There is a curious phenomenon alive today in the world of modern dating. You can have an amazing time with someone across multiple dates, delighting in your undeniable connection, maybe even making more plans, and then suddenly, poof! The calls stop coming, the texts and emails go unanswered, and the object of your affection has become, well, a ghost. There are no two ways about it: Getting "ghosted" is absolutely awful.
A recent survey from the dating site Plenty of Fish found that nearly 80 percent of users on their site between the ages of 18 and 33 report having been ghosted at least once. No one, regardless of gender, status, or age, is immune. A simple Google search for "ghosting" brings up articles spanning Fortune, the New York Times, AARP magazine, Men's Health, and even Business Insider. For a term that only dates back to 2014, the percentages of those who report experiencing ghosting are shockingly high, and the emotional cost is even higher.
It is OK, of course, for relationships to fizzle and for friendships to end, but the way to let go of these things matters, and this trend of disappearing is something that I find incomprehensible. That said, I also believe that every challenge presents an opportunity for growth, and when it comes to being ghosted, there is a bright side. If a recent experience of getting ghosted has you in despair, here are three positive ways you can respond to this less-than-desirable situation:
1. Celebrate! You got to see who they really are.
I almost want to offer my congratulations! Having someone ghost you says infinitely more about them than it does about you. From this point of view, the ghost is doing you a big favor. You're getting a firsthand look at how this person, who just days ago was so marvelous, actually handles their emotions, your emotions, and difficult circumstances in general. "Runs away at any sign of conflict" typically doesn't make anyone's list of dream qualities in a partner, and you got to see that clearly and upfront—not years down the road.
Ghosting anyone—whether it's a dating prospect, a friend, a family member—is indicative of a myriad of emotional hang-ups. The level of engagement is equal to the ghost's level of emotional capability. When someone ghosts you, they are essentially communicating to you in no uncertain terms that they are selfish, disrespectful of the feelings of others (namely yours), and that they are unable to handle even the simplest forms of discomfort or difficulty. To be clear, I am not placing judgment, and I'm not saying people who ghost are "bad" people; it's just where they're at. While this may seem like a harsh assessment, it can help you to see that this wasn't going to be someone worthy of you anyway.
While romance is important, and the feelings of new love are undeniably sweet, when it comes to finding a true partner, you want someone who is just as wonderful on a first date as they are when life gets real. You are worthy and deserving of better.
2. It makes you rethink the way you're showing up for people in your own life.
Even those who you are letting go of, turning down, or drawing new boundaries with. It isn't easy to do, which is why ghosts exist in the first place. To take an action that we know will put us into a position to feel any kind of negative emotion takes enormous courage and, therefore, vulnerability. To do this, we have to access the most tender parts of ourselves and enter into true intimacy with another person. Even when we're saying something as seemingly innocuous as "Thank you, but I'm not interested."
This experience is a reminder to you of how painful, confusing, and infuriating it feels to be abandoned without warning—so use this opportunity to commit to being better than the ghost. The next time you have to let someone down, say no to a second date, or draw a new boundary with someone, make an agreement with yourself to show up fully. Think about what you would have wanted from your ghost and offer that to the next person. Respect them enough to be honest with them, and allow them to have the feelings they will have about it. Not only will you grow in the process, but you'll also be helping to ease another person's pain or discomfort by not adding the doubly painful experience of ghosting them.
3. It's an opportunity to rethink your relationship ethos and reprioritize yourself.
You can use the pain of being ghosted to re-examine the ways you're showing up not only to the relationships in your life but to yourself. How well do you love yourself in moments of rejection or disappointment? How do you show up in challenging relational moments? I'll give you a hint; the two are linked.
The level of respect and care you give yourself is equal to the respect and care that you're able to give another. Furthermore, the more you love yourself, the more aware you are of when someone is loving you well—and when they're not. If you fall into a deep depression when dating experiences go awry, it may be time to look for any illusions you may have about what being in a relationship means (i.e., "Once I find 'The One,' I'll finally be happy/successful/worthy"). If you find that you rush into new relationships or are too quick to intimacy, this is a good time to examine why.
Taking the time to love yourself while also looking at what you can do differently next time is a massive step toward personal growth. Offer yourself the compassion you wanted as you are simultaneously looking for ways to be even more open and honest with the people in your life.
The silver lining
Being ghosted is never going to be fun, but it doesn't need to be a purely negative experience either. Finding the positive in even the most negative of experiences is a spiritual tool that when honed and strengthened can create beautiful experiences no matter the landscape.
Let these moments of pain and confusion motivate you to rise above, to further your growth, and to course-correct in the direction you truly want to go. Let it inspire you to offer even more empathy every day, to connect with the people you love in deeper ways, and to take advantage of every opportunity to turn toward intimacy instead of away from it. Most importantly, you are now free to pursue the fulfilling, happy relationship you are destined to have.
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