Ghosting is truly a haunting experience. Let’s say you’re dating someone, and all seems to be going well. It might feel like a modern miracle.
Then, suddenly, your texts receive no response. Your messages are left on read. You might even be worried enough to make an actual phone call. Nothing! The person you thought you’d connected with has ghosted you.
You know they aren’t dead though. Before social media, if someone ghosted you, you could actually tell yourself that they were in a tragic accident and didn’t disappear on purpose.
Now, you can log on to their favorite social media platform and see their updated relationship status with their “platonic” roommate or other continued proof of life-after-you.
They’ve moved on and didn’t bother to tell you, and to add insult to injury, they’re now ignoring your existence. After making endless excuses for the lack of contact, you finally face the fact that you’ve been ghosted.
7 Early Signs of Ghosting
After it happens, you’ll likely be hyperaware that it could happen again. In fact, I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t been ghosted at one time or another.
It’s a common complaint from single people, and even people in relationships can usually recount a time when someone just disappeared on them.
It’s devastating to be ghosted, and you will want to avoid it at all costs. Look for the early signs that someone is prone to ghosting.
While you cannot prevent someone from ghosting you, you can disengage when you spot the warning signs and let them know you’re not going to wait for them to leave and leave you haunted.
Why listen to me? I’m Crystal Jackson and I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and individuals and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships, self-improvement, and psychology. My work has been featured in large publications such as Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, and Mamamia.
1. Inconsistent Responses to Messaging
If your boo or potential boo is inconsistent in responding to messages, you might have a possible ghost sighting on your hands.
In other words, this behavior can predict the potential for this person to ghost you.
Research into ghosting found that one reason ghosting happens is that the person who ghosts feels inundated by messages from their romantic interest. That communication overwhelm can lead to a desire to cut off all contact.
Please keep in mind that the research didn’t delve into the frequency of messages. Instead, it focused on the perception of them.
You might not be texting too much, but if the other person has a lot going on, regular check-ins of any kind could feel overwhelming.
In that case, it’s about them and not about you.
On the other hand, if you send text messages all day long and never give the other person space to breathe, you’re increasing your likelihood that the other person will ghost you.
2. Frequent No-Shows for Dates
Someone who frequently cancels plans and fails to follow through is at risk of ghosting you. They are already indicating that they don’t see you as a priority.
A Forbes Health/OnePoll survey on ghosting revealed that some of the most common reasons for this behavior include different expectations for the relationship, not feeling invested in the interaction, not finding appearance or personality attractive, or having a hard time in their personal life.
If someone isn’t showing up for plans or cancels them often, you already know that they aren’t that into you.
When you’re looking for early signs that someone might ghost you, pay attention to how they discuss the potential for commitment.
A person who dodges labels and emphasizes a desire to keep things casual or just see where it goes is either not interested in commitment with you or simply not interested in a committed relationship.
It might be painful to face the fact that they could reject you only to update their relationship status with someone else, but it’s important to listen to what they’re actually saying rather than hearing whatever it is you want to hear.
In other words, when they tell you they don’t want a relationship, that’s not the time to try to convince them otherwise.
If they’re into ethical nonmonogamy or polyamory and you’re not, accept that you’re just not a good match.
If they change the subject every time you bring up the potential for a relationship status update, they just aren’t your boo and might be thinking about ghosting you to prove it.
4. Past History of Ghosting
Research into ghosting has revealed that the reasons for ghosting are more complicated than you might think.
However, one early warning sign that someone could ghost you is that they have admitted to a history of ghosting other potential partners.
Some of the rational that is used for ghosting includes the following:
- They met someone else and ghosted you rather than telling you that.
- They didn’t think the relationship was serious or likely to become serious based on your interactions with each other.
- They wanted to avoid an awkward conversation that would hurt your feelings. This is more about their avoidance of discomfort than their concern about your feelings.
- They didn’t feel like the text or online conversations were going anywhere. Endless “how was your day?” messages can truly kill whatever vibe you were hoping to communicate.
- They excused the behavior as a dating app norm. If they met you online, they might have less of a problem with ghosting you when they lose interest or perceive a lack of interest in you.
- Drugs or alcohol were involved in the initial interaction. After they sobered up, or you did, they may have decided they weren’t that interested.
- Age and immaturity are considered a potential factor of ghosting. Mature people will have a conversation with you to tell you it’s over. Immature people won’t even attempt it.
- There was a perception of danger with disrespectful, aggressive, or abusive behaviors (typically reported more from women than men). This is the only truly acceptable and understandable reason to ghost someone else. While men often fear rejection when dating, women fear being assaulted or murdered. It’s a significant difference.
When someone is a serial ghoster, they might not consider their behavior problematic. They might even rationalize it in one of the aforementioned ways.
Danger is clearly a good reason to end all communication, but considering ghosting a dating norm could mean that the person you’re dating will be just as comfortable ghosting you in the future.
5. Emotional Unavailability
One potential early sign of ghosting is the other person’s emotional unavailability.
If they’ve made it clear that they are grieving an ex or dealing with other stressors, they are telling you that their capacity for a relationship is limited.
Unfortunately, you might just see that as a caution flag rather than the red flag that it is and proceed with attaching to them emotionally. I’ve been there.
But the reality is that someone who isn’t emotionally available to you might consider ghosting a good alternative if you’re just not absorbing the message that they aren’t ready.
Of course, not everyone who is emotionally unavailable is also immature. There are people who will have the hard conversations with you and let you know where they stand.
Combine immaturity with emotional unavailability and you’ve got the perfect storm for ghosting.
