Many of my clients are immersed in the dating world, searching for healthy love relationships and healing from toxic ones. I wanted to take an opportunity to define a few terms that are floating about in the cybersphere.
When an individual is dating someone, the connection either continues to evolve in a healthy direction, it ends, or it tapers off. I am going to talk about when dating relationships end, what's healthy and what isn't in terms of leave-taking.
So in an abusive relationship, a psychological abuser will oftentimes engage in what experts call "the silent treatment "(ST). The ST is an emotional abuse tactic employed by psychological abusers....it is designed to cause harm to it's intended target and to render that individual "non-existent." See my article about the Silent Treatment I wrote for goodtherapy.org here for further definition. Basically the abuser falls off the face of the earth with no explanation, causing tremendous anxiety for the recipient of the ST. The silent treatment is cruel, and no one deserves to be dealt the silent treatment. Typically, the ST is employed when the abuser does not like a healthy boundary that was set by their significant other -- it's like stonewalling with silence, and it accomplishes nothing productive. What it does result in is the usurping of power and control for the abuser.
A survivor of an abusive relationship decides to go No Contact (NC) when they have determined to end the relationship. No Contact is designed to help the survivor reclaim their personal power and heal from a toxic, psychologically-damaging partner. Experts in the field virtually unanimously agree that No Contact (or Limited Contact in the cases were there are children or a business ) is essential for the healing of the survivor, to work through and sever the trauma bond and reclaim personal self-worth and agency. I've written more about No Contact here. No Contact is like detoxifying from an unhealthy "drug" of a toxic relationship.
"Ghosting" is a fairly new term in the dating world. Now that we have entered the era of Tinder and dating websites, texting and email tends to be the first way that potential dating partners begin to get to know each other before their first phone call or in-person encounter. When a dating partner loses interest (after one or more dates), often what will happen is "ghosting." In other words, the person disappears like a ghost and ceases texts, phone calls, emails, etc, and won't respond to attempts to re-engage. It's basically a cowardly way for a person to say (without having the balls to say it) that "I am not interested in you." In my non-clinical definition, it's a$%hole behavior, and the person on the receiving end of it is fortunate to have dodged a bullet from an immature, shallow dating partner. The person who is doing the "ghosting" is at minimum, immature, and at worst, potentially a psychological abuser.
Hope that's helpful to the folks out there in the world of dating... Be safe, remember your boundaries and values, and demand respect!!!
Andrea Schneider, LCSW