The Other Side of Ghosting

Marcia Sirota
5 min readJul 27

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about ghosting. People on the receiving end have described the experience as bewildering, exasperating, and agonizing. The sudden, often inexplicable withdrawal of all communication feels unnecessarily cruel.

I empathize with these individuals and I recognize that in some instances, people engage in ghosting in order to be punitive, using a wall of silence as a way to punish a former friend or lover who they believe has hurt or offended them.

Ghosting can be cruel and unfair

This type of ghosting is nasty. The person receiving the silent treatment has no opportunity to understand or respond to what is happening. It can be frustrating, frightening, even devastating. I see it as a form of passive-aggressive abuse.

Other times, people engage in ghosting when they don’t have the guts to tell someone else how they feel or what they want. They’d rather flee and avoid a potentially uncomfortable confrontation. That’s cowardly; not to mention unfair to the person on the receiving end.

Whether punitive or cowardly, ghosting for these reasons is a lousy way of dealing with people. Still, I can’t help but consider both sides of a situation. I wonder, can ghosting ever be reasonable or justified? From my experience, it can be.

Ghosting can also be the right move at times

We all know that every interaction has two sides. Even when the ghosted person is feeling awful about it, the fact could be that the one doing the ghosting might be setting a much-needed boundary between the two of them.

The ghosted person might perceive the other person’s behaviour as cruel or unfair, even when it isn’t. For example, let’s say you’ve told a friend or lover that it’s over and the other person refuses to take “no” for an answer. They keep pestering you and hounding you and you’re feeling harassed and overwhelmed by their refusal to let go. At that point, your best option might be to put up a firm wall.

Let’s say you’ve been wounded or betrayed by a friend or a lover; maybe you feel seriously misunderstood, mistreated, or disrespected, or maybe you’re simply exhausted by the drama that’s been going on between you. At that point, your best recourse might be to eliminate all contact.

Cutting off contact to preserve wellbeing

In my experience, when someone in my life wouldn’t accept a clear request to give me space — space that I needed for my own wellbeing — my only option was to cut them off.

There have been times in my life when someone has done something so hurtful to me that I couldn’t get past it. It was a deal-breaker. And by hurting me so badly, the natural consequence was that this person forfeited their right to any further communication with me.

There have also been times when I realized that a relationship wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t making me happy, it was causing me stress. But the other person didn’t want to let go. I had no other option than to shut things down, permanently.

On the other hand, I’ve experienced my fair share of ghosting. I never liked it because often, I had no idea what was happening. I didn’t know if I had done something wrong, or if there had been a silly misunderstanding, or if the other person had simply changed their mind about me and couldn’t be bothered to formally end things. I’ve even checked the obituaries on a few occasions, wondering if the other person had met an untimely end. Still, I had to accept it, both out of respect for the other person’s decision and for my own good. Holding on wouldn’t have helped me one bit.

Closure and clarity aren’t always possible

Having been on both sides of the ghosting equation I understood at a certain point that things like closure, resolution, and clarity at the end of a relationship although lovely, aren’t always possible and in fact, aren’t necessary. It’s nice to be able to work things through but I can attest to the fact that letting go, moving on, and eventually being okay are all possible without these things.When I was doing the ghosting, I never did it as a way to punish anyone or avoid conflict, but only ever take care of myself. I never did it for frivolous reasons and I never regretted doing it either.

Some people are abusive and will bully and badger you so much that when it’s time to walk away, there would be no point in trying to explain anything to them. Some are vengeful and will use your words against you, so the best option is just to disappear.

Ghosting can hurt but we have to respect the other person’s decision

When I choose to end a relationship, I also get to choose how much I go into the reasons for why I’m leaving. Each relationship is unique and each ending has its own path. I don’t owe it to anyone to explain, justify, or gain their approval for my decision, and I don’t need them to be okay with it. I get to say as much or as little as I need to say on each occasion. I’m always respectful and I try not to be unkind but I also try not to abandon myself, either. Having said all that, I’d be a hypocrite if I begrudged others the same privilege.

The fact is that like it or not, ghosting happens and sometimes, there are good reasons for it. Whatever the reason, the person on the receiving end is generally better off accepting it, licking their wounds, and getting on with their lives.

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Marcia Sirota

Writer, speaker, MD, and author of the Short & Sweet Guides to Life book series