6. Low Self-Esteem
Another early warning sign that someone has the potential to ghost you is that they have low self-esteem.
This could create the perfect conditions for ghosting the other person. It might be a tactic to reject you before you can reject them.
But it’s also possible that it has to do with their mindset and mental health rather than any accurate reading of the relationship.
7. Avoidant Attachment Style
If you’ve ever dated anyone with avoidant attachment style, you know that they need a lot of space and freedom, or they’ll feel smothered and trapped in the relationship.
Researchers found that this attachment style can contribute to less direct communication when ending a relationship — up to and including ghosting.
It’s rare for a person with avoidant attachment to leave the door open to reconnecting with an ex. Often, ghosting and other indirect methods of breaking up could result from their desire to avoid conflict and extricate themselves from an uncomfortable dating scenario.
Ghosting can be particularly challenging on you if you have an anxious attachment style. You’re already prone to fearing abandonment.
I know because that’s been my go-to attachment style before I learned how to become securely attached. You can date someone with avoidant attachment, but you will need to give them time and space and be willing to openly communicate about your needs and expectations.
Their attachment has to do with their upbringing, and there are plenty of people with this attachment style who have successfully committed to relationships.
Unfortunately, there are others who have not, and these people just might ghost you. The only way to find out which one you’re dealing with is to have open conversations about your relationship.
How to Deal with Being Ghosted
Ghosting can cause mental and even physical anguish. If you’ve ever been ghosted, you know this already.
Dr. Jennice Vilhauer stated in an article in Psychology Today, “One of the most insidious aspects of ghosting is that it doesn’t just cause you to question the validity of the relationship you had, it causes you to question yourself.”
When someone ghosts you, you might find yourself preoccupied trying to solve the mystery. Did you do something wrong? Why would they do something like this to you?
Why didn’t you see it coming? The sense of rejection is overwhelming, and you don’t even get the closure of a conversation ending the connection.
In fact, if you already experience a high need for closure in relationships, ghosting is particularly painful for you.
This can explain why some people find ghosting more devastating than others do. Being ghosted can leave you ruminating on a relationship long after it ends.
Experts believe that ghosting can delay healing and create psychological harm for the person who has been ghosted.
If you’ve been ghosted, you may need guidance on how to move forward.
While I am a former therapist, the following tips are not meant as therapeutic advice and cannot replace the support of a trained and licensed clinician.
These suggestions come from my own personal experience of being ghosted and are offered to assist you in coming to the other side of this harrowing experience.
See a Therapist
One of the single most powerful things you can do heal is to seek out a therapist to guide you through it. It can help you process the complicated feelings you have around ghosting or being ghosted.
It can also help you recognize the warning signs you might miss on your own. You don’t have to go through this process alone, nor should you.
Of course, if you are uninsured or underinsured, you may not have the option to see a therapist to help you through the process of grieving the loss of the relationship or the cruel way it ended.
You might seek out mental health accounts on social media or peruse the self-help section to find a book that fits your situation. This is another way to access expert advice when you can’t afford the cost of therapy.
Embrace the Mystery
William Berry of Psychology Today suggests that you can heal from ghosting by embracing ambiguity. In other words, accept that you will likely never solve the mystery, nor is it your job to do so.
Being able to accept an undesirable outcome, a reality of everyday life, can build your resilience and create avenues to healing.
Accepting the ambiguity of ghosting is a challenge. The very nature of it makes you question yourself and your connection with the other person.
Yet, acceptance is part of the grieving process. If you can get to the point where you simply acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers, you’ll be that much closer to accepting that a person who ghosts you wasn’t a strong match for you anyway.
Accepting the uncertainty of life and ghosting will even help you become more resilient over time.
In other words, it doesn’t have to be an ongoing setback for you.
Find the Lessons
I’ve found that uncovering the lessons can provide a sense of purpose when someone you connect with ghosts you. It’s a painful situation, but you can learn from it.
When a lover cut off all contact, I had to face the fact that I had ignored his self-described extreme conflict avoidance.
I’d written it off as a cute quirk rather than evidence that he lacked the necessary relationship skills to date and break up with kindness and direct communication.
Seeing the red flags that you may have misunderstood or ignored can help you recognize them in the future.
Ghosting can also be a lesson in attachment, maturity, and accountability. The worst time I was ever ghosted, I did not handle it well. I escalated. I don’t want to know how many text messages I sent.
It’s likely an embarrassing number. I spiraled, and I can now see that it had to do with immaturity, inexperience, and being overly attached to someone I didn’t actually know that well but wanted to.
In fairness, it was my first attempt at dating following my divorce, and I was unprepared for the phenomenon that is ghosting.
Happily, that was the last time I experienced such an overblown reaction to the trash taking itself out. I even learned, in time, to be grateful that it did.
Experiencing ghosting is devastating, and it can fill you with self-doubt. Practicing self-care following this experience can be healing.
Feeling rejected is never fun, and it’s so much worse when they cut you off without a reason or conversation. You need to take good care of yourself and make self-care a consistent practice during this time.
Eat well and work in some healthy movement. Go out in nature and allow it to help reset your system.
There are so many ways to care for yourself when you’re dealing with the grief, confusion, and loss that happens when someone ghosts you.
Don’t forget to lean on supportive friends during this time. You’re likely to run the whole gamut of emotions, and you’ll need all the support you can get.
Life After Ghosting
Ghosting is painful. Part of healing will involve reminding yourself your innate worthiness to be loved.
Your ego is probably bleeding, but just because someone didn’t see your worth doesn’t mean you don’t have any.
Their failure to see it is their loss. Your failure to see it? Now that would be a real tragedy.
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