What You Should (and Shouldn't) Do if You Want to Reconnect After Ghosting Someone
This is a ghastly situation, after all.
So, you've ghosted someone and now you're having second thoughts. Maybe you were going through a hard time (hey, we can blame the pandemic for this one) or maybe you weren't really ready for a relationship and didn't know how to explain yourself. Whatever the situation might be, you would like to come back from the dead. However, you're not only unsure how to do it, but you're also wondering if you should do it in the first place.
"I think it's never a bad idea for you to try to approach someone you wronged, but that doesn't mean that the person you ghosted is going to be excited to speak with you and just accept whatever you have to say," Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells HelloGiggles. "It depends on the level of ghosting. Did you stand them up for their sister's wedding, or did you just not return a text? This all matters."
Trombetti says the level of the bad treatment given by the ghoster dictates how or if you should approach the ghosted. "Otherwise, you are only thinking of your needs," she says. "If you just failed to get back to them, I think it's okay to reach out again, but you will only be permitted this type of bad behavior once."
If you're unsure how to approach this ghastly situation, here's what experts suggest to do.
Why you shouldn't approach someone after you've ghosted them:
The circumstances under which you ghosted and the relationship from which you disappeared from depends heavily on whether or not you should even approach someone after you've ghosted them.
"If you disappeared and failed to show for a weekend getaway, ghosted them after dating for a while, etc., I don't think it's a good idea to come back," says Trombetti. "If you left them sitting in a bar waiting for you on an actual date, well, it's still probably not a good idea."
However, Trombetti suggests offering them an explanation if they do want to talk. "People who have been ghosted have a lot of pain and want answers, so they have closure. That's the only thing you can give them, but don't expect a person to want you back."
When is it a good idea to come back from the dead?
If you are genuinely ready to face the consequences of your ghosting behavior (hey, we've all been there) and make a point to change, then it might be worth reaching out.
"For a person to come back from ghosting, their actions and intentions must be genuine," says Leslie Montanile, matrimonial lawyer and relationship expert. "The circumstances under which someone can recover from ghosting will depend on the nature of the relationship they are trying to mend and how often ghosting has been used to push away the one they believe they care for—the ghosted."
If the ghosting is a new behavior, Montanile says it will be easier for you to change and correct your mistakes and make amends by admitting to the one you ghosted that you were wrong to have behaved that way. However, if ghosting is a repeated behavior in your relationship(s), "It will take time, patience, and self-soul searching to take ownership of your behavior, correct it, and make peace with the one you love."
What to say after ghosting someone:
According to Amita K. Patel, LCSW, a New York-based licensed psychotherapist and social worker specializing in trauma, resilience, and cognitive behavioral interventions, if you've decided to un-ghost someone, here are a few ways to approach it:
1. Own it.
"Admit you made a mistake, to yourself and to the other person. By first acknowledging your reasons for ghosting to yourself, you'll be better prepared to make amends and move forward with the other person. Self-compassion is a muscle that constantly needs to be flexed, even when we're in the wrong."
2. Create space to hear how it made the other person feel.
"Validate the ghosted feelings without explaining or rationalizing your decisions. When tensions are high, it can feel like acknowledging the other person's feelings is the equivalent of negating your own. The truth is that when you're fighting to win, you're not fighting to fix. Remember, an apology is not an apology if it comes with qualifiers."
3. Repair the relationship.
"Express what you'll do differently the next time you feel like ghosting. For example, you might say, 'The next time I feel uncomfortable, I promise to express myself and give us the opportunity to talk about it rather than jetting.' If you don't think you can or will do anything different, don't make promises you can't keep. It's not good for your self-trust, for their self-esteem, or the relationship itself."
Why empathy is so important for both parties:
The above tips might not feel or seem easy to a ghoster since typically people who ghost avoid hard and intimate conversations. However, Montanile points out that those conversations are necessary steps for any relationship to move forward.
"Before a ghoster can approach someone they have ghosted, they must recognize that sensitivity, empathy, and follow through are vital to their success," she says. "The ghoster needs to dig deep and ask themselves how they would feel if it was done to them by someone they cared for."
Whether you're the ghoster or ghostee, Patel says, both parts can bring up past traumatic experiences. For the ghostee, a sense of abandonment, broken trust, and lack of closure can bring up many painful memories.
"As the ghoster, the inability to have hard conversations, assert oneself, or express one's feelings can be attributed to previous traumatic experiences when doing so," she says. "Simply put, if you haven't had many positive data points where expressing yourself went well, it can teach you to avoid conflict at all costs."
While it doesn't make it any less hurtful for the person who was ghosted, Patel says ghosting is often a protective behavior.
"Approaching making amends from a place of self-compassion can help you to examine how this pattern has played out in other areas of your life," she explains. "Chances are, if you ghosted on a date, you've ghosted elsewhere, like at work, or with friends. It's not a single incident. I recommend working with a therapist to identify the beliefs and triggers that led this pattern to emerge and the emotion regulation and communication skills to improve this and other areas of your life."
How the ghoster needs to accept the ghosted's decision:
Ghosting dismantles trust. So coming back around again won't, and shouldn't, be easy for the ghoster. And no matter how good intentions you might have to re-enter someone's life after ghosting them, you need to be able to accept their decision about you.
"They may need time to trust you again," says Patel. "They may not forgive you. But whether they do or don't, unghosting is a helpful step in you forgiving yourself. And when you know better, you do better."
Montanile adds that the ghoster needs to recognize that they must allow room for the ghosted to vent and communicate how they felt due to the ghoster's actions. "This may take some time so the ghoster will need to show patience, empathy, and kindness. Words alone will not heal hurt feelings. Actions of love and open lines of communication are the best ways to show someone you care for that you are willing to do what it takes to make it work."
Relationships take two people connecting honestly and openly, especially when things get rough. "Getting to know and understand another person is a process that develops over time wherein we allow the other to see us for who we are, not who we are not," says Montanile.
In order to work successfully, both people in a relationship need to know if they are in sync, are looking for the same things out of the relationship, and if each person is willing to be open to accepting their partner as they are.
"A successful relationship allows for open conversation, growth, and change," she says. "Being honest with yourself and with your partner enables a relationship to flourish. While some conversations are difficult to have, misbehaving, acting out, and avoiding the ones we care about is never a recipe for success in love. The greatest gift a couple can give each other is the safe haven to share feelings, thoughts, and ideas with each other."