Last winter, I met somebody with whom I immediately hit it off. We spent nine hours together that day — he took me out to dinner, I met his dog, and he texted me before I even got home. It felt like a dream. Over the next few weeks, we texted constantly, hung out several times, and eventually hooked up. Then he ghosted me. Cue all the confusion and self-blame.
Fast-forward 10 months, at which point we reconnected and he worked his way back into my good graces (aka bought me pizza). Although I was a bit hesitant to let him back into my life, he explained why he disappeared — things got hectic at work (likely excuse, but I believed it) — and promised he wouldn’t do it again. And guess what? After two months of what felt like picking up right where we left off, he ghosted me again. Ghost me once, shame on you. Ghost me twice, I’m writing about you on the internet.
Is it ever a good idea to give another shot to someone who ghosted you? “This is a complicated question because ghosting falls along a spectrum of severity,” says relationship therapist Andrew Aaron, LICSW. “A strong partner (emotionally, morally, and intellectually) is necessary for what may become a good and healthy long-term relationship. Someone who ghosts is usually not in that category.” If they disappear on you after a few dates with no explanation, Aaron attributes the ghosting to social and emotional laziness. Within a more established relationship, ghosting suggests greater underlying emotional weaknesses or character failures, like selfishness, immaturity, poor communication skills, or a lack of ability to problem-solve.
“Yes, there’s a chance that the first incident was a fluke. More likely, it’s an indicator of how they treat people who hold the role you hold in their life,” says relationship coach Michele Lisenbury Christensen, MA. However, “if you were into them before, you may not want to ‘blow’ what seems like a second chance for you.” Yup, sounds familiar. If you’re anything like me and would rather give someone another shot than wonder what if?, here’s how can you move past the first failure and toward a (hopefully) successful second take.
1. Find out why they ghosted you.
Lisa, 29, was “too wild” for Kasey when they first met in 2010. “I eventually asked a mutual friend why he ghosted me, and he told me that was the reason. By that point, I had stopped partying as much. Kasey would randomly message me but never ask me to hang out, so one day I slipped in that I calmed down, and he came clean about why he ghosted me. Then he asked if he could take me out for drinks for my 21st birthday, and I was like, why the hell not?” The two have been married for three-and-a-half years.
Before you officially attempt to bring back the dead, ask why they ghosted you. This can help you get closure and allow you to determine whether or not you feel they deserve a second chance. If they recognize the error of their ways, show understanding and compassion for the hurt they caused, and demonstrate a desire to grow and correct their weaknesses, Aaron believes they may be worthy of it. However, “a lack of consideration and low level of effort to show sensitivity disqualifies such an individual as a suitable partner,” he says.
2. Carefully reflect on how you feel about the situation.
“Most of the time, ghosting indicates qualities that do not deserve admiration and [obstruct] a healthy, strong relationship,” Aaron says. “So after being ghosted, seriously consider seeking a stronger relationship partner [rather] than resuming with the ghoster.” Take time to sit with your feelings, and consider whether you feel it’s smart to try dating them again. Are you content with their explanation? Can you confidently move into a relationship with them without holding a grudge? Your answers to these questions may give you a good idea on how to proceed.
Ghost me once, shame on you. Ghost me twice, I’m writing about you on the internet.
Most importantly, decide if you can forgive them. “Forgiveness is a powerful choice, not as a way of approving of ghosting but as a way of releasing toxic anger and resentment,” Aaron says. “Acceptance and forgiveness may provide a sense of power in a situation in which ghosting has [made you feel] powerless.”
3. Look for evidence they’ve actually changed.
Courtney, now 26, was 21 when she ran into a former ghost and the spark reignited between them. “He texted me later that night and just like that, it was as if he never ghosted me,” she says. The two dated for six months after that, even through his move from California to Arizona. “He flew me out to visit him. We had an amazing week, and I thought I’d end up with him forever. The minute I landed home? Ghosted. Again. I should’ve seen the signs, but I was way too wooed. I do think he was really into me, but he was still the same asshole.”
Don’t let a ghost lure you back into their trap by saying what you want to hear. Actions speak louder than words when it comes to proving that they’ve truly changed. “To reconnect with a partner who has ghosted and be safe from a recurrence is to witness a consistent effort to be more open and communicative,” says Aaron. “Because ghosting is an avoidant behavior, [they must show] a greater willingness to engage without running away or shutting down. The person who ghosted must prove that a promise to grow is [genuine]. The burden isn’t on [you] to beg or nag for it.” How well is this person communicating with you? Do they consistently make an effort to hang out and show they value your relationship? If you aren’t convinced they’ve grown or changed enough to fully trust them again, trust your instincts and cut the cord.
4. Work together to reestablish trust.
Getting ghosted can damage your self-esteem, bring up insecurities, and create trust issues. So if you’re going to give a ghost another chance, regaining your trust must be their priority. “It’s [their] responsibility to help [your] healing through patience, understanding, and compassion,” says Aaron. Need more reassurance than they’re giving? He recommends checking in with them to see how they feel about your relationship to gain a better sense of safety and security whenever you need it.
It’s not entirely on the ghoster to rebuild a healthy connection, though. “For me, trust isn’t gained again so it’s not really up to them to earn it back. It’s more about my willingness to believe that person and open up a second time,” says Nick, 28, who started seeing someone again after she ghosted him due to poor timing of their first go-round. After all, according to Aaron, we must be open in order to love, which means being vulnerable.
Ultimately, the choice of whether to give another chance to a ghost or to let them haunt someone else is yours. “You can gamble with them, knowing the odds, or you can choose to move on and save your energy for dating someone who hasn’t ever blown you off,” says Christensen. I don’t know about you, but I know I’ll definitely be doing the latter from now on.