Ghosting: A 5-Step Survival Guide for When Your Shit Gets Fucked (BOO!)
Ghosting is evil and awful and horrible and it happens to a new person every 19 seconds - can you believe that?
You shouldn’t, because I just made up that statistic.
But even if ghosting isn’t happening 3x/minute (that we know of...), it’s still super sucky and increasingly common.
So I want to offer a survival guide of sorts, for what to do if/when you get ghosted, because it will bite major ass. Been there, done that, survived it, boom-shaka-laka.
FIRST, I quickly want to clarify what ghosting is and what ghosting is not.
When two people have mutually invested in a connection to the point where there’s some semblance of familiarity and emotional safety that has developed (let's say three dates/real-life hang outs, minimum?).
And then one person disa-fucking-ppears. Yes, like a ghost. Poof. They do this without warning, reason, and are likely never heard from again.
Ghosting is not:
When you go on one or two dates with someone and have a good time, but never hear from the other person (that’s just dating).
When you’ve been messaging a guy online for 5 days and he disappears or un-matches you (that’s just online dating).
Sometimes I get messages from ladies who are indignant, heartbroken, and beside themselves because they gave a guy their phone number and he texted for a few days and then disappeared. How could he ghost on them?
In my opinion (which you're free to disagree with): That isn’t ghosting.
Calling that ghosting is insensitive to people who date for three months, are introduced to family members, celebrate birthdays, share emotionally and physically intimate moments, only to have one person vanish.
If you are that emotionally ravaged by someone going poof-bye after hardly any semblance of legitimate connection (3 days of texting does not a legitimate connection make), you probably shouldn’t be dating right now. I recommend taking a pause-break to honor your self-worth and work on not being so emotionally reactive.
So with the cold, hard specifics outta way, here are some tips for getting through ghosting and not taking it personally and not letting it harden your heart and instead help yourself heal and rise triumphant like a gahd-dang phoenix.
1. When you want to react, wait.
The last time I got ghosted, I had a gut feeling shit was going down 48 hours into his radio silence.
He had promised he’d be in touch, but no texts/calls/smoke signals were coming through.
And then a couple more days went by, and despite me reaching out...he maintained his unresponsiveness.
Wt actual fuck.
I started tweaking and freaking out. Things had been going (seemingly) so well! We were six weeks into making some magic together! I was super into him and he seemed to be super into me too!
So naturally, there were very anxious, upset, hurtttt parts of me that wanted to continue pursuing his his ass, or at least call him and be like, “WTF IS GOING ON WTF HAPPENED WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE WTF WTF,” butttttt…
I was writhing inside and losing my emotional shit. And after years of trial-and-error, I know better than to take action when I’m writhing, mid-shit-loss.
When one is in a state of emotional upheaval, spinning out, or resembling this Charlie Day meme:
One must learn to sloooow down, notttttt fly off the handle, or react impulsively...
Instead, they must train themselves to try waiting for a little while until they’ve calmed down, leveled out, and can think more clearly (and proactively) about how it makes sense to proceed.
This is a necessary life skill. It’s the skill of inaction.
It’s the skill of not allowing your jacked up emotional state to climb into the front seat, hijack the steering wheel, and drive off a damn bridge. Or send a series of crazed, haphazard texts that read something like a scorned Tasmanian Devil on tequila shots.
Sitting with your discomfort and feeling what you’re feeling and not acting on it is a superpower.
Here’s the deal: When it becomes increasingly clear that someone is ghosting you (because they’ve stopped making efforts and are ignoring your attempts to connect), you will probably want to keep reaching out because you are still committed to maintaining the relationship.
You will feel rejected and hurt and confused, and will want desperately to stop feeling that way. Can you blame you?
You will want to understand what the hell happened (totally normal), or what is going on in their shitty mysterious brain (seriously), and you will probably want to force them to fess up, or make them hurt because they’re making you hurt, or you might want to educate them on how terrible it is to ghost someone.
There will be many motives behind the burning desire to react and reach out and maintain the connection, because you want to fix your feelings. Again -- totally normal!
But it is essential to recognize that the ghoster-person who has hurt you is not going to be the best source for emotional salve and soothing.
Try not to let your (rightly) ravaged emotions do the deciding for you on how you move forward.
We need to learn to sit and be quiet and feel and keep our thumbs off the "send" button. And yes - it blows.
Most of us suck at inaction. Most of us are wired to react-react-react, and refuse to see that very few good, healthy decisions come out of emotional reactivity.
