“Ghosting” has hit the headlines thanks to the breakup of a celebrity couple.
Two people meet and go out for a date. They click and eventually decide they want to spend most of their waking hours in the presence of each other. Their connection is electric.
They hang out almost every day, eat, watch movies, have fun with just the two of them and with other people, and even go on long trips together. They have easily become inseparable.
Then out of the blue: crickets. The other person doesn’t reply to messages, for no apparent reason. Calls, texts, emails, online chats, visits to the person’s home or workplace all lead to nothing. No explanations, no obvious signs, not even a quick goodbye. The other person seemed to disappear into thin air – like a ghost, they no longer exist.
What is ghosting?
Welcome to the phenomenon of ‘ghosting’ –also called the ultimate silent treatment. The silent treatment is nothing unusual when it comes to long-term relationships, ‘ghosting’ can happen after just the first date or sometimes many dates.
While regular silent treatment in a relationship may mean suffering the partner’s cold, icy silence for a couple of hours to several days or even to a few weeks, ghosting means that a person completely and suddenly stops communicating and vanishes from the relationship – and out of the shared life.
This behaviour leads to the other party feeling insulted, offended, hurt, dumbfounded and angry. There are stories of people getting stuck, looking for answers for months up to years. They’re still single waiting for their partner to make an apparition so that they can connect the dots, reconcile or at least gain closure from the relationship. In fact, it’s the opposite of ‘conscious uncoupling‘, a term made famous to describe the separation of Gwenyth Paltrow and Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin.
Ghosting first hit the headlines when the New York Times reported Sean Penn and Charlize Theron were a happy couple who were regularly appearing together at fashion shows and film festivals, event public displays of affection. Then it was reported that Charlize had stopped responding to Sean’s calls and text messages. She was “ghosting” him.
Ghosting is on the rise and relationships are suffering
The phenomenon of ghosting is said to have been more widespread with today’s technology, social media, and instant mode of communication. When something is wrong with a relationship, it is so easy to extricate oneself from a difficult dialogue when all it takes is simply ignoring (or deleting) a text, or closing the window of an online chat. Apps such as Tinder and online dating sites can also create an impression that there are thousands of other options out there, ready with just a flick of the screen.
Even without the use of these techs, ghosting can still be used as an easy way out rather than investing and risking one’s heart and ego for an emotional encounter. Some people say they simply disappear because they can’t bear to hurt the other person’s feelings face-to-face. Others say break-ups and goodbyes are messy, and walking out makes it possible to cut ties cleanly.
But the fact is, there is no easy way to end a connection with another person, whether it is done via ghosting or head-on. Building – and ending – relationships take time, maturity and compassion, for oneself and for the other person. If a sudden absence of a lover is haunting an individual to the point of damaging his or her current life and wellbeing, seeking a relationship counsellor may be a good path toward breaking free from the ghosts of relationships past.
Have you had a ghosting experience? If so, share your thoughts on this in the comments below.
Do you need relationship help?
Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.