their loss. Follow this by blasting Good as Hell by Lizzo on repeat.