So You Want to Know Why They Ghosted You

Shannon Hilson

The chances that it had much to do with you are actually pretty slim.

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I have a bit of a confession to make. I’m a chronic ghoster, and I’ve been this way my entire life. In fact, I’ve been ghosting people for so long, I was genuinely taken aback the first time I heard someone talk about it out loud using actual words.

My first reaction was to be surprised that enough other people did this for there to be a known term for it. My second was to feel like a horrible person because, while I now make an honest effort not to ghost unless it’s truly warranted, it’s unlikely I’ll ever stop doing it altogether. It’s too damned effective at putting a stop to connections you genuinely don’t want in your life anymore, and that — unfortunately — makes it addictive.

The bad news is I know I’m far from alone on that front, so if you’re one of the many people who really hate ghosting, your troubles aren’t going to be over anytime soon. The good news is ghosting often has a lot more to do with the ghost than it does the ghosted. Most of us ghosts are weird, damaged individuals with social graces that are stunted at best, so it probably wasn’t about you.

However, I do understand the burning desire to know why on earth anyone would purposefully ghost another person in the first place. I can’t speak for every ghoster out there, but I can tell you some of the reasons I’ve done it to someone in the past myself. The following are among the examples that come immediately to mind.

They have garbage communication skills and genuinely didn’t want to hurt your feelings.

I get how dumb that sounds, considering how hurtful ghosting is deemed to be, but this is a genuine reason I’ve ghosted people in the past. It was probably the most common reason I did it when I was really young and hadn’t yet overcome my crippling childhood shyness.

I’m the kind of person who really hates lying, so I was never good at pretending I didn’t want to know someone anymore because of some imagined shortcoming of my own. (“It’s not you, it’s me.”) But I was also pretty sure there wasn’t a non-hurtful way to tell someone I’m not attracted to them, they’re too clingy, I don’t feel a connection, or anything else along those lines.

My solution was usually to do nothing, stop engaging with the person — sometimes a little at a time and sometimes all at once — and assume they’d move on without a second thought. It felt kinder than telling them outright I didn’t really like them, somehow. But it also never occurred to me that the other person might genuinely like me and care (or notice) that I wasn’t part of their life anymore. My bad.

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They legitimately forgot they had something going on with you.

Sometimes people genuinely bite off more than they can chew socially. Lord knows I certainly used to back before I was a boring, old married lady. I also used to be the type of person who had trouble saying “no” often enough so I’d have more time and energy to give to people I genuinely liked.

I’m not proud of it, but I’ve definitely had my moments where I couldn’t remember who the hell someone was or how they wound up with my number. Other times, I’d maybe miss a message somewhere or forget to get back to someone in a timely enough manner. Sometimes so much time went by that I was genuinely embarrassed by my own lack of follow-through, assumed it was way too late to respond, and I just decided not to.

I haven’t been single in a long time at this point, but I can’t imagine keeping up has gotten any easier with all these apps and platforms people use to meet people these days. I picture a lot of ghosting going on for many different reasons, including actual forgetfulness. I can’t imagine thinking it’s worth having a long, unnecessary closure convo when I’d maybe only gone out with someone once, or perhaps never even made it that far.

They’re afraid you won’t walk away quietly.

I was never huge on ghosting people I was dating unless we’d barely spent any time together. Historically speaking, I’ve been very likely to do it as a quick and dirty way to end a friendship, especially if it’s someone I’m not going to run into offline in my everyday life.

Sometimes things reach a point where I want to cut ties with someone for my own reasons, but they’re clingy enough that I’m sure they’ll be dramatic about it. I’ve had it happen before, and it wasn’t pretty. Usually, just the thought of an actual discussion, under those circumstances, makes me want to crawl into a hole and sleep for a month, so I give in to the temptation to take the easy way out instead. I hit a few buttons, and that’s all it takes to effectively erase that connection. Out of sight, out of mind.

I used to be a lot more casual about doing this because I couldn’t honestly picture the other person caring all that much, especially if they didn’t know me outside of the internet. After all, I’ve been unceremoniously unfriended or ghosted online myself plenty of times, and it didn’t bother me that much. Some of the people I’ve ghosted were apparently very hurt and took it incredibly personally, though, so it’s now a pretty rare occurrence.

You’ve already refused to take “no” for an answer.

A few years ago, I had a Facebook acquaintance I knew through my husband. The guy was an aspiring author, so when he self-published his first novel and asked if my husband and I would help promote it, I offered to read it and publish some professional-level reviews in a few places. Naturally, he was thrilled and very grateful. He also turned out to be one of those people that eventually makes you sorry for showing the least little bit of generosity.

When he published other novels in the future, he expected me to read and promote the books for free just like before, and he got pretty snippy with me when I told him, sorry, but I wouldn’t be able to because of time constraints. Now, when I tell someone “no, sorry” I expect them to tell me “OK, thanks anyway” and move along, not argue back and forth with me as to why they think they’re entitled to my assistance anyway.

So, I told the guy my “no” was final and ghosted further attempts to get in touch after that. He tried again enough additional times for me to be embarrassed for him. Then, finally, he got the message and went his own way. The lesson here is there’s a big difference between being persistent and being a pest. If someone tells you in no uncertain terms that you’re out of line and you keep at it anyway, don’t be surprised when they ghost you.

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They’re depressed or otherwise struggling mentally.

I’ve struggled with clinical depression ever since I was a child. It’s pretty well under control these days, but that wasn’t always the case. I’ve had long periods in my life that found me really struggling. If you have, as well, then you don’t need to be told that people often withdraw completely from most (or all) of the people in their lives when their mental health hits the skids.

I’ve ghosted a lot of people over the years because I was too depressed to function, especially socially. Some of them have been friends, while others were romantic interests. In some cases, I was vaguely aware that I was hurting the other person, but severe depression doesn’t leave much room to care about that sort of thing.

By the time I crawled out the other side and could see the light of day again, I was just so embarrassed by the way I’d just shrugged people off. I didn’t know what to say to them, especially since I was sure they thought I was a horrible person and wouldn’t understand what I’d been going through. So, again, I elected to say nothing.

They’re jerks who couldn’t care less.

This one doesn’t apply to me, but suffice it to say I’ve seen this in action enough times to know. Some people who ghost other people don’t have a good excuse. They know precisely what they’re doing when they end a relationship with someone by ceasing all communication and dropping off the face of the planet, and they don’t care. Some are even jerky enough to want to keep tabs on you after the ghosting so they can enjoy watching you cry over them.

If you’re dealing with someone like this, don’t give them another thought. You’re never going to figure out why they did what they did because the chances are pretty good they don’t even know themselves. Forget about the good times you think you had. The real them is the version you see right now — the version who doesn’t care enough to respond to your texts or consider your feelings. I know it hurts, but try to take comfort in the fact that you dodged a bullet.

Being ghosted is never easy, even when you do understand the reasons behind it. It can make you feel discarded and unimportant, especially if you thought you’d made a meaningful connection with the ghost in your life, but that’s life. Not every relationship is going to end with the closure you’re looking for. In those cases, it’s better to accept that a failure to respond is a response in its own way and focus your attention on people who can return your interest. You’ll eventually be glad you did.

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Professional copywriter, blogger, critic, and journalist. Evergreen content on self-improvement, fitness, food, relationships, dating, freelancing, and productivity. Occasional hot takes on news, trending topics, movies, music, and television.

Monterey, CA
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