Have you ever had a wonderful time on a first date, only to never hear from that person again? Or perhaps you were best friends with someone for years — until they suddenly stopped returning your calls. When someone suddenly ceases all communication without an explanation, it’s called “ghosting”; essentially, their disappearance makes them like a ghost to you. And it can definitely hurt. Here, our experts reveal how to recover and restore your sense of self-worth after being ghosted.
Meet the experts
- Tracy Hutchinson, PhD teaches graduate courses in counseling at the College of William and Mary, and is a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice. More at DrTracyHutchinson.com.
- Maureen A. Coyle, PhD, is applied social psychologist who specializes in research on how digital communication affects relationship development.
- Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, author of Think to Thrive, is a psychologist in Los Angeles and the developer of Future Directed Therapy (FDT).
Feel it in your body.
When a friend or potential suitor drops off the radar without warning, it can be devastating — we wonder, Is it something I did? Is there something wrong with me? says expert Tracy Hutchinson, PhD. “It’s so important to process this pain — instead of pushing it away, notice where the discomfort is in your body,” she urges. “For example, you might say, ‘I’m feeling this in my heart; this is sadness, and I’m not alone.’ Sitting with your feelings, knowing they will pass, helps you recover faster.”
Recognize it isn’t about you.
Research shows “ghosters” often have an avoidant attachment style, meaning they tend to be emotionally distant, says expert Maureen A. Coyle, PhD. “Studies also reveal that people who ghost are more likely to have a ‘destiny mindset,’ which means it’s all or nothing with them, and they’re less likely to work on relationships.” She adds that people with a “growth mindset,” on the other hand, are less likely to ghost because they believe they can work on and nurture relationships. “Just knowing the person who treated you this way likely has black-and-white thinking helps you release yourself from blame.”
Lean on loved ones.
“The number-one predictor of physical and psychological health is strong social support,” confirms Coyle. We often want to hide when we’ve been ghosted because we feel ashamed or that we did something wrong, but this is the time to connect with those who care about us. “Being reminded of all the things people love about us reinforces the fact that we will get through this stronger.”
Note your wins.
Being ghosted shakes your faith in your decision-making, says expert Jennice Vilhauer, PhD. “To rebuild confidence in yourself, take stock of your strengths by looking back on all the setbacks you’ve overcome.” When we’re feeling down, we tend to only remember things that support a negative view of ourselves, so it helps to make a conscious decision to tally our wins, she explains. “Someone else’s choice to treat you unfairly doesn’t mean you should devalue the many good choices you’ve made in your life.”
Boost your self-esteem.
People who are cautious by nature tend to feel the sting of being ghosted more acutely than risk-takers, says Coyle. If you fall into the former camp, she recommends diving into activities that make you feel good about yourself, like gardening or volunteering. “Focusing on our passions helps us reestablish our self-esteem and make us feel better about who we are.”
Let yourself try again.
As much as it hurts to be ghosted, try not to let it deter you from pursuing new relationships, encourages Coyle. “It hurts, and we shouldn’t diminish that, but just because it happened once, don’t assume it will happen again.” She notes that study participants who reflect on their experience of being ghosted often emerge more resilient and clearer about what they want from future relationships.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.
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