A few months ago, I wrote a piece about a phenomenon called “ghosting.”
Even though I didn’t know it had a name, it happened to me. It turns out I was far from alone. The piece was quite popular and I received numerous messages from friends and from total strangers who shared their own experiences with being ghosted.
A number also shared what happened when an ex who had ghosted them suddenly reappeared in their lives.
While this can seem like a clear cut case of, “Ignore them!” or “Tell ’em to go away,” it isn’t always so easy. The ghosts who come back can really mess with our minds and may open old wounds that we thought were healed. This can happen even if we tell them to leave us alone.
Therefore, how do we protect ourselves when, in many cases, we have a deep desire to know why they ghosted us in the first place and may still even have feelings for them? Also, what about that rare case where someone really does feel remorse and may be worth a second chance?
While there are no hard and fast rules, here are a few things to keep in mind when a ghost returns:
1. Timing is everything.
The amount of time that has passed, as well as what has happened in the time the ghost has been absent, is critical. Personally, I would be more likely to re-establish contact with someone who ghosted me a month ago as opposed to a year. The more time that has passed, the harder it is to want to re-connect with someone who hurt us deeply. Plus, if we have moved on to another relationship, do we really want to revisit the past and dredge up unhappy memories?
Also, beware of the manipulative ghost. In the case of one woman I know, whose ex disappeared when she was five months pregnant and magically got in contact again after she filed a paternity suit, sometimes a ghost appears not out of any genuine desire to make amends, but out of their own personal interest.
A crucial question to ask is: Why now? What are you hoping to gain from getting in touch with me now?
2. What are we hoping to get from this?
Anecdotally, the number #1 thing I hear most from people who got back in contact with an ex who ghosted them is, “I just wanted to know why they did it.”
Keep in mind that while they may give you an explanation for their behavior, it may not be the truth or the one that you want or even need to hear. Perhaps what you are looking for is a sincere apology or empathy for being ghosted and that may not ever happen especially if we are talking about a repeat ghoster.
3. Is it worth it?
Anytime we talk about the past, we bring back memories. Even if we feel that we have moved on or gotten past a certain painful episode, we may be surprised by the impact that revisiting those memories can have on us. Plus, even giving someone 30 minutes, an hour, or several hours of our time is still giving them valuable time.
While it’s up to each person to determine if it’s worth it, in some situations it may not be, and it’s okay to acknowledge that.
In closing, the only thing more baffling that being ghosted in the first place is having those who have ghosted us turn back up in our lives. In most cases, they seldom return at a good time.
While we may think that the best way to achieve closure is to resume contact with our ghost and attempt to find out what was going through their mind when they decided to ghost us, it may not always be the best choice in the long run.
Whatever one decides, may they at least have the grace and manners to tell that person, “No, I don’t wish to reconnect” or “Yes, I do.”
Just because they didn’t show us common courtesy and class doesn’t mean we should follow their example.
Author: Kimberly Lo
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Strelka Institute/Flickr