We Spoke To Women Who've Been Ghosted To Discover The True Mental Health Fallout
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In 2019, it's hard to find a single person of either sex who hasn't been ghosted.
When the dating trend - which involves suddenly disappearing on a romantic partner without any explanation - hit the mainstream in 2014, it was so relatable it it made it into the Collins English Dictionary and Drake even publicly accused Rihanna doing it to him.
Now, in the age of dating apps, it seems people are ghosting each other without a second thought, and many ghostees fall victim so often that they have learned to shrug off the rejection as if it's nothing.
But is it nothing?
Speaking to Tyla, Match's dating expert Hayley Quinn warns that ghosting is "totally on the rise".
"We're going on dates with people that aren't necessarily in our social circles and we don't have that pre-existing social relationship," she explains.
"This means it's a lot easier to cut someone off and not feel like we have to be held accountable for our actions. We don't feel the kind of social responsibility that we used to."
Hayley argues that sometimes, people might choose to ghost because it can come from a "misplaced sense of wanting to protect people's feelings."
The problem with that logic, according to psychologist Emma Kenny, is that it does quite the opposite.
"Ghosting is so common, people often go through it multiple times," she explains. "And every time, you ask yourself, 'What's wrong with me? What have I done? Why does it keep happening to me?
"You tell yourself, 'I must be a terrible person, or unattractive.' You look for a reason why you're failing awfully on these dates and because you haven't been given one, often determine you're never going to meet anybody."
Emma adds: "In your life, you might already have situations that make you feel unworthy, where you're not getting the validation you're looking for. [Being ghosted] can act as an additional stressor, which can ultimately push you down the more serious road of anxiety and depression."
As a 25-year-old woman, the concept of ghosting burst onto the dating scene at about the same time as I did, and I quickly learned that it was pretty much inevitable.
The first time it happened to me, I'd been single for what felt like forever, and for once, my sorry love life finally looked like it was on the up. I had been dating a guy for a couple of months, and, in a refreshing change from norm, he seemed to be saying and doing all the right things. He showered me with compliments, told me he wasn't interested in any other girls and excitedly planned our future dates.
He'd also opened up on struggles in his family life, and I patiently listened as he vented, acting as his support network despite the short time I'd known him.
Then, one day, he just went cold.
A week into his radio silence, I had already gone through a whole range of emotions. Outwardly, I laughed off his behaviour as "typical," and slated him to my friends, but inside I was truthfully anxious, upset and riddled with all-consuming self-doubt.
In truth, I had amplified him into a god-like figure in my head, incapable of any wrongdoing. Had our dates not been as fun as I'd thought? Perhaps he was just bored of me? Desperate for answers, I told myself that I'd messed up my chance at a happy relationship.
Unfortunately, this guy wasn't the only person to disappear without a trace. For my friends and I, it has become part and parcel of single life. Which begs the question: have we reached an age where it's suddenly acceptable to cut somebody off with no explanation?
In a bid for answers, I asked three women about their own unique ghosting experiences and to share the impact it had on how they feel about dating in the future.
"It made me want to take a break from relationships"
Crystal, 29, a PR manager for The Inner Circle, didn't mind being ghosted in her early twenties. If she didn't hear back from a guy after a date, she simply cut her losses and moved on.
But when she reentered the dating scene at 27 after a two-year relationship, she realised that ghosting had now become "massively" more brutal.
There was the man she met in a bar who suddenly vanished after asking her out, and the one who inexplicably disappeared after going home for the Christmas break...
But looking back at her love life, Crystal says there's one incident that really takes the biscuit.
She was dating a guy she'd met online for about a month, but things had been moving pretty quickly. "We were seeing each other twice a week, I had met all his friends, I'd been to his hometown with him," she recalls. "And then I went on holiday to Costa Rica for two weeks.
"We saw each other the night before I flew, and made plans to go to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London when I got home. He text me before I flew saying have a safe flight. As far as I was concerned, everything seemed very much like this was going to continue."
But after a failed attempt to spark conversation two days into her holiday, Crystal begun to realise something was up.
"My friends were [saying], 'He doesn't want you to feel you have to be texting all the time'. We sat around excusing his behaviour, basically. And then he just dropped off, no reply."
For the rest of the holiday, Crystal was glued to her phone and had to fight the urge to text him every time she'd had a couple of drinks.
"To feel disposable as a human is horrible," she recalls. "It makes you question, am I not funny enough? Am I not pretty enough? Did I say or do the wrong thing? And in all honesty, that's not true. But it doesn't matter how strong you are, whether you're a feminist. None of those things matter when someone makes you feel that self-doubt."
In the end, her closure finally came when she texted her ghoster two months later, and asked him to explain himself.
"He said that work was really busy, he'd been really down and he just wasn't the best version of himself right now. And I literally stared him in the face and said, 'Well you could have just communicated all of that. Sent me a text, anything. It's not that hard.'"
