Emotional Ghosting: 10 Signs of Emotional Abandonment

Emotional Gaslighting | Emotional Neglect | Abandonment

EMOTIONAL GHOSTING is a form of neglect where one partner emotionally disconnects from the relationship, causing confusion and pain to the other partner. It can show up as emotional withdrawal, ignoring the partner’s needs, and cool indifference to the relationship. The effects of emotional ghosting can be just as harmful as physical ghosting. Because of its passive-aggressive nature, emotional ghosting can be difficult to spot.

10 Signs of Emotional Ghosting

Recognizing emotional abandonment is not always easy. Here are ten signs commonly associated with the behavior:

  1. Absence of communication: Your partner is disinterested in discussing your thoughts.
  2. Absence of emotional intimacy: Your partner is disinterested learning about your feelings. 
  3. Absence of physical affection: Your partner is disinterested in physical intimacy or affection with you.
  4. Absence of support: Your partner is unwilling to provide you with emotional support.
  5. Absence of validation: Your partner does not validate your feelings or experiences.
  6. Absence of empathy: Your partner has no interest in understanding your perspective.
  7. Absence of trust: Your partner is no longer willing to share their thoughts and feelings with you.
  8. Absence of commitment: Your partner no longer values the relationship and is unwilling to work through issues.
  9. Absence of engagement: Your partner has divested from the relationship and avoids spending time with you.
  10. Absence of love: Your partner is indifferent and seems not to care about you.

Why does emotional ghosting hurt so much?

According to Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, emotional neglect is “a relationship pattern in which an individual’s affectional needs are consistently disregarded, ignored, invalidated, or unappreciated by a significant other.”

Prolonged experiences of emotional ghosting, otherwise known as emotional abandonment or emotional withdrawal, can damage a person’s sense of self. In her book, Neglect – The Silent Abuser: How to Recognize and Heal From Childhood Neglect, Enod Gray explains, “I believe neglect to be the foundation stone of outright abuse, although many neglected adults have developed ways of denying, justifying, and minimizing the abusive behavior they experience in relationships.”

Emotional ghosting is a painful, subtle kind of abandonment that can give rise to feelings of profound sorrow and intense loneliness. When an inconsiderate partner ignores your feelings and needs, it can wreak havoc on your self-esteem. Moreover, it can reawaken memories of similar experiences of emotional neglect in early life.

Why do people emotionally ghost others?

There are many reasons why emotionally unavailable people ghost partners. A benign motive for emotional neglect might be that the person is preoccupied with personal struggles in their own life, and doesn’t have the capacity to give their partner the emotional support they need.

Common reasons why a highly narcissistic person may emotionally ghost their partner might be that they come into romantic relationships in the guise of a false persona. Upholding the ruse can become exhausting, especially when the novelty of their romantic partner’s validation has worn off. This is when the narcissistic person is likely to start devaluing their partner.

For example, they might off-handedly start a rivalry between you and someone else by implying the other person is superior to you in some way or they might blame you for the fact that they no longer have the energy to maintain their false persona and tell you to your face that they think you are boring.

Because they lack empathy, they don’t end the relationship because the still want access to its benefits. Narcissistic people put a great deal of effort into grooming their partners and they usually want to continue to have access to the benefits associated with them as they seek new sources of validation. Because they are self-centered, they tend to be oblivious to the pain emotional ghosting causes their partner.

Moreover, if another source of validation captures the narcissistic person’s interest, they may emotionally ghost to manipulate their partner into ending the relationship due to neglect. In their view, if the partner breaks up with them, the narcissistic person can play the victim while pursuing their new interest and come up smelling like a rose.

How to protect your mental health from emotional ghosting

In the words of Aeschylus, “There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.” It is a fitting description of the despair that arrives hand in hand with recollections of the love bombing phase of the narcissistic abuse cycle. Indeed, the experience of neglect from a loved one is warning. The more cold and indifferent they grow, the more likely that their emotional withdrawal is a prelude to more egregious acts of aggression.

As painful as emotional ghosting can be, remember that you have agency. With a little bit of courage and a lot of focus, you can turn the experience into an opportunity to grow in self-love. 

Here are four tips for moving forward when you have been emotionally abandoned:

  1. Prioritize self-care: If you are being neglected by your partner, step up your efforts to look after yourself emotionally and physically. Start doing wholesome activities that give you peace and strength, like exercise, meditation, and spending time with friends and family.
  2. Remember who you are: The waning affection of another does not diminish your value in reality. Your intrinsic worth as a human being is fixed and does not fluctuate based on a troubled person’s inability to recognize it.
  3. Communicate your needs: Emotional unavailability does not mean that you should shut down. Set boundaries with your partner. Let them know what you are feeling and what you need from the relationship.
  4. Seek support: If necessary, seek support from a mental health professional to help you work your way through the pain and confusion of emotional abandonment. They can help you gain clarity about the situation and map up a workable plan to create the future you want. They can also help you gain insight into the underlying causes of emotional ghosting in your relationship and discover healthy solutions.

In summary, emotional ghosting can be just as destructive to a relationship as physical ghosting. If you think it is happening to you it’s important to take action to protect your mental health, identify your needs, and communicate them clearly to your emotionally detached partner. Be sure to reach out to people in your social circle for support and consider developing a strategy with a mental health professional to move forward.

Watch: Emotional Ghosting – 10 Signs of Emotional Abandonment


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Manya Wakefield is an educator and recovery coach specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy and trauma. She is also the author of 'Are You In An Emotionally Abusive Relationship?' and host of the Narcissistic Abuse Rehab Podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon.

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