We are not thinking clearly or acting in our own best interest when we're in that state.
So when you want to react, reach out, or rip him a new one - wait. Then...
2. Accept who this person actually is.
When someone ghosts you, they are showing you who they really are. And who they really are is:
- Someone who is incapable of honesty, direct communication, and vulnerability.
- Someone who cannot bear the weight of potentially disappointing another person, or causing pain (even though in any adult relationship - two people will hurt and/or disappoint one another)
- Someone who does not have the emotional maturity to do the right thing, even and especially when it's the hard thing.
And if they can’t handle that stuff they are really not worth investing in anymore as a potential partner.
They shouldn't be tarred and feathered in the streets, necessarily. But they simply should no longer be in the running for your special someone.
Think about it this way: You’re in the process of hiring an at-home personal chef.
You find someone you like and decided to do a trial-run. For a few weeks, they come to your house and cook meals for you, and everything is delicious and amazing and worth every expensive dollar you’re paying them to prepare yummy eats. Wow - this person seems like a really great, highly qualified personal chef. You’re thinking about giving them the full-time job!
And then one day you peek in the trash and see a bunch of cardboard boxes and little plastic dish things and realize that the “personal chef” has just been microwaving frozen meals for you all week.
They’re not cooking at all.
They’re not peeling carrots or blanching asparagus or roasting chicken or caramelizing onions or any of that shit.
They’re serving up Stouffer’s. They’re kicking their feet up and zapping lasagna for 3 minutes.
They’re a fake. A phony. They’ve been pulling a fast one.
Would you still want this person to come to your house every day and chef for you?
Would you want to have to sit and eagle-eye them in the kitchen 24/7 to make sure they’re actually cooking your meals?
Would you want to have to show them how to use a food processor and like…teach them how to be a chef?
Or would you just up and fire their ass?
I reeeeally hope you’d tell the faker to fuck off.
And yet, for the most part, we almost never want to fire someone after they go ghosting.
Instead, we feel this intense desire to keep them in the kitchen, despite the fact that they are showing us how unskilled and ill-equipped they are.
Maybe we think we can help them learn how to cook (aka: express their feelings and be honest and kind towards us?). Maybe we tell ourselves there’s been some misunderstanding, and surely they actually are a great chef/person but something’s gone awry…or maybe it’s our fault they chose to microwave food for us??
Nope. Nope nope. None of that. Stop it.
They are showing you who they are: Someone who is currently (or perhaps forever) incapable of the skills necessary for the job description. SO BYEEEEEEE.
3. While you work on waiting and accepting? Feel your feelings, boo.
Ohhh honey bunny. There will be so many feelings. SO. MANY. DAMN. FEELINGS.
Because you opened yourself up to this person. You let them into your world a little bit. You invested in their world to some degree. You laughed, you kissed. Maybe you got naked. Maybe you told them some secrets and listened thoughtfully while they shared something sad. You and this other person were starting to build something - or so you thought. And when you start building something with someone…you begin to trust them.
And when you start to trust someone...and then you find out they’ve been secretly microwaving you Lean Cuisines...it is heartbreaking.
Ghosting sucks because it’s basically rejection + betrayal on steroids.
If you approach someone at a bar and they blow you off or ignore you, whatever. It stings but we can tell ourselves, “They just didn’t get to see how amazing I am.”
But when someone does get to see how amazing you are? And then blows you off and ignores you with no explanation? Fuckin’ fuck, pass the Jack Daniels.
But don't, because there's a huge difference between numbing your feelings and actually feeling your feelings.
I recommend feeling what you feel (angry, hurt, sad, scared, misunderstood, frustrated, pissed, all of it), knowing that you will not feel this way forever.
Feel what you feel, on a physical, sensory, level, and be incessantly gentle and kind and caring with yourself. Treat it like the flu, or food poisoning -- you just have to let it run its course. And while you allow yourself to feel, promise that you will not let this experience harden and hurt you for all of time.
Here are some creative ways to feel your feelings:
- You could listen to a sad/mad playlist and let yourself cry/dance it out/punch some pillows.
- You could talk to a trusted friend/family member/coach/therapist about what and how you’re feeling.
- You could draft a million and one mean texts to the person, that you never intend to actually send.
- You could write some poetry, or a heartbreaking ballad, or stream-of-consciousness rage-vent into a journal.
- You could smash some plates, hit something with a sledgehammer, or take up kickboxing.
There are lots of ways to feel, and express, and energetically process what you’re feeling.
