I mourn for the days when I had never felt the pang of disappointment of getting excited after a first date all to never hear from them again. Being ghosted is a state I know all too well, and as much as I wish I could say I let it roll off my back and know it isn’t a measure of my worth, I’m not exactly there yet.
It’s already tough enough after a few dates, but when you sleep with someone and they disappear from the face of the Earth the next day? It’s a recipe for a day in bed, overthinking everything I said and did and spiraling into the one question I always have: “Was it because I’m bad in bed?”
Why Do People Ghost After Sex?
If you haven’t heard the term “ghosting” or are lucky enough to have never experienced it, ghosting refers to when someone abruptly cuts off contact with no explanation or reason why. There are a variety of reasons someone might ghost, whether that’s not feeling a connection, wanting a casual relationship, or something in their personal life. What’s important to recognize is that you’ll never know the reason why, so it’s important to not blame yourself.
“If you get ghosted, don’t evaluate yourself and try to find something to blame,” said Gabrielle Morse, LMHC, senior therapist at Manhattan Wellness in New York. “The right person will not ghost you. You are not a problem to be fixed; you were just with the wrong person.”
Ghosting is an immature way to end a relationship, especially if you’ve put time and energy into the connection, especially physical intimacy. “Whatever reason, if somebody ghosts, they’re choosing cowardice over kindness,” said Dr. Kryss Shane, LSW, LMSW.
Was I Ghosted Because I’m Bad at Sex?
“If you get ghosted from someone after sleeping with them, it’s likely because they were never looking for anything more than a hookup, not because the sex was bad,” said Emily Sterns, LMSW, associate therapist at Manhattan Wellness. Someone who feels a strong connection with you and is interested in pursuing a relationship wouldn’t just leave you hanging all because the sex wasn’t “up to par.”
“Sex is a two-player game in most situations,” said Elizabeth Marks, LMSW, associate therapist at Manhattan Wellness. “Sex is an evolving and exciting thing, and for it to be ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ it takes both parties to be in a space of enjoyment and intimacy. If the sex was not what you expected, [was] uncomfortable, or overall unsatisfying, it might have been a reflection of the relationship as a whole.” So even if the sex was bad, it doesn’t have to mean you as a person are bad. It’s possible the connection just wasn’t there.
“Typically when we get ghosted, regardless if we have feelings for that person, we tend to fixate and spiral about everything we could have done differently to avoid the feeling of rejection,” Sterns added. “Highlighting that you have nothing to do with it and recognizing that this probably a pattern that keeps this person safe from vulnerability will free you from the blame.”
Why Ghosting is So Uncomfortable
“Ghosting causes so much discomfort because it leaves us with the one thing we all hate, which is uncertainty,” said Michele Miller, LCSW, senior therapist at Manhattan Wellness. Uncertainty, Miller continues, “leaves a lot of room for us to try to fill in the blanks,” which can lead us to pointing out our own flaws or making excuses for the person, like that their job is really busy or they’re not on their phone much. “It is important to not fill in those blanks as assumption-making only leads to further complications, like low self-esteem or anxiety that may not be rooted in our reality.”
There is no reason to put blame on yourself when you’re just assuming what happened. “We find ourselves being upset about ghosting because it feels like it is a direct attack on us when we need to challenge ourselves to remove ourselves from the equation,” added Rachel Holzberg, LMSW, associate therapist at Manhattan Wellness.
If you judge yourself for feeling upset or bummed out after you’ve been ghosted, know that you’re not alone.”Allow yourself to feel the feels and remind yourself it’s OK to feel sad,” said Eliza Davis, LMSW, associate therapist at Manhattan Wellness. If you invested time into a relationship or were vulnerable with someone (whether emotionally or physically), it’s normal to have grief over the end of that relationship, regardless of how short it may have been.
How Long Should I Wait to Have Sex With Someone?
So, you’ve experienced the ghosting, and you’re ready to hop back on the saddle again. What’s the ideal time to wait to have sex with someone to avoid getting ghosted? According to Miller, there isn’t. “We tend to make so many rules around having sex, and many women tend to see it as their ‘power card,'” Miller said. “I don’t like setting rules on this because we all have varying levels of comfortability. Lean into what makes you most comfortable not only in the moment, but what would feel comfortable the next day.” Instead of setting up a time frame to follow, make the decision based on your feelings, not a timeline.
When you choose to have sex with someone should also depend on what you’re hoping to get out it, according to Morse. “If it feels right for you—whether it provides fun, connection, closeness, intimacy, romance—then allow yourself to follow your gut.”
If you’re basing your decision off someone else, don’t. “Waiting three months versus the first date to have sex with someone new is not going to make a person who doesn’t like you stick around,” Sterns said. “If they’re interested in dating you, the amount of time you wait to sleep with someone new is not going to suddenly change how they feel.”
What to Do After You’ve Been Ghosted
First of all, carefully and slowly, put down your phone, according to Miller and Morse. “Don’t give them another second of your time,” Morse said. Make sure to unfollow them on social media too.
Then, focus on yourself. “Take back the power by redirecting your energy elsewhere: toward people who see your value,” Morse said. Practice self-care and lean on your loved ones, avoiding allowing yourself to self-isolate. Journal, talk to a therapist, or take a walk—anything to get you out of your head.
How to Prevent Being Ghosted
Is it possible to prevent being ghosted in new relationships? Not exactly. But you can prevent forming deep connections with someone too early on before you have trust with each other.
“Sometimes we can’t control who will ghost, but what we can control is not putting people on a pedestal just because they check a bunch of boxes: good sex, attractive, good job, [etc.],” Morse said. “Don’t be sold on a person until they show commitment and loyalty.” We tend to cling onto people who seem like a good fit in the beginning (especially after dating dud after dud—thanks Tinder), but until people show us who they really are, avoid jumping into the connection too early.
But you can make sure to employ effective communication strategies in new relationships. Miller recommended communicating your expectations going into a new relationship and ask what the other person’s are too. Make sure that you’re both on the same page, and when you see warning signs that someone is pulling away, confront them about it instead of waiting for them to say something.
Then, make sure to utilize this experience to inform others in the future. “I think it’s important to reflect on ghosting in recognizing how you want to treat others moving forward,” Davis said. “Recognizing how difficult it can feel to be ghosted can motivate you to send that text/call/message to someone ending things if you’re not intending to pursue the relationship/situationship.”