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What Makes Ghosting Different Than a Typical Breakup?
What Makes Ghosting Different Than a Typical Breakup?

While it may be hard to imagine a nice way to end a relationship, ghosting can be particularly hurtful and confusing. Ghosting is generally used to talk about any situation where a person departs abruptly, and without warning. With that said, it is closely associated with dating.

In circumstances where people have been in a relationship for an extended period of time, ghosting is not ideal.  While it generally has a bad reputation, there are circumstances when ghosting can be recommended.

01

When Did Ghosting Become a Term?

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The definition of ghosting as a method of ending a relationship entered the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2017. Of course, the term was being used informally before then. This usage seems to have started in the mid-2000s, and gained popularity over time. The idea to turn the word ghost into a verb can be traced back to well before this century - Shakespeare used it as a verb in his play, Antony andCleopatra!

02

What Counts as Ghosting?

ghost ghosting costume LoulouVonGlup / Getty Images

While a curt text message severing a relationship can sting, this is still enough communication to qualify as more than ghosting. The term truly applies in situations where one person has completely cut off contact without explanation.

The length of your relationship with someone can influence how ghosting is perceived. While a lack of calls or texts after one date can be understandable, it can become less defensible as a relationship continues.

03

Technology and Ghosting

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The rising popularity of online dating has created new situations where ghosting can occur. The term is used to describe a situation where communication abruptly ceases on one end between two people who meet online and discuss a potential first date.

Dating apps are aware that their users are being ghosted, and they are trying to do something about it. Apps like Bumble can send reminders to users who are leaving a person's last message unanswered, encouraging them to reply.

04

Ghosting in Popular Culture

Upset rejected girl ghosted by boyfriend in coffeeshop

Online articles about ghosting and its impact on modern dating have appeared in places like the New York Times, Psychology Today, and other outlets.

In 2018, Rosie Walsh's debut novelGhosted uses the concept of ghosting to start a mystery that drives the plot. Fox also produced a sitcom called Ghosted. However, the show was about the paranormal, not relationship drama. Whether you find ghosts scarier than ghosting may depend on your dating history.

05

You Can Ghost Your Boss, Too


As the term ghosting has grown in popularity, its use has expanded. One popular spin on the idea refers to employees who abruptly leave jobs without offering two weeks notice, or any other advance warning. It can also be applied to a situation where someone accepts a job, but never arrives for their first day.

06

Getting Ghosted Can Be Painful

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While a person may not expect much conversation after a tepid first date, being ghosted by someone after a deeper relationship can literally hurt. When a person suffers rejection, the experience can activate brain activity that also occurs during physical pain. Ghosting can also make the target of abandonment feel unsure of themselves, confused, or even foolish.

07

Ghosting Can Be Harmful to the Person Who Ghosts, Too

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Even before online dating and texting, people were choosing to end relationships through avoidance. The effects of this behavior were studied in the 1970s, and it was found that the experience creates more pain for the person being rejected. It can also create feelings of guilt in the person who ghosts. When ghosting isn't successful, the conflict a person wanted to avoid can be amplified, leading to an even more uncomfortable situation.

08

Is It Ever Okay to Ghost Someone?

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If you have only gone on one or two dates, ghosting can be an acceptable way to show disinterest. This can also be a preferable course of action if something about the relationship makes you feel unsafe. If you worry a person might react violently to rejection, you should not feel obligated to put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation. You might also find ghosting to be safer if your partner exhibits manipulative tendencies.

09

Recovering from a Ghosting Experience

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Because it can be hard to know why someone chose to end a relationship via ghosting, it can be a difficult experience to relinquish. If you grow too fearful of further rejection, it can be harder to enjoy future dates.

Look at the experience of being ghosted as a reflection of that person's character, not yours. It can also help to remember that you are not alone - if no one was ghosted, the term would not exist!

10

Tips for Ending Relationship on Kinder Terms

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  • Be as clear as possible without being hurtful. Leaving someone unsure about your status, like ghosting, can lead to confusion and pain.
  • Resist the temptation to skip an uncomfortable conversation. Facing your fears around conflict can help you face future situations with more confidence.
  • Rehearse what you want to say, and practice with another person to grow more comfortable with your words.
  • Trust that giving someone a clear end to your time together will help them move on, and find someone they can build a new relationship with.

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