Negatively valenced interaction was the third theme, which described participants’ decline in interest following some sort of unfavorable behavior on the part of the person they wished to ghost, which served to justify the ghosting.
Fourthly, relationship state referred to a combination relationship type (dating, romantic partner) and the length of time the relationship had existed. In other words, when people chose to ghost others, they considered these two factors.
If, for example, they had been on only one date, then they considered ghosting to be justified, rather than having a conversation about why there might be no future dates. Similarly, the decision to ghost might also depend on the amount of time people had known each other; a brief period was not considered enough time for a formal breakup, for example, whereas if people had dated for a longer period of time, then ghosting was not a dissolution option. Consequently, relationship type and length were factors determining ghosting.
The final theme was safety, which referred to a perception of danger from ending the relationship. Quite obviously, ghosting offers a safe way to dissolve a relationship without placing the person doing the ghosting in any danger from the person being ghosted.
Want to know more about this relationship strategy? Check this video out below:
How Do You Know You’ve Been Ghosted?
Participants described three ways in which they realized they had been ghosted. The first indication was modified communication, which comprised of a lack of communication, lack of reciprocity, and then a sudden realization of the situation often only realized retrospectively.
This may have occurred over various time periods, with the communication just decreasing rather than completely stopping, but often characterized by abrupt or short responses, which make the dissolution slow and unclear. Modified communication creates uncertainty for those ghosted, leaving them to come to their own conclusions regarding the current status of a relationship.
The second was lessening interest which was experienced in terms of a de-escalation of the relationship. Those ghosted reported experiencing a decrease in attention from their partner or a feeling of a lack of intimacy.
Finally, a change in relationship status referred to observing a declaration of relationship status change on social media by the person who had ghosted them. In other words, a person they were dating changed their status to being “in a relationship” with someone else.
The findings from this study provide information on how ghosting is understood by those enacting the ghosting and those who experience ghosting. Furthermore, ghosting is generally evident via online means and occurs asynchronously (not in real-time), which gives the person ghosted time to assess the situation and come to a conclusion.
In a time of online communication, there may be a little more ambiguity around the idea of what is meant by a relationship, which may have an impact on ghosting. There is no doubt that relationship dissolution may be distressing and the ambiguity through which online interaction is conducted may contribute to this, with individuals left without appropriate closure.
LeFebvre, L. E., Allen, M., Rasner, R. D., Garstad., S., Wilms, A & Parrish, C. (2019). ‘Ghosting in Emerging Adults’ Romantic Relationships: The Digital Dissolution Disappearance Strategy’ Imagination, Cognition, and Personality: Consciousness in Theory, Research, and Clinical Practice, 39(2) 125–150.
Written By Martin Graff Originally Published In Psychology Today