The Harmful Dating Trend You Need To Be Aware Of

Both ghosting and gaslighting are common toxic behaviors experienced on the dating scene, and many are well-versed these days in recognizing the red flags. Unfortunately, there is a new trend that combines these manipulations. If you haven't heard about it yet, it's called "ghostlighting." Beware.

It's painful to be ghosted. After a reasonable amount of time, if you don't hear from someone with whom you've been consistently communicating, you're left wondering what happened. Gaslighting is the practice of manipulating a false belief by making someone think that they are not in their right mind and can't be trusted to know the truth of a situation or series of events. Victims of ghostlighting complain that they've experienced an established pattern of communication that's broken by silence, and then, when a prolonged amount of time has passed, the perpetrator will reach out and rather than admit to their own inaction, they gaslight the victim by blaming them for the outcome. It's hard enough preparing for rejection when you're dating, but ghostlighting is something that's difficult to protect yourself against. Before you become a victim — or perpetrate this nasty trend yourself — daters be warned.

Wait, did that just happen?

Ghosting and gaslighting are harmful relationship games where one person holds power over another — combining the two can double the difficulty of getting out from under a power dynamic. Sometimes the one doing the ghostlighting doesn't necessarily mean any harm. They might choose to behave with negligence, or believe they are too busy, shy, or afraid to even be able to hurt someone's feelings for reasons even they don't understand. But conflict resolution is an important part of any kind of relationship, even if it's a skill used to end it. If after weeks of ignoring you, the one who ghosted you reaches out and refuses to acknowledge their behavior and instead blames you for ghosting them — there's something toxic afoot. Trust your gut. Yes, it happened.

If you've tried to resolve things with them, chalking the situation up as a miscommunication, or even accepting the blame without careful consideration, you might be feeling confused, frustrated, or inept. Ghosting and gaslighting are both a blow to self-esteem, but combined they can be devastating. In an interview with Forbes, Dr. Stacey Diane Arañez Litam explained that "People may internalize unhelpful beliefs about being ghosted that minimizes their self-worth or invalidates their inherent worthiness of love or connection." After a ghostlighting event, if you'd like to continue connecting with the person you're dating, make sure to clarify what happened without speculation, accusations, and as little emotional reaction as possible. If discussing things only makes everything worse, you two may not be meant to be. 

Get an outside opinion

Being victimized by ghostlighting can add to trust issues you might already be facing, especially trusting yourself. When it comes to dating, the dangers of everything from "limerence" to "delicate dumping" are situations that could use an outside perspective. Tracing and discussing the facts of the events that led to the situation will be important. If you can do this without blame, perhaps you can get through the entire ghostlighting adventure as a hiccup and lesson for a future together. However, if after sharing your story, you receive feedback that confirms their toxic tactics, you might consider cutting your losses and moving on. 

Friends' perspectives are helpful, and you'll likely need some support after what's happened, but be careful you don't take advantage of their care with your problem. Friends aren't therapists and dealing with something as complicated as ghostlighting might mean you need to seek a professional ear. Therapists don't have to be long-term when it comes to resolving a particular problem. Picking up a few emotional tools to keep in your toolbox could be just what you need to get out of the ghostlighting fog and into the clear.

Also, after any major ghosting, gaslighting, or ghostlighting event, you might need a break. Giving yourself time away from feeling like you need to defend against those unhelpful beliefs that you have been telling yourself. Accepting the blame for someone else's disinterest in you might mean it's time for you to take a pause in the wonderful world of dating. Be careful of falling into giving too much meaning behind the stories of why you need a break. Focus on feeling good about yourself again, and get back to what you do in order to fully love and appreciate you.