Could there finally be a psychological explanation for modern dating’s worst trend – ghosting?
Ghosting – aka the act of breaking up with someone by stopping contact without warning – may just be one of the worst parts of modern dating.
The abruptness, wondering what went wrong and lack of closure can all be very painful to experience in a break-up where you just don’t know why it happened.
A millennial dating study by BankMyCell found that 29% of women say they have been ghosted during a short-term relationship, while 26% admit they themselves have ghosted someone.
The reasons for this behaviour are varied, with 50% saying they did so to avoid confrontation and 10% admitting it’s because their partner became too needy or clingy.
Which personalities are more likely to ghost?
The study, from the University of Padua, suggests that the sudden ending of contact without giving a reason is a strategy that seems more rational, and acceptable, to people who have higher scores for the so-called “dark triad” personality traits.
As Psychology Today explains, the three dark triad personality subtypes are narcissistic, Machiavellian (aka manipulation and cynicism) and psychopathic (socially callous and antagonistic).
However, Peter Jonason, the lead researcher on the study, stresses that this doesn’t mean that people who ghost, or have higher dark triad traits, are evil or pathological. ““These are people who see the world differently for a variety of reasons,” he explains. “But we all have these traits in us [to a certain extent], and good and evil is never black and white.”
“This kind of cold and detached form of break up – one that doesn’t take anyone else’s feelings into consideration – is an easily reasoned outcome of the way in which these people’s brains work,” he told New Scientist. “They prefer to just kind of bail.”
In the study, 341 volunteers were asked to complete a questionnaire that scored them on their dark triad traits. They were then asked to rank how acceptable ghosting is in different situations on a 10-point scale, and say if they had ever ghosted anyone in the past.
What the researchers found is that higher dark triad scores aligned with a greater acceptance and history of ghosting as a way to end short-term relationships.
Interestingly, an earlier study by the same researchers also found that long-term relationships are less common in people with dark triad personalities.
How to cope with being ghosted
Look, there is no magic bullet to avoid any kind of heartbreak; it’s a painful yet inevitable part of life. Even recognising dark triad tendencies in potential partners runs the risk of self-sabotaging the relationship before it’s had a chance to flourish.
And what’s more, ghosting doesn’t just happen in romantic relationships. It can occur within friendships and even in a professional context.
However, as the experts at VeryWellMind suggest, if you are ghosted, don’t play the blame and shame game.
“The experience might result in you exhibiting a variety of negative emotions and questioning yourself,” they explain on their website. “Hold your head up high, hold onto your dignity, and let them go. Someone better could be out there looking for you.
“Give yourself care and build your resilience during this painful time. If you’re still struggling to cope after being ghosted by a romantic interest, a friend, or someone in the workplace, reach out to a doctor or a mental health professional for assistance.”