When Someone You Love Disappears on You

Let’s talk about being ghosted. It feels terrible.

There are things that you can do that will make you feel better. There are also things that you can do that will make you feel worse. I’m going to give you some pointers on how to feel better in the short-term and in the long-term.

What does it look like when you’ve been ghosted? A person you were close to suddenly drops off the face of the earth, with no explanation as to why. Or maybe there is an explanation, but it’s a lame one. You know the person is still out there because you can see the person on Facebook messenger or you still have friends or family members in common who report to you on how they are doing. However, your efforts at contact are met with silence.

It can happen with a boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, parent, or other family member.

On the receiving end, it feels like death, only worse because it’s personal. It’s a bit like divorce that way, except with a divorce, you usually have to have some amount of contact to iron out the terms of your divorce. With ghosting, the other person just cuts you dead and ignores you. It’s sudden and you have no control over the matter.

You may find that you instinctively run after the person, trying to fill the black hole that suddenly appeared in your life. As you do, you are met over and over again with silence, a continuous rejection of you that you cannot understand or argue against. Each time that you reach out, you may feel your heart bloom with hope, and you may frantically check your phone 100 times per day hoping that the person has finally responded. Each time that you reach out, you reopen the wound, and you come crashing down when you realize that the person is still not responding, that you have not found the magic trick that will make the other person respond to you again.

Let’s look at what you have control over. You have control over you. Let’s work with that.

1. You control the narrative in your head. When someone you love ghosts you, you get to control the story as to why she or he did it. What do you most need to hear to move on with your life?

a. If you are a rescuer, don’t tell yourself that the person is scared, anxious, or needs help. You will keep chasing after the person to help them.

Tell yourself that she did it because that is who she is and you can’t change her. YOU CAN’T CHANGE THAT PERSON EVER. It’s true. You can’t. If the person doesn’t want to change, you can do everything within your power and still not change the person.

Tell yourself that whatever reason she may have for ghosting, you deserve better, and it’s time to take care of your needs for a change

Focus all of your change efforts on yourself instead. (Then you can see how hard it really is to change someone!)

(And if you later learn that the person really didn’t ghost, that she was in a coma and unable to use her phone as a result, then you can always reevaluate your options. You don’t have to continue to treat the person like a ghoster if she isn’t one.)

b. If you are a blamer, you can tell yourself that the person is a jerk, but only if you can then keep yourself from sending him nasty messages spelling out all of his failings. Stick to the message that he is not worthy of you (but don’t send him that in a text, either).

c. Don’t blame yourself. The one gift that a ghoster gives you is control over the narrative. You squander that gift if you blame yourself.

This isn’t to say that you can’t do an honest assessment of your part in the break up of the relationship and the ghoster’s part in it as well once you’ve moved through some of the pain. You can and you should. Initially, though, when you are in pain and when your brain is looking for a simple solution (doing this stupid thing = pain), don’t feed the beast.

2. Reach out to those that love you. Let them tell you how great you are. Spend time with them to avoid thinking about the other person. They will remind you, just by being with you, that you are loved and lovable.

3. Get some exercise. Go outside. Get some sun and some Vitamin D as a result. Getting exercise will pump up the endorphins to make you feel better. Also, emotions are stored in the long muscles of your body, so when you exercise, you literally move through those emotions.

4. What do you need to do to keep from running after the person? If you need to, you can delete them from Facebook, messenger, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp, and your phone contacts. You can delete all text messages you have shared. You can make it as hard for yourself to chase them as possible.

Can I help support you through this? You can reach out to me here.

When you are feeling better, when you have had some time and perspective, then you can take a deeper dive into it.

1. Do you have a pattern of being with people who ghost? If so, why? What do you see in them? Do you find yourself ignoring the early warning signs of ghosters? When they start to pull away, do you chase them instinctively? What are some changes that you could make to help yourself? Are there ways you could stage an early intervention for yourself if you see early warning signs of ghosting with a new friend or boyfriend?

2. Does the other person have a pattern of ghosting? Can you see the pattern without feeling a need to rescue or blame? You cannot hug them long enough to magically put all their broken parts back together again. You cannot blame them viciously enough to teach them never to do it again (in fact, direct shaming and blaming of them will probably have the opposite effect – they are ghosting to avoid feelings).

