Sydney Hills Counselling Blog

Have You Been Ghosted?

In the world of online dating today, many of us have become familiar with the expression ‘ghosting’. Being ghosted is when someone abruptly ceases to communicate with you without telling you why. Ghosting used as a way of ending a relationship (or online dating communication) is becoming increasingly common. Recent research suggests that people who reported high ghosting behaviours tended to score high in borderline personality tendencies, low levels of satisfaction with life, emotional instability, and an insecure attachment style. Ghosting is a one-sided dissolution strategy The individual stops communicating with us, there’s radio silence and they vanish from our lives like a ghost. Ghosting can leave us feeling hurt and bewildered. It can feel like being blindsided, and as a consequence, it can significantly affect our confidence and self-esteem.

Ghosting seems to be more common these days than ever before; this is mainly due to the prevalence of online dating apps. It often leaves people with questions, hurt, and confusion. Ghosting is often a way individuals react to experiencing uncomfortable feelings. In the world of online dating, the ‘ghoster’ can stop responding to contacts and never have to face any consequences for doing so. Research suggests that individuals who ghost others may exhibit signs of personality characteristics that lead them to an easy ‘exit strategy’. For example, those with Narcissistic traits may engage in ghosting more often due to their lack of empathy, a selfish attitude, and the inability to have an effective relationship termination through being able to have mature, difficult conversations. 

Michael (not his real name) recently booked an appointment with me, as he was feeling confused and hurt about his recent experience of online dating. Michael and his wife had divorced several years ago, and he felt that he was ready to ‘get back out there’. What Michael hadn’t been prepared for was the all-too-frequent ‘ghosting’ by women he’d initiated contact with. One lady, recently, at first seemed keen to meet him, and then after they met up for a walk and a coffee, she ‘just disappeared’. Michael sent her a message after the date saying that he’d really enjoyed meeting her and that he was looking forward to getting to know her better. Radio silence: no reply, Michael had been ghosted. 

As in Michael’s case, ghosting can be hurtful, cause confusion, cause a loss of self-esteem and even cause problems in future relationships for those individuals who have been ghosted several times. 

Despite the fact that ghosting seems to be becoming more common in the world of online dating, dealing with it can at times be very confusing and difficult. 

So why do people ghost? 

Most people who have been ghosted, usually ask, “What did I do wrong?”

One thing to keep in mind is that ghosting says more about the person doing it than the person being ghosted. Most often, it displays a weakness of character, however, this doesn’t help to ease the pain of rejection or make difficult feelings disappear. 

In Michael’s case, he ruminated over what he may have said or done to ‘invite’ the person to ghost him. He was just beginning to get to know this lady and then she just disappeared into the ether. The more Michael ruminated, the more confused and discouraged he became. 

Pay heed: The ‘ghoster’ usually has ‘issues’

Some individuals are fearful of emotional closeness and/or may have issues with communicating with others. These individuals tend to use ghosting as a means of escaping from situations where they feel threatened by too much emotional closeness too soon. It’s important to note however that many people who experience uncomfortable feelings will not always ghost others. 

People these days spend a considerable amount of their time online, so it’s no wonder that online dating has become a standard way to develop new relationships. The downside of online dating, seems to be that because there’s a lack of face-to-face connection and physical bonding, it makes it far easier to ghost those we’ve connected with using online dating platforms. 

Being ghosted can cause pain for everyone involved. The ‘ghosted’ can be left feeling hurt, angry, and rejected. The ‘ghoster’ can also be left experiencing some difficult feelings, having to bear the guilt of having treated someone badly. The long-term effects of ghosting can be very damaging. It can result in both parties potentially mistrusting new relationships; lessening the opportunity for developing intimacy and true connection.

Ghosting can lead to developing unhealthy relationship habits:

When a person has been ghosted, it can lead to them creating unhealthy relationship habits. A person who has been ghosted will often view themselves as if there is something defective about them or their way of initiating relationships. They often think that to prevent being ghosted, they must ‘people-please’ potential suitors.

Keeping things ‘perfect’ to please a potential partner can create a false sense of security in a relationship and can often lead to developing unhealthy relationship behaviours. These behaviours can include lying, deceit, avoiding any conflict by doing things we don’t really enjoy doing (or may feel uncomfortable with doing), people-pleasing, bending over backwards to be the ‘perfect’ partner rather than being our authentic selves and behaving in a passive-aggressive manner. These unhealthy relationship behaviours can often lead to these individuals forming shallow connections with others which sadly often leads to these often-short-lived relationships fizzling out and dying. 

The downside of Online Dating. 

Although the world of online dating has made it easier to initiate relationships with others it’s not without faults. Dating apps can often lead to awkward and troubling ways of approaching social interactions. 

The speed at which we consume and deliver information in today’s world has increased exponentially. This same speed has also become the norm for interacting with others; the cycle of relationships has sped up in response. It’s now all too easy to glide from one romantic interest to another, and ‘moving on’ has become more common than what we have ever experienced before. 

Moving on without an explanation to avoid a seemingly difficult conversation has also become an easier option for some people, as has removing ourselves from perceived tricky situations. Blocking people, deleting messages, and locking social media accounts have all become too easy. Technology has given us a free pass to escape the ‘uncomfortable’. Coming to grips with this allows us to give more thought and consideration as to who we choose to engage with and how we choose to engage with them. 

Tips to deal with being Ghosted

If you’ve been ghosted here are some tips you may want to consider:

Don’t pursue the ‘ghoster’: Resist the temptation to stalk them online. They have shown you who they are through their actions; that they’re not someone you can have a healthy relationship with. 

Know that it’s not you; it’s them: It’s very easy when we’ve experienced being ghosted that we believe we were at fault; that we did something wrong. None of us is perfect, however, all of us deserve respect. It’s normal to have a conversation during breakups, misunderstandings, and differences of opinion. 

Say what you need to say and then move on: Sometimes, it’s hard to let go when our feelings have been hurt, but even if we feel we need closure, we will often experience frustration at not getting it. Only if you really feel you will feel better by doing so, and if you haven’t been blocked, send the ghoster a final message saying what you feel you need to say, but don’t expect a reply and if you do happen to receive a reply, ignore it. Individuals who ghost others don’t have the skillset to initiate and maintain a healthy relationship. 

Try to move on by focusing on yourself and practising good self-care: Get enough sleep, spend time with good friends or family members, avoid drinking too much alcohol or other unhealthy behaviours. Do things that make you feel good and remember that there are genuine, emotionally healthy people out there in the world of online dating who don’t ghost or play hurtful mind games.

Avoid being a ‘ghoster’ yourself: Practice direct and compassionate communication. Be direct with those on dating sites whom you don’t feel are what you are ultimately seeking in a partner. 

Dating can be an uncertain minefield to navigate at times. Working with a professional registered counsellor is an effective way to learn effective dating and communication skills. If dating has been causing you or someone you know distress or frustration, it may be helpful to speak with a professional, registered counsellor. For further information, or to schedule a counselling session contact us today at [email protected]. Sydney Hills Counselling offers face-to-face personal counselling or Telehealth sessions via Zoom, telephone counselling and email counselling. Please call us on (02) 9159 6277, or email us today to see how we can help you. Due to a recent increase in inquiries, contacting us via email rather than calling us, will ensure a timely response to your inquiry. You are also welcome to leave a voice message on (02) 9159 6277.

Copyright © 2023 Sydney Hills Counselling


L.Febvre, 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.