The psychology behind ‘ghosting’: Is there a scientific reason flings fizzle after 90 days?

Unrecognizable sad woman holding torn picture of couple in love.

‘Ghosting’ happens to the best of us

Shutterstock / Halfpoint

“Ghosting,” the phenomenon in which a love-interest completely stops responding, happens to the best of us.

With the rise of dating apps over the past few years, it’s easier than ever just to cut someone off without giving a reason. But why does it happen?

Intrigued, indy100 decided to delve into the topic further: could there really be a good reason to do something as rude as ghosting (or at the very least, a scientific one)? And is the phenomenon really quite so gendered? We queried the experts.

“When we’re first dating someone new , they like us! We like them! It can feel very exciting,” says Sarah Melancon, Ph.D, Sociologist and Certified Sexologist, Sexuality and Relationships Expert. “At this stage, it’s easy to fall ‘in love’ with our fantasy of who the other person is, since we don’t know them very well.

“That excitement, however, fades as we get to know someone better, and fantasy is slowly replaced by reality,” she continues. “On average, women tend to be more emotionally intelligent than men, meaning men may get swept up in the excitement and fantasy more easily than women.”

Thus, “as the excitement fades, there isn’t much left to sustain, because on his end, it probably wasn’t as deep and meaningful of a connection as he may have thought.”

Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking, concurs. “As a relationship expert, I see lots of men fall quickly and then fall out of love quickly,” she says.

Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist, relationship coach and creator of Your Happiness Hypothesis Method, explains the science behind this behavior.  “There are a few neurochemical processes that are occurring when falling in love. Your body is releasing adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin,” she explains. “Increased adrenaline levels is what makes your heart race whenever you are around the person…what people think of as ‘love at first sight.’ This phase of euphoria last[s] a few months.”  (As in, approximately three.)

“Dopamine creates chivalrous behavior in men, and intense attachment for women,” Silva continues. “When you’re in love, your body speeds up to process them all. The intensity of these reactions are euphoric and makes you ‘addicted’ for a few months and can cause you to realize that the person is incompatible in the long-term.”

For the Happiness Hypothesis Study, Silva conducted several in-depth interviews with men and women of all ages on the topic of ghosting and found that 80 percent of participants reported it being easier to ghost “because of the lack of communication and face-to-face interaction.” However, ironically, 80 percent of queried millennials had actually fallen victim to ghosting themselves. Based off these numbers, it seems that even the ghosted might ironically be ghosting others. And the culprit may actually be what you’re reading this on.

“We’re treating people like we do our social media streams,” Silva says of the unfortunate phenomenon. “The shiniest object is what we stop at, then move onto the next shiny object. This approach to people and relationships is creating a paradox effect.”

“People tend to ghost now more because of the more they hear about it, the more acceptable it is to do,” Trombetti says of the trend. “It’s been normalized even though it’s a terrible thing to have done to you.”

As for advice on how to avoid getting ghosted yourself, Trombetti simply suggests putting yourself out there — because, quite like heartbreak, there’s nothing one can necessarily do to truly avert the slight. “Don’t fear being ghosted. Know that it happens to everyone and it’s nothing you did or said. Try not to take it too personal even though it’s easier said than done. You don’t want to be with someone who handles life this way.”

She clarifies that there isn’t necessarily one red flag to look out for, because again, “ghosting someone is just something what happens without explanation.” That said, it’s generally wise to be weary of someone “who disappears on the regular and then tries to come back into your life and it’s a pattern. You can’t build a relationship on this, and you deserve better.”

It’s probably also reasonable to avoid people who dress in white sheets and shout “boo,” but that’s more of a personal preference.

The Conversation (0)