Have you ever been “Ghosted” in a relationship?


By Ebony

An age-old relationship phenomenon is resurfacing with a new name and, possibly, a stronger presence. According to board certified psychiatrist and educator Dr. Nzinga Harrison (who has an amazing blog where she discusses current issues—like the death of Sandra Bland—from a mental health perspective), “Ghosting is when a person ends a relationship, whether business or personal, without any notification of any sort. Like Casper the Ghost, one minute you have a relationship with this person and the next minute they have vanished into thin air. Despite your attempts to make contact via whatever method, the person never resurfaces.”

It’s nothing new, argues Dr. Harrison, just the longstanding behavioral issue we’ve known all along as avoidance. She adds that what gives ghosting a new twist is our incessant need to stay connected all the time and in every way imaginable. “In today’s über-connected society, we’ve been trained to expect the instant ability to connect with people via cell phone, text, email, social media, etc. So even more so than in the past, when communication options were more limited, ghosting someone is an intentionally hostile act that requires active avoidance.”

How is ghosting active avoidance? Because our iPhones tell us when a message is read, and we can see that someone is tweeting from their cellphone (while obviously ignoring the text we sent). It’s as if the person ghosting is telling you everything about how little he or she cares for you, while telling you absolutely nothing.

And knowing while not exactly knowing can be infuriating and painful. When I spoke to several friends and readers about being ghosted, each one who was ghosted said the experience severely impacted their ability to trust and be open to new romance. I also read this account of being ghosted at XO Jane, which translated like a tragic, heartbreaking poem.

I had many questions for Dr. Harrison, and she expertly and thoroughly answered them all.

How has avoidance, in the form of ghosting, become more prevalent in the digital age? Because technology has allowed us to become connected with people who are otherwise outside of our daily routine, there’s more opportunity to be ghosted.

For example, in the past, if you ghosted from a personal or business relationship, there was likely a higher risk you’d run into that person as you went about your daily activities. That risk undermined people’s motivation to ghost. Now, largely as a result of connections made possible by technology, we’re in relationships with people who we won’t see in our daily lives unless we intentionally and actively make plans to do so. The idea that I won’t ever see this person again anyway makes it a lot easier to just disappear.


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