Written by Haley Adams
What is ghosting?
Why would someone ghost?
This manner of ending a relationship and the repercussions that ghosting has on both individuals who are involved are not simple, though. Important to note, ghosting is not used to describe individuals who seek to end an unsafe or abusive relationship by disappearing in order to find safety. The motivation in this case is both emotional and physical safety; whereas, the motivation for ghosting is avoidance (Borguets, 2016).
How do people react to ghosting?
Often, between bouts of insecurity, the victim of the ghosting situation views the ghost as the bad guy and as a coward. These conflicting emotions of anger and insecurity tend to build up and result in extreme behavior that often results in a confrontation with the ghost. Therefore, the very situation that the ghost was trying to avoid occurs tenfold when the victim tracks the ghost down and causes a scene, often in front of an audience that consists of family, friends, or coworkers (Borguets, 2016).
Breakups are difficult to handle, regardless of how they are implemented. However, ghosting is not the appropriate method to use when ending a relationship of any kind. Ghosting is viewed as cowardly and stems from avoidance. This avoidance tactic rarely works because the victim is left with conflicting negative emotions and a surplus of insecurity that often leads them to publicly confront the ghost. Therefore, ghosting should be avoided when ending relationships, and more gentle approaches should be considered.
Borguets, M. (2016). The Psychology of Ghosting: Why People Do It and a Better Way to Break Up. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lantern/the-psychology-of-ghostin_b_7999858.html.
Harasymchuk, C. (2014). Ghosting: The 51st Way to Leave Your Lover? Science of Relationships. Retrieved from http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/home/2015/10/6/ghosting-the-51st-way-to-leave-your-lover.html.
Written by Chelsea Ellithorpe
Why Do Certain Breakups Hurt More?
Attachment style also affects how people respond to breakups. Those with a secure attachment style often ask family and friends for support as they cope with a breakup (Davis, Shaver, & Vernon, 2003). They believe that their social network of family and friends is able to help them during such a time of need and were better able to cope with and adjust after a breakup when they believed their social network, apart from that romantic relationship, was strong (Moller, Fouladi, McCarthy, & Hatch, 2003). Those who are more anxiously-attached and clingy tend to feel more pain after a breakup than others (Sprecher et al., 1998). Anxiously-attached individuals often feel a wide variety of negative emotions after a breakup, including depression, anger, and pain, and often blame themselves for the breakup and may try to rekindle the relationship or obsessively think about the breakup and their ex (Davis, Shaver, & Vernon, 2003). However, those with avoidant attachment often react by isolating themselves and avoiding social connections.
How Can One Move Past a Breakup?
Wegner (2011) suggests a variety of techniques that may help one to forget about a bad breakup and an ex. Distractions of more positive activities and thoughts may help one to shift their thoughts from the painful experience to things that help one cope with the event. Avoiding stressful situations and an ex may allow a person to better suppress unwanted thoughts about the breakup. Temporarily avoiding thinking about an ex and the breakup is much more manageable and likely to succeed than permanently pushing an ex out of one’s mind. Therefore, avoiding seeing an ex or their social media posts for a few days rather than blocking them in general is more likely to help with coping. Finally, learning how to handle these painful thoughts, accepting their presence, and training yourself to eliminate the negative association and affective response are much more effective solutions.
Davis, D., Shaver, P. R., & Vernon, M. L. (2003). Physical, emotional, and behavioral reactions to breaking up: The roles of gender, age, emotional involvement, and attachment style. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(7), 871-884.
Moller, N. P., Fouladi, R. T., McCarthy, C. J., & Hatch, K. D. (2003). Relationship of attachment and social support to college students’ adjustment following a relationship breakup. Journal of Counseling & Development, 81(3), 354-369.
Poirier, M., Nairne, J. S., Morin, C., Zimmermann, F. G. S., Koutmeridou, K., & Fowler, J.(2012). Memory as discrimination: A challenge to the encoding–retrieval match principle. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 38(1), 16-29.
Sprecher, S., Felmlee, D., Metts, S., Fehr, B., & Vanni, D. (1998). Factors associated with distress following the breakup of a close relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 15(6), 791-809.
Wegner, D.M. (2011). Setting free the bears: Escape from thought suppression. American Psychologist, 66(8), 671-680.
Written by Taylor Ritchey
Do these rebound and revenge motives for sex actually help people feel better about their break ups?
A study conducted by social psychologists Lindsay L. Barber and M. Lynne Cooper at the University of Missouri included 170 undergraduate students whose romantic relationships had ended four months prior to participating in the study. The students were asked to complete an initial survey that asked questions about who ended the romantic relationship, themselves or their partner (Barber & Cooper, 2014). The students also completed weekly surveys that asked questions about their distress levels, self-esteem, sexual behavior, and reasons for engaging in sexual activity (Barber & Cooper, 2014). The researchers coded the students’ motives for engaging in sexual activity as ‘rebound’ (to make themselves feel better) or ‘revenge’ (to get back at their ex).
Regarding the 170 students who participated in the study, 35% reported having rebound sex, and 23% reported having revenge sex within the first month following their break up (Barber & Cooper, 2014). The occurrence of rebound or revenge sex was highest immediately following the termination of the relationship and diminished over time (Barber & Cooper, 2014). People were more likely to engage in sexual activity or “hook-up” with new sexual partners in the days following the break up, rather than months later. “Findings generally supported widely held beliefs about the effects of being left by one’s partner, indicating that those who were ‘‘dumped’ ’were more distressed, angrier, and more likely to use sex as a way to deal with the loss” (Barber & Cooper, 2014, p. 262).
Do these motives for sex actually help us?
Therefore, having sex with new partners can boost your self-esteem and re-establish the confidence that is lost after a break up. However, people who have sex for these reasons are more likely to continue having sex with new partners, which suggests that they may be slower to recover from the break up (Barber & Cooper, 2014). In sum, while rebound or revenge sex may be fun, these types of sex do not seem to help or hurt us in the process of recovery. With this knowledge, you could go ahead and swipe right on that cute guy’s picture or buy that girl a drink at the bar, but keep in mind that although rebound or revenge sex may take your mind off of the break up, only time and possibly ice cream can help to heal the blues of a break up.
Barber, L. L., & Cooper, M. L. (2014). Rebound sex: Sexual motives and behaviors following a relationship breakup. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 251-265.
Dr. H. Colleen Sinclair
Social Psychologist, Relationships Researcher,
Ms. Jessica Utley
Lab Manager of the Social Relations Collaborative and Blog Editor