From Ghosting to Caspering: the psychology of why it matters

Ben Douch
Ben Douch
Apr 29 · 4 min read

Waiting in the dark

A few dates in, that moment arrives when you’re just not feeling it anymore. Instead of letting them know, we gradually drift away (Curving) or vanish completely without a word (Ghosting). It’s shitty, but easy.

And hey, after-all, we’re just an imperfect self-centred human trying to get their needs met.

The current dating vernacular is stuffed full of definitions for careless and cowardly behaviour. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

A more honest approach, clearly communicating your wish to stop seeing someone (Caspering) is available. It takes compassion, courage, and a willingness to feel some discomfort. But there’ll be plenty in it for you too.

Rather than show you how to do this, I want to show you why this is important. Why it matters.

Let’s start with just why we Ghost and Curve.

#1 We do not want to feel emotional discomfort

So, you’re thinking….”That was nice n all, but I’m no longer interested, it would be best if I was direct and told him”.

…but…

“I don’t want to upset him”.

There’s the potential to feel guilt, anxiety, sadness, shame — help!

Don’t worry, we’ve evolved some neat mind-tricks to defend against this. Your trusted friend Cognitive dissonance is particularly good at dealing with this inner conflict, easing you into comforting denial with the thought:

“It’s not the right moment, I’ll do it later”

#2 Short-term consequences are more potent in determining behaviour than long-term

Clearly there are not-right-moments, but playing the “I’ll wait for the right moment” game is another way of saying “I don’t want to feel uncomfortable right now”.

Present-you likes to place ownership of the difficult jobs elsewhere. Bullying past-you with “I can’t believe he acted so cowardly”’, but when the time comes passes the buck to future-you “he’ll take care of it later”. This Negative reinforcement, when the aversive situation is removed and you feel better, means you’ll keep on doing the same behaviour. This is bad news for future-you, and your potential partner(s). More on that later.

Why bother with all this discomfort anyway

· Do you see me?

· Do you care that I’m here?

· Am I enough for you?

· Can I tell that I’m special to you?

Could Ghosting be a more antithetical response to these human desires? Ouch.

We all want to be loved, and that includes you.

We might not be able to give the other what they want, but it’s important we take responsibility for demonstrating they are worthy of a little time and attention.

Future-you will be grateful Future-you has arrived in a relationship. It’s going great. Then, as the polish fades, you realise he’s just as imperfect as you. With Ghosting and Curving we’ve been unwittingly exercising our avoidance muscle; training ourselves to get away from difficult conversations. Relationships contain disappointment and require clear communication, boundary setting, and being with uncomfortable emotions. Get practicing now.

We all benefit It’s our behaviour we are judged on, and remembered by. It ripples outwards affecting others, and they too may pass it on. With a little care, the wash of those ripples becomes respect, authenticity and kindness. You’re doing your bit for the human race, and generosity is good for your mental health too.

Taking responsibility

Don’t let guilt and anxiety bully you Feelings are always telling us something, but they can be reactional and short-term focused.

It’s a life-enhancing practice to get familiar with our inner world, gain some mastery over it, become less reactive and act more wisely.

The feeling of guilt is there to tell you when you’re about to do, or have already done, something wrong. Being honest with someone is not wrong.

The feeling of anxiety may be hiding a deeper emotion of fear; it wants to paralyse and protect you from that which you’re scared. Its intentions are good, but it rarely has the full picture; often holding you back from what’s important.

Rather than being the puppet to your feelings, let them know it’s not their time and allow your values to guide your behaviours.

Act in alignment with your values We use our values to guide us. They help us connect with a bigger perspective and can counter our biological wiring for the potency of short-term consequences.

Ask yourself what you value. If it’s authenticity, courage, compassion, openness; then take a ride on them. The more we live in alignment with these the greater meaning our life has. Meaning is good. Meaning is happiness.

Wait, do people even want to hear the truth? Yes, no, maybe, sometimes.

You’re not responsible for their feelings, but you are responsible for your actions. It’s pretty difficult to be both honest and kind. They’re an imperfect coupling often pulling in different directions. What binds them together is your intention. Intention is everything.

Here’s the catch Hey You! Yes, YOU, the one who perceives the other isn’t that keen, or hasn’t been specific about what YOU want. If you want respect, authenticity and honesty, then you need to live that too. Taste the discomfort for yourself and be direct with them, know when to stop chasing, let go of the need for answers, and trust yourself to take care of your emotions whatever the outcome. Future-you will be grateful for it.

Ben Douch

Written by

Ben Douch

A psychotherapist in love with purposeful conversations, nonsense conversations, the downward dip of a swing and immersive experiences: www.bendouchtherapy.com