Sadly, ghosting has become so common for Crystal and her friends now that they don't even tell each other the names of the guys they date anymore, they make up nicknames instead.
"I tend to think I'm pretty tough, but being ghosted still affects me," she adds. "For people who have self-esteem and abandonment issues, I can only imagine how triggering it can be."
"I felt like he'd seen the real me and he didn't like it"
Like Crystal, 24-year-old marketing manager Ellie also has a nickname for one guy she dated. He's now known as Arsehole Adam.
The pair matched on Tinder as she dipped her toes back into the world of dating following a lengthy break, and after encouragement from her friends, she decided to bite the bullet and accept his invitation for a drink.
"Because I wasn't expecting anything it turned out to be a really good date," she recalls. "It was probably the first Tinder date I'd been on where actually I wanted to go on a second date, and didn't just feel like I had to."
Over the next couple of months, the pair continued to hang out. They went for drinks, to a comedy club, and even had a cosy night in at Ellie's place, where she cooked him dinner.
As her birthday approached, she decided to invite him to her party - the first time he would meet any of her friends and family. But he didn't come to her party.
In fact, he never replied.
"I just assumed he felt the pressure," she reflects. "So I backed off a bit. But after my birthday...still nothing. He hadn't even opened my messages.
"He didn't say 'Happy Birthday, he said nothing. It was almost like our dates had never happened".
For Ellie, this was made even harder by the fact that she'd never made it past the second date with anybody from Tinder before.
"It was like, great, now I've just got to go right back to the beginning, and he hadn't even felt the need to message me and call it off. I started thinking, what if he saw the real me when he came round for dinner? What if he didn't like what he saw?
"I was doubting myself a lot. In terms of dating, I've never been very confident anyway, but after inviting him round and opening up doors I've never opened before, the way he treated me was a definite confidence shaker."
After being ghosted, Ellie took a break from dating apps once again, and she says that when she finally went on another date four months later she was much more guarded, and she was left second-guessing perfectly normal behaviours, like inviting a potential suitor round for dinner.
"I knew there was actually nothing wrong with doing stuff like inviting someone round, but I couldn't help but think, 'What if that's where I went wrong last time?'
"Being ghosted definitely affected my attitude to dating, something I was already wary of," she says. "It's crazy how simply all of this could have been avoided if he'd just texted me and explained".
"I think that sometimes ghosting is the kindest option"
Teacher Liz, 27, is no stranger to being ghosted herself. But she still maintains that, in some situations, it's the easiest way to call things off.
Take the latest guy Liz met on Tinder. There was nothing wrong with him; he was tall, he was good-looking, and they had an unmistakable spark on their first date.
"At first things were going really well, the banter was flowing and he'd even stayed the night," she says. "But when we met up for a second time, it just became abundantly clear there was something missing. We didn't have anything beyond that surface level chat".
Liz left her second date thinking that they both felt the same, but to her surprise, the next day he asked if she wanted to see him again.
"At first, I sat down with my Notes app open and tried to word the rejection in the kindest way possible," she remembers. "Then it hit me: we'd only met up twice and there wasn't chemistry, I don't owe this guy a heartfelt breakup speech".
When Liz had been ghosted in the past, it had been a matter of months down the line, and she was left desperate for an explanation.
"But in hindsight, would I have actually wanted somebody to tell me exactly what it was about me that wasn't doing it for them?" she ponders. "Probably not. While I didn't enjoy him slipping off without saying a word, I'm sure the alternative would have been absolutely mortifying. I didn't realise at the time, but sometime's ghosting is the kindest option."
Discussing her decision not to reply to her date, Liz adds: "It almost felt patronising to assume that's what he would want after a couple of dates. I think you have to judge the situation and work out whether being upfront is actually going to be more beneficial then just fading out.
"Having ghosted someone and been the one getting ghosted, I see both sides, and I definitely think it will help me suck it up next time somebody does it to me. That's just life, isn't it?"
But how can you avoid the type of person who would ghost me?
While ghosting might seem impossible to avoid these days, according to dating expert Hayley Quinn there are ways to protect yourself.
- Are they being consistent? "Look for queues in their behaviour. Are they all over you one minute then they go quiet for a week? You should be looking for someone who shows up for you consistently, not erratically."
- Are they rushing into it? "Be really careful of people who push the relationship fast and rush in. They show a lack of respect for your time and your boundaries, and by going through from 0 to 60 you don't really have enough time to establish trust and understanding."
- Are your feelings rational or idealised? "The person you were dating can become idealised, and you can really want to go back to that person and seek that resolution. Ask yourself, are these feelings genuine or are they because I'm hurt and confused? It's a very important distinction".
- Are you making more effort than them? "If someone does disappear then come back with no explanation, you have to think, this person isn't respecting my time, they're acting impulsively and they're not really having a respect for me as a person, or showing they're in the place in their lives to give you the relationship you want."
Daters, stay safe, it's a dangerous world out there.