How to deal with being “ghosted” (because we’ve all been there)

Two years ago, I tried out OKCupid for the first (and only) time. It was only for a few months and during that time, I met and fell in love with Mike. Or, at least it felt like love at the time.

After a month of messaging back and forth, we finally went on our first date and soon after, we were spending afternoons on his couch watching 30 Rock. Things were moving a little fast, but I just let the relationship sweep me into a honeymoon haze. Somewhere in those last days, I distinctly remember uttering to myself, “I love him.”

But then, a mere month into our relationship, Mike disappeared. At first, he’d respond with short messages explaining he was busy or away, and then he completely vanished. No responses, no explanations and just an eerie “Read” note on my last message to him on Facebook. Those damn “Read” notes.

That, my friends, is called “ghosting”: when you’re in a seemingly good relationship and then one half decides to flee with no proper goodbye or closure. Sometimes it leaves you wondering if you had imagined the whole thing (but, alas, you didn’t).

Ghosting has risen over the past few years, namely thanks to more distant ways of connecting such as online dating sites, but it can also happen with people you randomly meet IRL as well such as at a bar or, perhaps, on public transportation (that does happen). Usually lacking a tangible tie to your social circle, these newcomers to your life have the ability to suddenly up and leave with no way of tracing them down and demanding a confrontation of sorts. (This is obviously not strictly a romantic phenomenon, this can happen with friends, too.) Also, in a world so loosely tied together by text messages or social media, it’s no wonder it’s so easy to ghost someone.

So, let’s say someone decided to just drop off the face of your Earth – what now? Well, fear not, because I am about to save you days, weeks and possibly months of paranoid theories and guilt trips by giving you the simple steps to dealing with getting ghosted. I’m your relationship Ghostbuster.

1. Have you tried messaging this person to no success? Okay, then stop.
You’ve put in a solid effort to reach out and if this person has decided to ignore your messages then you should just let it be. You did your job and it’s their fault for not replying, remember that. Don’t continue messaging; nothing good will come from it and you will just go down a shame spiral of nonsensical messages to varying degrees of frustration and anger. Just nip it in the bud and walk away before you end up sending a dreaded 3 a.m. Facebook essay declaring your feelings. It will sting more than a hangover.

2. Remove all remnants of this person from your life.
Delete any numbers, unfriend, unfollow, do whatever you need to remove this person from your life. If he/she is going to act like a ghost, treat them like one. This will help with step one and remove any urges to reach out. If they don’t want to participate in this relationship and be present, then they don’t deserve to be on your friend list.

3. Remember: It’s not your fault.
As I already mentioned in step one, you need to know that you did your best to make things work and communicate and they didn’t. Therefore it’s their fault for not reciprocating and, really, that makes them a lazy jerk. You are allowed to feel mad about this because according to the rules of human decency, humans should be able to communicate what with the power of language and words.. Don’t sit around and beat yourself up over little things you might have said or done because at the end of the day, you may never get an answer and they failed you by not complying with communication. Don’t let a ghost put unnecessary weight on your shoulders.

4. Be glad that you’ve rid this person.
No matter how much you think you knew this person, here’s another important Fact, with a capital F: this person is unreliable. You want to be in a relationship with someone who can handle confrontation and be able to talk through problems, not run away and avoid things. Heck, you don’t want that in a friend. You don’t want that behavior around you, period. You dodged a bullet with this one.

5. Spend time with your friends and remember that good human beings exist.
Your friends would never pull a ghost act and they are great reminders in your life that not all people are like that. Call up your BFFs, share your feelings over the comfort food or beverage of your choice (I’m partial to Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia and/or a big decadent steak), and remember that these are the types of people you want in your life. When you meet the right person, they will treat you with as much love and respect as the people you’ve already allowed into your life. Ghosts? Well, they just float away and vanish.