Is it Okay To ‘Ghost’ People?

Ghosting is a staple of modern dating, but is it really okay to leave without a trace?


Over the summer, I went on a date with this guy.

Well, date is kind of a strong word. He casually asked me out for tea but insisted on paying the bill. Up to that point, we’d been talking for a few weeks, and we both seemed interested in getting to know each other a little better.

Our kind-of-date went well. It wasn’t love at first sight but nobody faked an emergency phone call either. We talked for a couple of hours, and then both went our separate ways. I wasn’t completely smitten with the guy, but I wouldn’t have minded a second date — preferably something that was a little more interactive.

The only problem was that, after that initial coffee date, the guy never texted me again.

Poof. Gone. He disappeared faster than eggs, bread, and milk during a blizzard.

Over the next week, I even texted him a few times to check in — only to be met with radio silence. After my second text went completely unanswered, I began to realize that I’d been ghosted.

While I wasn’t necessarily hurt by the ghosting, his vanishing act did leave me with plenty of lingering questions: did I do something to suddenly make him lose interest? Did he just meet someone else and decide she was the better option?

It also made me think a lot about the people I’d ghosted. Had they asked the same questions and felt the same twinge of rejection that I did?

That experience happened months ago, but as I’ve begun to date more and more, I’ve been thinking a lot about ghosting. Although disappearing into thin air may be the fastest way to cut someone out of your life, is it the best way?

Do you really owe anyone an explanation?

As frustrating as it was to watch that guy completely cut me off without so much of, “Hey, I had a good time,” I do know one thing: he doesn’t owe me an explanation.

We weren’t married. We weren’t even dating. He’s allowed to change his mind, and he doesn’t need to explain why he’s changed it.

When asking whether or not ghosting is okay, we’re really asking whether or not we owe someone an explanation for cutting them out of our lives. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t black-and-white — it often depends on the relationship and the circumstances.

In this particular case, no explanation was needed. I didn’t need to watch a slew of cheesy rom-coms to realize he’s just not that into me. However, had we been dating for six months and he suddenly stopped returning my calls, I might’ve taken his change of heart a little more personally.

Ultimately, the only person who can determine whether or not an explanation is “needed” is the ghoster. If you’ve only been talking to someone for a week and realize you have nothing in common, the explanation might not be worth it. If you’ve been dating for three years but things are no longer working out, giving the other person an explanation can also be a form of closure.

Besides closure, an explanation can also help the other person improve or mature — especially if their actions are what’s causing you to break things off. If my behavior was making someone else uncomfortable or offending them, I’d want to know about it. I may not agree with that opinion, but at least I’d be aware — whereas ghosting me doesn’t even give me the opportunity to change.

Ultimately, you still have to protect yourself

That all being said, there are still a few times when ghosting someone you’ve been in a relationship with for a while may be the best course of action.

If you’re trying to escape from an abusive relationship, it’s more important to focus on cutting ties than trying to provide your abuser with closure. In fact, giving an explanation may only give your abuser another opportunity to manipulate you with empty promises. In this case, ghosting the other person may be the ticket you need to permanently cut ties and get away.

We also have to recognize that ghosting doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships. Plenty of people end up ghosting family members or friends they’ve known their entire lives — including me.

In middle and high school, I was close friends with another girl, but our friendship was far from healthy. Manipulation was this girl’s forte, and she spent most of her time trying to ensure that my entire focus was on her. When she didn’t get her way, she threw a tantrum. I spent way too many nights tossing, turning and worrying about whether or not I’d upset her.

Initially, I tried to break off our friendship by telling her that I couldn’t bear her behavior anymore, and our relationship wasn’t healthy. Unfortunately, offering her a credible explanation didn’t end well — she only sunk her claws deeper and guilt-tripped me until I actually caved and apologized to her.

During junior year, we no longer had classes together so our primary form of communication was through texting or hanging out outside of school. Without the pressure of having to see this girl in class, I made my move. I ghosted her. I blocked her number and refused to make eye-contact in the hallway. Ghosting her wasn’t easy, but it was the necessary course of action.

Cutting someone out of your life — whether it be a close friend or family member — may be what you need to do to protect yourself. If you feel as if an explanation is only going to make things worse, ghosting may be exactly what you need to do.

When ghosting someone else, you shouldn’t be asking yourself whether or not it’s okay to do so — you should be asking yourself whether or not an explanation will make things worse. If it’s only going to make the situation even more strained or give a manipulator the chance to reel you back in, you probably shouldn’t bother to explain why you’re leaving.

However, it’s important to remember that ghosting can be cruel. It can cause more pain than necessary. Suddenly cutting ties — especially if it’s not the other person’s fault — can be jarring. It can leave broken hearts. If you can give an explanation without making the situation worse, you should.

Ghosting may be okay, and even the best decision in some cases, but there’s no reason to disappear without a trace unless you have to.

When I’m not writing, you can usually find me hanging out with my cats.

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