Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.
Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
How do you get over being ghosted? And how do you get over being ghosted not once, but twice?!!? I can feel that even my girlfriends who supported me the first time feel it is my fault that a second guy ghosted me. The first time was over a year ago and everyone told me it was not my fault, that some guys were really assholes and not to think about it too much, that the best thing to do was to go back and start all over. I tried to, and I finally went back to the app, but I got ghosted again po. I can’t recover. Please help me po.
Thank you for your email.
Ghosting seems to have become a popular word in the last decade, in line with the explosion of online dating and exacerbated by the constraints of the pandemic. Its definition is ceasing to communicate without warning or explaining why, and refusing to reply if the ghosted person tries to initiate further contact.
Its impact naturally varies according to the circumstances. Clearly, if contact has been minimal in the first place, ghosting should be no big deal. A mere exchange of texts, for example, followed by silence is unlikely to cause most people serious concern. However, the deeper the relationship, the greater the effect ghosting is likely to have on the person ghosted.
For the ghosted, the implied rejection is made more difficult to accept because there is no closure, no explanation why the relationship has ended so abruptly.
Why do people ghost? The two most common explanations seem to be:
- it is just so easy, especially in this age of virtual relationships. The ghoster avoids a difficult conversation and does not have to deal directly with any aggrieved or emotional reactions.
- In online situations, the truth may be that the ghoster is juggling multiple relationships and the sheer volume of choices requires them to reduce the numbers in the easiest possible way, i.e. cutting off communication.
Most people feel entitled to an explanation when they get dumped, and that is why ghosting can be so painful. For some, the pain is eased simply by the passage of time. Others may find it helpful to send the ghoster a message saying that they are ending the relationship because the ghoster has not been in touch. This gives them a sense of agency, of “owning” the closure of the relationship. It also helps them to realize what a lucky escape they have had from someone who has had so little regard for them and their feelings. So, Ana, count your blessings that you have put these assholes behind you!
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. Although ghosting – at least the way that people now do it even if they have not yet met face to face – is a relatively new phenomenon, there have already been several scholarly articles on it.
Some research findings include:
- Ghosting oftentimes does not really have much to do with the qualities of the ones ghosted, like you, Ana,. It usually has more to do with the “ghoster.” In the end, it is s/he/they who have decided not to continue the relationship. It is s/he/they who have decided that ghosting, rather than communicating that they are moving on, is the way they choose to do it. The decisions involved in the way they end relationships show they are, at the very least, self-absorbed and lacking empathy and, at the very worse, emotionally cruel.
But what might feel even worse than the ghosting are the messages you are getting from your girlfriends. Your girlfriends are your tribe, your go-to group for anything good and bad that happens in your life. If they are not as quick supporting you now as they were the first time, that only exacerbates the rejection any ghosting brings.
- Ghosting can literally (physically) hurt because it triggers the same areas in the brain that are affected when you feel physical (somatosensory) pain. That is the reason taking Tylenol at this time can actually help tamp down the pain you’re going through right now.
I am not suggesting you take Tylenol, ok? I just thought this will be a “fun fact” in the future.
- The reason ghosting may hurt so much is that your pain is not a response merely to what is going on right now, but to the rejections that went on countless times in the past, from past boyfriends, partners, school friends, parents, etc. Studies have shown the ghosting can affect the hippocampus, that part of the brain responsible for your memories, which gets activated when undergoing a painful reaction. Ghosting can also affect your amygdala, which is responsible for fear and anxiety in the present and the future.
So be patient with yourself, Ana, and sit with whatever you are going through right now. Take deep breaths, drink hot tea, and don’t hurry. It is only during unhurried, stress-free times that you can move from self-blame to self-knowledge.
You will probably know when it is time to dust yourself off and say to yourself: “I am Ana, a modern woman with enough smarts and savvy to try out new-fangled stuff like dating apps. I am Ana, who takes risks because, although novelty and excitement might frighten others, I like it. I am Ana, and it is because of my courage that I am vulnerable to ghosters. But if being ghosted again is the price to pay for new adventures, new people who might become friends and possibly even lovers, then bring it on!”
All the best,
Please send any comments, questions, or requests for advice to firstname.lastname@example.org.