How to Move on After Being “Ghosted”

February 28, 2018

Ben King, MFT is a Couple and Family therapist with a focus in Sex Therapy. He specializes in working with couples experiencing difficulties with communication, emotional/physical intimacy, and sexual difficulties. Mr. King also works with individuals experiencing anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and sexual difficulties including erectile dysfunction.


Asking for a Friend…

Is it weird to think a lot about someone you dated briefly?

Regardless of the answer to that (because different people will have different opinions), I think the more interesting question is why we may find ourselves in this scenario. Most of us have experienced it; you’ve gone out with someone who you really mesh with, someone who is interesting or maybe different from people you’re used to. Whatever the reason, you just feel really good when you’re with them or thinking about them. Then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, they call things off. Maybe they had a feeling in their gut, or felt a lack of connection. Or maybe they ghost you and you’re left confused, thinking things were going so well. And we know how it goes from there: thinking about them constantly, checking their Instagram, maybe even going to places you know they frequent. It can make us feel like we’re going crazy, but we continue to do it.

So the question again, why do we ruminate over this person, despite it being so brief?

Every situation is different, but it often comes down to a few main themes. For some, it’s due to your lack of experience with dating. If you haven’t dated much, you’re more likely to latch onto someone. Maybe you have anxiety around dating and rejection, and you’ll latch onto anyone you date because you don’t want to put yourself out there again on another date. Or maybe you haven’t had experience to know what you want and don’t want, and just think you should mesh with anyone you go out with.

Another theme is that of being the dumpee. This is something a lot of us can relate to as well; when we’re doing the dumping, we usually feel confident about ourselves, and much more ambivalent about the relationship – that we don’t need the relationship. However, when we’re the dumpee, we often feel the opposite. We feel very insecure, and much more of a need for this relationship. This is because the dumper is essentially sending the message that they don’t need you, or even want you anymore. It can be quite a shot to the ego, even if it’s at the very beginning of a potential relationship. Getting dumped can often make our minds put much greater value on the relationship than we feel on a day-to-day basis.

Saving the best for last, the most significant and common theme is idealization. When we get dumped by someone we were having a great time with, we’ll often imagine what life would be like if they felt the same way. And how do we picture them? How do we picture that hypothetical relationship? We idealize both, imagining it being the greatest, most fun, and fulfilling relationship that we could think of. We imagine them as an exciting, interesting, and impressive person that we’d love to be with, and would love to be with us too. This idealization is so effective at keeping us stuck, because it gives us the thought that we simply have to win back this person to have the best life imaginable.

Now to answer the second half of your question: what can we do about this? How can we move on from this preoccupation or heartache?

  1. The first step is to stop checking in on their social media, reaching out to them, or intentionally putting yourself in a position to run into them.

When you do these things, you’re reinforcing the thought to yourself that you need them. You’re also constantly reminding yourself of them, and continuing to make space for them in your day and in your mind. Block them on social media and their phone number so that you can’t keep tabs on them or text them, and try to avoid places you know they could be at if possible.

  1. Keep a journal as an outlet to express yourself, and get your thoughts down on paper.

A lot of the times when we’re stuck, we’ll continue to cycle through the same thoughts and images. When we write, however, it can be a cathartic experience; it can allow us to think through how we’re feeling, and for some is relieving because it can be like we’re literally taking out our feelings and tension from our bodies, and putting it on the paper.

  1. Balance this idealization with a more realistic way of looking at that hypothetical relationship, and that person.

Idealization is imagining the person as perfect; instead, imagine them as they really are—human with many flaws. Or you could go even further and imagine them as something negative. What you’re trying to do is change that association you have of them—that they represent near perfection and the chance at a totally fulfilling relationship. By thinking of them in a less positive light, you’re slowly taking them off the pedestal you built for them. Your mind won’t think this way when you’re stuck in this heartache, but realistically there will never be that “perfect” person; even the most attractive or most exciting person can get stale and has annoying parts of themselves, and it’s our job to remind ourselves that.

So to recap, take some time to genuinely think about what has led you to feel stuck with this person. Is it because you haven’t dated much, or that you think they’d be the perfect partner, or something else? After you’ve answered this, then you can go to the next step of trying to get past it. Stop checking in on them, write in a journal if that helps you, and shift your thoughts of this person so they aren’t so idealized or putting them so high on that pedestal. And if you continue to feel stuck, check out some local therapists; their job is to help you explore how you got to this point, and how to cope with it. The future you will thank you for it.


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