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‘I’ve just been ghosted by the guy I’ve been dating for months. Why do people think this is okay?’

Ask Roe: ‘How can I even consider dating again in the future when it just turns to heartbreak like this?’

Dear Roe,

I am in my mid-20s and have been single for the last two years. I’ve been on a number of dates, with very few turning into multiple dates. I started chatting to a lad on Hinge in April and we clicked straight away. We have been meeting twice a week on average since May and I was very smitten. I introduced him to some of my friends and told my family about him. Last weekend we went out on a date and he seemed a bit off, then again Sunday morning he seemed a bit off. I haven’t heard from him in days now and have come to the realisation I’ve probably been ghosted. I am so confused. He seemed equally smitten and would talk about things as if we would be together at Christmas etc.

We hadn’t had an exclusivity talk but I was fairly confident he wasn’t seeing anyone else. Now I have started to doubt everything he said over the last couple of months, as I feel like I didn’t know him at all. How can I even consider dating again in the future when it just turns to heartbreak like this? A close friend of mine was ghosted by a lad they had been seeing for six months. What is with this culture of ghosting and how do people think it is okay? How has society come to this?

I’m sorry you’re going through this. Ghosting is an utterly horrible and dehumanising trend and should never have been normalised. I agree that we all need to take a hard look at ourselves and stop perpetuating this kind of behaviour. Cultural norms don’t just happen; we pick and choose which ones to popularise and perpetuate, and we can collectively choose to be better than this – and in the meantime, we can come up with some strategies to cope when someone does it to us.


Ghosting, to the lucky few who haven’t experienced it, is the act of completely cutting off contact with someone without warning or explanation, instead simply disappearing from their life and not responding to any attempts to make contact. (Sometimes people need to abruptly leave abusive or toxic relationships for their literal safety, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.) Ghosting can happen in friendships and even workplaces, but is most commonly discussed in the realm of dating and relationships. According to a 2018 study, approximately 25 per cent of men and women reported having been ghosted in a romantic relationship, and 22 per cent admitted to having ghosted someone else.

Something that particularly infuriates me is the umbrella nature of the term. As you note in your letter, ghosting can be used to describe someone not responding to messages after having a few dates, or it can be disappearing on a partner while in a serious, committed relationship. I would strongly argue that these are not the same thing – while the first scenario may be rude and disappointing, the latter is an act of abandonment and emotional cruelty. Like many buzzwords used to describe (relatively) new social phenomena, there’s no acknowledgment of the varying levels of severity or the vast difference in the emotional impact this action can have on other people. Using one word to describe all scenarios not only normalises this behaviour generally, but trivialises more serious cases.

As to why people do this, I think there are a few different factors at play. Online culture and dating culture mean that our lives are now riddled with interactions and relationships where there’s no real accountability, because if you disappear, you’ll never have to see them again, and so you never have to see the hurt you’ve caused or experience any consequences for your actions. This lack of accountability allows people who ghost to prioritise their comfort over empathy and respect.

I think there’s also an increasing discomfort with direct communication when it comes to conflict or uncomfortable conversations, and because people aren’t practising those skills, they choose to avoid the conversation completely. Or, in some situations, people who ghost may be trying to keep their options open, thinking that not saying anything might leave room for excuses to rekindle the spark down the line.

Studies on ghosting also show a few other reasons for it. Some research found that people who believe in destiny and think that relationships are either “meant to be” or not, are more likely to find ghosting acceptable than people who believe relationships take patience and work. Another study also suggests that people who end relationships by ghosting have often been ghosted themselves. This seems counterintuitive, as in these cases the ghoster knows how awful it can feel, but their previous experience may lead them to believe that ghosting is now acceptable, or they may be afraid of getting hurt again so choose to take control and do it first.

If you’ve been on a few dates with someone, bring up ghosting and just say, ‘I find that really hurtful so if for any reason this doesn’t work out, let’s agree to be respectful and upfront’

It’s all horrible, particularly when we all know how much it impacts us. Studies have shown that social rejection activates the same pain pathways in the brain as physical pain, meaning there’s a biological link between rejection and pain. And ghosting is a much more confusing form of rejection. When someone ghosts instead of breaking up with you clearly, they leave the other person to do all the emotional labour of the break-up, instead of letting them focus on grieving and moving on. The ambiguous, unexplained nature of ghosting makes it harder to emotionally process, often leading people who get ghosted to ruminate for much longer than an explicit break-up, trying to figure out what went wrong. The idea that not only did someone not want to maintain a relationship with you, but that they didn’t even think you deserved an explanation can make people feel utterly dehumanised and devalued.

Ghosting has impacts on the ghoster, too. Their lack of respect, empathy and communication can create unhealthy problem-solving patterns for themselves, and stops them from developing basic communication and conflict management skills. They’re creating shame and awkwardness around their relationships, and contributing to a social norm that makes dating and trusting other people much harder.

But if some people insist on ghosting, how can you cope if it happens? Understand that it says much more about you than them. A hard lesson to learn is that closure isn’t something someone else gives you; closure is a gift you give yourself. If someone has disappeared and is showing no sign of giving an explanation, you have to stop waiting for one. Their silence is the answer: they no longer wish to be with you and were never the person for you. Decide in your own mind that you are done. If it helps, you can take control back and send one – and I do mean one – final message saying: “I’m not sure what happened here, but clear communication and respect is important to me and you disappearing without a word has been disappointing. It’s clear we’re not a match and I don’t want to leave this door open. Best of luck with things.” Then do yourself a favour and block them on social media etc – reminders of them will only prolong your healing.

When dating, talk about trends like ghosting and set some clear expectations around communication. If you’ve been on a few dates with someone, bring up ghosting and just say, “I find that really hurtful so if for any reason this doesn’t work out, let’s agree to be respectful and upfront”.

Enough ghosting. Time to start treating each other a little more humanely.