You thought that you and the person you were dating were headed for relationship bliss, only to have them disappear on you and not reply to your last message… or any subsequent ones. They’re gone for good… until they’re not anymore. If they were so into you, why did they disappear in the first place? Here’s some insight into this trend and what to do when someone who ghosted you is suddenly back.
The lowdown on ghosting
It’s way too common in the dating scene these days. You’ve been ghosted yourself and you probably know at least a handful of other people who have, right? That’s because it’s an insanely popular way for people to deal with getting out of relationships these days. A 2018 study from the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that out of 1,300 people surveyed, a whopping 25% had been ghosted by a partner. A further 20% admitted they’d ghosted someone themselves. That’s pretty crappy.
It hurts almost more than being outright rejected. At least if the person told you straight-up that they weren’t feeling it, you’d know where you stood. That’s not the case with ghosting. “You’ve established communication, you’ve established rapport, regular lines of contact, and all of a sudden that person just leaves and you have no way to contact them,” Natalie Jones, PsyD tells Women’s Health. “Basically that person holds all the cards in terms of line of communication.”
People ghost for a variety of reasons. While the bottom line is that people who refuse to break things off directly are jerks, Jones explains that there are often much deeper issues at play like emotional immaturity, attachment issues, and more. If you were dating a commitment-phobe, “it’s the role that they’re afraid of. They’re feeling like they can’t live up to the expectation of fulfilling that relationship with you,” Jones explains. Meanwhile, those with attachment issues “learned very early on that people, places, and things weren’t stable.” Of course, none of this is your problem to deal with, but it does go a little way towards explaining the behavior.
Ghosters do sometimes come back. Maybe they legitimately like you or maybe they’re just bored and your number’s still in their phone. Whatever, the case, you get to decide how things go from there. “You have the right to decide to exercise a healthy boundary and emotionally protect yourself,” Krista J. Miller, MS, LMFT, LCDC, a licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. “Someone who ghosts is showing you who they are: someone who doesn’t respect you.”
What to do when someone who ghosted you is suddenly back
Ignore them. Let’s cut right to the chase. Someone who ghosts you and then has the nerve to resurface weeks or months later is infuriating. You have every damn right to totally ignore this person. So, go ahead and block their number so they can’t reach out again, and they’ll realize that you’re over it. If this isn’t your vibe, or you were ghosted by someone with whom you thought you had a real connection so you want closure, then read on for other options.
Ask them what happened. If you want to have the last word or express what you’ve been going through, you should! Now’s your chance to let them have it. Ask them something like, “What the heck happened?” or “Where did you go?” and see what they say. They might be a coward who doesn’t want to get real, in which case, adios, amigo. Or, they might be ready to tell you exactly what happened and why they disappeared like that.
Pretend you don’t know who they are. You might want to ghost them back, but that might not feel satisfying. Plus, it takes a lot of energy you don’t want to waste. So, an alternative reply to their message if you don’t want to stay in touch but you don’t want to ignore them either (because that’s letting them off the hook too easily) is to ask, “Who’s this?” That’ll show them you’re not waiting around for them to resurface because you’ve already moved on. It might seem petty to take revenge on them like this, but they deserve it for all the pain they caused you.
Ask them to chat on video. Ooh, this is a goodie. Instead of letting them, have all the time in the world to formulate perfect, charming answers to your questions, suggest having a video chat so you can see if what they’re saying sounds genuine. You’ll also be able to see if their verbal and non-verbal communication is in sync and if they’re willing to put in some effort to get out of your bad books.
Ask them why they’re contacting you. If you liked this person and might want to hear them out, make sure they tell you why they’re getting in touch. This will help you suss out what their intentions are, like if they’re just bored and lonely on a Friday night or they’ve been thinking about you a lot and regret what they did. While this question might seem low-key and casual, it’s actually pretty deep and will give you a good insight into where they’re at.
More ways to deal with being zombied
Tell them that you need them to apologize. This is another direct message you can send them if you’re still angry and upset about what they did. It will let them know in no uncertain terms that you’re not going to bend over backward for them and accommodate what they want. They have to know that they have to respect you because you’re not going to ignore bad behavior. If they wanted a doormat, they got the wrong number, ladies.
Entertain yourself. Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than sending a witty line to someone who’s been a jackass, right? It will make you feel good and you might punch the air in victory. Hey, let’s be real, you might’ve fantasized about what you’d tell this loser if they ever came back on the scene, so now’s the time to say, “Never thought I’d speak to a real-life zombie!” or “So you’re not lying dead in a gutter but just ignoring me.” Boom.
Let your gut speak to you. Maybe you’ve been ghosted but you feel like there’s a deeper story from this person about what happened that you want to hear. Or, maybe you’ve ghosted someone in the past and you know that it can be complicated. Whatever the case, tune into your inner voice and let it direct you to the right response that you won’t later regret.
Don’t reply immediately. However you decide to respond to the ghoster, make sure that you take some time out to first see how you feel, listen to your gut, and figure out what you want. Seeing the person’s name flash on your phone screen might make you want to jump in and chat right away, but don’t get caught up in the surprise. Don’t be afraid to take a few hours or days to get back to them, either, if you decide to do so. You don’t owe them anything.
Don’t get re-ghosted. What’s worse than getting ghosted once by someone is when that person resurfaces and then ghosts you again. You don’t want to find yourself in that situation, so make sure that you’re comfortable with how you’re going to reply to them. If you jump into a conversation only to be left hanging mid-convo because they don’t have time for you again, you’re going to kick yourself and wish you hadn’t given them the time of day. You’ve given them enough of your days, right? Maybe they should just go away and stay away for good!
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