Relationship expert explains why people ghost each other – and how to heal
When they fail to reply to your texts in a timely manner and stop making plans, you're usually left wondering whether you've been ghosted, and why.
It's an experience that can really make you feel helpless and at a loss for what to do. But it's incredibly common, something that you can even come to understand.
Registered psychotherapist Sherry Richmond talks exclusively to Four Nine about why people ghost their love interests.
Why did they ghost me?
Many people have been ghosted at one point or another, largely thanks to the advent of social media and dating apps.
But why does it happen exactly? Here psychotherapist Richmond breaks down the cruel dating trend...
1.They're just not that into you
Truth hurts, and oftentimes people ghost because they cannot imagine a future with you. Whilst they may have enjoyed the time you shared, people have different expectations of a relationship, and they may not have thought that it would be compatible long-term.
But instead of being open about their feelings, some people may decide to ghost at this point. As Richmond explains: "Sometimes, in the early stages, people haven't built that dialogue where they feel they have enough trust in place where they can really talk about their feelings openly.
"So instead, they go into their default mode, which is to avoid and detach — aka ghost."
2. They may be seeing other people
Another hard pill to swallow may be that the individual may have been seeing other people whilst they were seeing you.
People have different priorities in relationships, and while you may be looking for commitment, someone else may be more interested in getting to know a wide variety of people before settling down. So when things started getting serious — or they sensed you wanted more — they detached, and moved onto the next person.
READ MORE: Why was I dumped out of the blue?
This is why Richmond says it's so important not to discount the red flags. These could be anything from them airing your calls to them getting confused about specific details about your time together.
"Everyone has their blind spots, but oftentimes you look back and realise that something was there from the beginning, and you just chose to ignore it," she explains.
"So, when something doesn't feel right, make a contract with yourself to really pay attention to that and protect your feelings before going all in. We can't control anyone but ourselves."
3. They're protecting themselves
Richmond explains that people who ghost often have "avoidance mechanisms", which can make the other person feel like their partner has completely emotionally detached or disengaged. But really, she says, they're often doing it because they're protecting themselves.
This could be because of a number of reasons; perhaps they are dealing with some anxiety surrounding relationships — in that they are scared of fully committing and being abandoned.
Alternatively, they may have had some unpleasant experiences in past relationships, which makes them more reluctant to open up completely.
"Ghosting can be about our defences," Richmond tells me. "When I work with couples, it's very helpful for the clients to learn about each other's default mode in terms of how they defend themselves when a hurt place or a vulnerability might be getting touched.
"So some people might not be fully aware that closeness feels scary, and that opening up could trigger a past hurt."
What effects can being ghosted have?
Richmond says that ghosting can be incredibly painful, and can even trigger anxiety and depression — especially if you suppress your feelings and do not have the space to talk about them.
Likewise, it could also trigger shame, which could lead to you blaming yourself for something that was completely out of your control. In this case, she stresses that you should speak to someone that you trust, and again, find safe spaces to share your thoughts and feelings.
"Remember, emotional pain is registered in the brain in the same way that physical pain is, so please be kind to yourself," she adds.
How can you get over being ghosted?
An effective way to get over being ghosted is to learn how to self-soothe.
"One major gift we can give ourselves is self-regulation, that is, how to be there for ourselves when our anxieties or wounds are triggered," Richmond explains. "It's really powerful to know how to speak to ourselves when we are in distress."
She advises checking in with yourself throughout the day: "Ask yourself about how you have been speaking to yourself. How many times are you saying something negative to yourself or about yourself? Is your belief system kind, or do you have a very harsh inner critic?
"To self-soothe, you need to develop an inner, nurturing parent that can be there for your inner vulnerabilities.
"So, a way to self soothe and regulate our emotions is by being loving towards ourselves. Compassion is incomplete if it doesn't include yourself."
Another tool is to practice meditation. Richmond explains that when we have been ghosted, our thoughts can be all over the place. "Meditation is not about having no thoughts," she says, "but it's about those thoughts becoming background noise, where they don't control us and instead we can control what we choose to focus on.
"Because ghosting triggers emotional stress, meditation can really help you regulate your internal systems. Just do one minute a day of mindful breathing. It's very powerful."
Looking towards the future, the psychotherapist concludes: "A really valuable piece of advice you can give yourself when you start to get to know somebody is to not discount the red flags and protect yourself and your own feelings before you go all into something."