Nobody likes to have the ‘It’s Over’ conversation no matter which side of it they are on. Which is why we’ve been hearing about a new way to not say ‘It’s over’ recently which is ‘ghosting’ when Charlize Theron recently ‘ghosted’ Sean Penn. This involves “the act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date” according to urbandictionary.com. Phone calls, emails, and texts are no longer returned and digital traces of the relationship on line are erased without any explanation.
Relationship psychologists don’t just study how relationships begin and are maintained – they also study how they end which usually tells them a lot about the ex-couple in question. In the case of ‘ghosting’ or suddenly finding the person you’re dating has changed their Facebook status back to ‘single’ without the courtesy of telling you that you are dumped – researchers point to those with an avoidance attachment personality as the most likely to resort to this (see my article on Frozen Love here on MK for more insight into this!). However, studies have shown that break-ups basically fall into seven categories – the Seven Deadly Break-Up Sins if you like.
1: Non-Blaming and Positive: ‘It’s not you, it’s me’ or avoids placing blame on the other party.
2: Open confrontation: ‘I want to break up’
3: Escalation: Picking an argument so you can use it as an excuse to break up
4: Distancing or mediated communication: Facebook status = Single. You hear you’ve been dumped from someone else
5: De-escalation: Waiting until after their birthday or Christmas and that gift to break up
6: Manipulation: Hinting to third parties it’s not working so it gets back to you so they can cast you as the bad guy
7: Withdrawal: Ghosting or sudden cessation of communication with no explanation offered
Ghosting not just comes under Withdrawal but also Distancing. But whichever way you look at it, it’s not nice. Sure, nobody likes telling someone it’s over but after three dates they should be entitled to a face-to-face explanation and one date should at elast warrant a ‘Thank you, I enjoyed meeting you, but won’t be taking this further’ text or email.
Out of all the 7 Deadly Break Up Sins, researchers discovered that No.1 – non-blaming and positive, was the one associated with the highest likelihood of getting back together again or at least remaining friends. Open confrontation as it ‘I want to leave/break-up’ was associated with the least anger towards the former partner while ghosting and withdrawal the most, with those who had been dumped this way the least likely to consider a reconciliation even if one were offered.
There can be many reasons why we may no longer want to continue with a relationship. And obviously in the case of an abusive or toxic relationship, then a sudden and complete severing of contact may be necessary for someone’s safety. How someone says it’s over, or you say it to them, shows your level of emotional maturity and also your empathy and depth of compassion. As in any situation, coming from a place of non-judgement and non-blame as well as getting straight to the point, seems to be the way to exit a soul contract with the least long term hurt. You may no longer be a couple – but don’t be a ghost!
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