I’m also a big fan of letting shit go at a certain point. Choosing to not live in the feelings, but allowing yourself to feel them, and then trust that the simple act of allowing is enough.
A lot of clarity came post-ghosting when I decided I didn’t want to care that much about this person who clearly didn’t care very much about me. Life is too short to continuously invest emotion or energy in those who hurt you.
So feel your shit, then let that shit go.
4. Make up some rejection mantras/reframes.
Healing your relationship with rejection is a fabulous endeavor to undertake, because we are psychologically programmed to equate REJECTION with DEATH.
Woof, am I right?
Rejection hurts in a uniquely horrific way because it lights up painful, primal parts of our brain that fear a lack of survival if we go unloved. Back in old time-y caveman days, if you were rejected by your fellow cave-folk, guess what? You were dead.
You could not fend for yourself or feed yourself or shelter yourself all by yourself. If the other cave-folk didn’t like you, or they didn’t wanna keep you around for any reason, and they kicked your cave-ass to the cave-curb, it meant you weren’t gonna make it through the winter (or the week).
That isn’t the case anymore, but we still have the same psychological response to rejection even if our survival isn’t actually at risk. Those same terrified parts of our brains will light up and spiral us into a story of, “I AM ALONE AND UNLOVED AND THE END IS NIGH.”
But boo thing, the end is not nigh.
And yet, unless we actively train our brains to respond to rejection in a new way, it will make us feel as though IMMINENT ISOLATION, HUMILIATION, AND EVEN DEATH is around the corner.
So we have to learn how to reframe rejection, stop taking it so personally, and actually see it as part of the natural order of things.
To do this, I like coming up with “rejection reframes” or “mantras for rejection” to remind myself (and my clients) that rejection actually is not a bad thing. Seriously.
Here are some of my fav’s:
Rejection is redirection.
Rejection is protection.
Rejection is nature's way of kicking junk out of your life.
Rejection is evidence that you're on your way to something even better.
Rejection is how we learn to stop taking things so personally.
Rejection is nature's way of moving us towards what's truly meant for us.
Rejection is all bout how we look at it (like most things!).
Retraining your response to rejection is an ongoing practice, but it is crazy amounts of worth it.
I can speak to this first-hand because back in the day, rejection was my arch-nemesis. If someone rejected me I would completely lose it and try and do pretty much anything to fall back into their good graces.
After years of reframing rejection, I now couldn’t give two flying fucks if someone chooses me or not. I know it’s not their job to like or love me, it’s mine (holler at Byron Katie for that lesson!). And when the wrong person lets me go, they are freeing me up for the right person down the road.
5. Uncover your own version of closure.
If you’ve waited for awhile, and you’ve given yourself some space to process and feel without acting, and you’ve worked on your relationship with rejection, then the appropriate form of “closure” will usually present itself.
Sometimes it feels so fucking great to just let it go and do nothing. To decide that you don’t have to create any kind of closure. You don’t need to reach out or understand what the fuck happened, or even make sense of it. This person showed you who they are, and you’re being redirected towards someone and something better. That’s actually really good news.
Sometimes taking closure into your own hands will feel wonderful, knowing that the other person is very likely not going to give you what you need to feel okay.
In that case, sending a text, email, or leaving a voicemail (with zero expectation of a response) can feel really good. I recommend something as simple as, “I’m getting the message that this connection isn’t going to continue. I’m not a big fan of gray area/loose ends/indirect communication, so I just wanted to let you know it was great to meet you, and I hope you find what you’re looking for.”
And as a final send-off?
Pray for the poor lil ghoster.
People who ghost are fighting an inner battle we know nothing about. They very likely lack the moral fiber and emotional integrity it takes to thrive in intimate relationships, which is very sad.
They don’t know how to speak their truth and show up fully as an authentic, vulnerable, grown-ass human beings. That’s super shitty -- both for them and for those they encounter.
So while we might loathe their actions and choices, we need to send love to the sad wounded baby person who exists underneath all that. Because no human being would ever hurt another human being being unless they were deeply confused, and hurting to a great degree themselves.
So send them some blessings, y'know?
Because you can send someone love, well wishes, prayers, and #goodvibes, and still know that you want nothing to do with them.
In the words of brilliant, elegant, the goddess herself, Michelle Obama: “When they go low, we go high.”
Go high and then go high again.
Do your work and continue to show up as your kindest, most caring, evolved, integrated self, and set the example for others to do the same.
Because in a world where ghosting has become a thing, we need more people like you.