The Ghosted and the Ghosters

Ghosting - ever heard of it? Ever experienced it? It can be extremely painful...

I've recently been introduced to the phenomenon of ghosting, which is the experience of a someone disappearing from a relationship, and is common to internet dating. Both men and women report that they may have built up a promising start to a relationship through messages and/or phone calls but that then the person disappears without trace. They appear to simply vanish whilst the other person is left confused and feeling less than good about themselves as they try to work out what went wrong. Ghosters might even disappear after actual dates and can occur after both successful and unsuccessful relationships. One can understand why someone might be a bit cowardly about admitting that they didn't have such a great date and want to silently retreat instead of having to admit that they didn't really enjoy their date. Alarmingly, however, some ghosters disappear after several successful dates. I personally know one ghoster who disappeared after dating a woman for 18 months (I have permission to report this). After meeting his children and spending two Christmases with his family, she was at a loss to understand how someone who became so close could simply disappear without a word. Needless to say, ghosting can be perceived as a form of rejection or abandonment, so might be especially difficult for a person with those particular issues to deal with.

But what about the ghoster? This can't be an easy thing to do to someone, especially when they have loved or had strong feelings for the person too. It can just as easily be born of rejection/abandonment issues for them too if they fear that someone is getting too close, and when that means that they fear being left. So, such a person may sabotage the relationship in order to avoid being left first. Often, people in these positions say things like, "I'm no good at relationships", or even refuse to acknowledge that they are in a relationship. For these people, being in a relationship is equated with pain through loss from rejection and abandonment. So, by denying the relationship exists, or leaving it when things become too close/serious, they can avoid all associated emotional pain. Usually this is achieved by getting into a brand new relationship in which they can anaesthetise themselves from the pain with a big dose of dopamine from the heady new romance. At the end of the day, though, they live with the ongoing emotional emptiness of not being able to be in a close, mutually loving relationship as they are too afraid to commit. Often associated with people with ambivalent/avoidant attachment issues, e.g., those who were neglected/abused as children or adopted persons, therapy can be a highly beneficial experience. Relational therapy, especially, can be a route to understanding how to trust that a serious long-term relationship might risk emotional pain if it ends, but without taking that risk, one might never know the incredible joy of mutual, long-term love and companionship.