Written by Amy Beecham

What’s the difference between unanswered messages and being micro-ghosted? A dating expert explains. 

When it comes to being ghosted, we tend to think about it on a macro scale. It’s all about the big, painful experience: weeks of talking before you never hear back again, an intimate sexual encounter but then they vanish without a trace.

But the truth is, it doesn’t always go that way. Often, as is the way with human connection and socialisation, it’s the subtle clues that we need to take note of. Small, silent brush-offs that happen so frequently that we don’t even bat an eyelid. Avoiding discussing the future. Never giving a yes or no answer. Your partner changing the subject when you try to bring up something emotional.

This means that, unfortunately, we’re probably being “micro-ghosted” way before the real thing happens, and we don’t even realise it.

According to dating app Badoo, over half of singles (58%) admit to having ghosted someone in the past, with the top reasons for doing so being to avoid awkward conversations and because it feels like the easier option. With traditional ghosting, messages go ignored, accounts become blocked and you resign yourself to the fact that you’ll likely never see nor hear from that person again.

But while the actions of a micro-ghoster may seem insignificant on their own,according to Mandy Mee, a dating coach and founder of the MME Agency, it’s the combination of these small-scale yet regular rebuffs that make the experience so painful.

“Full-blown ghosting is uncivil, but at least the ghoster shows a level of immaturity by taking the easy way out and never returning,” she tells Stylist. “Whereas with micro-ghosting, there’s an element of narcissism: it’s as though the ghoster has mixed intentions and wants control over the type of relationship they have with you instead of having the courage to express how they genuinely feel.

“Even though they ignore you for days or do not want you around, they still want access to you, hence the need to respond in their own time. It’s like breadcrumbing: they show a little engagement, flirt, but never truly commit to either a lengthy conversation or want to meet up.”

However, the frustration of not knowing where you stand is undoubtedly the hardest part of being micro-ghosted.

“When the ghosted is ignored and left on read for days or hasn’t received a response to their missed call, it can get frustrating, more so when the ghoster reverts to excuses such as being busy yet they seem to have time to remain active on social media,” agrees Mee.

And although micro-ghosting is a term often used in reference to romantic relationships, it’s also extremely common – and equally as uncomfortable –among friendships, family and professional relationships. Yet Mee insists it’s disrespectful in any context.

“It not only shows the ghoster lacks emotional intelligence, it’s clear they have no value for the person they micro-ghost,” she says. “The worst part about this form of soft-ghosting is when the ghosted has invested so much time and emotion into the relationship.”

So can it ever be forgiven?

Are you being “micro-ghosted” without realising?

“Micro-ghosting can be forgiven if it’s not a recurring issue,” says Mee. “People who have a tendency to micro-ghost may be so busy with their day that they see your messages or missed calls, process the information but fail to respond in a timely fashion and during the course of their busyness, they forget to reply.

However, if it’s a recurring issue then she says it’s a red flag that requires firm boundaries.

“The effects of micro-ghosting are similar to the effects of full-blown ghosting, if not the same. Micro-ghosting can have a negative impact on one’s mental health and can lead to low self-esteem, a loss of confidence, anxiety attacks and severe insecurities.”

And if you have been on the receiving end of micro-ghosting, your best bet is to face reality in an honest, mature way.

“Accept what is and begin the healing process to move on by first, sending a text if you feel you require some sort of closure,” Mee advises. “No response is a response and will make it easier for you to find closure. If, however, they do respond, I urge you to close that chapter with a definitive message to avoid a pattern.”

Images: Getty

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