How To Protect Yourself From the Hurt of Getting Ghosted and Maybe Even Prevent Ghosting From Happening at All
Because of the commonality of ghosting—recent surveys have pinned the number of folks who’ve ghosted someone at 30 percent and the number who report having been ghosted as high as 85 percent—it’s essential to see ghosting as a potential risk in any dating scenario. “Dating is inherently about managing uncertainty,” says clinical psychologist Alexandra Solomon, PhD, referring to the fact that we can never fully predict what actions someone else is going to take: “We can’t eliminate risk from dating, but we can have agreements with ourselves and ways of caring for ourselves that can help us feel strong, sturdy, and safe—even in the face of risk.”
“We can’t eliminate risk from dating, but we can have agreements with ourselves and ways of caring for ourselves that can help us feel strong, sturdy, and safe.” —Alexandra Solomon, PhD, clinical psychologist
Separately, however, the fate of your relationship isn’t totally at the whims of your partner, either. While they’re certainly capable of disappearing at any point, you may also have some agency to keep that from happening. Below, relationship experts share advice for how to prevent ghosting while dating, as well as strategies to mitigate the hurt of ghosting, should it ultimately happen.
3 tips to reduce your chances of being ghosted
It’s worth reiterating that there’s no way to fully prevent getting ghosted, and that the event isn't a reflection of you, says Dr. Solomon: “Getting ghosted is never your fault.”
But, there are some dating best practices that can naturally make the person you’re seeing less likely to vanish absent an explanation—that is, strategies for how to prevent ghosting “to some degree,” says Dr. Solomon, “without, of course, reducing that risk to zero.”
1. Move from virtual to IRL dates as quickly as you feel comfortable doing so
Dr. Solomon bemoans the virtual-dating landscape as a breeding ground for ghosts. So, if you’re in the early stages of dating someone, you’d be wise to transition swiftly from messaging on an app or texting to talking on the phone to meeting in person, she says.
“I think, sometimes, people hang out for a long time in screen-to-screen communication, and that kind of communication is so tenuous and abstract, it may be easier for people to ghost in that situation,” says Dr. Solomon.
2. Do your part to communicate clearly
Healthy communication goes two ways. And if you’re not chugging along smoothly on your side of the road and contributing your half of the conversation, it’s that much easier for the other person to feel as though they’re getting ghosted, at least in part, and to simply take the next exit from your relationship highway.
“All you have control over is how you choose to communicate with the other person and the actions you take in response to their behavior.” —relationship therapist Omar Ruiz, LMFT
That’s why relationship therapist Omar Ruiz, LMFT, stresses clear and consistent communication as a strategy to reduce your chances of being ghosted. “All you have control over is how you choose to communicate with the other person and the actions you take in response to their behavior,” he says. And the more consistently you express yourself, the less likely you are to fall into the trap of ghosting by way of miscommunication.
3. Set standards and stick to them
It’s important to be clear, both to yourself and the person you’re dating, about what your relational needs and expectations are, so that there’s no confusion about what your partner needs to do to satisfy them. “This means being realistic about what you want and need from someone,” says Ruiz, who suggests asking yourself: Do you want someone who is willing to make time to get to know you at least once a week? Do you want someone who is responsive to your text messages at least once or twice a day? Do you want someone who’s looking for a particular kind of dating outcome?
Answering these questions and sharing your answers with the person you’re dating is a helpful level-set: This conversation will give you both a clear idea of whether your relationship can really work. And if it can’t, the “why” is fodder for a mutual break-up conversation, reducing the chances that your partner chooses to fade off into the ether, instead.
4 tips for preventing emotional anguish after getting ghosted
1. Resist the urge to take ghosting personally
It’s only natural to feel confused should someone you care about disappear. And in an attempt to explain this act, you might be tempted to question what you might’ve done to make this person ghost you. “Helplessness is uncomfortable, and sometimes we will choose to beat ourselves up because at least it gives us an illusion of control,” says Dr. Solomon.
But going down the rabbit hole of self-blame will just add to the stress and sadness you may be feeling—and for no good reason, either: The ghosting is, again, the fault of the ghoster not the ghostee. “People who ghost are not comfortable with having to deal with the emotions that come with being honest about their feelings toward others,” says Ruiz. “For them, it's easier to avoid confrontation than simply break up.” And that reflects a deficit in their relational skill set, not an indicator of anything about you—which is why it’s essential to avoid the spiral of self-blame, should ghosting happen.
2. Validate whatever hurt you may feel
“It seems ironic, but we tend to prolong our hurt and disappointment by saying to ourselves that it shouldn't hurt this much,” says Dr. Solomon. “Saying things like, ‘We only had three dates,’ or ‘My friends didn’t even like them,’ or ‘I had some reservations anyway,’ will only serve to invalidate the pain and grief you’re feeling.” By contrast, accepting any pain that you feel can actually help you feel less of it, over time.
“Therapists love to say, the way out is through,” says Dr. Solomon. “So, letting the hurt be the exact length, width, and height that it is will help you move through it more smoothly, more seamlessly, and likely more quickly, too.”
3. Recognize the external forces that facilitate ghosting
Yes, the ghoster is fully to blame for their ghosting actions. But, thinking about the current dating context—and the ways in which it makes ghosting easier—can also help lessen the pain that ghosting can trigger. “Ghosting is part and parcel of the low-accountability dating climate that exists right now,” says Dr. Solomon. “In large part, technology is to blame for that, but also, with two-plus years of a pandemic, people are simply maxed out and may not be bringing their best selves to any relationships, much less dating relationships.”
That’s not an excuse for ghosters so much as helpful context to shift the way you think about ghosting right now. “Remembering that ghosting is a symptom of a systemic problem with the dating world can help soften the blow of it,” says Dr. Solomon. “To know it’s not just happening to you can really help.”
4. Make a commitment to being a non-ghoster yourself
While ensuring that you don’t ghost others won’t necessarily protect you from ghosting in the moment, it can certainly help you learn and grow from a ghosting experience, rather than getting stuck in the pain.
In that realm, try committing to avoid ghosting, not just in your dating life but around work, friendship, and family obligations, too, says Dr. Solomon: “There's something about being able to feel proud of the way that you handle communication and the way that you close loops and knowing that you are deeply invested in standing in your own integrity that can really help you accept when somebody else does not.”
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