3. Can you be grateful for the time that you had together without having it trigger a desire to contact the ghoster? It may be that gratitude will trigger an ache inside of you, a longing for the ghoster. It may be that gratitude will trigger feelings of love for the ghoster. Either of those and more can make you reach out to the ghoster in a weak moment. If you cannot feel gratitude without wanting to contact the ghoster, then maybe you wait a bit longer to work on gratitude so that you don’t find yourself chasing the ghoster again.

Do you want some help working through the deep dive? Reach out to me here.

How to Get Rid of 80% of Your Unhappiness in Relationships

APPLYING THE 80/20 RULE TO RELATIONSHIPS

Have you heard of the 80/20 Rule?  The theory is that 80% of consequences are a direct result of 20% of causes.

Have you ever applied it to your relationships?

When you think of your friends and family members, which 20% create 80% of your desired outcomes and happiness?

These are your peeps.  These are the people with whom you want to spend your time and, if it’s a healthy relationship, these are the people with whom you should spend your time. 

Take a moment after you’ve finished reading this and make time to get together with them.

Now, think of your friends and family members again.  Which 20% create 80% of your problems and unhappiness?

Here is the harder question.  Why are you sacrificing so much of your happiness to them?

Here are some of the answers I have heard:

“She’s my mother.”

“It’s not his fault.”

“I have nowhere else to go.”

“I’m married.  I made a commitment.”

“My (adult) son needs me.”

“I’m a rescuer at heart.”

“I’m Superman.”

“Who will take care of her if I don’t?”

“I’m too old to change now.”

“I couldn’t live with myself if I weren’t there for him.”

“He’s my brother.”

“I can’t afford to leave.”

Here are things that people often think but don’t say:

“I’m afraid no one else will love me.”

“I don’t think I deserve to be treated any better than this.”

“I’m so ashamed that it has gotten to this point.”

“I need to be needed.”

“I don’t know how to have a relationship where my needs are met, too.”

“I’m afraid of what will happen if I stick up for myself.”

“I’m afraid of change.”

Here is the part that can be too scary to even think:

“I don’t know how to put my needs first (in this instance or maybe in life).”

Here’s the reality:

First, let’s talk about the extent of problems and unhappiness you suffer as a result of the person.  Not all unhappiness is equal. 

When you have contact with this person, how do you feel on a scale of 1 – 10, with 1 being minor irritation and 10 being high level anxiety or anger, often resulting in a need to medicate yourself with food, alcohol, cigarettes, or other substances? 

How often do you currently have contact with this person?  How often do you really need to have contact with this person?  Could you decrease your time with this person?

Is the person causing you unhappiness because the person is emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive to you?  Has anyone told you the person has been abusive toward you, even if you would not describe the person as abusive?

Can you take a step back from the person to better evaluate the relationship?  Often, we don’t even know the reactions our bodies are having until we step away from the relationship.

There is a difference between someone creating 80% of your unhappiness intentionally versus unintentionally.  There is also a difference between someone creating 80% of your problems on a temporary basis versus on a permanent basis.

For example, if a loved one has cancer, you are likely to feel a great deal of unhappiness as a result.  You may be worried, angry that this person is suffering, sad, anxious, and more.  If you are married and there are medical bills piling up as a result, you may also feel anxious, worried, distressed, angry, and more.  Still, it is perfectly healthy to be there for the person as much as possible, to love the person and to also feel great pain.  You may experience caregiver fatigue and look to find ways to support yourself emotionally as a result.  You may experience caregiver fatigue and decide that you cannot do anymore.

In the alternative, if you love someone who rejects you, puts you down, always has to ensure that his needs are met (and yours are not), then it could be time to take stock of the relationship.  You know that it is not working for you – that is why you have listed it in with the relationships causing 80% of your unhappiness.

Can the relationship be fixed? Is the person willing to work on the relationship to meet your needs, too?  Is the person willing and able to talk with you, to meet in counseling or mediation to discuss it and put together a plan to get things back on track?

If it can’t be fixed, and you still want to maintain the relationship, then can it be contained?  Can you limit the amount of time that you spend with the person, spend less hours together, have a buffer present, opt for telephone contact, email, text, or Facebook instead of in person contact?

If it can’t be fixed, you know it’s not healthy, and it’s causing you a great deal of distress, it’s time to really look at why you are investing so much of your time in this person.  We have a finite amount of time on this earth.  Think of what you could do with all of that time that you currently spend unhappy.  Why is it more important to be there for that person than to be there for yourself?