I have noticed a disturbing trend in relationship dynamics…. “ghosting” to end a relationship. While ending a relationship in this way has been around for ages…the term is relatively new, and I feel, appropriate. Ending a relationship is never easy and rarely do both parties want the relationship to end at the same time. Though it can happen, it is the exception, not the rule. The “ghoster” in the relationship is leaning out of the relationship. This person has made a decision to end it and proceeds to do this in a very unhealthy way. This method of breaking up with someone involves no empathy or compassion for the leaning in party. “Ghosting” is when the leaning out party ends the relationship by disappearing emotionally or physically. The “ghoster” stops being responsive to the leaning in party. It typically starts with being non-committal about making plans, not following through on promises, disappearing for chunks of time and not communicating with the other party, or not responding to phone calls or texts altogether. The idea is that eventually the other party will “get the message” and poof! End of the relationship. Sometimes the ghoster will justify this in his/her mind by making it all about the other person… “I don’t want any drama in my life”, “he was too emotional for me”, “she was crazy”. This works great (temporarily) for the leaning out party because there is no confrontation. They don’t have to face any issues within themselves and they don’t have to face unpleasant feelings that are being caused by the end of the relationship. This approach is a very passive approach and can cause hurt and anguish for the leaning in party. Sometimes there are feelings of guilt and shame that are driving this method of ending a relationship.
Depending on how long the couple has been seeing each other…whether it was just a couple of dates to many years together, the energy around how the relationship ends impacts future relationships, so it is important to get it right. I recently read an article written by Oz Chen for the Elephant Journal https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/02/sunsetting-the-antidote-to-ghosting/. In the article, written from a male’s perspective, Oz discusses how he has decided to try a different, more compassionate approach to ending a relationship. What Oz suggests is that even if he only sees someone a couple of times, he takes the time to meet with them in-person to let them know he felt the relationship had run its course and wished the other party well, thus granting closure to the other party. He refers to this approach as “sunsetting” the relationship. This approach changes the whole dynamic and allows for the relationship to end with more positive energy around it. Granted, it’s most likely okay to say something like this over the phone or via text/email if there have only been a couple of dates. If the relationship lasted longer, an in-person conversation is the best way to go.
If you have a history of ghosting your partners…I suggest you spend some time getting honest with yourself about how you deal with emotions in general. Do you deny you have emotions or have difficulty identifying your needs and communicating them? Do you say whatever is necessary in a conflict discussion to make that conversation end, even if you are denying your needs and feelings in order to do so? If a conversation causes you anxiety, do you retreat or withdraw from your partner? Do you avoid taking any responsibility for issues in the relationship and make them all about your partner? Do you have a hard time understanding your partner’s perspective and validating their feelings? Do you start new relationships before the prior relationship ends? Do you “punish” your partner by not responding to them or disappearing with no explanation? If this describes you, it’s time to take a break from relationships in general and do some work on yourself. It is impossible to have a healthy relationship with anyone if you aren’t able to identify and communicate your needs and feelings. You also need to be willing to see the other person’s perspective, validate their feelings and take some ownership.
If you subscribe to the idea, as I do, that people come into our lives to teach us lessons about ourselves, as a “ghoster” you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity for personal growth. We learn the most about ourselves from our romantic partners. Think of it this way…our partner is there to hold a mirror up to us to show us our issues. You can choose to face those issues and transcend them, thus leading to more fulfilling and rewarding relationships, or you can avoid them and stay stuck in negative relationship patterns. The choice is yours.